Part journey, part awareness campaign, My Menopause Story is a quarterly entry documenting the symptoms, emotional impact, and strategies of dealing with the Menopause transition.
Actions have consequences…or rewards.
Once I discovered my inner athlete, I started feeling, well…good. Doing good things for myself had positive effects. I lost inches, clothes fit better, and my self-confidence went through the roof. I didn’t become a runner to lose weight. I lost weight because I became a runner.
I’ve never been model skinny, waifishly thin…I always carried — like a lot of us — a little extra. Admittedly, embracing my own body image has been a lifelong battle, but that is another story.
Because all of a sudden something shifted, or really, just Broke. I work out 60-90 minutes 5-6 days a week, sometimes more. I run, lift weight, do yoga, Hiit workouts, and I eat well…not perfectly, but well enough. I have had coaches, personal trainers, and Dieticians so I can learn how to get the most out of my body and nutrition. I work my butt off with the understanding that when I do, my body will respond in kind. My clothes will fit, I’ll perform well, and I’ll feel good inside and out. But then…
It was like my body just checked out and said, no…
Like the rules changed and I didn’t get the memo.
Like there was a software update.
Like the whole system just crashed and nothing works anymore.
In 6 months, I gained 20 pounds and went up 2 dress sizes, when I had changed nothing about my fitness journey or nutrition. Not cool.
To say that I was angry didn’t even cover it. Forget about the hot flashes, the night sweats, and the catastrophic mood swings. That nothing in my closet fit pissed me off. The woman in the mirror and I? We had a deal. I work ‘this’ hard, and we keep the status quo. I’m not saying I have to be skinny, I just want the work I put in to show. I don’t want my efforts to be in vain.
I realized then (while on a run, when many of these epiphanies come), that there are strong emotions tied to all of this – not just those related to mood swings…what did it all mean? When someone lets us down, we often have a strong emotional reaction. What I discovered sort of surprised me.
This is Grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. What I know about grief is that this isn’t a smooth process. We pop back and forth across all of these emotions. So I was angry. I started bargaining — working harder on my fitness journey, going back to my Dietician — because if I did more, maybe my clothes would fit again.
To be clear, I don’t obsess about the number on the scale. It’s a data point — like my resting heart rate. The actual number on the scale, or the one on my trouser label isn’t what I’m mad about. I’m mad that I had no say in the matter of “the change.”
The emotional revelation — acknowledging that I was angry, mostly — was a light bulb moment that allowed me to begin the process of acceptance. Not giving up, but acceptance. Giving up would be me saying, “nothing I do is going to matter, so I’ll just quit.” Acceptance is saying, “I get that this is Perimenopause, so what further action can I take to mitigate and perhaps reverse it.”
In the process of learning about Perimenopause, I heard a woman say, “This is not a cave. It’s a tunnel.” Meaning, yes. It feels dark. Hopeless. Lonely. But the process of the Menopause Change doesn’t last forever. It means this will get better.
It also means that my mental state and my body are having a long sit down. My body let me down, and we have some healing to do. Time to make a different deal and accept the change. Time to start operating under the new set of rules rather than the ones that no longer apply.
I’m still learning, which means that I’m adapting. I don’t have to like it, but I’m not going to howl at the winds of change and expect them to blow in a different direction.
My Menopause Story is a regular blog. I hope to share stories as I learn and grow, but I would love to hear from you. Please let me know what you would like to hear about.