Menopausal mood swings can open new doors in your life
by Corinna Wood
Curious what new doors menopausal mood swings might open in your life?
Let me tell ya, they opened doors in mine!
From what I’d heard from my sisters and elders, I expected to face menopausal mood swings—even emotional uproar. What I didn’t anticipate was how profoundly the dramatic emotional shifts of my menopausal mood swings would inform my life, and my life choices.
For years I've looked forward to and celebrated the sacredness of my bleeding times. In my mid-40’s, as my moontimes started becoming further apart, I occasionally missed one all together . . . and they became even more precious to me, knowing that any one of them could be my last. I knew I would miss those years once they passed.
Throughout last year, I watched the calendar, wondering if another moontime would return—once the 13th moon passed, I would no longer expect their return.
Indeed, as of this month, I find myself standing at that 13th moon crossroads, my next step on the journey of menopause (which I fondly call “moon-opause,” as my mooncycles have paused).
Menopause is a time ripe for inner work
My menopausal mood swings initiated a deep inquiry within.
As it turns out, menopause is a time ripe for this inner work.
Brain science recognizes this as "neuroplasticity" meaning our brains are able to reorganize as we re-shape our minds by developing new neural pathways.
And the best part is that it happens throughout our entire lives.
Yet, I daresay, especially during menopause.
“Research into the physiological changes taking place in the menopausal woman is revealing that, in addition to the hormonal shift that means an end to childbearing, our bodies—and specifically, our nervous systems—are being, quite literally, rewired." ~ Christine Northrup, MD
My personal theory is that's what the hot flashes are for: an opportunity to blow off trauma-based myelination of the brain that can keep us stuck in old patterns and belief systems (such as, "something's wrong with me"). Which allows for neurogenesis—including building synapses based in healthy, self-loving belief systems.
For me, the shift started subtly; I didn’t even recognize it.
Looking back, I can now see the signs of the menopause mood swing creeping up. Externally, I became more cranky and impatient and needed to withdraw more often to maintain my center. Internally I felt a calling to tend old wounds, to shift out of difficult patterns, to break the rules.
I questioned the strategies and choices I’d made, paying attention to which of my needs they met—and which needs they didn't meet.
Like an archeological dig, I began excavating limiting belief systems that no longer served me, eventually mapping them into my “Museum of Old Beliefs.” I consciously developed new beliefs, which led to considering new strategies.
Menopausal mood swings got me unstuck
In my case, my transition into menopause was outwardly reflected as my mothering phase of life began to transform.
As my mood swings increased, I became irritable with my beloved teenage son.
Interruptions to my work became intolerable. In my upset about my son staying up late into the night, I was losing precious sleep myself.
"Is this working for me?" I would wonder.
With time, I recognized I needed to find new strategies for our living situation to meet my needs and his. On some level I probably knew that I needed a place to grow through this change where my healing and nourishment could be more central. I was outgrowing my role as the single mother of a teenage boy.
And so I moved from the center of my community, to a quieter spot. By then a junior in high school, my son stayed behind in a small portion of our former home, a newly set up solo scene that we co-created—still connected to the common kitchen of our community neighborhood.
Deep inside, I knew that this unconventional choice would be better not only for me, but also for him.
My son quipped, “Mom, don’t the kids usually leave first?” He could always make me laugh. Yet I fought against the voices of maternal guilt.
Of course, what I've always wanted was for him to be able to effectively meet his own needs, and to be compassionate toward others. He was already responsible, respectful, resourceful.
He was not only ready, but restless to test his wings. He was pushing me away, trying to get space, preparing his own meals, filling his own basket in the grocery store.
I reasoned with myself, if more of us lived in intentional communities, it would probably be more normal for mothers to find the sense in moving themselves to a new place to fit their changing needs, allowing their children to safely transition toward adulthood in the safe and familiar container of neighbors and loved ones who had watched them grow over the years.
And still I grieved. For at least six months. I grieved the change of the relationship, and I grieved the transition out of that phase of my life . . . and of that aspect of my identity.
Beloved herbal allies
As a woman of the plants, of course, I've also pulled medicinal herbs close to my side through my menopausal journey.
To support my hormonal system through these changes, I deepened into daily relationships with several herbal allies—which my elder herbal mentors Susun Weed and Eaglesong have long loved and recommended for this phase of life: hawthorn, vitex and reishi.
I also value comfrey salve for soothing, strengthening, and moisturizing the yoni tissues. And I tinctured the yellow ginkgo leaves in the fall to keep my memory strong over the coming years.
Pairing herbal medicine with internal emotional work honors the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit in a holistic approach to healing.
Welcome that menopause mood swing
Now I look back and appreciate that my irritability became my ally—helping me to discern where to focus my time and how to protect my energy.
And truly sleep is now among the top priorities on my list, as I continue to navigate the hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia that are common on the menopausal journey.
Now, just as I welcomed and celebrated my moontime, I am also honoring menopause (or moon-opause) as a sacred gateway.
Like countless wise women before us, we can take this opportunity to discover the deeper meanings of our own lives.
As our beloved foremother Mary Oliver wrote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
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