By Ellie Davis
I recently started teaching a class I call “The Spirit and Science of Menopause: How It Can Be Your Key To Giving Zero Fux.”
I started teaching it because I know (even Western medicine knows!) that every single process or issue we face in our bodies is made more difficult when we fear or hate the body’s process, more easy when we feel good about it, and we feel according to how we think about things.
We are so poorly educated in regards to our bodies. We’re made to feel that our monthly blood is something gross and stinky and just a nuisance. What do you think would happen if girls started thinking of their monthly blood as the genetic material for the next generation? Seriously, ponder that one for a minute. They would almost certainly go from hating the experience to respecting their bodies for being genius, and in regarding the process with pride, they would certainly have an easier time with the physical characteristics of it. More pride=less tension, less tension=less pain.
We’re led to believe that once our estrogen is gone, we’re dried up hags with no use or possibility for fun, which is not a pleasant view of the future. What do you think would happen if women knew that we have every bit as much estrogen in our bodies after menopause, but now it’s being used for brain work rather than baby work? That we have the exact same amount of hormones after menopause as we did when we were prepubescent girls, that they’re just working in the opposite direction? Holy shit! Probably the two most uncontrollable forces on the planet: preteen girls and old ladies who know their power.
The thing that happens where we get a little spacey? Our hormones are helping our brains get reformatted so we can use both hemispheres. Of course we forget a few things that may or may not matter; Goddess Brain is under construction!
Did you know that there are hormone receptor sites in your brain associated with memory; hence, all those hormones are stirring the memory pot. Mood swings? They are not just irrational, tempestuous flairings of a demented female mind. They are our bodies very kindly, yet firmly, telling us that there is a wound asking to be dealt with. Something deeper than the empty toilet paper roll being left unchanged, to be sure, but that seemingly insignificant thing will show us something deeper that’s asking to be heard, something that has the emotional traces of a bygone hurt or a current life situation that needs to be faced. When we’re not in the throes, we can reflect on what that rant may have been asking us to take a look at… Then we can accept ourselves through the moment, releasing an old wound or standing up for ourselves in the present. This is the same thing happening when women have a difficult time pre-menstrually as well. As Dr. Christiane Northrup says, we have about 500 opportunities to wake up to ourselves in the 40 years or so that most women have their menstrual cycles. If we don’t wake up during those 500 chances, we will have a walloping chance during perimenopause.
I have experienced the shift that can happen in my own body when I reframe my perspective. I unwittingly found it in my twenties regarding difficult menses and sarcastically joking, “I am a healthy, not pregnant woman,” during a particularly painful day of cramps. I realized after some time that it was actually true and I started feeling a little gratitude for my smelly, messy, painful few days. Over time, that grew and changed my feeling to actual gratitude for the magic, and my periods, which had always been characterized by writhing pain and buckets of blood when I was young, to a few easy days of my body cleaning itself. Simple.
Hot flashes. They are so uncomfortable, and though on the surface seem to be random and pointless, I assure you they are not. Honestly, I simply cannot take off enough clothes when I’m having one. And there’s a really strange feeling that accompanies them, it’s like anxiety, but I know it’s not really that, it’s hormones bumping up against something unpleasant. So, I started noticing what I was thinking about or what situation I was in when one starts up. I’ve noticed that I’m not exactly thinking or feeling my highest vibe when one comes on, so what’s happening, in my experience, is that some kind of shit that does not help me have a better experience in life is being burned off. It’s like the impurities are being literally smelted off of me. Like gold, my hormonal fire is purifying me, and I happily let it.
Another way of looking at it came from Gilles Marin, my Chi Nei Tsang teacher. I once heard him say to a woman experiencing hot flashes that it’s creative energy not being used, searching for a way out.
All in all, the ways we frame the characteristics of perimenopause have to be our own, but we do have to start looking at them for the gifts they give rather than as a nasty punishment from nature if we want to be healthy, wise women in our crone time. It is a fact, a provable fact, that women who are happy have an easier time transitioning from the child bearing years to the years of giving birth to ourselves. I realize that there are so many different types of women’s bodies and experiences. I am not simplifying and saying that if you’re in pain, just think positive and it will be all right! No. I understand that there are times when a person needs assistance from the outside to cope. I am, however, saying that even in extreme circumstances, we have more power than we have been led to believe. Our bodies release powerful chemicals according to how we think and feel. When we change our thoughts about a situation, our feelings change. As our feelings change, our chemistry changes, either to the positive or the negative; the constructive or the destructive. We all have the same amount of hormones. The difference in the characteristics of one woman’s experience of menopause to another lies in our chemistry, and every one of us has the power to change our thoughts and therefore to change our chemistry. Again, I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying (from experience) it’s possible. And there is more, so much more, but this is a good place to start.
I’m sharing what I’m learning about the spirit behind the science of menopause because once women know that the shame heaped on us starting with our biology is baseless and false, we will be unstoppable and the revolution will be feminized.
Ellie Davis is a Roaring Fork resident, on an excruciatingly long hiatus in Sweden. She is an enthusiastically perimenopausal woman, using her writing and acting skills to help other women know how freakin’ cool they are just for being born. Ellie would like to thank Dr. Christiane Northrup and Elizabeth Davis (midwife, no relation) for so much brilliant information and inspiration.