Growing up in the northeast of England in a working class neighbourhood meant that there was lots of opportunity for me to be led astray. As I started high school and, in a concerted effort to get me off the streets and keep me occupied, my Mam enrolled me at the local karate club. She recognised that I had A LOT of excess energy that was better spent exercising than drinking cider at the back of the local shops.
That was the start of my fitness journey. Basically, from the age of 11 until the present day, I have always exercise in my life. For me exercise is as normal as flossing my teeth — it is a habit that is completely ingrained into my life.
My 30’s saw me giving birth to two beautiful boys and my body just popped back into place. All those years of consistent workouts really paid off. So, by the time I entered my 40’s I really felt quite smug about how I looked, how fit I was and how I completely embraced aging in a positive way.
I distinctly remember the day I felt like I had been hit by a sledgehammer. After my morning boxing class, I went home and felt a little odd. I started to feel dizzy and nauseous, followed by intense vertigo and loss of feeling down the left side of my body. I assumed it was a virus and went to bed to sleep it off. For the days following I still didn’t feel completely right, I kept walking into walls, I once fell down the stairs and had to crawl across the floor which at times felt like it was swaying back and forth.
Eventually the symptoms passed and I felt back to normal, but over the following months it happened again and again, each time with more intensity, so I started to get worried.
What happened for the next two years, was visits to ER, referrals to neurologists and ENT doctors and undergoing a barrage of tests that included MRI’s, CT scans and induced balance testing. All with no conclusive answers leaving me feeling utter despair. My body was failing me, I felt completely betrayed after years of doing the absolute best I could to be in tip top shape. This was my job after all, I am a fitness professional, how could I honestly talk to clients about their health and happiness when my own was falling apart?
Feelings of depression soon overwhelmed me, to the point where my husband’s and kids’ quality of life was as impacted as mine. I was lost, lonely and isolated. I couldn’t see living the rest of my natural life in this way, I felt so desperate and just wanted somebody to help me.
I eventually got answers to my questions on a routine visit to my gynecologist, who recognised all my symptoms as part of perimenopause and began the process of helping feel well again. This was a huge relief to me because I literally thought I was going crazy. Whenever I tried to find out the answers myself, I was never pointed in the direction of perimenopause, yet it is clear to me now these symptoms were very obvious.
My story feels long-winded, yet I feel it is important to tell. Millions of women are currently in menopause, with 80% of women reporting symptoms that are affecting their life. The information at hand is dated and doesn’t represent them. Many of the symptoms they are experiencing aren’t being linked to our changing sex hormones, which inevitably leads to misdiagnosis and inadequate health care.
That was the start of my menopause journey and I decided to share my story. One day I sat down and wrote a blog post about my experience, Fit n’ Chips, which led to many women reaching out to me, thanking me for acknowledging exactly how they felt and the frustrations of not being heard or understood.
When I started to search for answers I felt like the information I found fell into the following categories;
Too Clinical: I just wanted simple answers. My exhausted mind couldn’t cope with the complicated and dry information.
Flippant and dismissive comedy: I am all about keeping things light and humorous, but when I wanted answers, these books just drove me nuts.
Salesy doctors: Experts online giving great advice about what to expect through menopause, but with the intention of selling you their products to “fix you” at the end. Knowing they were financially invested in their products made me feel very jaded.
I just wanted to know what was happening and what I could do to feel better. Clearly menopause is something all women are going to experience, and it isn’t a disease that needs to be cured and I didn’t need to be fixed, I just wanted answers.
One of the biggest problems I experienced was feelings of isolation, thinking nobody would understand what I was going through, so I kept quiet for years. It was only after sharing my story that I realised most women feel the same way, so I created a private community on Facebook called Menopausing So Hard, where women from all over the globe to converge to bitch, advise, comfort and laugh with other women experiencing the same problems as them.
I have written a book, also called Menopausing So Hard that I hope to publish in early 2020, the sole purpose of this book is to give women the tools to be able to be strong, healthy and prepared for menopause. I talk about the symptoms which are never discussed in the mainstream, and I share my story and what lifestyle factors have been proven to help ease the struggle of menopause. I also explode a few menopause myths and discuss hormone replacement therapy as a valid form of treatment. During the research of the book, I met some amazing people who all had something to offer women, so I started a women’s health podcast Fit ‘n Chips. Each week I speak to experts on all areas of a woman’s life with the ultimate purpose of giving them a actionable takeaways to feel better.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become the “menopause” maven, but here we are and my education as a fitness and nutrition coach has been pivotal to sharing that knowledge. I want to open the dialogue and normalise menopause. I want menopause to be something that can be discussed in everyday conversation instead of being hidden away in a shameful way like our mothers before us. I want my kids to grow up and support their wives, daughters and friends who may be experiencing menopause and need support. It’s been a hard journey, but I have learned so much. I know that women want valid, sane and helpful information. They want to feel alive and regain their sense of purpose again.