Perimenopause Is Like Climate Change
I used to be able to identify each of the 4 phases (Inner Seasons) of my menstrual cycle.
Firstly, Inner Winter or menstruation where my hormones are low and I want to hide from the world, restore my energy and reflect on the past cycle.
Then my Inner Spring or follicular phase where oestrogen begins to rise and my energy, motivation and excitement do the same. I am a playful, social, mischievous version of myself that doesn’t want to miss out on anything.
After Spring comes Summer, ovulation, where my oestrogen and testosterone peak, and I’m an absolute boss at everything. I am the most authoritative, eloquent and confident version of myself.
Then it’s into Inner Autumn or the luteal phase where progesterone dominates and I’m getting things organised, focusing on the essentials and making decisions. I’m a mellower, more mature, empathetic version of myself.
And then are my transition days. The ‘voids’. The in-betweens.
The transition from summer to autumn and from autumn to winter, when my hormones are dropping and I feel the ground giving way beneath means I need to lower my expectations and get more sleep.
The transition from winter to spring and from spring to summer, when my hormones are building, I experience headaches and anxiety (a bit like a caffeine hit) meaning I need to take more breaks and not let my ego (oestrogen wild side) take over.
This is my cycle. This is what I have studied and got to know at a profound level. I could literally predict my energy, my motivation, my moods. Each cycle would be the same as the last. And I could pinpoint when my vulnerabilities would show, what days I would have certain ‘strengths’ and what I would need each day in order to support myself.
But as my cycle and hormones have changed over the last few years, and more so the last 12 months, I am struggling. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally.
Some cycles are my ‘normal’ 4 phase (four-season) cycle where I am ovulating and my body (and brain) knows what’s going on and what to expect.
Not only that but my oestrogen surges over and over again as my body does it’s best to make ovulation happen. And obviously in-between the surges we have drops in oestrogen.3
As a result, I am experiencing more hormonal shit-shows. Take last week for instance. I went from feeling and overwhelming gratitude and peace within my body one minute into an uncontrollable rage the next.
This then moved into a deep, end of the world, black hole, sinking feeling before leading into an excitement and energy for the possibilities ahead. A confident, change-the-world feeling.
Which then dropped into anxiety and an whelming fear which made me want to run and hide from the world I was supposed to be changing just one minute ago. Honestly, it was over and over and round and round for days.
The thing is, I can cope with these feelings as they arrive through each season of my cycle (which they do). But when they come at me all at once I feel…crushed. Lost. Confused. Raw. Vulnerable.
After trying to explain to my husband what I was experiencing last week (after he took the brunt of my meltdown), he said it sounded like ‘climate change’. Like I was experiencing all the seasons in one day (like it does here in the UK). And he was spot on.
That’s how it feels. And funnily enough, in the book Wise Power, the authors have written the same thing about perimenopause…
“The Inner Seasons don’t work in the way I’m used to - they can all happen at any moment in the anovulatory cycle. It’s like climate change. It is climate change!”
I have learned to cope with my vulnerabilities as they arise in each of my phases. I can predict them and I know what I need to support myself. After all, each phase has different vulnerabilities, and so different needs.
But when all my vulnerabilities come at me at the same time and I have no way of predicting, I don’t know whether it’s suncream, a rain coat, snow boots or an umbrella that I need.
However, one of the things that has helped the last few days is reading Wise Power by Alexandra Pope & Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer which I highly recommend if you’re going through perimenopause or as they call it, the Quickening.
It’s made me realise that even though I may feel lost and disorientated as my menstrual cycle, my anchor, starts to come adrift, all of this is entirely normal.
“In your 40s you hit the autumn of your menstruating years. It’s normal now to feel a restlessness kick in and an urgency to answer life’s deeper questions: ‘What’s it all about? What do I really want?’”
The authors say that our 40s are all about listening more strongly to that deeper pulse within us, the one that is “beyond societal expectations and demands.”
And that we may find an awareness of the impact of our past and a desire to understand ourselves better.
In a nutshell, this autumn phase of our life really is the time for inner work and healing.
“It’s true that, hormonally, you do shift in your 40s, but that doesn’t need to spell declining health, as though it were an inevitability. Your hormonal health is a monitor and mirror of your overall health and wellbeing. So, think of it as a report card on how you’re doing — with any symptoms as a cry for attention, for self-care. You can’t ignore or take your health for granted any longer. Self-care is now non-negotiable.”
So as I approach my 40th birthday, what I need now is to use this time to learn. To rethink how I support myself during this time. To heal. To nourish. To continue to grow. To understand this normal transition and to use it to guide this next decade of my life.
This is when an egg is not released and so ovulation doesn’t happen. No ovulation means no progesterone.↩︎
Or maybe I should call this the upside down!? Just a thought↩︎
I can always tell what my oestrogen is doing by observing my cervical mucus. Cervical mucus increases in response to rising oestrogen. Therefore more oestrogen means more cervical creamy or egg-white mucus. Low oestrogen means dryer days.↩︎