Posted in mental illness, Midlife Journey, Returning book, women

Midlife is not a pathology

And other myths they tell us about middle age, peri-menopause, menopause, midlife crisis.  This one is for women, but maybe the men in our lives would benefit from knowing too that their women are NOT going crazy…..we are just trying to be born

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Waiting rooms and clinics

Psychology, counseling and doctors’ offices are full of women between the ages of 30 and 70 who are looking for relief of symptoms that are uncomfortable and that someone (including their inner critic) told them were bad:  anxiety, depression, panic, hot flashes, death chills, tremors, headaches, belly aches, body aches and the dreaded of all dreaded symptoms :  MOOD SWINGS.  Often (but fortunately not always) the Western medical system’s response to these symptoms is to support the myth that because we are experiencing these symptoms, there is something wrong with us – something worthy of medication, hospitalization and sometimes invasive surgeries to remove the offending female parts.

Scalpel please

Then there is the whole array of physical changes that take place in the bodies of women over 30 – lines begin to appear on our faces, our hair begins to grey, body parts start to move and our bodies begin to soften.  Again, someone told us that these changes are BAD and that as these changes unfold, we become less and less desirable by the day.  The Western response – CUT COLOR LIFT SUCK DYE.  (or should I say “die?”)  And again, we place ourselves under the knife in order that the offending part(s) might be removed, stuffed, uplifted, sucked out.

Birthing Ourselves

What someone forgot to tell us is that midlife IS NOT a pathology.  These symptoms that we are experiencing are not bad, neither do they signal that something is wrong with us.  Instead, what these symptoms are letting us know is that there is something VERY RIGHT going on and something that promises to bring us something incredibly wonderful.   The something wonderful that these symptoms are bringing us to is OURSELF!  Midlife is the process through which the hormones in our bodies shift from their focus on birthing babies to the very sacred process of BIRTHING OURSELVES!

Making friends with our emotions

One of the reasons we are so uncomfortable with the midlife journey and are therefore tempted to treat it as a pathology, is because we are so dang uncomfortable with our emotions.  As women, we have been socialized to believe that in order to be loved, we have to be pleasing, gentle, kind, agreeable, cooperative, submissive, quiet and peaceful.  During the childbearing years, the special mix of hormones in our body create a veil.  This veil holds our truth in check and allows us to set our own hopes, dreams, visions, passions and needs on the shelf where they gather dust waiting for everyone else’s needs to be met.  The catch is that our truth is not really being held at bay, it is just gathering resentment for being silenced and our hopes and dreams that are gathering dust are seething in frustration and impatience because they know that the needs of others will never be fully satisfied.  So when our children are viable and the hormonal mix begins to shift, the veil tumbles to the ground and the shelf holding our dreams collapses.  In this upheaval, all the emotions that we have held at bay suddenly come crashing in.  Let me introduce you to:  rage, crying jags, sorrow and depression.  Our initial response is to try to contain these feelings, to shove them down, to shut them up.  As we try to put the lid on the volcano of emotions that are trying to erupt, they wreak havoc with our innards:  depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hot flashes, death chills, tremors, migraines, acid reflux, heart palpitations, vertigo, etc. etc. etc.  The harder we resist these feelings, the harder they work to get our attention.  And as my Buddhist friends say, “What we resists persists.”  When these emotions begin to come to the surface, if we desire to remain sane and healthy, we need to make friends with them.  Here is a little poem I wrote in support of befriending my emotions:

The Fire Within

There is a fire within that calls to me.

A primordial fire –  the burning bush that blazes but does not consume.

It is the fire of inspiration.

The fire that calls us forth, pushing us on.

Beginning as a spark.

Growing as it is fed.

Dying if not nourishment given.

Possessing a hunger that cannot be quenched.

Ever-desiring nourishment.

It hungers for

PASSION

JOY

LOVE

 

It yearns for time alone to

REFLECT

PRAY

CREATE

 

Requiring and understanding the cleansing power of tears,

the purgative power of anger,

the replenishing power of mourning.

 

This fire – the Spirit within us.

Tend her well.

Precious and necessary for survival.

Preserve and tend her well

As she thrives, so shall you! 

Support

In my upcoming book, Returning – a woman’s midlife journey to herself, I share my own journey of befriending my emotions in the process of BIRTHING MYSELF while giving you tools to do the same.  Our emotions want to be known so that they can reveal for us the SELF that is trying to be born in us – the truth that is trying to be known and to be made known.  The SELF that is trying to be born is made up of our dreams, our passions, our creativity, our sensuality, our hopes and visions.  And…this SELF is not quiet.  She is bold, flashy, loud, obvious, insistent, confident, sensual, passionate, sometimes naughty….she is all the parts of ourselves that we have kept silently hidden away….and SHE WANTS TO BE MADE KNOWN.  The good news is that most often, SHE does not need to be medicated or surgically removed….she just wants to take off her shoes and DANCE UPON THIS EARTH, and she does not wish to dance alone.  So…let’s dance, shall we?

copyright 2013  Lauri Ann Lumby

Posted in Midlife Journey

Midlife – When the Shield Falls From Our Eyes

For women (and their male or female partners), the journey through midlife can be treacherous.  It is comforting to know that there is science – specifically, a biological explanation for many of the “symptoms” experienced by women in perimenopause and menopause.  It is also important to recognize that this journey can begin in our early 30s. 

The Fire Within

There is a fire within that calls to me.

A primordial fire like the burning bush that blazes but does not consume.

It is the fire of inspiration.

The fire that calls us forth, pushing us on.

Beginning as a spark.

Growing as it is fed.

Dying if not nourishment given.

Possessing a hunger that cannot be quenched.

Ever-desiring nourishment.

 

It hungers for

PASSION

JOY

LOVE

 

It yearns for time alone to

REFLECT

PRAY

CREATE

 

Requiring and understanding the cleansing power of tears,

the purgative power of anger,

the replenishing power of mourning.

 

This fire – the Spirit within us.

Tend her well.

Precious and necessary for survival.

Preserve and tend her well

As she thrives, so shall ye! 

Not Crazy Afterall

One of the most comforting things for me, during my own journey through midlife (one which admittedly is still unfolding), was to find out that I was not CRAZY.  With the help of Christiane Northrup, M.D. and her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, I learned that I was not nuts, and that in fact, the roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing:  sorrow, weeping, rage, hatred, resentment, frustration, impatience, restlessness, depression, sadness, despair, was NORMAL.  This roller coaster of emotions, I learned, was the natural response to the biological shift in hormones that happens as we transition out of childbearing and into SELF-bearing.

The Shield Falls From Our Eyes

As our children become viable and less dependent on our undying attention to survive, the hormones in our bodies begin to change.  No longer focused on the survival of our progeny, we can now begin to pay attention to ourselves.  Christiane describes it exquisitely:

As the vision-obscuring veil created by the hormones of reproduction begin to lift, a woman’s youthful fire and spirit are often rekindled, together with long-sublimated desires and creative drives.  Midlife fuels those drives with a volcanic energy that demands an outlet. 

(Wisdom of Menopause, 2003, pg 11)

In other words, everything that we put on the back burner in favor of our children’s needs and everything we chose to overlook for “the sake of the family” suddenly comes roaring toward us demanding our attention.  We are no longer seeing through the obscured lens of our reproductive hormones, but through the clarity of midlife.  And sometimes, what we now see, SCARES US TO DEATH. 

Relationship Casualties

I have often said that The Wisdom of Menopause is a book that every woman over thirty should read and will scare every man to death.  In gory details, Dr. Northrup describes what we can expect out of this journey and recommends supports to help us along the way.  The most threatening part of this journey, she observes, is the likely relationship crisis.  In order for our relationships to survive this crisis, we need to be present to what is unfolding in us, give heed to our creative drive and long-forgotten desires and our partners MUST BE SUPPORTIVE.  Our partners need to be there through our cycling emotions – without judgment or condemnation.  They need to take on additional household responsibilities (if they haven’t been) so that our plates can be more clear to tend to our own needs and desires.  They need to tend to the children while we tend to ourselves.  They need to encourage us in our search and hold us in our frustrations.  They need to be loving and accepting of us as we face the physical changes that often accompany midlife.  The great news for our partners is that as they are being supportive of us during this period of change, we will be able to hold them in their own change (which usually comes right on the heels of our own).   The bad news is that in relationships where partners are not able to be attentive, supportive and loving, the relationship may not survive.  Some also discover, while embracing their re-emerging SELF, that the partner they chose in their childbearing years is unable to meets the needs of the SELF in midlife.  As Dr. Northrup so boldly shares, her own marriage could not survive the challenges of midlife and in the end, they chose to divorce.

Birthing our Selves

While the midlife can be a wild, chaotic and even treacherous journey, it is more importantly, MIRACULOUS and EXCITING.  Like the exhilaration and joy that comes with the birth of our children, the result of the midlife journey for some might be even more exciting because we are BIRTHING our VERY SELF.  When we are attentive to the process, feed and nurture our desires and our needs and establish new boundaries for ourselves (and our loved ones) we find the meaning, purpose and fulfillment that will sustain us as we journey through the rest of our life.

For support and inspiration in your own midlife journey, watch for the release of Lauri’s new book, Returning – a woman’s midlife journey to herself.