Connect | Communicate | Care | Cave
The Peri-storm of Menopause
When I was in my early 40s, I was too busy to think about my needs. Like many women, I focused on raising my kids, restarting a career as we moved as a military family, and either waited for permission to live life, or spent time avoiding a health crisis. An active lifestyle, such as playing tennis, SCUBA, and running helped me to cope with the frustrations of life. I ate what I wanted, and when I was upset or frustrated, I simply got sick and another five pounds melted away.
And then, everything changed.
A few years passed and seemingly out of nowhere, I started to notice the gushing menstrual cycles that lasted for 10-14 days on a short 22 day cycle. My hair fell out in clumps. And, oh the mood changes! At the time, I attributed it to having teenagers, the stress of my husband retiring from military life, and grieving the loss of a career due to the interruptions of moving every one to three years for over 20 years.
As 50 approached, I noticed I could no longer tolerate the irksome behaviors of people in my house—especially my husband—the snoring, the extra blankets on the bed, the loud chewing and crunching of food. On top of all of this, we endured a global pandemic. Need I say more? I felt invisible and ignored, and I questioned my sanity. At that point, I thought I had permission to complain, be tired, and worse, make demands, but that backfired.
Suicide or divorce? Those felt like my only options. Finding the right medical providers to listen and provide resources, treatment, and hope was hard. My husband, children, mother, and sister did not understand me at all, and we all silently suspected I was losing my mind.
The 4 Cs of the Peri-storm
Decades earlier, I remember learning about the 4 Cs when diamond shopping:
- Color describes the color grade of a diamond, which ranges from an icy white to a light yellow.
- Cut outlines the shape the stone cutter gives.
- Carat is the size and weight.
- Clarity refers to the ability to see through the stone.
The peri-storm of menopause reminded me of diamonds. The Cs are the same, but different.
Color: In pre-, peri-, menopause, and post-menopause, women of all races and ethnicities, experience a range of symptoms that vary in intensity, severity, and duration. This depends on our health, genetics, and lifestyle for nutrition and fitness.
Cut and Carat: The shape of our bodies may or may not drastically change; however, many of us experience a slower metabolism and weight gain. Consequently, it becomes necessary to examine what we eat and how we move.
Clarity: Like a white-out snowstorm or the swirling bands of rain in a hurricane, it can be hard to see during the peri-storm; there is not much visibility.
Weathering the Peri-storm with a New Set of 4Cs
The peri-storm is hard, but I am resourceful and tenacious. I researched options, sought counseling, and started podcasting to fill the lack of information available during my peri-storm. HillTalks Podcast: Listen in and Know You are Not Alone was a way for me to feel less alone in hopes of connecting with other women who also felt isolated. However, brain fog is real. Focusing on editing was discouraging, and I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs “What is Happening?” (like the teenager in Poltergeist).
If you have any similar experiences, I hope these next few C’s might provide some support for you and your friends:
First, connect, reach out, and don’t give up.
Connecting with other women is vital for my mental health, emotional health, and overall well being. When I reached out to connect with friends and family, most were unfamiliar with what I was going through. Their experiences were different from mine, or they were completely unaware that what happened to them could have been attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Was life that much easier for everyone else except me, or was I simply more self-aware? While I was willing to be open and honest about what was happening to me, some women wondered aloud, Why do you share so much? It was then that I realized the vast differences in not only what women experience, but also how.
The internet was overwhelming.
After trying to connect first with others, I needed to next communicate what was happening to me and find resources via medical and holistic healthcare providers that could make sense of my body’s signs and symptoms.
Communicate with the people who are there to help and support us. Ask questions, honestly relay your symptoms, including the severity, duration, and impact on your daily life. Listen to expert opinions and know you have options. Have a conversation with your own body and listen to what your body is saying.
Once I learned the term peri-menopause and that it can happen to women as early as their late 30’s and even sooner if they have cancer or autoimmune diseases, I felt compelled to help other women not feel so alone.
Care about all aspects of your health: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and more.
Remember, I mentioned that I am tenacious? I am a perfectionist and Type A, which are the hallmarks of tenacity. Even my blood type is A+! But perfectionism does not serve us in midlife. Instead, I found I needed to practice self-compassion. I even reached out to Kristin Neff, a self-compassion scholar.
I worked with a health and life coach to change my relationship with food, to get real about how much water I drank each day, and to commit to doing gentle exercises like walking and yoga five days per week.
Cave as needed. We have heard about man caves or she-sheds, but women in midlife truly need permission to seek time alone. As our estrogen levels decrease, our stress hormones increase. Subsequently, your body begins to silently scream for space to destress and refresh. Caving requires more than a bath or a long walk.
Where do you get recharged or energized? Meditation, journaling, regular yoga, or Pilates can help. Have you vacationed by yourself? In order to find out who you are in this next chapter of life, one must create time and space to expand, reflect, and grow.
Connect | Communicate | Care | Cave
The good news is, there is no one right answer. You can choose your “C” or select all of the above. Connect with others. Communicate your needs. Care for your body, mind, and spirit. Cave as needed. Go ahead! You have my permission.
Hillary Baggett is an occupational therapist turned entrepreneur, founding Community Bloom: Women’s Midlife Network to connect female entrepreneurs with a heart to serve midlife women inside a membership. A global storyteller, podcast host, and compassionate thought leader, she combines her passion for health and wellness while embracing the superpower of a neurodivergent ADHD brain.
Hillary lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 26 years and has two adult children.
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