I’m 55 years young and now loving life!
I find it interesting that there’s no word in Japanese for menopause. Instead they talk about being re-energised and it is known as ‘The Second Spring’. So I am going for that!
However, I haven’t always felt this way. At around the age of 45 I started to experience symptoms of menopause. The ones we tend to expect. Hot flushes, probably 30 a day and I mean burning hot flushes. I used to buy two of every work top so I could change at lunchtime. Broken sleep, night sweats, brain fog to the extent I couldn’t remember my team’s names. This could be very embarrassing, but I started to call everyone “chuckie” to avoid trying to remember names.
This became my go-to way of chatting to people. Soon everyone knew why, but we just brought some humour to the situation. My colleagues and friends were fab. I started to get more symptoms, including shaking hands and often feeling dizzy. I arranged to see my GP when I was 46 years old and she advised me to have a blood test to see if I may be menopausal. They came back saying I was in the normal range for hormones. But I knew something wasn’t quite right.
Losing my confidence
I was in a management role leading a team in HR. I’d always been known as a person who would get things done on time, on budget, engaging senior stakeholders and colleagues and delivering initiatives with fab feedback. I had always been so driven and worked at pace, presenting to many people, loving my work in leadership and development. But this all started to change. I realised I’d lost all my confidence and was starting to have panic attacks, heart palpitations and a real anxiety around lots of things that had never bothered me before.
Most days, I’d drive to HQ, which was a 100-mile round trip. I’d be in tears for most of the journey for no reason. I had a fab life, gorgeous hubbie, adorable son, amazing job, great line manager and fabulous friends and family. Nothing to be concerned about, so why was I suddenly feeling trapped in this body and mind that I didn’t recognise???
When I arrived at the car park I would feel totally trapped inside the car. I honestly had so much fear of starting my day. It often took around 15 minutes to get myself together. I’d say to myself “Come on Juliet, be brave, get in the lift and just deal with the day.”
This continued for around a year, never missing a day of work. People could tell that I had been crying, even though I used eye drops to try to hide it. I always had my make up with me as I needed to reapply after tearful episodes. This sounds pathetic when I read it out loud but it was absolutely true and felt debilitating. How could this be happening to me when I had been so confident and driven in my career for 30 years? I hadn’t even heard of perimenopause but now I know that was the stage I was going through.
My second spring
I got to such a low place and had very low mood, feeling like a terrible depression and I have to admit to some very dark thoughts. That was it. Something had to change. My hubbie and son are amazing and were so supportive of me. At the age of 51 I arranged to see my GP and went along with my mind map of notes showing all of my symptoms. I knew I wanted to try HRT as I had researched it and one of my friends had said how life changing it had been.
My GP was fabulous and yes I did start HRT. I was literally in tears during the appointment and this is why it’s so important for women to write things down, as you can forget what you’re going to say. Within two weeks I felt so different. The absolute panic and anxiety was very much reduced and the tearfulness stopped. One night me, my hubbie and my son were all snuggled on the sofa and my son said “Wow mum you are really calm and you haven’t shouted at dad once.” Gosh. It was a really lovely moment and I realised that I had started to become my old self again, a super lovely feeling.
I do still keep an eye on how I feel, as sometimes the first HRT prescription needs amending. I was on what my son called “mum’s magic patches” and he is so right.
My son, even today sometimes asks if I am having a menopause day. And then gives me the best hugs. I nearly left my job when I was feeling at my lowest and now I’m travelling the UK helping others to know more about this time of life. I was even interviewed on the big red sofa on BBC Breakfast News.
If you’re reading this, firstly thank you for reading my story. Secondly, if this has resonated with you then please do see your GP and talk to your family or friends to share how you are feeling and gain some support.
It doesn’t have to be HRT. Just see what is available to you as you really don’t have to feel this way. If only I had known what I know now when I was 45.
Remember, you will not have the symptoms forever. We all experience menopause differently but you can get help for symptoms and get back to being your normal self and enjoy life.
I am living proof that things can be fab again. Remember, enjoy your Second Spring!
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