My name is Ana and I’m 51. I am a professional in corporate human resources.
I grew up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and St Croix, Virgin Islands, and moved to the United States to go to college. In my childhood I had ambitions to be a dancer and singer, and later in my early teenage years I became interested in working for an organization like the United Nations, translating in multiple languages. I’m fluent in Spanish and English, and comfortable in conversational Portuguese.
The most vivid memories I have of menopause from my youth are from television shows or movies, where people were making fun of the kinds of episodes that women would be experiencing—situations that were played as comedic around women who were in real distress. I was also there when my mother went through menopause, though in retrospect I wasn’t that understanding. We thought it had to do with her weight, because she was obese at the time, so we would all just dismiss her symptoms as being attributable to her weight. Now that I’m in her same stage of life, I flash back and realize that she was indeed going through menopause. What’s interesting in her case is that she had a hysterectomy in her forties, which threw off her hormones so she had other types of physical problems.
I am very much a researcher when it comes to the subject of natural ways of keeping healthy. A female friend of mine is a physician who has a wellness center in Kansas City, and when I was in my early forties and starting to feel some vague symptoms I asked her to give me her thoughts on what I might do to help myself, and she told me there were approaches that could make my life more manageable. Well, I didn’t pursue her suggestions right then, but later on I began to develop awful migraines that put me in the hospital. I underwent a number of diagnostic tests including CAT scans that ruled out neurological causes, and then met with an attending physician to discuss how I’d noticed that these migraines seemed to always come on the week before my period, and that the pain was intolerable, it was a fifteen on a scale of one-to-ten. I will say that in the midst of all this I thought maybe it was not menopause, maybe there was something bigger going on with me. I got a prescription for pain medication, but after one round of that I decided I needed to find a different approach not only for my migraines, but also for these intense hot- and cold-current flashes that were happening during the same time, as well as bloating and severe cramps. I was extremely sensitive to the cold and my hot flashes were like a sensation of burning, and those spikes and valleys could happen within a span as short as a half-hour.
I wish there were a clearer understanding of what our bodies are going through, both in the medical field and in general. I admire what you’re doing with The Sanity Papers—putting this out there—because it feels lonely sometimes. And having an understanding mate makes a world of difference, versus someone who’s judgmental or thinks you’re crazy. And I’d love to know what some of the roots or herbs or other natural products are out there. In the course of my own research, I went to Whole Foods and it was phenomenal, I discovered a wealth of information and found a herbal hormonal supplement for women that even only the smell of can subside my body temperature fluctuations. My body responds immediately to those herbs, and the same goes for when the initial hints of my migraine come on, or when I get cramps in the first and second days of my period. I used to always carry a bottle of Advil gel caps with me, but my fear about taking those was what were the long-term consequences going to be on my liver, so these Whole Foods supplements have been a miracle.
My periods have gotten much worse. What’s interesting now is that the first and second days are very light, and then somehow on the third and fourth days it’s getting fuller, and my period overall lasts longer than it did before, as much as six to eight days in total. My only hope is that these changes in my menstrual cycle are an indication that one day it will go away forever.
My emotional state is different now as well, although I would say that’s because I’ve been educated in emotional intelligence and have some tools to help prepare myself for certain aspects of that; nevertheless, even though I can get highly irritated and agitated during the time of my period, possessing that knowledge gives me the power to govern my behavior. Instead of my emotions ruling me as they used to I’m seeking ways to manage this stage of my life with sanity. One of the simplest tools that the emotional intelligence process has is the Five Whys, which derives from a child’s learning process in repeatedly questioning why something is so and then why if it is so asking why to the answer. So in that model, when we’re experiencing a particular emotion, we ask ourselves why we’re feeling that way. The internal voice might respond that we’re agitated, and then we ask why are we agitated, and the answer to that is we don’t like what’s going on. Then we ask why don’t we like what’s going on; well, it could be because we feel intimidated, so we ask why do we feel that? It’s like going into a process of discovery and self-awareness, and typically once we arrive at the fifth question we realize there’s really no reason to feel intimidated, and the feeling or reaction dissolves. The same process can be applied to our senses of being threatened or agitated or angry, with the same result that there is nothing to feel threatened or agitated by or angry about. We can do this at any moment and in response to any situation, and when the emotion goes away it’s a beautiful release. Emotions are there to help us navigate through our feelings, and our feelings are revealing something to us that is there to know.
Lots of things are changing for me at this point. It’s a stage of our lives where we want to explore, and where we have an interest and a calling to create the lives we were meant to live. As a spiritual person, I truly believe that we were created to govern this world, and to rule and be free. I am looking for a new place to live, and have a dream of establishing a holistic practice in the Caribbean in personal mastery and self-transformation that I’ll be involved with for the rest of my life. I’m in love with a wonderful man I met a year ago who values me and demonstrates the wonderful partner that I am to him through communication and deed; his words and his walk are in sync, and we’re committed to personal growth and forgiveness and each other’s wellbeing. In the past, I was in love with the concept of being in love, where I would want to make thinks work, and that was draining; that kept me in relationships longer than I should have been in them, and I was compromising the essence of what two people should truly experience in being together.
I am not religious, but I am highly in tune with my creator. I’m clear about being an instrument on this earth to carry out design work, so I’m keenly spiritually aware of my design presence and identity. I have clarity that the physical world without the spiritual world is dead, and when the spirit is not in charge the temporal is in disarray.
What I’m learning from menopause at this point in the cycle is to be more compassionate and loving towards others and myself, and I have a higher level of acceptance of the things I know will pass. I’m learning that there is pain we don’t have to go through, and that we need to be proactive and know that the answers are inside of us. Any woman in menopause who feels like she’s on an island, that it’s something happening only to her, should know that she’s not alone and be open to new information and ways of looking at her life, because there are answers. To women just entering this season I would say don’t panic, do the research, and dedicate yourselves to finding personal solutions.