It may seem odd to talk about menopause bringing gifts. But as someone who’s been there, I can look back and realise it does.
In 2015, an unexpected surgery sent me into sudden surgical menopause. Symptoms hit all at once and I wanted solutions all at once. The reality was, it simply took time. Regardless of whether you enter it naturally or surgically, menopause can be considered a gift of self reflection, discovery, care, love, acceptance, empowerment, and enhancement.
The Chinese refer to menopause as the second spring. They consider it a time to reflect on life and turn our focus inward to nurture ourselves. This rings true for me. Yes, I live a beautiful life. However, in the past, there was always this angst, this unrest, this questioning, this . . . searching. Menopause brought it up for examination. I began to reflect on my past with a strong desire to heal areas of stress and trauma and confusion. I also began to look to my future and ponder who I wanted to be.
Menopause can be a time to uncover and embrace your passions. So often, we stop dreaming. We forget our first loves. It could be due to time or money. It could be because life became all about the struggle. The self discovery of menopause is where you ask questions and give yourself permission to dream. You may not know what your passion is right now. Live in your curiosity and get quiet. Your mind, body, spirit, and emotion are connected. We can’t hear the still small voice pointing us in the right direction if we’re busy, tense, or stressed.
Spend time daily in prayer, meditation, and/or journalling. Explore your past and remember points in your life when you were most happy. What were you doing? Were you riding your bike? Gardening? Singing? Teaching? Working with your hands? Are you still doing it? If not, consider finding ways to bring it back into your life.
Self care is a daily practices that evolves. The central aspect is presence. When I am present, I can check in and consider what area needs attention. Sometimes, I need to focus on nutrition or exercise. Other times it is a relationship which requires extra nurturing. Often, the two biggest areas that get neglected are rest and play. When the surgical side of menopause took me down, I was forced to take a look at my life and make these two areas a priority. I had to learn to say no to things that were non-essential, and give myself the rest that I required. And, I had to remember how to play.
Self love was a powerful component of my healing. Most religions and spiritual traditions teach a version of the principles “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s the premise of showing the same kindness to others that we want to be shown to us. The problem is, we don’t love ourselves enough, which adds to our stress levels and intensifies our symptoms.
During menopause, we hate our symptoms and our bodies. But the last thing any of us needs is hate, especially when it comes to ourselves. Think of a child who falls and skins her knee. Her caregiver jumps in with gentle kindness and kisses the boo-boo to make it better. What if our symptoms are our bodies’ ways of saying, “Hey? Love me. Hug me. Nurture me. Think good things about me. Get more rest. Stop feeding me that.” Are we listening?
I love my body and all it’s been through, even when it doesn’t look or feel its best. There are some aspects of my body, emotions, and life that I don’t always like. I love myself anyway. I love my future self, the person I am becoming, and the woman right now who is lovable just because she exists. She is more than enough.
Self acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and is a necessary component of strong mental health. Menopause gave me permission to stop trying so hard to keep up with someone I’m not, and step into the woman I’m meant to be. There are parts of my life and my past that I may not like or in hindsight, things I wish I had done differently. I choose to accept myself, knowing I did my best for where I was at the time and the tools I had at my disposal. At the same time, I accept that I can move forward, discovering better tools of self-care, self-love, and self-empowerment..
When we are self empowered we take control of our own life. In the months surrounding my surgery and through my recovery, I continued to educate and empower myself to hire and fire doctors, always requiring that they treat me with respect and as a valuable part of my wellness team.
Becoming self empowered also means taking responsibility for our peace, joy, and bliss. And joy comes from within. Why do I speak about joy? Because during my journey, there was darkness, sadness, and depression. As little girls, we read fairy tales about the prince riding in on a white horse to save us and living happily ever after. But the best satisfaction comes from you rescuing yourself. There is no need to give this power away. You are in charge of your joy. Don’t give the responsibility to your child, parent, spouse, doctor, coworkers, boss, or anyone else. As you empower yourself, you’ll come to appreciate the strength and confidence that comes from this time in your life.
After surgery it took time for my body to heal physically. It took even longer for my mind and emotional health to stabilise. There were times when I felt broken. I had to constantly remind myself that I was in a state of healing and change. Even though I felt broken, I told myself that I was whole, strong, and valuable.