“Whatever causes a woman’s lingering wounds, perimenopause can be seen as a built-in support system that sets her up to do deep healing and reclaiming of the treasure within.” Christiane Northrup, M.D., from “The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change.”
When I was younger, I hated reading about menopause because everything I read seemed so negative. Hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, dry, irritated vaginas, no libido—wow, now those are symptoms any girl would really look forward to! And the “woo-woo” culture of “embracing the crone” kinda made me want to barf. (Ok, I’ve softened on that one a bit…) I really couldn’t see an upside to this inevitable transition and didn’t see bypassing it through an early death as an option. Yet--as I mentioned in a prior blog, when I was 45, my friend recommended that I become educated about menopause, and something compelled me to follow her advice.
I came across Dr. Christiane Northrup’s fabulous book, “The Wisdom of Menopause,” and my view of menopause changed dramatically. While our culture tends to focus on the disruptive symptoms of menopause, there is a remarkable upside—perimenopause presents an unprecedented opportunity to heal old wounds, grieve losses and more importantly, to move on: cleansed, empowered and in charge of our lives. The view of perimenopause as facilitating healing and clearing is revolutionary!
As Dr. Northrup explains, the changes in perimenopause literally beckon us to heal. Specifically, our shifting hormone levels reduce the availability of estrogen and prolactin, which at high levels, make us feel good—in essence, rewarding us when we nurture others. When caring for babies and young children, our bodies also load us with oxcytocin, a champion of inducing a lovely feeling of well-being. These feel-good hormones allow us to suppress past disappointments, trauma, and pain—and to put aside personal goals.
At the same time our hormones begin to recede, “[o]ur brains actually begin to change…in the temporal lobes, the brain region associate with enhanced intuition.” As a result of these simultaneous processes, we become open to recognizing long-ignored traumas and unresolved issues and this awareness compels us to heal our wounds, leave them in the past and to redefine our lives. Now that’s a view of perimenopause/menopause I can live with! Dr. Northrup concludes: “[t]he body’s inner wisdom gets its last, best chance of breaking through culturally erected barriers, while shining a light on aspects of a woman’s life that need work.”
Dr. Northrup’s message was one of my most powerful motivators in seeking sexual healing eight years ago because of her additional revelation that women with unresolved childhood sexual abuse issues were “at greater risk for depression, anxiety disorders, and other emotional illnesses later in life.” As I read her words, it felt like someone grabbed me by the collar, gave me a good shake, looked me in the eyes up close and said with dead seriousness, “Wake up! Wake up now. Deal with this, or it will own you—control you—until the day you die.” I couldn’t ignore the strength of this message: it was within a few months of reading this book that my husband invited me to attend our first workshop.
As important, Dr. Northrup’s message is also about reclaiming and redefining our lives from our biology and cultural scripting. It is very much about turning inward, examining the dreams we may have shelved to raise our families and otherwise care for others, and to answer the call of our own longings. When we have the courage to embrace ourselves, we will emerge empowered, confident, and with renewed faith in ourselves and our gifts.
I love this view of perimenopause and in fact it has been my personal experience of this life stage though I firmly believe that women and men in all stages of life can do remarkable healing work. And though working through our past issues can be painful (especially when we feel like we’ve already done much healing work!), the pain is short-lived—and the freedom lasts forever.