I am 52 years old and every time I get my period I wonder if it is my last one.
The average age for women to complete the menopause transition is around 51. And to be clear – that means that you have had exactly 12 months free of your period before you can claim the menopause status.
So, I know that my time is drawing close. Each monthly bleed could be my last.
When I was younger and thought about my impending menopause, I imagined that my menstrual bleed would get lighter each month, slow to fine trickle that my worn period undies would easily be able to cope with. And then my monthly bleed would gently disappear. (I have even refrained from updating and investing in new period undies because surely this will be the last month!!)
No one told me that the opposite would happen!
For the past 5 years or so (and I now know a sure sign of perimenopause) my period has become extremely heavy. You know, the kind of heavy that you had as a teenager. Where you would have a tampon that you change between every class and a bulky pad and still manage to stain the back of your school uniform skirt.
Or as I tell my husband: “OMG! Someone just butchered a pig in my undies!”
And I am back to handwashing the bloodstains out of my fine linen sheets.
It is like my uterus heard from my mind about a quiet retreat into the night and retorted – Not likely… this is my last hurrah, and I am going NOWHERE quietly! And the period pain has not gone away either. Every 3rd to 4th month I am so crippled with pain that straightening my body for more than a few minutes is just not possible.
Now when I tell my work colleagues that I am not able to function at my usual level due to my period. I feel reminded a little about telling the same thing to my Physical Education teacher as a teenager. Surely, they are thinking “Yeah right… you’re too old to pull that one.” When I was a teenager I hated school PE so much that I did use that same excuse not only to get out of the activity but to see the male teacher flummox because finally, I had the upper hand in something.
It’s the same pain that put me in the hospital twice as a teenager with vomiting and cramps that disappeared magically when the blood arrived. The same pain that the Drs said going on the pill would fix. It improved it but never fixed it. The same pain that I was told would go away when I had children. I had 2 children and it did not.
In fact, when I experienced birth contractions, I had a pain measure to compare my monthly cramps. Not only can my period cramps match that of birthing contractions, but you don’t get a gap between them to take a breath. I may run out of sanitary items, but I am never without Naprogesic.
The same pain that I now realise is probably not normal, and more than likely endometriosis-related. And like millions of other women, I have not had my pain taken seriously enough nor medical follow up to find out exactly why I was having so much pain with my periods.
However, now it hardly seems worth the effort to investigate.
Because surely this is the last or one of the last, bleeds that I will have to endure?
So, although I am sitting on a wee (meaning small) office seat cover because I ruined more than one office chair with my menstrual blood, I do feel a little sad to say goodbye to my period.
And it is not about getting older. Perimenopause is the dance that you do before you are ushered into (hopefully) the next 30 years of your life. Perhaps all the horrible side effects of menopause are there just to help welcome that transition. Regardless, perimenopause is a time to take stock of your life and do some hard thinking about how you want to age. It is the gateway to the next life of you.
And it is not about losing my fertility. I have already mourned that when I had myself sterilised in my mid 30’s. Though I can appreciate that for some women, particularly those who transition early, losing this birthright, could be considerably confronting. I do love trying to get pregnant, without the angst of suspecting that I could be.
I feel sad because only recently have I truly come to appreciate the power of my menstrual cycle.
Over the last few years, I have created online courses and education for fitness professionals on how to work with clients in alignment with their menstrual cycle. And even more recently have created EVEolution™ – the missing education for all women – on how to stay active, no matter what age or stage they are at. I have read a lot of books and research papers and have ultimately become more in tune with my own cycle.
Yes, taking it easy because your body is screaming, I just can’t stand up and concentrate, let alone work out at the gym, is a given. And so is finding a fitness professional who understands this also. And unlike my PE teacher in the 80’s, someone who can engage in unashamed conversation and provide appropriate information, regardless of their gender or menstrual experience.
Yes, there is a lot that can be learned about how to exercise with your period to minimise injury (just ask all those AFLW players who are doing ACL’s every season!) and maximise your strengthening and cardiovascular potential. And spoiler alert: It is not rocket science… but simply women cannot be trained as small men and be expected to have the same results.
But what I will miss, is the secret power that I have tapped into. The appreciation that once the pain subsides (with the help of drugs for me) and the blood flows, so does my creativity. I love writing. I love thinking about what I am going to write about. I love being in the flow (pardon the pun) and I can write my blogs, articles and all manner of content easily. I can problem solve in all parts of my life and figure out solutions for problems big and small. Often this creative flow is magnified when it includes gentle exercise. My favourite bike ride, swim, yoga, or a walk.
Once my bleed is complete, I also know that I will be back to my power woman status. The I GET SHIT DONE MISH. Most people think that this is me all of the time. It is not. I just make hay when the sun shines.
But right now, as I write this, I am thinking about the blessing of my monthly bleed. I feel slightly saddened that I did not know this stuff and make the most of my period earlier in life. And I also feel curious about the future when I am period free. Will I still have this cycle of creativity and activity?
Watch this space.
If you want to know more about how to work in alignment with your menstrual cycle – check out EVEolution™. There is a whole module dedicated to this topic.
If you are a fitness professional or even a fitness enthusiast and want to watch a 1-hour MASTERCLASS on working out with your cycle – then check this out HERE.
Either way… I would love to know how you feel about leaving your monthly menstrual cycle behind.
Hit reply and let me know!
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