Thirty-Six Days

Previously on “Peri-menopause is Not for the Faint of Heart”…Threatened by a raging hormonal surge of epic proportions our heroine Mimm was doomed to a mid-life of surly retorts and bitter regrets.

Trapped in a manic nightmare, could her moods stop swinging long enough for Mimm to find her way back from the edge of reason?

Thirty-six days is about right. My cycle is more or less consistent. Women at my age typically experience the opposite as their cycles become increasingly erratic.  But I’ve always been contrary. So while I was all over the calendar in my twenties, now I can count on a dramatic shift in my view of the world every six weeks or so.

Shortly before Thanksgiving the shift destabilized me to the extent that I sought help through yoga and acupuncture with herbs.  Reminding myself that I am in control of my changing body and my hormones – not the other way around – makes me stronger, and I believed that finding help was taking a proactive step towards health.

One cycle later, how am I doing?

Yoga: There’s no doubt about it.  Yoga makes me feel better.  With the first down dog of the day I experience a dynamic change in energy.  I can step on my mat in the most foul mood and step off the mat with a smile on my face.  My Yoga for Peri-menopause emphasizes supported back bends to open the heart, a slow flow of standing postures for strength with emotional stability and long held Yin floor work to settle the nervous system.

Acupuncture: I knew that in order for my acupuncturist to do her best healing work, I had to be honest about the symptoms I was experiencing. I knew that if I tried to tell her in person, on the day of my appointment, I would gloss over their severity.  We’re all guilty of it.  The symptom that feels catastrophic as it happens suddenly seems silly as described to a healthcare professional.  So instead of telling her in person and risking diminishing their importance, I sent an email. Having a concise list of my symptoms before our appointment supported my practitioner’s instincts and helped her diagnosis and treatment. She suggested herbal formulations and in the past six weeks I’ve had two ‘needle sessions’.  It would be wrong of me, however, to expect an immediate change.  Acupuncture – in fact most Eastern medicine and complementary therapies – is subtle and paced.  And I feel this is how it should be.  Acupuncture is gently encouraging me to move toward balance.

I know what you’re thinking.

So what about Rolfing? Those of you who keep track may remember that I began seeing Rolfer Michael Murphy – an innovative leader in the field for thirty years.  I have one more appointment with Michael and then an appointment booked in February with a ‘classic’ Rolfer who also happens to be a woman.  I intend to keep these appointments but my instinct is telling me that structural integration is not what I need now.  I also must confess that Rolfing is simply cost prohibitive.  Besides, treating symptoms with a variety of approaches makes it impossible to determine which of those approaches is most effective.  And so, after my appointment mid-way through my next six-week cycle, I’ll let go of Rolfing – although my belief in the importance and efficacy of body therapy is not diminished.  It’s just not the right time for me.

The bottom line is we all have a different set of symptoms and different constitutions.  If follows, then, that complementary therapies will resonate at different frequencies for each individual.  So while a combination of yoga with acupuncture keeps me at a somewhat even keel, it may not be the correct combination for you.

Besides, there are other considerations.  If moods were charted on a bell curve mine would still be considered ‘left of happy’.  While I’ve improved and have gained control, I’m still miles away from my usual perky self.  And so, I have to ask myself:

What am I missing?

Diet and exercise. Why haven’t I worked harder to consider nutrition and fitness?  The answer is simple:  it requires too much personal investment. It requires motivation.  Self-belief.  Faith.   If I want to affect permanent change I need to make a daily commitment to my health.  But am I strong enough?

I won’t deny that the choices I’ve made these past thirty-six days have improved my outlook.  But the next thirty-six days will require a stronger personal commitment. Am I worth the hard work?  I think so.

The First Step:

When I began writing this post at six this morning, I believed asking other people to heal me spoke to my being proactive.  Fourteen hours later and I realize it’s not up to other people to make me well.  They can contribute and guide me, but the only person who can fully commit to my health is me.  And so, with a full day between that first sentence and this last one, I took the first step.  I made a commitment to myself…but more on that in a few days.


Peri-menopause is Not for the Faint of Heart

Looking back, I showed considerable restraint.

“Why don’t you just go to a doctor and get a pill?”

This coming from a man who has never been and is never going to be the poster child for good health.  Besides, what does a man know about it anyway?

Some women flush, some sweat.  Others deal with insomnia while some unfortunate souls juggle all three with swinging moods thrown in for good measure.  For me, peri-menopause – otherwise known as the “Transition” seems to be all about my mood.

Life was so simple just a few short years ago.  How I long for the time when I enjoyed seven simple days of general malaise followed by my flow – and the wonderfully manic high that followed as my hormones swung in the opposite direction.

But my formerly light yet lengthy pre-menstrual tension had, over the past twelve months, boiled itself down like an over-reduced sauce to forty-eight hours of mournful hell.   Seriously. You really did not want to be a bicyclist running a stop sign during those two days if I was on the road.

Yet my body had one more trick up its sleeve.  Just as I was growing accustomed to Mimm’s Evil Twin making an appearance every thirty-days she was traded in for a hormone storm of such ferocity that I could not fathom there would ever be an end.  I fell into Alice’s dark rabbit hole.  I fell and fell for days until a breakdown during my writer’s group (we’re talking mild hysteria, twitches and unstoppable tears) made it clear to me I needed help.  I was losing my peri-menopausal mind, and I wanted to find it again.

This is usually the moment when one of my wonderful, older clients chimes in with, Menopause?  I sailed right through menopause.  Don’t even remember it.” Of course she doesn’t remember.  It was thirty years ago.  While she was peri-menopausal, the rest of the world was watching Dallas and trying to figure out who shot J.R.!

I guess the truth is, some women do ‘sail through’.  But not me.  It’s embarrassing.  I’m a yoga teacher, for Pete’s sake.  Things like a few hormone fluctuations shouldn’t bother me.  I wish. Even though I have a reasonable diet and a daily yoga practice I know that it will take more to manage my symptoms.  But hormone replacement therapy is a last resort.  For now, I have a three-point plan of attack:  acupuncture with Chinese herb chasers, Rolfing and, of course, Yoga.

I have another ten days before my hormones take a swing toward the dark side and so it is too soon to know if my complementary approach is useful.  I can tell you that, for now, the black mood is gone.  This post is proof that I’m writing again – I’m functioning.  But will I crumble again on December 20th?  I’m not planning on it, but the truth is I just don’t know.

 

And now, the disclaimer.  I’m single and childless and can indulge my whims.  If you’re suffering – see a doctor.

 

 


Reading for Pleasure

I read for pleasure yesterday.  Yes, that’s correct.  I read.  For pleasure.

The morning began like every other morning.  I woke, came down the stairs in the house where I’m taking care of Frodo the Magical Golden Retriever, and opened my notebook to check emails while the coffee brewed. (The dream I had last August of continuing the morning meditation and yoga practice begun during Yin Teacher Training has collapsed.  Old habits die hard – but that’s for another post.)

On this Saturday, my heart just wasn’t in the emails.  Or working on my novel The Growing Season.  I wanted more from the day than the same old routine.  And so I put down the laptop and picked up Gil Hedley’s Reconceiving My Body, cozied up on the couch, and opened to the first page.

Six hours later – with a few breaks for lunch and dog walking – I read the last sentence, “I truly appreciate your interest” and closed the book.

I’ve mentioned Gil Hedley before.  I’ve posted his “Fuzz Speech” online, as have many of my friends from Yin training.  I’ll be participating in a one-day anatomy intensive with Hedley in February and a one-week cadaver intensive in April.  Reading this book was the beginning of my preparation for these workshops.

The thing is, Gil Hedley is an odd duck.  Admittedly, so am I.

Reconceiving My Body is a love story.  Sort of.  It’s the story of how Hedley went from wanna-be-Priest to PhD to Tai Chi Guy to Rolfer to Somanaut to Husband to Father.  It’s a deeply personal story and yet the story he tells belongs to everyone.  Who hasn’t struggled with faith, with sexuality, with finding their path?  How many travel through life playing the role of the victim until we finally learn to take personal responsibility for our actions? Ultimately it is trust – not faith – that leads to redemption.

Good teachers are hard to find.  Based on what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard and now, what I’ve read – I found one.

(I know, I know…you’re heads are still wrapping around the idea of a “cadaver intensive.”  That’s all right.  So’s mine.)

 


Dealing with Trauma

Last night I had dinner with friends.  One was recovering from a bad motorbike accident a few days earlier that left him bruised, with several broken bones. My friend was particularly agitated because he had only just begun a new fitness regimen – and now all that hard word would be lost.  He was in pain, frustrated, impatient and determined to heal.

We discussed his options.  He understands muscle ‘memory’ and is concerned that ‘memories’ of the accident will make it difficult to regain the strength and flexibility he had prior to the accident.  My friend isn’t certain what sort of physical therapy he’ll have – he’s still waiting to find out if he’s going to have to undergo surgery – but he’s anxious to do whatever he can to encourage healing.  He wondered if body therapy in the form of Rolfing might be of benefit.

I had two bits of contrary advice:

Rest. Give the body time to process. The physical trauma is recent – only days old – and the body is still trying to figure out what happened.  That’s true on an emotional level as well.  When trauma occurs we need time – at least seventy-two hours, longer depending on the injury – for our physical body and our spirit to process what has happened and how our life might change.

Keep moving. The longer he stays still, the more time his connective tissue has to tighten.  So move.  Even a little.  And as silly as it sounds, the more you move, the more you’ll move.  (If you want to know more about connective tissue and why we must include a flexibility practice in our fitness regime watch The Fuzz Speech.)

My third bit of advice falls between the first two:

Multi-task. I told my friend that as soon as he can climb on a table, to book a massage appointment.  A soothing massage will rest the nervous system and manipulate the muscle fibers – it will increase circulation and help break up forming adhesions and scar tissue.

And Rolfing?

Funny enough, when I woke up this morning I saw an article posted on Facebook by my friend and Rolfer Michael Murphy.  You can read the article here.  And you can meet Michael here.

One paragraph stood out:

In that regard, he said he viewed the treatment as an extension of practices like yoga, which also offers relief without drugs. “Yoga is in many ways analogous to Rolfing because it takes tendons and it stretches them into a position of discomfort,” Dr. Oz said. “They’re just doing it for you without your doing it yourself.”

So true!  Especially considering practices that include a Yin or Assisted Yin element. Assisted Yin combines yoga with massage.  Think slow motion Thai Massage.  The practitioner supports the client in Yin derived positions for up to five minutes.  The effect is a profound stretching of the connective tissue that breaks up scar tissue, dissolves adhesions and deeply soothes the nervous system.  The work can be challenging but is not painful.

Disclaimer:  I’ve never been Rolfed.  I don’t have an informed opinion.  My ideas regarding Rolfing are based on anecdotal evidence. I have, however, experienced the trauma of being thrown twenty feet off my bicycle by a moving vehicle.  Would I want to be Rolfed after that?  No thank you. Still, Rolfing appears to be an intensely powerful experience – one that I think I’d like to try.  But as far as my friend is concerned, my advice is for him to wait until his bones have healed and the bruising is gone.  The best thing he can do right now is practice gentle, mindful patience.