Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

When Life Tells You To Slow Down

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Note: This post has been through several iterations since I started writing it last month. I alluded to my health issues in an earlier post reflecting on my 2010 word of the year. This post goes a little more in depth on how those weeks of uncertainty called me to slow down and think about the direction I want to take in life. Be forewarned that this post may contain too much information.

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It all started in November and got crazier the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Let me preface that by saying I’m a 47 year old female. I know changes lurk around the corner. You know, that time our mother’s referred to as “the change” or “the change of life.” Growing up, that phrase was sometimes followed by stories of women growing facial hair, going “nuts” and essentially turning into something that resembled Fiona Ogre in the “Shrek” movies.

I certainly hope time and attitudes have changed.

As I said, I’m 47 and moving toward menopause. I believe I’ve been experiencing subtle symptoms of perimenopause for the past few years. Some sources report that a woman can begin experiencing these changes up to 10 years before the actual onset of menopause. No wonder many women hate their 40′s. Personally, I’ve loved being in my 40′s. It has felt like the right age for me. Unfortunately, on the health front, it is in our 40′s when our bodies pay us back for the abuse we may have given it in our 20′s and 30′s, whether you’re a woman or a man.

I have herniated discs, bouts with GERD, creaking knees, and tinnitus. All manageable issues that do their best, at times, to make me feel, ahem “middle aged.”

And then there is the perimenopause.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with a fibroid. Fibroids are very common in women in our western culture. There is no definitive cause for fibroids. It could be estrogen overload, it could be hereditary. One statistic I read stated that up to 75% of women have fibroids. For many women, the fibroid(s) never act up or pose any problem.

And then there are the rest of us. We must be the special chosen-ones.

Everything has been manageable these last few years. My doctor and I have taken a conservative “watch and wait” approach. Then in November things got a little out of control.

There was the biopsy to rule out uterine cancer, the ultrasound to see what was going on inside, and the two sets of blood work. (Make that four blood tests throughout the month of December.)

One blood test indicated I was hypothyroid, a common diagnosis for women in perimenopause. The next blood test said my thyroid was normal but that I was anemic. By the end of the week I’d learned that the biopsy was negative (Yea!) and the ultrasound showed more fibroids.

Now the picture was getting clearer. My hormones had apparently kicked my butt, dragged me down, and shook me up.

Lucky me.

So, why would I share with you something that is rather personal? Because I believe when our bodies put us through the wringer, it is a signal that we need to slow down and regroup. You may not agree with me and I respect that. But for me, I know my body and it was definitely screaming at me.

I also share this because women often suffer in silence during this phase of life. Sure we joke with our girlfriends and cry on our sister’s shoulders. But inside many women are afraid, unsure of what is happening to their bodies. Society, and perhaps core beliefs learned when we were kids, has told us that women are to be svelte, in control, forever youthful with porcelain skin and nary a gray hair in sight. Just look at some of the “Women’s Health” magazines. We take care of others until we drop.

Menopause means we’re getting old. Things start sagging and bagging. The kids leave home. We find ourselves facing a change of roles in our life. Who are we? What do we want to do with our new self?

During these last few weeks, I found myself slowing down, not only because I felt like crap, but also because my body was telling me to do so. I returned to daily meditation and daily reading of personally uplifting passages. My dreams became more vivid and I started to analyze their personal meaning. I had my first Reiki treatment. I released myself from all structure in my schedule.

Instead of blocking out time to get this or that task done, I wrote a one page to-do list. Whatever got done, got done. If I was tired, I took a nap. If I wanted to read, I read. If I wanted to watch TV, I watched it. I wrote in my journal almost every day, sometimes three times a day. I started exercising again, even if for only 15 minutes.

And I spent a fair amount of time thinking about my business. What is important and what isn’t. What I can let go of in order to create that which is most meaningful for me.

All of this has left me feeling empowered. My health is improving, a solution has been found, and a new plan put in place for moving me forward. I feel a burden lifting and a new door opening.

This time has not been easy. I’ve had more anxiety and stress than normal. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward and 10 steps back. I keep reminding myself that I am well, that I will be well, and that all will be well.

Writing this is cathartic. I admit to having prided myself on my health; that I wasn’t experiencing this or that problem. The risk in that attitude is the shock and fear that comes when life deals you a bum card. Granted my situation is not as bad as what some other women go through. However, when you think all is “normal” and then trip on the rug, it does make you stop and re-evaluate. Writing this is also part of my process of acceptance. Acceptance of this situation. Acceptance of the challenge. Acceptance of a new road ahead.

I jokingly refer to these last few weeks as my “power surge.” You know, there seems to be a double meaning in that phrase now that I think about it. As a result of this situation, I have started to release myself from certain commitments. In turn, new opportunities are already presenting themselves to me. I am moving forward into the power that this change in life is bringing me. I slowed down and I listened.

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During this time, I found the following resources to be of great value:

A GYN’s Second Opinion

Brigham & Women’s Hospital: Obstetrics & Gynecology

BWH: Center for Uterine Fibroids

Advanced Gynecological Solutions

As always, talk to your doctor. Write down your questions and write down what the doctor tells you. Don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion. This is your body. You need to be at peace with any decision you make.

9 thoughts on “When Life Tells You To Slow Down

  1. Amy, I really appreciate your willingness to post something so personal. I too, have been on the long road to menopause and it hasn’t been an easy one. I’m 56 and my symptoms started when I was about your age. The anxiety, mood swings, aches and pains, and many other things have literally changed my life. In some ways, I’m better for it but in other ways, I’m not. For one, I was forced to quit working because of panic attacks. It helps to have an understanding husband for sure when you’re going through this. :) I’ve done a ton of reading over the years and understand so much more now, and it’s so important that you have a good Dr. who is knowledgeable in this area. I wish you good health and happiness on your journey, for it can be a long one. Love ya, Paula

    • Hi Paula,

      Yes, the support of a spouse and family make any health issue a little more bearable. I think what makes these situations hard is we are all so different. What worked for one person may not work for someone else. It can take some time to find the right path. So far, all is well. As they say, life is a journey.

  2. Hi Amy,
    I followed a comment of yours from Judy Shea’s blog, whom I followed from Julie Prichard’s Ning site, whew! You really hit a nerve with this post. As women we all go through some shape or form of re-identifying ourselves in our late 40′s early to mid 50′s and I have been no exception. Of late I have been feeling completely lost so this morning I decided to go on a quest to find some sense of, well, let’s say direction for want of a better description. When I read your post I felt a wave of calm wash over me. Your writing is beautiful and I thank you for it from my heart. You touched on so many points that I am living with right now that it almost felt as though you were talking directly to me! Be sure that I will be back to your blog again…
    Hugs,
    Beth P

  3. Amy,
    Thank you for sharing and bringing to light not only the physical issues of aging…but the emotional side of it. I suppose I never thought about it often, as I dont have physical issues associated with perimenopause YET..but I should do some reading about the emotional side of things. I was beginning to accept my new found A.D.D./memory issues/silly me stuff/and being really confused and unable to make a real decision/ what will become of me when I grow up….just me being me…. Maybe I should pay a bit more attention. Can’t wait to explain to my husband …”I just cant help it, its hormones” …
    Keep us up to date on your recovery from “middle age”.

    • Hi Paula,
      Yes, this is a crazy time fraught with physical and emotional challenges. A good support system is very helpful. I’m reminded of a song by Sting in which he sings “She can be all four seasons in one day.” That certainly describes the roller coaster I’ve been on these last few weeks. And during perimenopause it can definitely feel like your passing through all four seasons emotionally.

      Of course, the disadvantage to the end of this phase of life is that I’ll have to come up with another excuse for the brain farts, stupid comments, pissy attitude, and easily shed tears :-)

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  6. Hi Amy
    So sorry to hear about your health challenges during the past few months and I am glad that you are now feeling better and have a better understanding of what your body was telling you. I’m a bit older than you and have experienced many mid-life health signals too and want you to know that it does get better.
    After great advise from my physicians I am now focused on much better eating and exercising regiments that I have found effect my overall feeling of well being in both mind and body. Taking the time to step back and re-evaluate your life is an ongoing process no matter what age you are. This was told to me by a wonderful 100 year old woman( a friends mother who is still kickin up a storm).
    Stay well and keep on creating your beautiful art.
    Cami

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