As we enter our late 30’s and early 40’s (the decade of time which typically precedes natural menopause) something happens to our emotions. It can look like depression or apathy. Even things we normally love can lose their gleam and we can find ourselves struggling with a lack of energy. It can look like anger—a low boil of dark feelings that seem to stay just out of reach. It can look like rage and finding ourselves feeling suddenly and completely out of control. It can even be a mixture, with each day seeming like a revolving door of new feelings. This isn’t just “wacky hormones”. If this is happening to you, your heart is talking. Failure to listen will affect your overall happiness and health. It will also affect your experience of menopause.
First of all, we need to remember that there are no good or bad feelings—every single one of them is simply a guide. Feelings like anger, rage, and apathy are coded messages from our hearts that something is out of balance or even wrong. When we’re getting these messages, it’s because our heart (and often our brain, too) knows that changes are needed and it wants the changes made now. You know how we recognize the rush of oxytocin, that sparkly or romantic feeling that signals love and bonding? Or how we can physically label the feeling of satisfaction that goes along with completed tasks? We know how to connect many of our feelings to the circumstances in our lives, especially the lighter or brighter ones. The darker or heavier feelings can be more difficult or even scary to consider. Depending on how our mothers approached feelings and how our social circle typically handles them, we can attempt to find solace in shopping, eating, drinking, and avoiding. All of these coping behaviors only serve us for so long, though. Eventually our hearts will demand an audience. When we treat the darker feelings as valid and necessary, too, we find they really are working on our behalf.
Listen to your anger. What is it telling you? Is there a story that keeps coming up? Attempting to laugh it off or pretending it’s nothing will ultimately make the feelings intensify. Listen to your sadness, apathy, depression. What’s underneath it? You might have a strong suspicion or it might take some time to unravel. What can you do today to honor your heart? Is it seeing a therapist or finding a trustworthy support person for help finding a way through these feelings? Is it just having a friend listen to you and validate your frustrations? Are there things or people in your life that are making you ill? Is it time to shore up your relational boundaries or carve out breathing space between you and someone? There’s a lot to consider. There’s also a diverse array of potential solutions!
Here’s what I know to be true for everyone: your heart is wise and your heart wants the best for you. It will literally live or die based on your choices. Your heart is sending you messages because it is invested in your happiness. You deserve a spacious and nourished perimenopause and listening to your heart is the perfect place to begin.