The Brain Catches Fire at Menopause
An exploration of the physical and emotional changes that can spur growth and creativity for women at midlife.
BY: Christiane Northrup, M.D.
At midlife, the hormonal milieu that was present for only a few days each month during most of your reproductive years, the milieu that was designed to spur you on to reexamine your life just a little at a time, now gets stuck in the on position for weeks or months at a time. We go from an alternating current of inner wisdom to a direct current that remains on all the time after menopause is complete. During perimenopause, our brains make the change from one way of being to the other.
Biologically, at this stage of life you are programmed to withdraw from the outside world for a period of time and revisit your past. You need to be free of the distractions that come when you are focusing your mothering efforts solely on others. Perimenopause is a time when you are meant to mother yourself.
|Perimenopause is a time when you are meant to mother yourself.|
It may be no accident that the word "menopause" invites the association "pause from men." In truth, you are being urged, biologically, to pause from everyone in order to do important work on yourself. Perhaps as a result of this, one of the most common threads running through women's descriptions of how they feel during the menopausal transition is the longing for time alone, for a refuge that provides peace, quiet, and freedom from distractions and demands.
It's a wistful dream, seemingly out of reach in this busy age if multidirectional tugs-of-war. But those who have the yearning often believe that their uncomfortable menopausal symptoms would simply dissolve if only they had the luxury of shutting out the world so they could tune into the growth process occurring within themselves. This wistful dream is real. It comes from your soul. I've come to realize that you can trust it and believe in it--and that you must do its bidding.
Even if this dream seems out of reach, the simple truth is that every woman can find refuge within her existing environment. Even if you can't charter a plane to a deserted island, odds are that if you acknowledge and validate your need for solitude, you can clear some time and find a private corner to which to retreat daily. You can insulate yourself from noise, telephones, and interaction with others. I encourage every woman to find a way to do this on whatever level is possible. When we commit to taking this first step, we have the chance to develop a newfound sense of ourselves and our life's purpose, which gives us an exhilarating sense of what is possible for us during the second half of our lives.