Learning to Love the Limitation

There have been some lovely meditations upon Awen (the Druid understanding of inspiration) on Philip Carr Gomm’s Blog of late. The most recent of these has got me thinking about the subject of limitation, not merely with regard to our creativity but to our wider lives and how we make peace with limitation and accept it as a necessary fact of life.

Those hardy souls who have followed this Blog for some time, will know that I have written before about my struggle to find some healing with regard to my menstrual cycle. My periods have always been very difficult but moving through my forties they continue to worsen, the symptoms having a considerable impact upon my life. Over the last year I have been prodded, poked, examined and fed hormones, all to no avail. The biggest blow was my cervix being too small for the Mirena coil; I had begun to pin all my hopes on the Mirena which, on paper, looked like a saving grace. This disappointment was followed by a rather disastrous experiment with Utovlan, a synthetic progestogen that mimics natural progesterone. It was given me in an attempt to lessen the flow which has become worryingly excessive. It merely prevented me from having a period at all and plunged me into a pretty awful mental state: manic whilst taking it and in stopping, feeling as if my mind were unravelling.

After the Utovlan fiasco, I have been sticking my head in the sand. This only works so far as a strategy because I still have to deal with worsening symptoms. I have hit a bit of a low point with it all in the last few days. My last period I bled for almost two weeks, a worrying new record; it was exhausting. I made sure to take extra iron but it still knocked me completely flat. Having bled for half the month, my next period has come around alarmingly quickly; I am dreading the possibility that I am going to be on for another couple of weeks. I had just got back into the swing of things physically and then this week brought horrible PMT, extreme tiredness, skin sensitivity, emotional swings and that awful vague, confused state that has me feeling cut off from life and physically clumsy. For four days I felt like something was surging beneath my skin and now today I wake up to blood, pain and feeling exhausted yet again.

On the plus side, I am so grateful for my Yoga; it is a blessing and helps me to hold on to a positive image of myself and my body. It can be tempting to descend into self-loathing – stuck in the middle of all this, it is hard sometimes to feel attractive and lovable as a woman; it rocks my sense of who I am – the me that loves to move and enjoy my life feels submerged and trapped, waiting for it all to finish so I can get on with being me. I am so lucky to have a partner who is patient and understanding. My yoga teacher has been a great help in advising me about restorative poses, being gentle with my body when I am going through the worst parts of my cycle. My dear friend Tracey has been incredible too. She suffers in the same way and it is an enormous help to have someone there who truly understands what you are experiencing. I so often worry that people think that I am making it up or exaggerating. It is culturally a taboo subject and so people don’t talk much about what they endure. A friend of mine once confided that she had looked rather disdainfully on women at work who took time off for period problems. It was only when she herself started to develop severe pain and heaviness that she began to appreciate that, at it most extreme, menstruation can be genuinely debilitating. 

Pondering on limitation, I realise that this is a limitation that I have to learn to accept. It has been there for most of my life. My first period was deceptively easy and short. My second was not. I remember being afraid and confused by the pain; of being twelve years old, curled up in the rocking chair crying and my mum very knowingly bringing me a hot water bottle and some soup. She had suffered all her life with terrible periods and it must have hurt her to know that her child would suffer too.

I feel sad that I miss out on so many things I would like to do. There have been spiritual retreats and events that I would dearly love to have taken part in but so often my symptoms get in the way. The last major event that I attended was a Brighid Retreat in Glastonbury 2006 – typically I came on during my time there and it was clear then that my worsening symptoms were becoming increasingly hard to manage whilst away from home. I miss terribly being involved in these events and now that the timing of my periods is becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable, I am unsure about booking ahead. I have lost count of the events that Laurie has attended without me, of the time spent worrying that people will misunderstand and think less of me for having to cancel.

I am a person who likes to search for positive solutions to problems; I feel that if I can rise to the challenge then I will be ok but to be honest I feel a little afraid of where this one is going. My options seem to be dwindling and the thought of a hysterectomy just feels so horribly drastic. What keeps me buoyant is the knowledge that this will not go on forever, the menopause will make sure of that and yet I don’t want to be here wishing my life away, my ‘now’ being swallowed by some longed for future event.

I am struggling to embrace this limitation that is a fact of my life but I guess I really need to find the best way to do just that. It is hard because today I feel poorly and tomorrow I will probably feel less than great again too; in fact, for the next few days this is going to be my reality. I should remember that many others suffer far worse fates and I have so much in my life to feel grateful for. If anyone out there in a similar condition has any positive suggestions, I would love to hear them.

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