Peri Menopause Symptoms and MidLife Anger

by Laura Ramirez on September 18, 2011

Peri menopause symptoms can turn your world upside down, but for me, it wasn’t the hot flashes and weight gain that bothered me so much, but the moodiness (read: anger) and the mind-numbing sense that my life was about nothing more than maintenance and constant care taking of others. Worst of all was the anger. I found myself getting angry at little things that previously would have just caused me to smile or sigh and shake my head.

For instance, I would engage in negative inner dialogue every time I found yet another sock on the floor, a dish left wherever a hungry male had decided to abandon it after shoveling in his last bite, and of course, my biggest pet peeve: my husband’s tendency to leave a sponge floating in a pot that he decided to soak with water rather than wash. (The result: a stinky sponge, smelly hands and a pot that would soak forever unless I washed it.)

I would catch myself engaged in these inner rants, but try as I might, I could not seem to shake them. To my credit though, I finally took action. I gathered together all the X-Y chromosome people in my house and expressed my needs, loud and clear. “Look,” I told them, “I need more help. I need you to clean up after yourselves, instead of waiting for me to do it, I need you to keep track of your keys, your schedules …” and then I got into specifics with regard to helping around the house. Although at first, it went in one ear and out the other, they finally started to get it.

During the time that I was going through this phase, I remembered what a friend had once told me: when women go through menopause, they “lose the need to nurture.” Although I didn’t want to admit it, this was what I was struggling with—not only had I lost the need to nurture, I was feeling guilty about it.

Of course, my guilt was not some ordinary mommy-feels-bad-because-she-yelled guilt. It was a result of what professionals are referring to as “overcare.” I was carrying the burden of responsibility around my house as women tend to do. Not only was I working and doing my best to pay the bills, I was taking care of everything else and rushing to meet everyone’s needs except my own. Forgetfulness in my house was rampant. Lost car keys and homework a daily occurrence. Messes were made and left behind. Sometimes, I would look around my house and close my eyes at the sense of overwhelm and despair. All the things that needed doing … I could say more, but you’ve probably got the picture at this point.

This pattern probably started when I first met my husband who is disabled and lives in chronic pain. Since he is handicapped, he needs more care and I was required to respond to more medical emergencies than women who do not have a family member who is disabled. Sacrificing myself became a pattern but of course, in the beginning, it was born of love and the desire to take care of my beloved. But after 25 years of caretaking and raising two boys into teenagers, I realized that my love might have crossed the line into overcare.

Looking back, I thank God for the anger of menopause because it saved my life.

Here’s what Sandra Tsing Loh had to say about menopause in her recent article:

[callout title=The Bitch is Back]What the phrase wisdom of menopause stands for, in the end, is that, as the female body’s egg-producing abilities and levels of estrogen and other reproductive hormones begin to wane, so does the hormonal cloud of our nurturing instincts. During this huge biological shift, our brain, temperament, and behaviors will begin to change—as then must, alarmingly, our relationships. As one Northrup chapter title tells it, “Menopause Puts Your Life Under a Microscope,” and the message, painful as it is, is: “Grow … or die.”

One could further argue that all of these menopausal women, in fact, represent a major evolutionary shift. Owing to women’s greatly lengthened lifespan (from about 40 in 1900 to 80 in 2000 in the U.S.), even the notion of what a woman’s so-called normal state is can be questioned: Northrup notes that before this time in history, most women never reached menopause—they died before it could arrive. If, in an 80-year life span, a female is fertile for about 25 years (let’s call it ages 15 to 40), it is not menopause that triggers the mind-altering and hormone-altering variation; the hormonal “disturbance” is actually fertility. Fertility is The Change. It is during fertility that a female loses herself, and enters that cloud overly rich in estrogen. And of course, simply chronologically speaking, over the whole span of her life, the self-abnegation that fertility induces is not the norm—the more standard state of selfishness is.
[/callout]

 

peri menopause symptoms

Peri menopause symptoms like anger can help you change your life if you pay attention to what is causing it.

As Sandra says in the quote to the left, it was time for me to make some demands of my own. The choice was to change or die. This meant that my role and my family’s expectations would have to change because, damn it, I intended to survive. This meant that many nights, I didn’t have the energy to give my husband a hip rub (part of his hip was removed and used to fuse his spine and it would ache deep inside his the joint, particularly at night) because I was just too dang tired. It also meant that my teenagers had more responsibilities around the house. If someone needed something washed at the last minute, mom was probably not going to be able to do it. While I was tasked with change or die, everybody in my household had to grow up (including the eldest—the 64-year old—my husband) and assume more responsibility for their lives.

The good thing about peri menopause symptoms, especially anger, despair or overwhelm is that they force you to wake up and pay attention to your body for perhaps the first time in your life. For women who have taken good care of their families—which often means that their own needs were unmet—it’s  time to put on your oxygen mask on and take some long, deep, life-sustaining breaths. Then and only then do you realize that now is the time to help all the people who always seem to need your help finally learn how to do things for themselves.

This is about being accountable to yourself—taking responsibility for your needs and making sure that they get met. After all, women are mortals too, just like all the people that we have taken care of all these years.

While this transition can be unsettling for you and your family, don’t worry: you will still be there for them, but you’ll help them because you want to and because you can, not because you feel obligated or harbor some secret fear that they are incompetent.

What about you? How have you dealt with the psychological symptoms of peri menopause, like anger about too much responsibility or being taken for granted? How have you delegated or just let some tasks go? How have you reclaimed your life? Share your story and help other women.

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