Menopause- The Unfamiliar Room in My Own House

Breaking apart as a mirror

People usually write posts when they have something they need to say or something beautiful to explore (that’s my fav), or maybe when they feel passionate about highlighting a cultural change or injustice that needs exploration. But I am posting today because I don’t have answers on this topic. It feels uncomfortable. In the midst of menopause I feel like I’m standing in a room of my own house, but with a quizzical gaze. I’m in shock that I had no clue this room even existed. How can this be true? How can you live in a house for years and not know about a room? But this is exactly what menopause hormones seem to create. They blindside you with strange, hidden parts of yourself. I’m tempted to close and dead-bolt the door to that room so I can’t find myself in there again, but there’s no doorknob, no dead-bolt, no lock.

This room is filled with remnants- items I’ve used in the past line the walls. I see books and a fully decorated Christmas tree from years gone by. I see stacks of photo albums and used furniture. I hear music and snippets of conversations from my past. It’s all familiar, but yet uncomfortable. I tear up looking around. I don’t recognize the room, but I recognize the items. Strong emotions are ignited.

The season leading up to menopause has introduced parts of myself, (albeit exaggerated), to the “front of the class”.  It’s like jr high school on steroids. This awkward version of me standing up there in the front of the classroom; almost unrecognizable. I know I must make sense of her, love her, cheer her on. I know she’ll get through this, but probably not without battle scars. It is the oddest of things not to recognize yourself. Even more odd to recognize something, like the eyes, but nothing else looks familiar.

The unstable thoughts that hurl so quickly makes me ponder this phenomenon. Where did it even come from? What awfulness has happened to cause this? Paranoia, insecurity and lack of confidence seem magnified into unreal proportions. I keep saying “this isn’t really me”, all the while knowing that I must make friends with this awkward stranger in the mirror. The most unsettling thing is not how I “look”, but how I “feel”.

As a society we seem comfortable laughing at “hot flash jokes” (we gotta laugh so we don’t cry, right?) and have come to terms with a little “menopause crazy” (even I find this crazy a little funny at times). But… paranoia, anxiety and depression? No, we don’t like to talk about that. And I get it. It’s complicated, not so easy to fix and we feel too vulnerable to say those thoughts aloud.  I guess I should say, I feel vulnerable about that. I admire strength and tenacity, perseverance and hope. This feels like the opposite and so I breathe deeply, trying not to admit this force is something I have to deal with. I try to cry silently, rage quietly, pray fervently, desire honorably…but I’ll tell you, it’s been awfully hard.

So today, I’m trying a new and honest approach with menopause as I write about it “out loud”, not because I have answers but because I have questions. Feeling isolated is not a feeling you want to feed. So, I’m attempting to starve that awful feeling and send it shrinking in darkness. I am bringing something to “light” because don’t think I was designed for this (is that a problem? I don’t know) and yet I’m here, doing what I know to do—taking supplements and rubbing cremes, asking forgiveness, praying for patience and crying a bit more than I think a grown woman “should”.

So, there it is. Maybe you’ve felt alone in this hormone abyss. I hope you take some comfort that the mirrors are all lined up along the edge of the room and a there’s a bunch of us standing in shock not recognizing what we see before us. You’re not alone. Maybe writing it out loud will help someone be ready when it happens to them? I hope. People tell me this will pass. They said that phrase in pregnancy too. They were right. They said that about the children growing and going. They were right. They say there is another glorious side to this place. (patience is required). I hope they’re right.

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What to do when we feel like “Cousin Itt”

cousin it

Remember Cousin “Itt”? The crazy ‘hair-in-the-face” cousin on the “Addams Family”? Oh, wow, who in the world thought of this one? I’ll tell ya. Probably someone going through menopause or some type of hormonal storm. I’ve seen Cousin “Itt” in the mirror in the last few years. Shocking, I know. But I have a strategy in play now

What to do when we feel more like “Cousin Itt” than ourselves?

  1. Talk to yourself nicely. Yep. Do it. You’re not crazy, I promise. We must talk to ourselves with kindness and praise, using our empowering “I am” statements. They speak louder and truer than our demeaning criticisms.
  2. Believe. Believe with confidence that “This too shall pass”. I know, easier said than done. But it will. Nothing ever stays the same. (good or bad, change will come).
  3. Don’t. When in doubt, we don’t do it. If we don’t have clarity about a next step, we don’t pretend we do. Waiting is NOT our enemy in this odd space, waiting is our friend.
  4. Be honest. Acknowledge feeling “off” is part of life. Everyone experiences this. We’re normal. It’s really ok to let someone know we don’t feel as ‘dazzling and smashing’ as we appear. 😉 Lock “guilt” and “shame” in the closet. They don’t belong here. Say “I love you” more, not less.
  5. Be quiet. Yes, really. Trust me on this one. Zip that lip. If we don’t feel like “us”, then we need to wait until we at least agree with ourselves before waxing “eloquently” in conversation. 😉  Why does the crazy-brained one want to talk so much? I don’t know.
  6. Say “no”. The world will not collapse if we “bow out”. I can hear your “buts”. They’re flimsy. Give it up, sweetie-pie. Say “NO” It’ll be ok.
  7. Nourish your body and soul. We must listen to our inner small voice. Pray, read, listen, meditate. To the best of our ability, we need to choose the good stuff. Sleep longer, eat the veggies, laugh heartily…we KNOW what we need. Maybe 20 minutes of “I Love Lucy” is just the right entertainment for the night. Take a walk, look for beauty, drive the scenic route…
  8. Ask. Ask for what we need. There are no mind-readers in our house. (I was surprised to learn this). We have to really be intentional to communicate what we know we need. There are plenty of times we won’t have any idea, but when we do, we MUST grow up and ask. We all take turns needing. Next time, we can be the giver, but right now we are the ask-er. Own it.
  9. Apologize. If we did not make it through #5, chances are we might have some apologies to make. It’s ok. Grace is available. We don’t need to make excuses. Just apologize and mend quickly. Love deeply. Share freely to get back to every part of us possible.
  10. Breathe. (10 minutes to peace) I’m talking about the deep in your soul kind of breathing. No shallow huffs and puffs. Set the timer for 5 minutes of the deepest and longest breaths you can manage. Now set it for 5 more minutes. Let’s close our eyes (continue to breathe deeply) while imagining the most beautiful and restful place. (I choose a beach for my destination). Stay there 5 minutes. Don’t leave. I know we’re tempted. Stay. It’ll be worth it.

Before we know it,  we’ll be feeling like ourselves again. I won’t lie, I know this season can last from minutes to years, but in the process (no matter how long) we will always be glad we were proactive. No loss in trying, right? And in the end, we might find that we have grown so that the “old” us isn’t the best version anymore.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves, those raging hormones and volatile emotions (Itt) will come knocking again.  I think it helps to have a plan when the doorbell rings. And we might just have the courage and foresight to dead-bolt the door.