Following the tremendous physical transformations of two pregnancies, I found myself in emotional and mental chaos. I had become the stereotypical, Western, middle-aged woman: irrational, grumpy, depressed, and convinced that I was going crazy. Mood swings were causing unexpected, disquieting drama in my domestic life. Slowly I began to analyze this suffering; recognizing its cyclical nature, realizing that I was not alone on this journey and finding a name for my insanity.
Perimenopause is a time of wildly fluctuating hormone levels as the aging body makes the transition to infertility. Ursula K. LeGuin (Women of the 14th Moon, 1991) wrote that menopause is one of the last taboo subjects in our society. My mother's and previous generations of women had suffered in silence. As an archaeologist/anthropologist, I am drawn to explore any taboo concept.
Under erratic hormonal levels, the rationale mind splits apart from the body. The internal, sensory experience is a cycle of irritation, confusion, rage, self-hatred, depression and shame. The sufferer watches in dismay as the undertow of negative emotion drags her into conflict with self and loved ones. Then suddenly, everything returns to normal. This embodied life is part of nature's harmonic rhythms, and sudden turbulence. As the cycle completes (and repeats), acceptance of the transforming body can be realized.