A few years ago, I made a decision. As it was becoming obvious that I was entering a new phase of womanhood, made glaringly real by the bright red high-beams that once were my ears that now emit heat that I’m sure aliens are able to detect from other universes. This new phase wasn’t going to be easy, I knew this. I have watched other women go through it with grace and poise. Yet I’ve never met one who admitted going through it with ease and without a bit of bat-shit-crazy.
So, my decision was, “Head down go!” This is a phase that we were made to go through. It’s not something to fight, it’s not a curse that I have worse than anyone else, it’s part of how God made women and I will trust that wisdom. Most of all I decided it wasn’t something to fix. I knew it would get hard, I’ve heard the stories, but I decided early on that I would use food, exercise and self-care to make my way through this rough and rocky terrain of exiting the childbearing years of life.
I know that exercise can play a massive role in the effects of menopause. I also believe that nutrition (and mostly getting sugar out of the diet) can help to even out hormones and blood sugar and therefore help to improve life during this phase. So, my decision was to use these tools, tools I already had in my arsenal and using quite well. If I didn’t say so myself, pretty proud of myself.
I now understand that this was the equivalent of that time before you have kids and you’re judging the poor mother whose child is throwing a tantrum in the store. Because of course mychild will never act that way! Flash forward to a few years later when I’m screaming at my two-year-old because I haven’t had a shower in two days, haven’t taken a poop alone in a year and the only adult conversation I have is with the helpful Publix cashier who is giving me the “I hope you’re going to pick that up” look while said devil child plucks every candy bar from the shelf and I’m cursing the people who put them there because they did this on purpose to make my life hell!
Yep, I’m there. Only the menopause version of that…it’s even crazier.
A few weeks ago it hit in full force. I have to admit, I never saw this coming.
I love that working out has a positive effect on the way my body looks, but I have always admitted that I actually work out and eat very little sugar more for my mind than my body. My battle has always been in my head. And after years of a hard work, physical and mental, I really was at a place where I was happy with me, the good, bad and the ugly. I accept that the parts of me that challenge me are also the parts of me that make me able to do what I do on a daily basis. While my brain may create some challenges for me, and I may not have the ability to fullychange them, I do have the ability to mold them into something of a force.
This is also why, that after being offered medications for my ADD and OCD on more than one occasion, I have said NO, on more than one occasion. I have no judgement for those who do medicate, I’ve learned better (see grocery store story above). But I decided early on that I didn’t want to. As much as my “disorder” has its negative effects that I need tools to deal with, it also is what I believe gifts me to do what I do. The thorn in my side is also my superpower. And for this reason, I’ve made the decision not to medicate myself. (It’s also why my fingernails look like monkey’s chew them….that’s just me, I’ll live with that.)
And, so it happened. And my force was removed.
In fact, last week I described it to a friend like this, “It’s as if on regular days I must have a forcefield that keeps me from feeling the full weight of the responsibility and stress of life and then I wake up and it’s gone. The force is NOT with me, and the full weight of all of LIFE is allowed to rest on me. No forcefield. And the weight is crushing.” She responded, “You lose your armor.” YES!
And it’s not like this is something I have never experienced before but I have learned to bounce back really quick. Give me one day. I’ll hang out in my little pit for a day but tomorrow I’ll be back. I’ve learned to just be quiet and stay there, try not to talk to anyone so I don’t say something I’ll regret, adjust my day as much as I can and just ride it out. I learned that fighting it was really the largest problem. It’s a like a wave that can take you under or you can learn to anticipate its swell, jump to your feet and ride the hell out of it. The wave always leads you back to shore. Always. It’s all in how you decide to react to it.
So, when it hit this time I stuck with the plan. I adjusted, I jumped to my feet to ride it out…only I didn’t. This time it was a not just a wave, it was a tsunami. My energy level was in the toilet. I mean to tell you that washing my hair was exhausting. I chose not to use conditioner one day because it just seemed like too much work. And one day would have been a dream. Try 5! And no amount of grit, determination or self-help hype was going to help. I’ve never experienced this before. This was a low I never knew existed and after a few days I was beginning to get worried that I had bought a one-way ticket. I was worried I wasn’t coming back.
But I did. And it was great, for about two weeks…then it hit AGAIN!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Another period, another low, another tsunami. And now I’m pissed so it’s worse, and then it’s worseagain because I’m so mad. Exhausted, emotional, mad, tired, need a vacation, need some relief, need my armor. Where the heck is my armor?
And food and exercise? So damn hard to give a crap. So hard! And I own a gym. I have a NUTRITION PROGRAM. Add that guilt to the list! I’m supposed to know what to do. I’m supposed to do better than this. I’m the one with the plan, the way out, I’m not supposed to have the toddler throwing the fit!!!! And now I am that toddler!!!
And then today it lifts. The sun shines. The tsunami is gone. I wonder if I’m crazy or is this part of it? I wonder if my plan can work.
And yet I stay the course.
My plan has not changed. I will go throughthis “head down go” because I believe it’s the fastest way…through.Throughis the fastest route. I will not look for the quick fix, I will not change the plan just because it got harder than I anticipated.
I will however keep my eye on the horizon and watch for the next swell. Two weeks or two months, it’s coming. Maybe I’ll make myself some notes for while I’m there. Maybe I’ll give my family a week pass at Dollywood for next time it arises. I’ll stay behind, it’s too happy there for someone in my ‘condition.’
I know that this is part of it. I knew that this wouldn’t be easy. I wonder if my guilt of who I am as “fitness expert” adds to the overall frustration. I have a lot of questions. I have few answers. I feel like I’m supposed to always have the answers. But today all I know is to go back to what I know. Today I look forward to giving my body good things. This is not a time for me to slack on self-care, exercise or nourishment, it’s time to double down. This is when my body needs me most, and I need it to work with me. So, while I’m strong, I’ll be proactive. When I’m weak I’ll rest and ride the wave. I won’t judge you how you go through this, so it stands that I should allow myself that same grace. I will not judge me on how I go through this.
This last time took me by surprise. I hope it enjoyed the sneak attack because next time I’ll see it coming. I’m building stronger armor. And something tells me that my greatest strength will be found in yielding. Flow. Riding the wave.
Jen Mulford is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and champion for personal freedom.