~ Part One ~
by Susun Weed
"Dear woman," Grandmother Growth's voice seems to float in the deepening twilight, echoing, reverberating, ringing in your ears. "Bring me your soreness. Bring me your pain. Bring your aches to me. Bring your burdens. Bring all you can no longer stand, can no longer bear, can no longer carry, can no longer shoulder, can no longer be responsible for. Give it to me. Put it down. Let us sit in council together and listen to the stories your pain tells. Menopause is a journey which requires you to pack light. Heavy things--bitterness, regret, vengeance, clinging to pain--will make your travels wearisome and bring you down. Take only the stories. Leave the rest behind. Burn the soreness in your hot flashes. Let it leave you. This is the Change. Let it change you, dear woman; let it change you."
Step 0: Do Nothing
Women dealing with fibromyalgia have less pain if they sleep in a completely dark room. If that's impossible, wear a sleep mask.
Step 1: Collect Information
The chronic pain disorder I called "sore all over" when I wrote this section ten years ago is now big news. Ninety percent of the four million Americans dealing with this debilitating, frustrating condition--known as fibromyalgia--are white women, and many of them are menopausal.
Neither cause nor cure for fibromyalgia is known. It is not a disease but a range of symptoms characterized by chronic, widespread pain on both sides of the body, above and below the waist. (As one of my apprentices put it: "But I don't hurt in all those places at once. The pain moves around. I never know where it will be next.")
Some women have a low fever in addition to pain. More than half of those with fibromyalgia also suffer from headaches, endometriosis, and/or irritable bowel syndrome.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are quite variable, making diagnosis difficult. (Orthodox diagnosis is predicated on finding soreness at specific trigger points.) Fibromyalgia mimics aspects of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, hepatitis C, hypothyroidism, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, and early dementia. Many women with fibromyalgia are told their distress is "all in your mind."
It isn't in your mind (alone). Menopause can leave you feeling like you've been beaten on. Muscles respond to hormonal changes by feeling sore and cranky. Sleep loss can make you ache. (Non-restorative sleep is a hallmark of fibromyalgia.) Lack of calcium (and other minerals) can make your bones ache. Whether you are dealing with these challenges, or the greater problem of fibromyalgia, why not give Wise Woman Ways a try? The remedies listed here have been remarkably successful in helping many women.
"People with fibromyalgia aren't just sensitive to pain; they also find loud noises, strong odors, and bright lights aversive."--Daniel Clauw, MD, Director: Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, Georgetown University
Step 2: Engage the Energy
• Having a support group is one of the strongest factors in keeping fibromyalgia under control.
• Homeopathic Arnica is an amazing remedy for sore and aching muscles. Daily use of homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron reduced pain by twenty-five percent in those with fibromyalgia.
• Make a list of things you are sore (upset, angry) about. Where do these things live in your body? With the help of an experienced bodyworker, loosen those places. Women with fibromyalgia are very likely to be survivors of trauma (sexual or domestic violence, alcoholism).
• Go back to your Mother. Float in the ocean. Lie belly down on the earth. Naked. Let her ease you. Let her heal you.
• Listen to a relaxation tape. Have someone show you how to do the yoga position called the "Corpse Pose." Learn how to bring yourself to a deep state of inner quiet and peaceful mind.
• Hypnotherapy can help you gain some degree of mental control over symptoms. Cognitive behavior therapy is also helpful.
An excerpt from New Menopausal Years, the Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches for Women 30-90 by Susun Weed.
Available at www.wisewomanbookshop.com