Listen to your body
Guest Blog by Karen Abi-Karam – a Milestone Mentor & Celebrant.
I am approaching my 47th birthday and the last 10 years have been some of the most tumultuous of my life. I have weathered the storms of divorce, chronic illness (coeliac disease, lipoedema and adrenal fatigue) and finding myself childless not by choice. I have revelled in the rainbow of falling in love again, moving out of the city to the Sussex countryside and finding my purpose.
And amongst all that change, I began to notice signs of ‘the change’…not least with the unexpected arrival of a full head of Shirley Temple curls!
In fact, the ringlets were like a trumpet fanfare and unfurling banner to announce the entrance of my menopause – for all to see and ask questions about.
The last time I experienced this much upheaval was in 1976, when I was three. My family was forced to leave our home in the Lebanese mountains at the onset of civil war. Interestingly, that was also the last time I had any kind of curls – my baby hair fell in loose auburn spirals. From what I understand, that whole process took no more than a few months to come to fruition. Wars are like that. Urgent, unrelenting, untidy. And that change was happening outside of body, outside of my control…and was a short, sharp, shock! Unlike the long and winding path of my menopause.
When I say, menopause, I mean the process of menopause – not the last drop of blood – the entire however-long-it-lasts initiatory transition from bleeding woman to non-bleeding woman.
Like so many of us living in the modern world, out of sync with the ebbs and flows of our bodies, I have lived much of my life unaware of the subtle messages I have been receiving. As the last 10 years have made abundantly clear, I’ve needed a sledgehammer against a giant gong before I have heard my body’s requests that began as pleas before turning into demands.
Menopause is not an illness
But I am determined to focus on the bigger picture. To remember that menopause, in itself, is not an illness. To search for the opportunities to evolve into a better version of myself. Years of pushing myself to work harder and achieve more whilst ignoring the signs that these were, at times, overwhelming for me. All while compassionately addressing the ‘menopausal symptoms’ I am experiencing alongside those from my chronic illnesses – among them hot flushes, vaginal dryness, erratic periods, thinning hair and ‘foggy brain’.
The drama of the 20-teens taught me the lessons I wished I had learned in my actual teens. There was no acknowledgement of rites of passage in the late 80s – early 90s! I am seeking out an initiation into my menopause that I didn’t receive into puberty.
I am starting to listen to my body. Sure, there are habits to break and conundrums to decipher. But with the help of my naturopath, reflexologist and mentors, as well as my ever-supportive husband and wonderful friends I am working things through. I’m improving my overall health and menopausal symptoms, month by month.
I have heard my calling. I’m an Accredited Facilitator with Rites for Girls, bringing back what has been lost and help girls enter their teens more aware and better equipped. Developing my Milestone Mentoring and Celebrant work to stand alongside others as they prepare to cross their own thresholds – through group work, 1-2-1 support, retreats and ceremonies.
The HART Process
And the HART Process I developed several years ago – to help my clients prepare to cross the major thresholds in life – has taken on an even deeper, and more personal, significance.
Following the four stages of the process, (Honour – Accept – Release – Trust), I am determined to consider my needs, holistically, and:
- Honour my menopause as a coming of age – I’m even planning a ceremony to acknowledge this formally.
- Accept the challenges it brings as my initiation into the next stage of my life. This is a conscious choice I have made and one that I hold, almost as a mantra.
- Release my attachment to everything that is holding me back. This is a process in itself – one which I am seeking support for, where I need it (from mentors, friends, peers).
- Trust in what is to come, regardless that it is unknown.
So, all in all, I’m embracing the lessons to be learned from the twists and turns that arrived in my life at the same they arrived in my hair! If you would like to do the same, I’ve put together this free worksheet, that will help you start approaching your menopause more holistically – body, mind and spirit. And if you are in Mid-Sussex/South Surrey, I host a weekly menopause circle in East Grinstead.
About the Author
Karen Abi-Karam is a Milestone Mentor & Celebrant based in Forest Row, East Sussex. She supports women through the major transitions in their lives, from puberty to menopause and the many joyous and heart-breaking stops along the way. Combining more than 17 years of holistic training and practice with a lifetime of personal experience, she has a particular passion for helping clients feel whole and able to live their best possible life.