Hi. My name is Karen Kern. I am elated you made it here to my website. Let me tell you a little about myself and how I came to this place in my life.
Menopausal changes hit me hard. Not that I had always had a gentle hormonal life, but, I had been able to face my hormones head on and still be a productive member of society. When I was about 45, all that changed.
It started with hot flashes. Waves of internal molten lava that erupted through the top of my head and flowed down my body lasting only a few minutes, but in those first few months, they came with surprising frequency. In the troughs between the waves of heat, I would get so cold. The cold was almost worse than the hot. Surprisingly, it took several months of this before the thought of peri-menopause even occurred to me. I was young, too young to begin thinking about hormonal changes. At the time, I was going through other significant changes in my life. I was in the early years of marriage (having never been married before); I was beginning a new phase in my career; my husband had recently been through a year-long medical issue that while not life-threatening was life-altering during its tenure. I don’t know what I thought was happening inside my body, or even if I consciously acknowledged what was happening, but eventually I began to realize what it was, and I was stunned. As the heat/cold/heat/cold cycle intensified, I began to feel worse and worse. Unable to concentrate on anything for very long. Low energy. Never really feeling good, and mostly feeling genuinely rotten. Symptoms that I just couldn’t put a finger on. Feelings that were hard to describe. I was uncomfortable in my own body. My head hurt. My belly hurt. I gained weight and lost stamina. I had no energy or drive. I knew that this was not how I wanted to feel or how I wanted to live.
I felt I had no one to talk to about what was going on within me. Not because I had no friends who had been through this themselves (I had many), but because I was of the mindset that it is a weakness to show the world my struggle. I have never been able to show the world any weaknesses. Showing female related weakness was not an option.
Why? I was born in 1964 to a young mother facing a new world of feminism. My mother had dropped out of high school in 1960 to marry my father. When she had gone to talk with her school counselor about finishing school, the advice was there was no reason for a girl to need a high school diploma. A year later she had my brother, and two years after that she had me. In the years between her marriage and my birth, the world began to change. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. Women were standing up and fighting for what was their right and honor. She watched this unfold from the sideline and concluded that her daughter would benefit from the movement. She instilled in me the values and ethics that are required to make it in a man’s world. She also taught me that I could be anything, I could accomplish everything, there were no limits to my aspirations. But, to do this, I could never allow womanly issues to be an excuse.
I learned this lesson very well. I started my menstrual history at twelve. From the beginning my periods were extremely heavy, going through super pads, and later super tampons, and sometimes both at the same time, at a rate of one an hour for seven to nine days. I have ruined more sheets, mattress pads, mattresses, underwear and pants in my life than I care to count. I spent my teens, twenties, and thirties being anemic and tired. I invested years in oral and injectable contraceptives to control the flow, which helped just enough to make life manageable. During my periods my bones ached, especially my pelvis and legs. But, I never once in my life missed school or work because of my period. It was not allowed, first by my mother, and later by me. To do so would open me up to being discriminated against because of my gender. Not showing up was not the way to make my mark in the world. I was not going to be known as the woman who only gave half because she had terrible periods.
While I thank my mom for instilling these values and ethics in me, it is the reason menopause hit me so hard and made me feel that I had no place to turn. All I knew was that I had to find a way to be well. I began researching on my own. I came across a lot of websites, books, and articles that made sense. I realized that I had control over many areas of life that were contributing to how I felt every day. But, I had to be the one take control. And, I realized that there is not one thing that is the magic bullet. Instead, many small changes can add up to sizable benefits. Some of these are things I never thought about as contributing to my overall wellness. Some I thought would be too difficult to endure for the long haul. Some I thought would be too detrimental to the lifestyle my husband and I had come to enjoy. Some I thought would challenge my friendships. I tried them anyway. I evaluated them within the context of my life. I found what worked for me, and what didn’t. I also began sharing with my friends. Together we assessed what worked for them and what didn’t. These were not always the same things. Everyone is different. Everyone has their starting and ending points. Finding answers is personal and requires give-and-take within yourself.
I then realized that I yearn to bring this knowledge to others, to help them through the rough spots of their wellness quest. To accomplish this, I knew I needed education on how to be a health coach. I first became certified by Dr. Sears in his Prime-Time Health class to understand how we age. I then studied with Dr. Jessica Drummond at the Integrative Women’s Health Institute to get a more intensive understanding of the needs and challenges that are specific to women. Both of these are evidence-based programs that use a comprehensive approach to wellness. They also both have a continuing support process to keep their graduates up-to-date on new and emerging science. Furthermore, I continually pursue other courses on aging, women in menopause, nutrition, exercise, gut health, brain health, and more.
My journey has not been perfect. I ebb and flow. I have succeeded and failed. I am human in every way. I have learned to accept that. I have also learned to set more realistic goals. I can assess what is essential, and what I can give up. I now get that most of the expectations of me were placed there by me, and can be modified, put off, or jettisoned. I am still beginning to understand how to take care of me and my needs, but I am doing much better than in the past. I am learning how to lean on my community of family, friends, and advisors. I want to help you on your journey as well.