Updated: Mar 23
By Yuliana Kim-Grant
As I think about “embracing the change,” I think about the obvious changes that are occurring in my own body as I enter menopause. When I think about this new era for me, I am reminded of Gail Sheehy’s famous book “The Silent Passage” in which she examines menopause, offering insight, wit, and information for women undergoing these physiological and psychological changes. Menopause, historically, was explained as the time women’s femininity came to an end; once their years of procreation end, apparently so does their desirability. Granted, most of these theories and ideas were espoused by men, but the stigma they created around menopause was longlasting. Even today, in spite of the countless books and discussion groups, menopause is something that most endure silently. Even discussions about it with friends feel hushed, no matter the sound level at which you are having them.
Some have written about menopause as a time of shutting down, while others have written about it as an opening up. I see it from both points of view as I can’t help but acknowledge that my years of procreation have certainly shut down, yet in that absence, all I can see are the countless roads opening up in front of me. I picture the time I can devote to my yoga therapeutics practice, the endless afternoons sitting at an outdoor café in Paris, the oodles of books I will read, and hopefully a decent number of books I will write.
I suppose I am not viewing the end of motherhood with any real sense of loss since motherhood never figured very prominently in my own vision of what I wanted in life. Yes, I am a mother, and I am eternally grateful that I was able to be a mother. However, if I had to do it over, would I want to do motherhood again? I know I am supposed to answer yes, absolutely, especially given the fact that I had such a great kid to raise, but I can’t help hesitating just the tiniest bit.
When I first realized I was truly in menopause, I felt the usual symptoms most women complain about and many have joked about: hot flashes. But the symptom I felt most acutely was a mental malaise that brought up all of my fears that my depression was rearing its unwelcome head again. As a result of my history with depression, my doctors felt it best I forgo homeopathic remedies and go on the hormone treatment that has become controversial in the last five years. When I think about the limited options offered to me for dealing with the symptoms of menopause, I can’t help but marvel at how little progress has been made in women’s health in general. If you’ve ever watched the BBC series Call the Midwife, you realize how much and how little has changed in the medical procedures available for giving birth.
As we discussed the risks associated with the hormones, all I could picture were the next few years of feeling this mental heaviness and sadness. I made the decision that having a few years of me being at my best was worth the risk of whatever may lie ahead. Perhaps if I didn’t have an experience with my own mental breakdown, I would have made a different choice. However, I can’t lament the realities of what I have been dealt.
Do I have moments of struggling with the changes being wrought on my physical and emotional self by this natural process? Of course, but I also recognize the freedom these changes are now affording me. It is timely that as I experience this physical and mental opening, my son will be going to college, leaving an emotional opening of sorts. Like everyone, I get wistful when I realize that I am aging, that my time is truly ticking in a way that I never had to acknowledge. If I sink too deep into a pity party about this reality, I buck myself up with the resolve to squeeze out every tiny bit of time left, to try to be the best of myself now, to forgive my younger self, and to show compassion for my future self.
Yuliana is a yoga teacher, author, wife, and mother. Find out more about her at https://www.yulianakimgrant.com.
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