Off the Mat: Crazy-Making Cycles of Perimenopause
Which direction are you going Mama? my boy chirps.
When should we expect you back? my hubby inquires.
Bite my tongue to stop the nasty voice in my head from coming out of my mouth: If, not when. The logical voice exits instead, 2 hours tops. I need to blow off the stink.
Conscious enough to take his good advice and slip a granola bar into my jersey pocket. Water bottle already full, waiting. Pound pedals out the driveway. Up the hill. Match breath and legs to mantra in my head.
- Am. E. Nough. I am. Enough. I am enough.
Menopause comes on the early side in my family. Three generations of woman all done by 52, the average age in the US. One sis had her last menstrual cycle when she was 46. Like a switch, my cycle shifted dramatically the week I turned 46 this August. And dramatic is the right word. As if 5 days of modest PMS were crowded into one, high octane, super intensity rage day. Crawling out of my skin.
Knowing to expect this, I sought the advice of a specialist in my early 40s. She showed me two charts – one your typical sine curve wave of a steady hormonal cycle. The other, a random squiggle of lines. No rhyme. No reason. “This is a perimenopausal woman’s hormone cycle. You’re not imagining it.”
Trying to clue my hubby in, I explained I haven’t felt this hormonal since early pregnancy. Brain fuzz. Clumsy to the point of dropping things. Short fused and weepy. I’m not a weepy one. Generally, I’m hard pressed to cry.
Abandoning visions of disappearing north into Vermont, I turn east toward Pelham. Liking the idea that drivers may THINK I intend to climb the 4 miles up to 202. I don’t.
Racing mind, swamped with regret that my hubby and son have to put up with my crabby, short-fused, unpredictable moods. Frustrated with the isolation I feel at home these days without another female in my space.
A quick, steep ascent, then cut southward. No traffic to distract me from my disgruntled thoughts. Pedaling hard. Breathing hard. Attention barely on the road.
My period started when I was 11 and quickly established a regular and reliable pattern. I’m so accustomed to the rise and fall of energy, the telltale signs in my body, that I rarely need to look at the calendar. Though planner that I am, I track it anyway.
I don’t fear menopause; I fear the transition. The loss of predictability. The absence of the familiar, trustworthy pattern of my cycle. The sense I know what’s coming.
Crossing into Belchertown, I notice my mind is no longer racing. Body and breath feel fluid, not tense. I’m back in my body again, not raging away from it up into the Pelham Hills. It occurs to me to wonder how long I’ve been riding. I pull over to check – 33 minutes. Half an hour of sweat and breath brought me back to a calm mind and body.
Good to know.
In addition to those two contrasting hormone charts, the main take away from my consult with that doc is this: the best tool for managing the ups and downs of perimenopause? Exercise.
Pedaling toward home, I re-set my intention to weave exercise in, more days than not. I can set the cycle of my day and week. Honor the cycle of the seasons and the grand cycle of my life. These coming months may be tough without my steady, internal cycle. But I’m equipped for the long ride. I am enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ginny is a pain specialist, bodyworker and yoga instructor who offers workplace education programs to ease pain and prevent injury. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com