From Hot Mess to Hot Stuff: Let's talk about the M Word...
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve been experiencing symptoms of the peri-menopause for at least the past five years, probably more; but out of those 5 plus years, I was in denial for at least three of them! However, as memory loss is actually one of the 34 symptoms of the menopause, I could be wrong. In fact, read this article knowing the facts are 100% true, but the timeline is probably pure fiction.
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism about 15 years ago, and put many of the physical symptoms I was experiencing, down to that, as they are very similar. The final straw though, came when I was awake all night with chronic anxiety. I can only describe it as a panic attack that lasted 8 hours. It was exhausting. A few months later, it happened again. Then again.
Now in full transparency, I have struggled with anxiety and depression in the past (linked to PTSD), but these episodes were very uncharacteristic and just didn’t make sense. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of anything in particular that was causing it.
So, I started to do some research and was absolutely blown away when I discovered that anxiety is a very common effect of the peri-menopause – caused by the drop in the reproductive hormone, progesterone.
No one – not even my GP (or my mum, or any of my friends, or the media) had mentioned that anxiety could be an issue for women ‘of a certain age’. In fact, my GP, as lovely as she was, kept mentioning that symptom XYZ was probably due to my age, but never expanded on it, so I didn’t really have a clue what the peri-menopause was, let alone knowing that I was in the middle of it!
A myriad of weird and wonderful ‘things’ started occurring, yet I still continued to bury my head in the sand. The only person I could really talk to about it at any length or regularity, was my closest friend. We started to joke that we needed to allow at least an extra 30 minutes when we met to compare notes of our physical decline. We always ended up laughing as we listed our complaints … but I think that was so we didn’t cry!
Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot…
‘Personal summers’ were not new to me and I had never been known for my cool-as-a-cucumber characteristics; in fact, I know I was a hot mess long before being a hot mess was a ‘thing’. But when I began sizzling in all my hot-flush glory, there was no denying it anymore. I was officially, most definitely, hormonally challenged, and a blood test confirmed it.
I’ve experienced them while in meetings, in shops, during conference calls and in the pub … and everywhere else in between. They don’t stop when you have an important meeting or a fabulous social occasion. They are relentless and left me feeling embarrassed, self-conscious and vulnerable. To say they are challenging is an understatement. They are a whole new world of all-consuming, red-hot fiery burning hell (to put it mildly!) and they have been my nemesis! I challenge anyone who has not experienced one, to say you know what it feels like. Because in all honestly, I don’t think you do.
As the hot flushes started to make their presence well and truly felt, I also started to feel ‘lost’. I had already fallen out of love with the business of flowers and closed my retail florist shop and moved on from my stock photography business. I felt I lacked purpose and direction and was definitely ready for something more fulfilling.
Finding a Voice
In my quest to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I did a great deal of soul-searching, self-developing, researching, studying, workshopping and reading. I joined a local networking group for sisterhood and inspiration and met some brilliant women. I then signed up to an amazing on-line programme aimed at helping women find their voice. It was a speaking programme like no other and it was instrumental in guiding me to where I am now.
After I completed the 10-week programme, I felt motivated and determined to make a difference. I enlisted the help of a fabulous business coach, and within a very short time, it became apparent that I had all the skills, knowledge and experience to help other women going through the same hormonal journey I was on (and still am).
I made the decision; I was going to be the person I had needed all those years ago.
The Menopause gets Cool
Culturally, the subject of the menopause is still taboo, so I decided to embark on a mission to revolutionise the way women experience it, and founded my coaching business, The M Word. I offer one-to-one coaching to help women navigate their way through the mess and muddle of their menopause journey and empower them to take back control of their lives and their bodies.
I also created Hot Stuff Fan Fatale; a hand-held fan that I brought to market via a crowdfunding campaign called ‘The Menopause Gets Cool’ and launched it on World Menopause Day in October last year. Fan Fatale is not only a fierce and feisty hand fan that keeps you cool and gets you seen but encourages women to own their ‘hotness’ and rebel against society’s negative view of the big M. You can click here to see the video I made to promote the campaign.
I have also recently introduced Menopause and Mocktails – monthly meet-ups where women can come together socially to sip mocktails, share stories, find friendship, create a community, get support, master their mindset and tame the menopause. What’s not to love? The first one is on Tuesday 12th February from 7pm-9pm at The Old House Hotel, Wickham, and the second one the following week, on the 19th February at The Wave Maiden in Southsea.
It is my hope that these monthly meet-ups provide women from all walks of life a safe place to come and talk about their experiences. I have deliberately chosen to host these meetings in a social environment to try and lessen the embarrassment and stigma attached to the menopause and to encourage women to stop suffering in silence.
I see The M Word as a movement and sisterhood, to inspire us to embrace our changing bodies, to stop feeling ashamed of this natural transition and to bust the myth that menopausal women need to hide. It’s time to challenge old ways of thinking, look at the menopause through new eyes and make it work for us, not against us. Because who said the menopause should leave us in a hot mess?
Wickham Menopause and Mocktails tickets here
Southsea Menopause and Mocktails event here
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