Janice Vee, voice over artist and blogger, shares her experience.
“I AM GOING MAD, I AM GOING MAD, I AM GOING MAD…..I THINK I’M MAD!”
This was my mantra for the last two years. On December, 19th 2015 I remember waking up in a state of SHEER PANIC. I write that now in upper case because this is the only way to express to you the magnitude of the sensations that I was going through. It was not just panic, it was severe insomnia, it was emotional outbursts (mainly crying actually) and just plain fear. Fear of dying, fear of my parents dying, my kids getting older, getting on a plane, going to the supermarket, meeting new people, doing my job! This was not me! Let me explain the kind of person I was.
I WAS a very outgoing, happy, sometimes outrageous woman about town. I had partied hard in my youth, drank what I wanted, ate what I wanted. I had a great social life, friends from all walks of life and yet in that cold December month, I couldn’t even leave the house, put the rubbish out or get into my car to drive to work. I am a voice over artist. I work in studios all around London. I love what I do and have been doing it for over 20 years, yet the idea of going into a studio with no windows, looking at pages and pages of script sent me into a meltdown even I hadn’t anticipated. I was sweating, pouring sweat…that fear swept over me again and weighed me down like an anchor…I couldn’t move; I was stuck in this place….forever, I thought!
Maybe this was just my brain finally giving in to the madness that had always been there and was now taking it’s rightful place inside my head.
I cried and cried for months afterwards. What was happening to me, I was a confident, vibrant woman who loved life and I had been reduced to a meek and fearful wreck. My children looked at me like an alien from another planet….who was this person and what had they done with their mum?!
I thought that maybe my years of partying and drinking had finally caught up with me! Maybe this was just my brain finally giving in to the madness that had always been there and was now taking it’s rightful place inside my head.
I went on a quest to get Janice back to Janice again. I went down the alternative medicine route and over the next few months I would spend thousands of pounds trying to find a cure for my craziness. I tried:
- Acupuncture and Healing
- Energy purification
- Trauma Healing
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)
- Quantum Healing remotely from Hawaii
- CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- Hypnotherapy (Havening Technique)
- Systematic Kinesiology
It wasn’t until a chance meeting with my friend Meg (who I hadn’t seen in years) and after we chatted I realised that we were going through similar symptoms.
I was desperate, I was trying to ‘find’ myself again. The panic attacks were crippling and stopped me from doing my work, from being a mum, friend, wife and sane person. I went to my GP and he wanted to put me on antidepressants!! But I wasn’t mad? Or was I? It wasn’t until a chance meeting with my friend Meg (who I hadn’t seen in years) and after we chatted I realised that we were going through similar symptoms.
The ‘M’ word hadn’t even entered my vocabulary until then. I couldn’t even say the word…it was so not me! I wasn’t at that stage yet? I was 47 years old, I still had my periods like clockwork, no hot flushes, no other conventional menopausal symptoms. But how wrong I was. Like most women I thought that the first signs of menopause were irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. But there is a whole gamut of symptoms that Meg then reeled off, and I had some of the ones I didn’t even know were symptoms of the menopause.
A day later I got the call: ‘I can confirm that you are halfway through the menopause’.
How did I not see this coming? I’m usually so prepared, especially for something as important as this. But I was caught off guard, I had no tools to deal with this….my usual multitasking mind could not quite get to grips with the lack of knowledge I had about this subject. Meg told me to get a blood test at the Sara Matthews clinic at Portland Hospital (my GP just wanted to put me on antidepressants remember so a blood test was out of the question on the NHS) I had to splurge some money on my sanity and to really find out what the hell was going on with me. A day later I got the call: ‘I can confirm that you are halfway through the menopause’. I should have been jumping up and down….hurray, now I know why I was mad, there was a legitimate reason for my constant crying, my panic, my severe insomnia.
Where was I? Who was I? Why did I still feel like this?
But instead of celebrating this milestone and ‘change’ in my life, I just cried again, and cried and cried. I obviously wasn’t accepting this just yet! It would take a few months of crying, panic and sleepless nights to really understand what a cosmic shift my body was going through. The Progesterone and Estrogen were chastising me with their lack of presence in my body; a body and emotional state that had been on an even keel for so many decades that this ‘change’ was such a smack around the head it jolted me into another dimension. Where was I? Who was I? Why did I still feel like this?
My memory disappeared, my short term memory (which still has not come back to normal by the way) made me put milk in the cupboard, forget where I parked and couldn’t remember the names of my kids! I wasn’t a well woman. It was an out of body experience. The person I knew for so many years felt and acted differently. It was scary; I couldn’t accept that this was where I was in my life so I went on my bizarre and fabulous journey of alternative therapists to try and get me back to who I was. Tapping for anxiety, acupuncture for panic attacks, Louise Mita my Hawaii healer for general well being, trauma healing to ground me, naturopathy to sustain me and systematic kinesiology to balance me. All of which helped in some ways to make me feel better.
I felt something. One word. Acceptance. Acceptance for where I was in my life.
Well it did get better…..slightly. Sleep was still crap, anxiety was up and down, but I wasn’t in a constant state of panic. Each day was a challenge though, like wading through mud! Nothing seemed to really help 100%. But what did happen, over time (we are talking about 9 months later) I felt something. One word. Acceptance. Acceptance for where I was in my life, acceptance for how I was living and feeling and acceptance for who I was at this precise moment in time. It had never dawned on me before. I was fighting it, really pushing against it. Trying to do everything in my power (and finances) to get myself back to me. But that was the old me, this new me was unchartered, undiscovered. It’s why I was so frightened, I hadn’t been this person before. And this is what no-one tells you about the menopause. It’s about shedding a new skin, embracing the change and revealing a different version of yourself.
Ok, so it’s not a ‘jumping-up-in-the-air-for-joy’ in slow motion tampon commercial (which would be ironic) kind of you; there is no glittery, shiny transition where you suddenly know the answers to the world, universe etc. The feeling is comfortable compliance: ‘This is where I am, sometimes it’s a bit shit, sometimes it’s normal and sometimes it’s amazing…and I am okay with that’.
Here is my comprehensive list of ways I got through the menopause:
- Do a blood test, see what your results are and in that way you can determine if you have too much/little Estrogen or Progesterone. Sometimes you might even need some testosterone or DHEA as well.
- For my symptoms I went to see Sara Matthews at Portland Hospital. She is expensive, but she is thorough and will give you either Progesterone cream (bio identical one) or Estrogel depending on your blood results. www.portlandhospital.com
- Try and find a good Naturopath. I went to see Samira Siddique at Gracelands Yard, NW10, she is amazing! She really gets to the bottom of the problem and will give you herbs to suit you. www.gracelandsyard.com/therapies/naturopath-herbalist/
- Magnesium, Omega 3, Vitamin D3 are all really important to take. But it is really important to have some good B vitamins. The ones that help the menopause are B12 and B6; B6 is especially important to help with symptoms of low serotonin levels. I felt so much better after having B6 to help with my anxiety. Magnesium is amazing for sleep, get one that is liquid form and can synthesis into the blood stream quicker. I go to Epiginetics to get mine: www.epigenetics-international.com
- Private doctor. Most of the time the NHS will fob us off with antidepressants when we are menopausal. I had to go privately to get blood tests and tablets (especially diazepams and sleeping tablets!!) I did use the sleeping tablets for a few months because my sleep was so bad. The diazepam came in very handy in those moments of extreme panic!! I went to see Dr Neil Haughton at the Portobello Clinic and he is amazing and will not try and fleece you for money either, he’s a good guy. www.portobelloclinic.com
- Yoga – definitely embark on some exercise. Yoga is the one that I found most beneficial. I did it online (didn’t feel like going into a public class and making an idiot of myself!!) But walking (briskly until you are panting!) is great for you because it’s free and you get to walk around your town…even better if you can find a friend to walk with you.
- Be kind to yourself! You have to do this. It’s the most important step. Take time out for yourself, drink tea, go for a walk, meet friends, do something new and challenging! Getting out of the negative headspace is essential to getting better. Reminding ourselves how creative, imaginative and grateful we are each day is the one mantra I had to keep saying to myself…I didn’t feel like it was helping initially, but even on the ‘down’ days I have to remind myself of how grateful I am. I even did a gratitude diary every day!
So into 2018….
Currently I am taking Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Dong Quai (Chinese herb for hot flushes and balancing hormone levels) I started making my own blend of herbs that have worked for me and it’s taken about a year to come up with the right blend. The blend has Ashwagandha in it which is an amazing stress reliever because it lowers cortisol levels, Tumeric has many uses but it is also really powerful for brain function (I can remember the names of my children again!!) and Maca Root is incredible for women in the menopause because it balances hormones, improves bone health and supports the immune system. I started experimenting with different herbs and have made a blend which has shown amazing results for me. I have made batches for all my girlfriends in need of a boost and called it ‘Wonder Woman’! My Magic Menopause Blend. Why not?! I also do yoga every morning and my sleep has improved. But there are days where all is doom and gloom and I can’t seem to shake the fear, panic and anxiety and there are some days where everything is positive again! I guess I just have to get used to being in this state and remind myself it will pass. It’s not easy is it! I haven’t used HRT, but I know lots of women that have and who say that they couldn’t live without it.
I literally did every alternative therapy going! I spent about £14K over a year and a half in treatments and the one thing I can say is that it’s just about time and trying to find balance…nothing is perfect and nothing worked 100%….I just had to find the things that suited me. I made a toolkit and I take it everywhere with me, it’s good to find what works for you and make your own toolkit: Rescue Remedy, Vitamins, Diazepams (in case of emergencies) Sleep Plus Pillow Spray…oh and I did wear a Ladycare magnet down my underpants for a while and that would be my party piece!!