“Fed-upness” is the experience of realizing that you can’t continue with business as usual although you may not yet know how to change. It can happen at any age, but it crops up often in middle years. “Fed-upness” may present itself as a vague discontent, despair or frustrated anger. But it’s worth paying attention to because it holds clues to the part of us that is yearning for greater expression.

I was in my early 40s when I read Christiane Northrup’s book, The Wisdom of Menopause.  I was fascinated by her discussion on the change in brain chemistry at menopause and was alerted to the idea that my own perceptions of the world around me might change.

In perimenopause we experience a change in hormones as dramatic as adolescence or pregnancy. We start to skip ovulation even as we continue to menstruate. The pituitary gland, connected to the hypothalamus in the brain, sends out more and more Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to encourage the ovaries to ovulate. Instead of fluctuating with the menstrual cycle, FSH and LH now stay at high levels all the time.

When FSH and LH are high for an extended time, it’s as though a light switch turns on. Situations where we swept our discontent under the rug to maintain the peace come into full focus. At the same time our intuition sharpens and we feel a pull to retreat in order to care for ourselves instead of everyone else (Northrup, 2001).

As I got into my later 40s, I noticed a greater restlessness with things I had put on hold.  My then-husband and I had bought a small home in the country on 5 acres of beautiful foothill property that delighted both of us for three or four years, but our time there was so limited. Alternate weekends and the occasional week-long holiday were all that was practical, given our jobs in the city three hours away.

One cold winter afternoon I was laying down mulch in the garden. As soft snowflakes drifted down around me, the phrase “delayed gratification“ arose in my mind. Suddenly it was clear to me that I was putting off the possibility of living in our country home indefinitely, and I was no longer comfortable with that. I did not know what to do about it, but it wasn’t just a mild oh-well-life’s-not-perfect kind of feeling. Instead my discontent was crystal clear.

I’ve known other women who decide at this time they don’t want to be part of their families, they want to quit their jobs, or move to a different part of the world. Others simply report feeling more irritable or despondent. One nurse told me she sees through all the bullshit at the hospital where she works and she can’t put up with it silently any more. This “fed-upness “ can be rough on partners, co-workers, and family members who are used to someone easier to get along with. Open communication is key, but it doesn’t always happen. All parties have to be willing and to have some skill in talking about difficult things.

My husband was also unhappy with the limits of our situation, although he could not discuss it openly with me to figure out a solution. I remember saying that we will have a beautiful property but not a relationship if we don’t talk about it. I invited him to go to couple therapy and he declined. Instead of pursuing him and taking on the lion’s share of the effort to bridge our communication gap as I had often done, I let it go. I was fed-up of being the main person to insist on communication and connection. He talked to a female co-worker instead, which led to a new intimate relationship for him, and the destruction of our marriage.

I don’t think my discontent caused the end of my marriage, and I was terribly sad about it ending, but ultimately I got to live in the country home full time. Every day I am here I am filled with wonder for the natural beauty that surrounds me and grateful that this yearning tugged at me.

Northrup, C. (2001). The wisdom of menopause. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

If you are in the early stages of menopause do you notice you have less patience?

How do you negotiate your changing perspectives with the people closest to you?

If you are post-menopausal can you look back and see how your perspective shifted?