What My Menopause Taught Me

October 13, 2020

What My Menopause Taught Me

Today is World Menopause Awareness Day, a subject very close to our hearts here at TOYL.   I asked many of the inspirational women I've spoken to over the past year about their personal Menopause experience, good and bad.  Here's what they said.

Tracey Sayer

Fashion Director at Fabulous Magazine. @trayslounge

"I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own. I can’t do this on my own… Basically, I tried for 18 months to ‘beat’ the menopause. I have always risen to any challenge and am fitter than I have ever been in my forties, so I couldn’t see why I couldn’t just get on with it.

"However, when it got to the point where I didn’t even recognise myself or own my own body I knew I had to do something about it.  It turns out that your hormones pretty much rule your life and when they are totally off kilter so are you. No matter how tough you think you are.

"After seeking the right advice (Thank you DR Harper) and getting on the right HRT for me, I got right  back on track, stuck two fingers up to vaginal dryness, got my  mojo back and finally felt like me again… I would even go as far as to say a better version...😝

Sue Peart, Journalist

‘On one hand, I was fortunate to experience practically no menopause symptoms.  At least, none that unduly bothered me.  There were the occasional nights when I woke up in the grip of some unknown dread and lay awake in terror, and others when I woke up bathed in sweat kicking off the duvet in a desperate attempt to cool down.
"Apart from that, I barely noticed what was happening.  Admittedly, I was working in an extremely high-pressure environment at the time and - like most women - unless the symptoms were about to kill me, I tended to brush them aside and carry on working regardless.
"It was only after the menopause that things changed.  I noticed my hair, skin and nails had become dry and brittle, and my eyes seemed to be disappearing in my face.  My eyesight - perfect all my life - suddenly started to deteriorate, and then deteriorate some more …. I needed three new glasses prescriptions in as many years.  My partner started to complain that I was listening to the radio very loud, and I wondered if my hearing was on the slide too.
"The biggest shock, though, came when I belatedly decided to have a bone scan which revealed early stage osteoporosis.  My mother had had osteoporosis, and I’d watched her get smaller and more stooped as the years went by, and weaker and more fragile.  By the time of her death aged 89, she could barely lift a kettle, and a gust of wind would have blown over.  That was the future I faced.
"I immediately went to the GP and was prescribed the ’NHS frontline’ treatment for osteoporosis (calcium, Vitamin D and alendronic acid).  But I was cross.  Why wasn’t I on HRT?  The GP told me it was too late.
"At that point, I felt my failure to bother the doctor a few years earlier had worked against me; I now had an incurable degenerative condition that gradually robs you of your strength and mobility, turns your bones to powder, and can cause great discomfort.  Had I visited my GP at the onset of the menopause, I might have been put on HRT - well-known for preserving bone health, and protecting against heart attacks and stroke.  I felt cheated.  
"I feel I have lived through the era of HRT.  When it was first introduced there was enormous scepticism around it.  Since then, HRT has been refined and improved, and the various health scares surrounding it (such as the apparent link between HRT and breast cancer) have been discredited.  We now have a new generation of bio-identical HRT that are, by all accounts, excellent.  
"I can’t turn the clock back for me; all I can do is go on taking the tablets, and doing regular strength training at the gym in an attempt to hold back this disease.   But if there is one piece of advice I would give my daughter it is, ‘When the time comes, visit your GP and INSIST on being put on HRT.’

 

Lauren Chiren -Founder & Managing Director

"The very worst thing about my experience of menopause was mistaking it for early-onset dementia, leaving my job not knowing how to seek help and support as a female leader in financial services, I didn't want to be seen as weak. The very best thing was that I created Women of a Certain Stage. 6 years on, I have spoken on stages across the UK & USA, appear regularly in the media, deliver webinars for corporate clients globally and have stories galore from clients who were literally in despair about their menopause who are now flourishing. At the end of a talk, one gentleman came up to me and said 'I think you may have just saved my marriage'."
  
Tracey Woodward
Beauty Industry Guru 

The low point for me was being diagnosed in my early thirties as peri menopausal and it actually happening almost immediately after giving birth to my daughter and wanting to have more children I was so disappointed and grieving for the children I would never have.  I snapped out of it once I realised how fortunate I was to have 2 now 19 & 29 

"What my menopause taught me was the importance of selfcare and wellness.  Prior to this I had done everything in my life to extreme - My Career, My Relationships, Friends and Family leaving little for myself.   The contrary indications for health that I had made me think harder about myself.

"My biggest wake up was in my mid forties, I have made extreme lifestyle changes. As women we have a powerful intuition that when it comes to ourselves we tend to ignore, I now tune into that more than ever. For me this gives me a different perspective and also empowers me to manage change way better. I am way more mellow now, still driven. But knowing I am responsible for my health and wellbeing everything I tell myself, everything I consume, how seriously I take exercise and gut health it’s all my responsibility so my goal is to be an athlete in my own life and remain as well as possible for as long as possible, taking each day as it comes.

 

Jane Scrivner - founder of Jane Scrivner Skincare

"Peri menopause hit at 46, I didn’t get any immediately recognisable symptoms i.e. sweats and mood swings – there weren’t any swings, it was a permanent low lying mood coupled with inability to get a full lungful of air.   I was permanently out of breath and a constant muscle tingle all over my back.

"As the years progressed I had ‘crashing fatigue’  it was all I could do not to crawl into a darkened room and sleep, but you can’t do that when starting a new business, you just do what you do and get on with it, which doesn’t help the mood!

"My doctor asked if I would consider HRT and after living on a ton of edamame beans a day, rattling with natural supplements, eating perfectly –and NO alcohol,  I wasn’t living, I was drifting through each day feeling dreadful. Literally hours after taking my first replacement pills I was back, the muscle fizz disappeared and the anger subsided – I liked stuff again.

"10 years later, I can see the end of the whole process, last remaining hormone surges happen occasionally and now I am embracing the legitimised  status of a post-menopausal freedom that puts me back in the driving seat – maybe I should have surrendered and let it take me out of my working day and have been kinder to myself but I don’t think that’s me.

"I’m very glad it’s nearly over.  I don’t think any part of it was good, but then it didn’t really stop me doing things, so no part of it was ‘preventingly’ bad either.

"I don’t think it taught me anything except that my hormones are the accelerator and brake pedals on a driverless car, sometimes it’s a lovely day trip and sometimes you think you will crash and burn, but you always get out alive."

 

Tina Malhame - Fashion Designer and Founder of No Logo Chic

"I will sound quite smug, I am sure, when I say I didn’t have a single hot flush or sweaty night. But really, I didn’t. Not once. My mother said eat avocados, fruit, oats, nuts and you’ll be fine. So, I did. But actually, I wasn’t fine at all. I developed all sort of other things which, frankly, made me miserable.

"Anxiety.  On two occasions paramedics came. “Sorry love, you are only having a panic attack”.   I saw flashing lights. I felt tearful. I was frequently lightheaded. My female doctor understood and I felt sad when she left the practice and was replaced by a man.

"The weight sneaked onto my tummy and hips. My hair and nails thinned.

"One day I took myself off to have a complete and total body medical test which was interesting in that it revealed my body had stopped making vitamin D and my thyroid had almost packed in.

"Menopause. It wasn’t something I wanted to acknowledge back then. No one spoke about it except in the form of a joke. Well it wasn’t funny. It isn’t. But it is part of life.  I feel thankful and grateful that, frankly, I am still alive and got though that chapter with as much grace as I could muster. Moreover, I just loving waking and greeting every brand new day."

 

Kerry Manning
Blogger at www.fabuliciousfifty.com
"I thought Menopause had passed me by.  My overall health is really not good and I joked to everyone that when Menopause came up, God said, oh Kerry, no she has had so much already she deserves a break.  I had already had my share of hormone related complications starting in my twenties when the doctors found out that I was totally estrogen dominant and didn't make any progesterone at all.  After many trials and errors I was fitted with a Mirena Coil and that was it - no more time of the month and I was only thirty eight.  I wasn't complaining because prior to this it was always that time.  So as I cruised into my fifties, changes started to happen in my body, but none of the dramatic hot flushes and other horrid things I had read about.  But then one day, after so many years absence I noticed bleeding.  I had a routine doctor's appointment that day, so I mentioned it in passing.  Fast forward to specialist appointments and investigative surgery all a whole lot quicker than normal and I was worried.  Bleeding post menopause is a worry that is taken very seriously.  Thankfully I was ok.  I had a 'clean out' of fibroids and everything was checked with pathology.  No matter how you go through menopause it is so important to be aware of your own physical health, and if anything looks dodgy, get it checked out."
  
Michele Paradise
Change Your Mind For Good
"I always thought I was a fairly perceptive person but the most unexpected aspect of menopause for me was how it crept up on me like a ‘silent stalker’. By the time I realised what it was, the people in my life looked traumatised by the new arrival who had inhabited my body. After some Bio HRT and self-reflection, we were friends again. This turned out to be one of the most profound learnings in menopause because I could spot the ‘silent stalker’ within my clients (often in their 40s) before they did and encourage them to get their hormones tested and recover their peaceful, sexual, and grounded self, for which they were eternally grateful. The best part of menopause for me was sexual freedom and not being the one who had to look after the ‘protection’ when dating. It was now his turn. My motto was “no glove, no love”. And of course, the orgasms increased and sex became even more enjoyable."
   
Tracey McAlpine
www.fightingfifty.co.uk
“I tackled my menopause with good vitamins and omega’s and literally ran it off. I was like Forrest Gump, I ran and ran. It taught me the power of exercise and no matter how miserable I felt, I always felt better after a run.”
  
Lucy McCarraher
Publisher and Mentor to Women Authors
"I had an early menopause in my mid 40s, which explained why I had been unable to conceive the baby my second husband and I had planned, after marrying when I was 40. Not one to be deflected from my goals, we decided to adopt a baby from a Russian children’s home, and after two years of form filling and social services between two highly bureaucratic countries, I was finally on a plane to Moscow to bring home the 11-month-old little girl we had met and fallen in love with on our first visit. I hadn’t had a period for at least six months, and perhaps it was my body giving a last gasp response to my re-awakened feelings of maternity, but on the plane I was horrified to find I had started a super-heavy period and had no pads or tampons with me. My Russian chaperone was an enigmatic man with little English, and our schedule didn’t include random visits to chemists, so I went through the next couple of days stuffing loo paper and paper towels into my bag wherever I could find them, and got through the worst that way. My best post-menopausal experience was starting a new publishing business in my mid-50s (from home, around my two still young adopted daughters), and being able to grow it from a two-person startup to an international team of 40, publishing 70+ books a year. The whole publishing team are home-workers, most of them women, who love working flexibly around their various personal lives.   My tip to anyone going into menopause is go straight to the GP and get on HRT. The physical and mental health benefits far outweigh the scare stories about side effects, and there are plenty of options to choose from, from
patches to pills. I'm still on a very low dose of HRT (quarter of the prescribed dose because it’s what works for me) 20 years later; the times I've gone off it my menopausal symptoms have always come back, my skin gets worse and I look older. So I'm sticking with HRT, happy that it’s also protecting my bones and my sanity!"
  
Jayn Sterland 
MD Weleda Beauty UK

“No-one really ever talked me about the menopause until one day whilst having a routine chat with my doctor she mentioned, at 45, she thought I might be peri-menopausal and maybe we should check my hormone levels.

"I thought, well now is my chance to find out what I was in for, so I asked her for advice. What came back to me floored me. I could look forward to extreme tiredness, weight gain was a certainty, as were hot flushes and sweats, irritability and memory loss.  

"But not to worry she cheerfully told me at the first sign of symptoms we would just switch into HRT. What are the alternatives to HRT are there I asked innocently? None. And then to add insult to injury she said I would be delighted with HRT unless of course I was lucky and had no symptoms.

"So there I was – ten years of symptoms ahead of me that could only be made better with synthetic hormones or drinking horse urine, conning my body into thinking it was younger than it was.

"Fast forward to now. I am well and truly into my menopause and yes its true I am at least ten kgs heavier and I constantly forget things but I have no symptoms and feel fabulous, liberated from the monthly stresses and strains of periods and all they bring. So maybe I am one of those lucky women my doctor told me about? No I am not, I’m just very focussed on treating myself through nature and supplements and I can be bloody minded when I want to be. First I noticed my hot flushes went ballistic every time I had a drink, so I ditched alcohol and along with it the hot flushes vanished as did the hangovers and the awful night sweats. Next I cut out caffeine, hard for the first three weeks but I can say I have never looked back once I discovered Swiss-method caffeine-free coffee – who knew caffeine was such a stimulant for hot flushes (well everybody but me it seems!). Now the hot flushes and night sweats have disappeared, my libido is fine, in fact I feel better than before thanks to combinations of herbal supplements and my elimination of those ‘bad’ toxins. It may sound extreme but honestly, it hasn’t been and OK definitely not for everyone but for me (and my principles) I’m delighted not to have to drink horse urine for the rest of my days. No periods. No cramps. Freedom. Next on my list is the natural progesterone creams and to shift my spare tyre.”

Severine Menem - Nutritionist for midlife Women

"My journey into menopause started 2 years ago when I realised my extremely dry eyes were actually a symptom of perimenopause.

"At 46 I am lucky: I’ve been able to manage my symptoms naturally (i.e. without Bio/HRT or medication) – which I suppose is a perk of being a nutritional therapist. It doesn’t mean that it is easy, it means that if you want a natural solution, you find a way to make it work. Until now at least!

The good: I know diet and lifestyle are key. Getting various menopause symptoms helped me reassess my diet and lifestyle to make a number of tweaks and improvements. I also got to try various supplements that I can now recommend to clients.

"The bad: I can’t say I’ve experienced the bad side of menopause, I only tasted what could be. The only annoying part so far is the irregularity of my periods, and when new symptoms come out of the blue and force me into making new changes. I can’t take anything for granted anymore, I have to work at it all the time. Still I am grateful but be part of the 25% of women who don’t have symptoms."

 

Rebecca Hopkins, Co-Founder, Balance Me natural skincare

“I’m still in the early stage of perimenopause. I have to say I wouldn’t have been au fait with this life stage at all if it wasn’t for all the excellent awareness-raising information that is being shared and dissected by a host of amazing menopause advocates including @drmenopausecare, @menopausedoctor, @postcardsfrommidlife to name but a few.  For my part, I am embracing my own personal menopause journey by recognising a number of common symptoms that are affecting me and my peers such as dehydration, pigmentation, hormonal acne, anxiety and sleep deprivation as a result of depleting oestrogen levels. It has also paved the way for new innovations in my Balance Me skincare range. My philosophy is that we need to embrace it, not accept we can’t seek help and advice to alleviate our symptoms and find whatever treatment we need to support us through this key life stage, from start to finish and beyond.”

 

Karen Davis
Founder of TOYL
"Gotta be honest, found myself in a deep, dark place at times.  Physically, my periods were horrendous and utterly unpredictable.  Period pains were off the scale as was the flow so I was pretty much housebound when these happened.  Of course, if I weren't an idiot I would have gone to the doctor earlier because there are brilliant tablets to help this but I just didn't know that.  I thought everyone just got on with it.  Mentally, the change was slow and downwards, so subtle that day by day I didn't notice how far I'd gone down the rabbit hole until I was right at the bottom wondering how that had happened.  You do come through.  Without that dark place I would not be an Amazon #1 best-selling author (did I mention that?), I would not have started TOYL and I would not have had the very real privilege of hearing the stories of these incredible women quoted above.  Now it's time for your story.  Post your best and worst experience of menopause below and share to help others understand that they are not alone.  For those of you struggling with the menopause we see you - always." 
  
IMAGE
Top Row left to right:
Michele Paradise, Jane Scrivner, Karen Davis, Kerry Manning, Rebecca Hopkins
Middle Row left to right:
Tracey Woodward, Jayn Sterland, Lauren Chiren, Sue Peart
Bottom Row left to right:
Tracey McAlpine, Severine Menem, Tracey Lea Sayer, Lucy McCarraher, Tina Malhame
 



2 Responses

Sandy
Sandy

October 19, 2020

Hey Cheryl I feel exactly the same. I went on HRT 6 months ago and felt amazing! Sadly I feel awful now, it’s so upsetting. I had really bad depression when I was 22, then again when my first daughter was born age 25. I’m a fitness freak and I’m always outdoors running, paddle boarding etc and I’ve kept it at bay (I’m 50) but the last few months the depression is creeping back and it’s driving me crazy!!! I’m anxious, stressed it’s awful

Cheryl
Cheryl

October 18, 2020

I’m 51, currently in perimenopause and feel like I’m going through hell. I am someone who has suffered with depression on and off for many years and right now I feel like my perimenopause has brought the worst symptoms of my depression to the forefront. Along with that, anxiety has taken a hold with constant awful thoughts and that crippling feeling of impending doom. I don’t like to leave the house anymore, or to socialise, and I have totally lost my confidence, including with my job. My body aches, I’ve put on weight, and I am experiencing hair loss too. I’ve also been bleeding more or less continuously for the past 7 weeks. My doctor’s answer has been to increase the dosage of my antidepressants, no mention of HRT. Thank you Karen for all the work you are doing, it helps to share in the experience of others and to know it’s not just me going mad. I’ve realised there is information out there, it’s just knowing where to find it.

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