To set the scene, I was 46. I was planning my wedding, just moved in with my Fiancé, started a new job and became a stepmother to two small children. I know, it’s quite a lot to take on but I’m a strong woman and not a lot phased me or so I thought. But something just didn’t feel right and it’s difficult to put into words that feeling of not being comfortable in your own body, being out of alignment is the best way I can describe it. There were other subtle signs too. I became moody and snappy; my sleep was erratic and my cycle was all over the place but I didn’t join the dots. Instead, I just pushed on because that’s what I’ve always done, push on through the tough times. I thought that I’d had a lot on my plate and I was going through a period of adjustment to some life changes.
Fast forward 18 months and my life was toxic. I wasn’t sleeping well at all, sometimes for 2 or 3 nights at a time so I was exhausted and my mood swings were out of control. I couldn’t function at work and I didn’t recognise this in myself because I’d always been so strong and capable. I was so worried about what people thought about me I worked longer and harder than I’ve ever worked just so I could keep up with everyone else. By this time the hot flushes had started, like a fire that would race up my spine without any warning, they became more frequent, day and night. Then came the night sweats and did I say that my moods were intolerable?
Then the penny finally dropped and at first, I was in denial. ‘This cannot be happening’, I thought, ‘I’m too young, I’ve just got married, I’m not a little old lady with grey hair!’ But I took action, as I always do, and I went to see a GP. I felt silly suggesting that I might be in menopause but I plucked up the courage to say the dreaded words. The gentleman sat in front of me and laughed. He said: ‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’re far too young.’
I wanted to crawl right back out the door in embarrassment. He waved a prescription for sleeping tablets at me and off I went. I slept for a week (not literally), and the bonus of sleep took the edge off my fatigue but I was still struggling. I went back to the GP for a second opinion and to my surprise the moment I walked into her consulting room I completely broke down and had a full-on anxiety attack.
Everything came flooding out and I sobbed as my world had imploded. I had let things get so bad that my mental health had deteriorated to a point that I really needed help. I had to take 4 months away from work which added shame and guilt to the cocktail of symptoms and emotions. The anxiety attacks left me feeling exhausted. I remember one day watching the neighbours and the postman through the window just wondering how they were able to do what they do, speak to each other, go out, just function. But with the help of my GP and HRT, I slowly began to notice an improvement and although I still had menopausal symptoms they weren’t as severe.
This experience really frightened me, I knew I had to do more to help myself and I knew that if I wanted to continue working and stay married. Something had to change and so I started to look at my lifestyle. I looked at every aspect of my life and made changes to my nutrition, sleep hygiene, exercise regime, habits, relationships, everything got a once over. I hired a fitness coach and I had talking therapy, and I took a very deep look into myself to really uncover who I was and what makes me happy.
When I went back to work 4 months later, I was still work in progress but 2 weeks after returning I got a promotion and every day, I became happier and stronger. I worked on myself every day, forging new routines, new habits, letting go of anything and anyone that didn’t have a positive impact on my life. I felt like someone had opened the curtains on my life and the sun was beaming through the window. I felt so authentically happy and comfortable with myself. I had confidence like I never had before and I was unapologetically me. I loved going to work too, I headed up an amazing team and I had the best year out of the 17 years I had been with the company. I also set myself a goal, I wanted to be in the best possible shape mentally and physically by the time I reached 50.
One of the things I discovered about myself was how much compassion I had for other people, I began to see people in a completely different light and I genuinely cared about the wellbeing of others. It was then that I realised I wanted to do something different with my life so I enrolled for a Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching. This was the beginning of a completely new chapter.
I loved coaching so much that just before my 50th birthday I left my job of 17 years to study full-time so I could set up my own coaching practice. I had a burning desire to help other women struggling with menopause see that this can be the start of a new and exciting chapter. It can be the best time of our lives, we have so much to offer and it doesn’t need to be a time when we slow down and retreat into the background. Menopause can derail our lives but it doesn’t need to and I don’t want any woman to go through what I went through. I don’t want any woman to feel like she needs to take time out or give up her career because she’s struggling or to feel like she just wants to run away and hide. I don’t want any woman to hide her brilliance. I want them to shine and glow and show up wherever they want to, however, they want to and be proud of who they are.
I smashed the target I set myself and I marked my 50th birthday celebrations with a photoshoot. I hope women will see these pictures and be inspired to have dreams, set goals and go for them!