"Look," she said. "You have two options: antidepressants or hormonal therapy. Take your pick."
I strongly considered hormonal therapy, but the risks involved scared me. I begrudgingly chose the lowest dosage of antidepressants my doctor could prescribe. I dislike taking any medicines, but I convinced myself that maybe chemically my brain needed a reboot. Still, I struggled to take the pills and quit taking them after three weeks.
Midlife. Menopause. Kids grown. Single. Getting older. Hormonal shifts. Mood swings. Emotional roller coaster. Whose body is this?! You can imagine that my thought life became chaotically rampant with negative, toxic thinking. I found myself bound and defeated, and my strained emotions were now taking a toll on me physically. I lost my appetite, my sleep and rest, my drive, my joy.
Now. Was my negative emotional state all wrapped up in menopause? In other words, did menopause cause the toxic brew stewing in my brain? I don't think so.
It really was a combination of situations and scenarios. But most importantly, it boiled down to my own choices in what to think about and where to focus my emotional and mental attention.
During this time, one of my dearest friends asked me if I had learned what it means to take my thoughts captive. And it was as a result of attempting to answer this question, that my life began to change, and I can say that now three years later, I have taken gargantuan steps (with the consistent help of God) toward sound, thriving mental health and lasting happiness.
Learning to detox my brain and applying (and believing) Biblical truths was the only "medicine" or "therapy" I really needed.
The process was quite overwhelming to me at first as my mind was like popcorn popping with negative thoughts and memories, regret, bitterness, unforgiveness, condemnation, self-focus, deep sadness, fear, and the list could go on.
Nevertheless, I simply started - with one thought at a time.
Slowly over the months and now over years I began to identify, take captive, and dis-integrate each toxic thought. Along the way, God helped me to envision different images and pictures to represent my mental active reaches or "trump cards of Truth" (as I call them) to eradicate each toxic thought.
Slowly, my mind began to change. My outlook changed. I had renewed hope--this alone is powerful proof that what we think about affects our outlook and attitude.
The emotional side of menopause is really complex. I suspect it has a lot to do with where we find ourselves in life.
Maybe life didn't quite turn out the way we hoped it would. Possibly we are facing the challenges of being parents to adult children. Maybe we are entering the grandparent stage. Perhaps we are helping our own parents or we are- sadly - losing them.
We may be working full-time and trying to manage our household. We may travel across state lines to reach and serve the ones we love. We may have been stay-at-home moms and now the kids are gone -- we are trying to find ourselves, fill the hours in the day, discover who we are. Maybe our husband just lost his job -- (so much for retirement). We might find ourselves in the throes of divorce and the demise of our decades-long marriage. Perhaps we received a medical diagnosis that blindsided us.
Then enter Menopause stage left. This phenomenon has a unique way of dishing up for us a large scoop of reality and plopping it right on our plates that are already burgeoning with a gazillion heaps of check lists, to-do lists, demands, obligations, commitments, responsibilities, 321 people who need us, and stress, stress, stress. Menopause delivers an extremely unappetizing, bitter taste and a sticky-like-tar texture that we can't quite seem to chew much less swallow. We would just as soon spit it out.
Geesh, I can feel my emotional thermostat rising a bit as I write. Oh my.....Rico, where are you?! I need you. And STAT!
Oh, how I Iove you, Rico! I am so very grateful for you! Uh hum. Let's carry on. We got this!
You see, I've learned a secret. And this secret can help us deal not only with the emotional swings of menopause but the emotional swings of life just as well!
Our thoughts produce emotions. Emotions cause us to act or behave accordingly. In other words, negative thought > negative emotion > negative response. Positive thought > positive emotion > positive response.
If we really want to walk in sound health, love, hope, joy, peace, patience, self-control...well, we can! We get to CHOOSE! When we find ourselves focusing on a negative thought - we can take that thought captive and bring it into submission to God's Truth! (2 Cor. 10:5).
And news flash! We don't have to wait for menopause to figure this out! I wish I had been exercising my choice a looooooong time ago!
It does take a good while and a lot of effort on our parts to develop this approach - think of it as a habit! A new way of doing life. It requires discipline and focus and prayer. You have the Holy Trinity to help you! Focus on your many blessings at this stage in your life. Flex your gratitude muscle a bit more every single moment!
Menopause really has been a divine upgrade to me emotionally! I’m putting all the cards on the table! But I feel such energy, such drive to do this! Why? Because I know the power of God’s Word and how deeply it has penetrated my mind and changed how I Iive! I have experienced worthwhile and meaningful emotional healing as a result of changing how I think, and I want that for you, too!
My “scars” ought to count for something! I'm stepping in to my ministry, my calling, and it feels good! I feel like a kid in a candy shop! My eyes are filled with expectant wonder and amazement…there are so many colors, flavors, sizes, shapes, textures to enjoy. I almost don’t know into which shiny glass jar to put my grubby, little hands first!
So let's reject the lie society feeds us about menopause. We can shine our lights like never before--and what's more we can find someone else to help! Is there a someone who's an emotional wreck right now? Help them! Encourage them! Get your act together so that you can gently guide by your good example!
Let's take back our emotions by taking back the thoughts we focus on that are contrary to God's Word. Get at the root of those thoughts!
The time is now! Go ahead! Dig in! Stick your hand in the candy jar! A delicious reward awaits you. And be sure to take a piece to share with someone else.
And do not be conformed
On tap next week: Menopause and our physical and spiritual upgrades.
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