By Lois Flowers
Sometimes, grace blooms in the unlikeliest of places, springing up like a surprise lily near the end of a hot, dry summer.
My so-called child-bearing years lurched to a halt at the ripe old age of 41. This transition, if you want to call it that, was early but not totally unexpected. Years of ever-worsening physical and emotional symptoms predicted it, and a blood test confirmed it was coming. But still, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t know anyone else who had walked a similar path, and I felt alone and unprepared.
I also had a choice to make.
I could forgo replacing my depleted hormones with something else and soldier on naturally. Or, I could do what medical experts often recommend for women my age and use hormone replacement therapy, at least until I reached a more normal age for menopause.
At first, I resisted the second option. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be among those women I read about who “experience no symptoms” of menopause.
Oh, how I wanted that.
But I wasn’t one of them. While I no longer struggled with all the twists and turns of the hormonal roller coaster I’d been on for years, it quickly became evident that this latest season of my life was not going to be a picnic, physically or emotionally. So, eventually, I went to the doctor and got a prescription. But instead of using it, I stuck it in a bathroom drawer and hoped the coming months would bring improvement.
Instead, they brought fear. I was afraid that, if I tried the medication, it wouldn’t work. I was afraid that it would work, but that I’d have to get off of it for some unforeseen reason. I was afraid of the side effects. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid of what I might be setting myself up for, health wise, in the future if I used it.
I was afraid. But I was also very hot. At night, mostly. In a way that disrupted my sleep almost to the point of nonfunctionality during the day. After not sleeping for what seemed like the entire month of January, I’d had enough.
And I wasn’t the only one. With my husband wholeheartedly cheering me on from the sidelines, I conjured up every ounce of courage I had and started using the medicine.
Within an hour, I felt like I had been totally and completely unwound.
I knew I had felt bad before. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and irritable. I felt dry from the inside out, like I had been wandering around in a desert for years with nothing to drink and no springs in sight.
But I didn’t know just how bad I had felt before until I felt better. If you’ve ever been treated for some kind of nutritional or chemical imbalance, maybe you can relate to what I’m saying. It just felt like something had been set to rights inside of me, that I had been re-calibrated back to something in the vicinity of normal.
This type of treatment has it pros and cons. It’s expensive. There are side effects. It doesn’t work well all the time, at least not for me. But I’m not the only one who is affected when I am not functioning like I should be. My girls and husband need their mom and wife to be as mentally healthy as possible, so I do it for them, as much as for myself.
That said, as I hinted at the beginning, this post isn’t really about replacing my hormones. Not in my mind, anyway.
It’s about grace. . .
. . .the grace that was extended to me during those wilderness years when I was often less than lovable.
. . .the grace I need to show myself when I think about all the precious mothering moments I didn’t fully appreciate because I was so tired, foggy and irritable.
. . .the grace that God showed when He, finally, allowed me to be unwound.
. . .the grace that I now try to extend to other people who look—or act—like they’ve been exhausted for a very long time.
My medication is not a permanent solution. I don’t know what life will look like when my doctor tells me it’s time to do something else. But rather than worry about that, I choose to look at each relief-filled day as a gift.
When bad days come, as they sometimes do, I look forward to the next good day. And when I’m in the middle of a good day, I remember what life was like before, and I try not to take how I feel now for granted.
Lois Flowers is mom to two lovely daughters and wife to one good man. She’s an author, former journalist and lifelong Midwesterner who values authenticity, loves gardening and always reads the end of the book first. She’s a relative latecomer to the world of social media, but you can connect with her on Twitter (@loisflowers16) or Instagram (loisflowers). She also blogs regularly at loisflowers.com.
This post originally appeared at loisflowers.com in September 2015.
Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
While my experience was a little different from yours, Lois, I relate to this in so many ways. I’m thankful for my husband who has always been the grace-giver and urges me to give myself the same. Giving grace to myself has never come easily to me. I’m so glad this was the real focus of your post. The physical is important and needs to be shared but there is another side and you’ve said it well.
Thank you for your kind words, Debby. Grace really is a gift, isn’t it? Without it, regret and blame and who knows what else would weigh us down, but instead, we are free to move forward and share that same gift with others. Such a blessing!
YES: “…I didn’t know just how bad I had felt before until I felt better. If you’ve ever been treated for some kind of nutritional or chemical imbalance, maybe you can relate to what I’m saying. It just felt like something had been set to rights inside of me, that I had been re-calibrated back to something in the vicinity of normal.”
Thank you for sharing your experience. The worst thing in the world is to be isolated in a diagnosis. The second worst thing is to realize after a long, long time just how lousy you’ve felt.
Thanks, too, for the reminder about how big, wide, and deep God’s grace is. Excellent post. – Michelle
Thanks, Michelle. Yes, that feeling of isolation is indeed the worst! I’m so thankful to have found The Perennial Gen … what you and Amanda are doing here is wonderful. (And, as someone who loves to garden, I think the name is just about perfect.) 🙂
What a treat to find you here, Lois … I just started following this blog recently and am enjoying it. I am absolutely resonating with your story and am grateful that you were much wiser than I was in that season and were courageous enough to go ahead and pay attention to what your body was whispering, shouting, demanding.
I’m guessing that your story will hit home for lots of readers.
I’m just wishing you had been around a decade or so ago when I walked through that dark valley …
I’m thinking we would have encouraged each other greatly back then, Linda. I’m so thankful that we can do so now!
Not sure whether I’m more taken by your beautiful telling of the story, or the beautiful grace you have offered within it.
Blessings to you, Lois.
Aw, Michele … thank you! For your kind words AND for introducing me to The Perennial Gen by way of your own recent post here!