My Story

Name: Gayle Stevens-White

Occupation: Certified Menopause Mentor and Coach

Symptons appeared at: 43

I had no idea what was happening when, three years ago, my periods suddenly became very heavy and painful. At 43, and newly married, life was until then, pretty wonderful.

 

But my cognitive abilities slowly started to be affected; I couldn’t think straight, remember things and didn’t seem to be able to complete tasks which previously had been easy for me.

 

I started to feel very low in mood and my anxiety levels were through the roof. I couldn’t cope at work, and I just wanted to stay at home in bed all day. By this time I was experiencing extreme fatigue and I started taking time off work in order to cope. I just didn’t want to get out of bed and face the day. Life was becoming unbearable. 

During a family holiday a couple of months later, life proved the limit. I had what I now refer to as my ‘menopausal meltdown’ which hit me like a juggernaut. I was hugely emotional, felt like crying all the time and found everyone and everything intolerable. I seemed to have morphed into a completely different person and wasn’t

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Gayle - Making Menopause Matter

very pleasant to be around. I’m sure at times my husband felt like throwing me over the side of a cliff. It was a difficult trip for everyone. Even making a simple decision like where to eat for lunch was too much for me on some days. I just wanted to curl up and sleep forever. When we got home, still very low in mood, I decided I needed to get some help. I couldn’t go on like this. School holidays were nearly over and I was due to go back to work. The thought filled me with dread. My Mum had suggested it might be menopause related but that wasn’t on my radar at all. The GP dismissed it too, saying I was too young. He suggested I needed antidepressants and talking therapy. I was shocked at his response to my symptoms and felt unsupported. While I understand and appreciate the need for antidepressants as treatment for certain conditions, I knew it was not depression I was suffering from. I refused his advice and decided to treat my symptoms myself. My mum and aunt had both experienced menopause relatively young but it wasn’t something we really talked about. It hadn’t occurred that it might happen to me too.

 

I felt completely lost when my GP said because of my age there was no point in a blood test to confirm my hormone levels. The breast pain, palpitations, migraines and fitful sleep afflicting me would just have to be managed.

 

So I decided to take control of my own menopause, consider myself to be symptomatic and listen to what my body needed. After doing my own research into menopause and how my fluctuating hormones were affecting my health and well-being, I made some changes to my lifestyle to help alleviate my symptoms. I took daily vitamins and natural supplements and changed my diet, cut out diary and meat, reduced my sugar and alcohol intake and ramped up my exercise routine. I managed to reduce my hours at work for a short time which gave me time to focus on making these changes. Talking therapy also helped hugely. My GP was right about that. I felt so much better having decided to take control but after a year, realised that my symptoms were creeping back and I was starting to feel terrible again.

 

During lockdown I managed to find an amazing menopause nurse online. She listened to me, took me seriously and suggested I started taking HRT. This has been an absolute game changer for me! I started taking oestrogen and progesterone and have added testosterone in the last 18 months. My symptoms improved massively within a short space of time and

 

I feel I have myself and my entire life back.

My GP, still, to this day does not agree with my choice to take HRT due to the (very low) associated risks, but I know for a fact without it, my life would be very different and I would be in a very dark place without it.

 

Raising awareness and taking action around menopause is now a mission for me and I consider myself to be something of a ‘Menovist’.  I am a proud grassroots campaigner for the Make Menopause Matter campaign. Connecting and collaborating with other like minded women experiencing a similar journey to me is extremely important in the work I now do.

I host successful local Menopause Café events, an informal discussion group open to all, and I made the decision to leave my teaching career to retrain as a certified menopause mentor and coach.

I now share my knowledge and experiences with other women offering a personalised programme of services, helping them to lead a happier and healthier menopause.

I have had some fantastic feedback from the women I work with, some of whom tell me my input has literally changed their lives. Learning about the menopause and how much it can affect lives has been a springboard for me, opening up a whole new world and a completely new career.

I never thought I’d say it, but thank you Menopause and thank you to HRT!

Reading with Coffee

MenoFlock Files

 
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Name: Vicky Johnson

Age: 46

A little about me...

I have 2 children, I was married, I’m now separated. I have a dog called Penny and am one of life’s positive people. I love helping others and my work keeps me busy! I am a trainer/educator in the   mental health field and a qualified counsellor. I also work in a day nursery.  

What stage/type of menopause are you currently experiencing?

I’m definitely in peri menopause. 

When did you first notice your symptoms and what are/were they?
High anxiety, sweating, body aches, irregular periods, palpitations and tiredness. 

How old were you when you realised/were told you were in menopause? 
I think I new a few years ago but I had no understanding. Once I started being educated by Gayle then I understood myself more. 

When did you first notice your symptoms and what are/were they? 
At first I didn’t really notice. Felt more alone, and anxious as felt it was me and my personality. 

Once I started being educated by you Gayle then I understood myself more. 

How do/did your symptoms affect your daily life? 
I think it has a huge effect. On everything. Everything we do is effected, from talking and being forgetful to not remember what we are doing. Driving and getting lost is a big one. 

How have your symptoms and menopause journey affected your relationships with others? 
I think it’s helped with my girl pal relationships. My ex just didn’t understand me full stop. 

How are you currently managing your menopause? 
I’m managing by being more self aware. Taking vitamins and reading. Listening to experts. 

What has been the most difficult or negative aspect of your menopause journey?  
I think the most difficult part is not understanding yourself and knowing why things are happening to you, and questioning yourself. It’s very mental as well as physical. 

And the easiest or most positive? 
Easiest is having people to relate to, knowing you are not alone. Finding your tribe within it. 

What advice would you give to anyone else about to embark on their own menopause experience? 

My advice would be find your tribe, find people that are going through the same and are willing to share, talk and help each other through the experiences. We need to be understood. 

And lastly, tell me one thing you’d wish you’d known about the menopause… 
I wish I known, or had learnt. How wonderfully resilient our bodies are.

Name: Natasha Owens

Age: 46

A little about me...

I am Natasha Owens . I am 46yrs old and I have been post menopause for 32yrs. I had Premature Ovarian failure/ extremely early
menopause at age 13.

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What stage/type of menopause are you currently experiencing?

Currently I am post menopausal.

How old were you when you realised/were told you were in menopause? 

I was officially diagnosed at age 25 by a consultant at a fertility clinic in an NHS hospital.

When did you first notice your symptoms and what are/were they? 

I was 13yrs old when I had symptoms but dismissed them being so young. My symptoms where very hot and sweaty, lack of concentration headaches and I never started my period.

How do/did your symptoms affect your daily life? 

I hid my symptoms from everyone. They e affected my self-esteem and confidence. I found it hard to function but thought but it down to going through puberty.

How have your symptoms and menopause journey affected your relationships with others? 

My menopause symptoms affected my relationships as I was unable to tell anyone what I was experiencing until I met my husband at age 25. I was too ashamed to tell anyone what was happening to me.

How are you currently managing your menopause?

 I am currently managing my menopause using a high dose of HRT, Testosterone, vaginal oestrogen, Vitamin  D3 and Calcium. I take part in light exercise, mindfulness and talking with other menopause women who understand. I also attend an NHS menopause clinic.

 

What has been the most difficult or negative aspect of your menopause journey?  

The most difficult part of my menopause journey was being so young and feeling so alone. The shame I felt made my life so difficult. By not speaking up I have had to deal with life-changing issues with my physical health, having numerous operations over the years, which have impacted my life greatly. I am not sure how I have coped with so much invasive surgery. I have had a hysterectomy, a vaginectomy, and five vulva operations to date.

And the easiest or most positive? 

The most positive part for me has been speaking out about my journey on social media, which I started two years ago, connecting with so many other menopausal women who understand and helping them so they do not feel alone on this menopausal journey.

 

What advice would you give to anyone else about to embark on their own menopause experience? 

My advice to anyone is, you are not alone if you reach out to others, get the right support or network of women who are experiencing the same or have the knowledge of what you are going through. Do your research, try to find a GP with experience of the menopause. Try different medications to find what suits you as one size does not fit all as we are all so different in this menopause journey!

And lastly, tell me one thing you’d wish you’d known about the menopause… 

One thing I wish I knew about the menopause back in 1989 when I was 13..... is how important hormones are to function correctly and by not having them how things can go so terribly wrong.

I am certainly paying the ultimate price now at age 46!!! Hormones are VITAL for all womens health

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Name: Amy Flemming

Age: 29

A little about me...

My name is Amy, I’m 29 years old and married. In my day to day job I freelance for  agencies sorting their resource however I have big dreams to launch my own portrait photography business. I like to unwind with some painting or drawing, love a good paint by numbers.  I can’t live without good food, music, sunshine and dogs!

What stage/type of menopause are you currently experiencing?

I am currently going through premature menopause as I’ve been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)

How old were you when you realised/were told you were in menopause? 
I was 27 years old when my consultant diagnosed me with Premature Menopause. I’m now 29. 

When did you first notice your symptoms and what are/were they? 

I first experienced hot flushes, night sweats and anxiety when I woke up from my operation after they removed my ovary. Eventually over the months those symptoms progressively got worse and some new symptoms also came along. Hair loss, weight gain, achy joints, tearfulness, brain fog, memory issues… to name only a few.

How do/did your symptoms affect your daily life? 

Oh, I couldn’t sleep without drenching the bedsheets as I was having night sweats that bad. I would easily have between 5-15 hot flushes a day. My brain fog made it really difficult to concentrate and retain any information, especially in work meetings. My lower self-esteem and anxiety made it really difficult to feel positive and overall felt that my menopausal symptoms meant I couldn’t function day to day. I lost my spark.
 

How have your symptoms and menopause journey affected your relationships with others? 

I think the lower self-esteem and lack of self-belief and probably has been hard on my husband and those closest around me to see me going from being a confident, optimistic woman to someone who felt low and negative about themselves. I also think that on the other hand, it has made my relationships stronger. As I’ve been able to articulate and after research know what’s going with my body. Unfortunately, I have lost friends as they didn’t understand the impact of menopause. Ultimately I know that those relationships weren’t meant to be and very grateful for the support I have now- it really helps me.

How are you currently managing your menopause? 

I am in a much better place! For the physical symptoms I have been on HRT for the last 18 months and found my physical symptoms are basically gone. I do still suffer with Anxiety quite a bit but I am making lifestyle choices to help me as much as I can. I do still need to track and keep advocating at medial appointments to make sure I’m on the right dose. I think emotionally I find talking with other women that are going through the menopause, whatever age, is really therapeutic. There is something so reassuring that I’m not alone… or crazy! 

What has been the most difficult or negative aspect of your menopause journey?  I think the most difficult aspect of the menopause journey is learning about it from scratch as I never got taught. I find it really disappointing that medical professionals don’t know enough about it either. Because I am 29 I find that doctors and others don’t understand or aren’t trained to understand my medical situation enough. That is difficult.

And the easiest or most positive? I am embracing that even though I’m going through the menopause  younger than the “expected” age. It has allowed me to be more self aware with my body. I feel like the lifestyle choices I am making now are really positive. I also found the loving community so so important in my journey to acceptance and keeping motivated to advocate for myself and raise awareness for Menopause.

What advice would you give to anyone else about to embark on their own menopause experience? 

Connect with others like yourself. It might not feel like it but Talking is the best form of breaking those taboos or the shame you may feel. 

Advocate, advocate, advocate. Your voice is the most powerful tool for getting the right care you need. Tracking symptoms and knowing our body is really important when going to doctor appointments. Don’t be afraid to come armed with NICE guidelines and questions. 

And lastly, tell me one thing you’d wish you’d known about the menopause… 

I wish I knew what the menopause was. Full stop! I wish we were taught it was more than just our periods stopping and hot flushes  and that it can happen at any age