I’ve often said that menopause is puberty in reverse. During both stages, the brain experiences the same rapid changes in hormones. The rise in FSH and LH is one of the reasons why so many girls experience the same kinds of mood swings and temperature changes (hot flashes) as women going through menopause! During the several years it takes for regular ovulation to be established, estrogen, unbalanced by progesterone, may also produce the same brain irritability that estrogen dominance does during menopause.
Whether one’s hormones are rising during puberty or falling during menopause, there’s a two- to three-year period of hormonal instability and flux that is actually a biologically supported chance to clean up old unfinished business from the past. Though our culture leads us to believe that a girl’s (or menopausal woman’s) mood swings are simply the result of raging hormones and do not have anything to do with her life, there is solid evidence that significant conflicts (due to relationships, siblings, parents, and so on that a girl feels powerless over or angry about) are actually brought to conscious awareness by these hormonal changes.
Our brains actually begin to change at perimenopause. Like the rising heat in our bodies, our brains also become fired up! Sparked by the hormonal changes that are typical during the menopausal transition, a switch goes on that signals changes in our temporal lobes, the brain region associated with enhanced intuition. How this ultimately affects us depends to a large degree on how willing we are to make the changes in our lives that our hormones are urging us to make.
There is ample scientific evidence of the brain changes that begin to take place at perimenopause. Differences in relative levels of estrogen and progesterone affect the temporal lobe and limbic areas of our brains, and we may find ourselves becoming irritable, anxious, emotionally volatile. Repeated episodes of stress (due to relationship, children, and job situations you feel angry about or powerless over, for example) are actually behind many of the hormonal changes in the brain and body.
This means that if your life situation—whether at work or with children, your husband, your parents, or whatever—doesn’t change, then unresolved emotional stress can exacerbate a perimenopausal hormone imbalance and/or contribute to PMS symptoms. In a normal premenopausal hormonal state it’s much easier to overlook those aspects of your life that don’t really work, just as you can overlook them more easily in the first half of your menstrual cycle—the time when you’re more apt to feel upbeat and happy and able to shove difficult material under the rug. But that doesn’t mean the problems aren’t there. At puberty and at menopause these issues arise so they can be dealt with.
Like perimenopause, puberty is a “grow or die” time. The same longing for completion and fulfillment emerges. Most girls have their first erotic dreams starting at about age ten or eleven when their estrogen levels begin to rise. A girl has a hormonally mediated opportunity to connect with her soul’s purpose, learn to listen to her intuition, and establish a strong sense of herself during the time when both her brain and body are blooming. Within a few short years, when her hormone levels are stable once more, she will have reached a new level of maturity and power. Once she reaches menopause, she’ll be able to look back on the whole process and, once more, upgrade her beliefs and behaviors as she enters another “springtime”—the second half of her life.
Since the changes of perimenopause may precede menopause by as many as ten years, daughters often begin puberty around the same time their mothers begin perimenopause. This provides an enormous opportunity for healing at both ends of the mother-daughter spectrum.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.