This is How My Body Speaks

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I think of myself as a pretty laid-back kind of gal. Most days I’m able to let go of the minor frustrations of daily life. When more major problems appear, I can usually take a step back and acknowledge the pain, confusion or hurt without getting pulled under by them.

Once a month this changes. I feel everything more deeply. I am constantly on edge. I get nauseous. Every few months it hits me really hard and I need to crawl into bed and hibernate, feeling totally and utterly incapacitated by even the simplest decision. Everyday tasks suddenly become insurmountable. And then, within a day or two, I bounce back to my usual optimistic, energetic self.

I should pause here and note that I have talked to my doctor about this. This is not clinical depression or anxiety or another mental illness. This is just good old PMS, specifically my version of perimenopausal PMS. There are things I am doing to help mitigate the hormone swings, but mostly I have to just live with them.

As I am getting older, these swings are getting bigger. Until a few years ago, it was fairly easy to ignore my feelings. Now it’s more difficult to push them down. And honestly, I’m getting tired of dismissing them just because they happen to be accompanied by a rush of blood.

I am seeing these dips and swings as an invitation from my body. An invitation to listen to what my mind may be trying to ignore, but what my body is holding for me. I am a connected being. My body is intimately wound up with my mind and my soul. Pieces of this trinity cannot be untangled from the others. I move through this world as all three. And while my mind has gotten pretty good at batting away negativity and conflict, my body and soul cannot. They have held on to it for me, patiently waiting for me to pay attention.

A peacemaker to my core, whenever I am confronted with conflict, my first reaction is to either discount it, or disengage and retreat from it. I’ve become an expert at putting on my mask and squashing down how I really feel in the name of keeping things calm. I have gotten so good at this that I have difficultly even noticing my real feelings. Except for those few days once a month.

And I DO have feelings to process. I know that my feelings are not always rational or healthy or right, but they point to truths my body feels in some way. A friend recently put it to me this way: my body is a prophet. My body senses and feels, even if my mind is not willing to acknowledge anything going on. I can choose to be present to these experiences, or not.

A few months ago, I was hit with a particularly hard hormone swing. It was all I could do to get my kids off to school in the morning before I crawled back to bed and Netflix. As dinnertime approached, I sent an SOS text to my husband, asking him to bring something home because I was not going to be able to make dinner. I went to bed early and slept late the next morning. I woke up fully expecting to feel better, but the second day was worse. Even choosing something to watch was impossible, so I spent the day lying in bed, occasionally noticing and naming some of the feelings and physical sensations I was experiencing. After a second 12-hour night of sleep, I woke up feeling groggy but somewhat back to myself. I was able to get a few small tasks done, like take a shower and make toast for my children. By the third day, I was back to my usual level of energy.

My crash coincided with a long weekend, so naturally much of the small talk with friends the following week focused on what we had done. Instead of glossing it over and coming up with a half-truth of “having a quiet weekend at home,” I dared to be honest.

I told my truth: “I was really low and stayed in bed for two days.”

Much to my surprise, the world didn’t end. In fact, it opened up some great conversations about hormones and PMS and womanhood.

I don’t want to give the impression that I have calmly accepted this invitation from my body without any fuss. I still berate myself for not being able to get out of bed. I feel guilty that I just can’t keep going. I interrogate myself over why I am unable to give myself permission for this time I obviously need. Then I wonder if maybe I am just being overly dramatic about it all. And so on. And so on.

However, increasingly, I am able to take a step back out of these feelings and simply notice them. Here’s what I am learning:

My body is inviting me to slow down. Stop when necessary. Say no.
My body is inviting me to stop feeling like I have to always have on a brave “I’ve got this” face.
My body is inviting me to take care of myself.
My body is inviting me to believe deep down that I am worthy of tender care.
My body is inviting me to put myself first sometimes.
My body is saying, “Life can be hard. Things are not always okay. Sometimes life sucks. Problems are present. Hurt and pain are real. Feel them! Don’t push them away.”
I hear my body telling me to listen. Pay attention. This is a different way to move through your life. A way to be more connected.
What I am learning is my body holds wisdom. She has things to teach me.

Now these days are an invitation for me to show up in my life more honestly. To rip away that mask and release myself to dig deeper, swing higher and be more fully me. All month long.

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Kathleen Bertrand

Kathleen Bertrand

I was born and raised on the West Coast of Canada, but half my heart lives in Brittany, France. I am happiest with a cuppa tea and a good book and I spend the rest of my time in between the mountains and the beach in Port Moody, BC with my husband and two wee ones.
Kathleen Bertrand

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