Two years ago, after Christmas, aged 46, I came off the ‘pill’ after being on it for over 3 decades, apart from breaks to conceive our three daughters. I thought it would be a good time to see whether I was menopausal which I would gauge by whether or not I was still menstruating. It turned out that I was regular as clockwork. My periods arrived every 28 days and were as they had always been – light and painless.
A few months rolled on and I found myself sweating at night, waking up with palpitations, feeling tired and nauseas during the day, with a dull headache that never went away. I started putting on weight and as the sleepless nights continued, I felt foggy and forgetful. This coincided with starting a new job. I felt I wasn’t up for the role which in turn made me feel more anxious and so a viscous cycle began. By summer, I was teary and angry. I felt rage towards my husband who never seemed to emotionally support me in the way I needed. I sat silently at the dinner table unable to engage with the family. I literally felt like I was slipping away. Maybe not slipping away but slipping inside. I didn’t notice the wall building up around me but I did notice something was very wrong with me. Usually, sociable and energetic, I felt withdrawn and lethargic.
NOT JOINING THE DOTS
The next few months saw me back and forward to the doctors. I was lucky in having a wonderful GP who suggested I was perimenopausal and I go on HRT. I was in such a stage of anxiety, all I could think about was getting breast cancer. She gave me a couple of websites and forums to visit to go away and think about it. I decided to leave it. Not long after that an incidence at work left me totally flawed. I just couldn’t recover from it and handed in my notice. I felt unable to share anything that was going on in my head or body with the founders who were male and the team who were twenty years younger than me. Then I started questioning my burn out. Surely it couldn’t be hormones. I went for a walk with a good friend who suggested I go on anti-depressants. I returned to the GP and saw a different person and begged for a prescription. I couldn’t stop crying, I felt my marriage was in tatters, I was a terrible mother, and I was unemployable.
I have always worked taking short maternity breaks and setting up a business with my third child. I knew stopping work and not having structure was going to be difficult, so luckily I had in place a volunteering role with Alzheimer’s Society at a local Dementia Café. This was my lifeline. I would walk to venue with wet eyes, arrive a little early to sit on a bench and practice some paced breathing and somehow managed to pull it together so when I walked in I looked composed. Being part of a team of volunteers and getting to know the carers and those living with Dementia was so fulfilling. It gave me a sense of purpose and my mood was transformed in just two hours.
After a month of being on sertraline at the full dose, I started to feel drugged. Although previously, I felt like I was hidden behind a haze, this was different. I felt like my emotions were being blocked and that I was totally disconnected to my body and mind. This was briefly stopped with morning exercise at the gym with endorphins that made me feel happy and strong. One day when I was running late for class, I took the car and managed to drive into a bus coming out of a side road. I was so shocked that my reactions had been slowed and was convinced this was due to the anti-depressants. I decided to wean myself off them, starting the next day. Within 4 weeks I was off them and as part of the process upped my exercise, cut out alcohol and caffeine and changed my diet, so I was eating healthier.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
It was at this stage when I decided to create a perimenopause support network and service to help women. At this stage I still hadn’t connected my own perimenopause blip with oestrogen depletion, triggered by coming off the pill. Looking back now I wish I would have known and been better prepared. And that’s what I’ve created with Over The Bloody Moon. Classes, coaching and a self-care toolkit that helps boost women’s physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and social health. I’ve done this with an amazing team of Advisors and other experts who have shared their tools of the trade with me, filmed interviewed and donated demos and resources. My research skills have come to fore. I’ve distilled and curated 18 months of learning, attended conferences by British Menopause Society and acquired knowledge from my Integrated Health Coaching & Nutritionist Diploma. From this I’ve built The House, a digital self-care platform, developed 10 different Masterclasses tackling symptoms and demystifying menopause and HRT and run workshops to support women’s family and colleagues. I’m proud too of the community I’m part of @overthebloodymoon on Facebook and Instagram.
What I underestimated in my perimenopausal journey was the enormous toll to my mental health which had stealthily crept up long before the physical symptoms arrived. Tools like mindfulness, paced breathing, essential oils, exercise, volunteering and nutrition helped activate my parasympathetic nervous system. Cutting out alcohol and caffeine has been transformative and helped cure years of insomnia and anxiety. I have learned that whilst medication has an important role to play, when it comes to building resilience, having armoury of inner resources is incredibly empowering and limitless. I also know the immeasurable value of having a tribe and support. My family and friends showed such compassion and kindness. Having our community and members of The House has shown the power and magic that happens when you get women together.And working in an industry of wellness and health has shown me the wonders of collaboration. Connecting with inspiring change makers around the world who have shared their wisdom and tales of transformation has been such a privilege.
If you have a story to share, would like support or know someone that could benefit from Over The Bloody Moon's services, please visit our website – www.overthebloodymoon.com or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org