The first time it happened, I was attending choir practice and I felt it in my face… what? Why am I blushing? I’m not embarrassed right now, so what’s going on? Fast forward a few months when it finally dawns on me, I had my first hot flash. An organic system that I had lived with since puberty suddenly switched gears. Simply put, it was hard to make sense of sensations.
Months rolled by with me blissfully unaware of what was to come… welcome the crippling waves of physical anxiety. PHYSICAL anxiety—no intrusive thoughts, no negative self talk leading to waves of anxiety, but rather the reverse. The proverbial elephant sits on my chest, the spiralling thoughts follow as I struggle to make sense of this new experience: “Of course,” I think! “I must be going crazy!”
With bated breath: what possible gift will I get next? Let’s play a guessing game—am I peeing or just haemorrhaging? Many a shameless moment in public washrooms, trying to do my laundry in the sink, trying to bound myself in a way that will ensure I don’t stain chairs, getting a reverse Rudolph vibe.
Decades of having my menstrual cycle weaponized against me: she must be on the rag; is it that time of the month; of course, I was being unreasonable, I was on my period; and on and on and on. I recall many moons ago hearing of a study that debunked PMS, suggesting that the menstrual cycle simply marks our experience in a way that we rationalize fluctuations in moods. Nothing more, nothing less. We have bad moods and it’s convenient to blame the physical inconveniences of a period. I was vindicated—and then perimenopause struck.
As I’ve continue my journey, I put nose to grindstone, trying to decipher the changing landscape of my body once again. Are there good and bad days? Yes. What has made the biggest difference? Not attaching truth or meaning to the physical sensations, but rather holding them with gentle curiosity. Best advice I ever got? “Oh, you wake up at 4am each night too? Yeah, I heard it’s quite common to experience waves of anxiety when in perimenopause”, my bestie tells me in passing.
Back in bed… as I bolt upright at 4am like Nosferatu waking from a deep slumber, I tell myself: “it’s just a sensation. These are hormonal power surges. You are safe and in bed,” and I roll over and go back to sleep. If it’s a real problem, it should still be weighing on my mind come sunrise. Surely the world can wait until then.
To keep the conversation and exploration going, check out the interview with Dr Mary Claire Haver, menopause expert and OBGYN, at the following link. It is a solid beginning to an exploration of the biology, psychology, and emotional path one third of the world’s population is currently treading. Let that sink in: one third of the world’s population is currently living through this and some of us are just learning about this phenomenon in real time. Trust me person born with uterus or ovaries, you are not alone.