“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” Mary Oliver
In earlier blogs, I cheerfully wrote about my decision to use bioidentical hormones as a way to retain my sexual vitality while avoiding the unpleasant effects of menopause. I had only begun to enjoy sex at around age 50 after attending many workshops on love, sexuality and intimacy, which helped me heal from the effects of sex abuse and own my empowered sexuality.
It seemed so easy, this choice of mine to use bioidentical hormones to escape menopause hell. Oh, I knew the risks—but the information I read suggested that bioidentical hormones were safer than pharmaceutical pseudo-hormones—that it was pharmaceutical hormones that caused breast cancer, not bioidenticals. I had no reason to believe otherwise though I’ve now learned that not everyone is as confident in the purported safety of bioidenticals as those who advocate for them. Unfortunately for me, the symptoms of menopause really are hellacious: frequent and intense night sweats that disrupt my sleep, brutal daytime hot flashes, intense pain that robs intercourse of pleasure, brain fog, anxiety and baffling mood swings to name just a few.
The breast cancer diagnosis brought an abrupt halt to the relief the hormones delivered, and about a month after my last dose of estrogen, my body once again descended into menopause hell. I’ve been left with a BIG question and a challenge.
The BIG question is: WTF?? I had always believed, based on years of reading self-help and metaphysical books (thank you Louise Hay) that if we “do our work” (as in, the hard work of healing sexual or whatever trauma we carry) we somehow find this place of peace and grace, where things work out for us, because we’ve healed our shit. Bad things, like a breast cancer diagnosis aren’t supposed to happen after you’ve healed your shit! Thus, for me to do my sexual healing work, to own my empowered sexuality, to become a woman who truly loves sexual connectivity, to finding a way to hold onto it, to have that taken away by the practical reality of wanting to stay alive, seems, well, like a cosmic bitch slap. Why didn’t the Louise Hay formula work for me? Or am I just not seeing that it really has worked for me?
Where I sit now, a few months past surgery and well into my wellness and healing, I can see through the angst what I needed to see all along. “Doing our work” doesn’t guarantee that it all works out the way we want or expect it to. We don’t get to script the end result of our efforts. Nothing in this life guarantees that. And yet, “doing my work” has resulted in profound healing. I no longer carry sexual trauma. I have forgiven the men who sexually abused me, and my parents for being so consumed in alcoholism (dad) and co-dependency (mom) that I did not have anybody that felt stable enough to tell. I am more deeply connected to my husband than ever before. I enjoy sexual energy and sexual connectivity. I’ve dropped divisive cultural stories about what men are like, and enjoy rich friendships with men. In addition, I’ve become a teacher, educator, and intimacy blogger emphasizing communication and intimacy as key components of healthy sexuality. These, and more, are the gifts I’ve received from “doing my work.”
And here’s my challenge: to revisit my assumption that menopause would derail my enjoyment of sexual intimacy. I’ve already discovered that there are many women who continue to enjoy richly satisfying sex lives after menopause without hormones—why not me? In my next post, I’ll let you know what I’ve learned so far.