Saturday, January 5, 2008

Courage to face the dark

"If we have the courage to face into the dark we may witness the slow epiphany or showing forth of the feminine" (Hall, The Moon and the Virgin, quoted from Wild Genie, A Pope)

Depression, feelings of lethargy, apathy, low energy, feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks- all of these conditions have hit me more strongly since I hit peri-menopause. I think menopause makes us extremely sensitive to our moods, and we can't just skip over them, pretend we're all right. The same as during our pre-menstrual time, feelings are amplified.

Alexandra Pope says this is a good thing (although a clinical depression needs serious treatment): "to sometimes feel empty and lost is a normal experience and a part of life. Of course you deserve to be joyously happy - I don't wish depression on anyone. But the more we run from such feelings the more monstrous and out of control they'll become. Because depression usually slows us down, even stops us altogether, it's the natural companion to ceaseless activity. Your down times are the doorway to exalted states -- with depression as your co-traveller you will also be able to experience great joy. "

She suggests that we take the risk of investigating these down times for the hidden gold: just like menstrual cramps, if you go with them, go into the pain instead of numbing it, you'll find their opposites come to you more easily.

"Cradle yourself" through this down time. "The Chinese believe that at menstruation a woman loses chi or essential energy" which may also explain the dip in mood.

We are cyclical beings - accept the dark of the moon days, and cherish yourself with comfort foods, warm blankets, heating pads. We can regenerate. We can be born again from the ashes of this discomfort. When I have a bad day, when all I see is dirt, darkness and demoralisation, I know I am in sad need of sleep, rest, and maybe a day alone watching the Rome series on TV, or reading some historical fiction (Diana Gabaldon, my newest discovery). The next day is invariably brighter. It always surprises me - I am fine, it was temporary. It did not take over my whole life. Pencil in a morning retreat time, take a hot bath.

I did need some professional help in peri-menopause,(to stop being so hard on myself) and saw a therapist regularly to get over some major trauma in my childhood life that was still hanging on. Talking and crying for a year released a lot of 'stuck energy'. Reiki treatments and massage, yoga and pilates also helped. Moving the body, listening to upbeat or soothing music - treating your tired self with kindness instead of getting out the whip - these are remedies we can give ourselves during menopause, and preparing for menopause.

"The more she disowns her despair the more it will rise up and bit her each time the period comes." Pope is a psychotherapist in practice, and writes from experience.

My own experience corroborates her advice: when your defences are down and the inner critic is attacking, retreat, rest and refuge are useful allies.

"If you can learn to ride the cyclical ups and downs with greater acceptance you'll develop an incredibly useful and resilient psychological muscle that will prepare you for any major life challenge. To go Up and Out into the world, you need to be able to go In and Down. "

Peri-menopause is a descent. Prepare the sails for a slackening wind. Let yourself drift without purpose, if necessary. The wind will pick up again. Listen within for your own truth at the bottom of the well.



Beverly Keaton Smith said...

I'm so there and I get this. Your words are so comforting Jen. Thank you!

musemother said...

I'm glad you found them encouraging Jen. I can only speak from my own experience,


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