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From Hot Flash to Purifying Fire: The Power of Reframing Symptoms

I did not start perimenopause feeling empowered. My attitude was - this is not normal and not ok. I dreaded the physical changes.

  My libido plummeted, which for someone who identifies as a very sexual being was devastating and disorienting.  My vagina became drier, tighter, didn’t feel like my familiar body.  My moon went from normal to a flood of heavy bleeding, and then less frequency.  The grief of my moon eventually ending took me by surprise, and weighed heavy in my heart.  I felt like I was PMSing all the time, consumed by irritability, anxiety, and emotional unpredictability.  And the brain fog was killing me, making me feel like I was crazy and out of it.  This is not what I was wanting.  It was NOT ok.  

I researched, took herbs and supplements, saw acupuncturists, took Chinese herbs, changed my diet, exercised more, started seeing a naturopathic doctor.  I had tremendous privilege – financial, time, cis-gendered, being white – and still felt dismissed by doctors and at a loss about where to find support. I was clear that my menopausal symptoms were on the more extreme end of the spectrum, and while all the changes I was making shifted things a bit, nothing I was doing seemed to make them change significantly.

And then…I became curious and began to change something else – my mind.  I was becoming increasingly aware of the toxic attitude our culture has towards menopause and the fear that I and other women held about becoming irrelevant and undesirable.  What if it was our culture’s perspective on menopause and the lack of support that was the problem, not the symptoms I was experiencing?  I’ve had enough experiences of the body’s profound wisdom and resilience to trust that nothing happens by mistake in our physical landscapes.  What if I listened more closely to what my body was trying to communicate to me?  What if my body was trying desperately to share with me what was out of alignment in myself and in my culturally conditioned beliefs about menopause?

I began to experiment and listen.  And what I heard was:

Hot flashes and night sweats are a purification of what no longer serves me – and with each descent into that fire, I can consciously think about what I’m letting go of.

Insomnia is the moon wanting to keep me awake to speak to me of her wisdom – and when I’m awake I can speak to her, or engage in activities that nurture my body and soul.

Low libido and vaginal dryness is my sexuality shifting into one that is more about slowness and my pleasure – and I can seek out a new way of intimacy with my partner, different than what’s come before, more connected, more communicative, with a broader range of sensuality.

Anger and irritability is my honesty and directness maturing into truth seeing & truth telling – and  I can listen to what I’m feeling angry or frustrated with and be honest about what changes that’s pointing me to make.

Mood swings are my emotions surfacing and wanting to be heard – and I can take time to listen to my emotions, to create space with myself or others to feel them rather than push them down, to value the full spectrum of my humanness.

Fatigue is a request from my whole being to slow down – and I can listen to that, see the consuming busyness and addictive productiveness that is rampant in our culture and in my life, and set a new way of being into motion.

Digestive issues are my body asking me to examine what I’ve been consuming in terms of food, but also emotions, people, work, and more – and I can listen and value this information, and use it to make needed changes in my life.

Something monumental shifted for me with this new perspective.  This shift didn’t mean I couldn’t seek out ways to work with the hormonal chaos, but I could do it from a place of finding balance rather than trying to eliminate something that shouldn’t be happening. My physical symptoms did become less intense, but something even more notable happened.  The physical symptoms simply stopped being the central focus of my experience because what was happening on a psychological and spiritual level became so much more engaging and compelling.  

I invite you too to explore and to listen.  Our “symptoms” are wisdom, the voice of our being speaking our truth.  What is your body telling you?  What changes is it inviting you to make?  What unvalued emotions is it asking you to lean into?  What areas of your life are out of balance?  What new ways of being are needed for you at this time?  

Here’s a simple practice to tune into the voice of your body:

Take a few minutes to breath, slow down, center yourself.  Place a hand on your body where you feel a particular symptom or emotion.  Sense the texture, color, form, density, movement.  Sense if there are any emotions, thoughts, images, or memories arising there.  Imagine your hand is a listening, caring ear expressing curiosity and care to this place in yourself.  Sense if something relaxes just with this listening.  Imagine yourself asking this place – what do you want me to know about why you’re here?  What’s your positive intent in being here?  How can I work with you in a more harmonious way?  What are you asking me to shift or align in myself or my life in a new way?  Notice what other questions you want to ask from an attitude of love, care, and curiosity. Express your gratitude to your body for the miracle it is.  Revisit this conversation as often as feels helpful.

It’s time for us to listen to this wise guide – our own body – speaking exactly the answers we’ve been waiting to hear.  

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