A year ago today, I consciously took a step off a path.
Not a metaphorical path, but a real-life path, in a small field, in a town called Petworth in West Sussex.
I remember clearly making the choice, choosing to place my left foot on the grass next to the path. In that split second, it felt like a harmless step to take. In actual fact, the grass was hiding a dip and I went over horribly hard on my ankle. I collapsed in a dramatic heap like a Premier League football player, asking my husband to keep my legs raised, to stop myself passing out!
Despite the enormous swelling, I told myself it was just a sprain and had convinced myself that ice, elevation, a Tubigrip bandage, rest for a few days and a shit load of turmeric would be enough for me to push on through with my busy life.
It took weeks to reach the point of finding out that I had actually ruptured a ligament, and there was some form of tendon damage. And now, a year on, I’m eight weeks post-ankle surgery, after needing a ligament clean-up and a tendon repair.
OK, what’s all this got to do with perimenopause?
There is no doubt that this past year has been hugely challenging and I spent time pondering this morning on reaching a year of reduced and at some points no mobility. I reflected on how much grief it has brought up, how my self-worth has been brought into question, how much I’ve had to say no to, how much my life has been forced to slow down. And, bearing in mind I teach self-care, how high imposter syndrome has piled up!
That perimenopause link?
Well, the societal push in all things menstrual, in perimenopause and menopause is to carry on regardless. You’ve seen the adverts – it’s suggested you don’t stop, but instead ramp it up and maybe choose your bleed as the perfect time to hop on that zip wire! The precept is – do not listen to what your body and psyche are asking of you, instead push on through, and that’s where you’ll prove your strength and sense of worth.
Holland & Barrett recently ran a Me.No.Pause campaign, which personally made my blood boil. What an amazing opportunity for growth missed by suggesting we do not pause and explore ourselves at this time of transition.
Of course, I wouldn’t dream of speaking for all, as the menopause transition can be an energising time for some who are strongly pulled towards action, rather than rest and reflection. But, from the many years of working with women, there is a HUGE call and need to slow down, allowing the richness of menopause to be experienced.
You see, waxing lyrical about listening to your needs and resting in menstrual and peri/menopause terms is effortless. But what happened when faced with pausing and listening in another guise? I didn’t, and that has been the greatest lesson.
My surgeon reminded me that it’s been necessary for this operation to make my ankle much worse than before the surgery, but by taking the recovery really slowly and carefully, I would heal stronger than before.
Isn’t it the perfect analogy for perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a time when it can feel as though we’re losing our marbles, our fertility, our youthful body. A time when we face grief, questioning self-worth, at times questioning everything. This opportunity we’re given at perimenopause is to sift out what isn’t serving us in our life, realising it’s ok and necessary say “no” more often, and for allowing ourselves to slow down and really listen to how our body and psyche is asking us to respond.
I’ve spent much of the past year looking for the message this injury has given me, knowing perimenopause was there in the picture, simply because of having to completely change the pace of my life.
Post surgery has been a perfect storm of having an area that carries the entire weight of the body operated on and being deep in perimenopausal void space.
For weeks after the surgery, apart from being physically immobile, my mind went into almost complete immobility too! I couldn’t concentrate on reading or writing, watching hours of tv, but couldn’t tell you about what I’d seen. Everything stopped, except my emotions. They were, and continue to be on high alert. Barely a day has gone by without emotions being pricked in one way or another. There have been tears aplenty! There it has been, facing the grief simply because that’s all I can do.
The challenge is always to keep listening.
I was guided to take 12 weeks off work for recovery, but it turns out that wasn’t realistic, and realising that my ‘surgery sabbatical” would have to be extended, sent me into a tail spin. My response was ridiculous, the next day, rather than pace myself, as advised, I decided to up my movement, cook for the family, do chores that I had, by necessity, let others take care of for the past 7 weeks, go for the longest “walk” since the operation…and what did my body tell me? To slow the fuck down, remember sister, you’re being asked to stop!
The real truth about menopause is to listen to our needs harder and closer than we ever have in our life. There is a second, wisdom spring of life to revel in post menopause. Journeying to the other side of the transition, by listening with grace and kindness.
Having witnessed women travel through their menopause this way; listening to the manifestations (aka symptoms) and hearing what they are being asked to tend to. It is as empowering as it gets.
Not attending to our needs, that’s when we get tripped up.
The power of NOT pushing through. No, it’s not a trope we often hear, but it serves us completely at perimenopause to celebrate slowing down and only doing what feeds our soul.
So happy injury-versary to me, and all the perimenopausal teachings I have been gifted with along the way.
If you are in your 40s or 50s and perimenopause is on your radar, join us for our Woman Kind online retreat Am I Going Mad? from 1st-14th July. Exploring the messiness of it all in virtual circle.