New You: How Menopause Can Be A Powerful Opportunity
Menopause is the phase in a woman’s life when we are - or can be - at our most powerful and potent.
We are strong, visceral and fully aware of who we are. Up until that point, our hormones influence and indeed control us. We just don’t know this, because we’ve never experienced anything else. We simply get on with being women, accepting this as normal. It’s not until our hormone levels plummet during the menopause that we finally are in control. We’re no longer being led. We can press pause. We can ask ourselves - and seek the answers to - who we are; what we’re doing; what we represent; what is our legacy… We can determine and drive how we want to live the rest of our life according to our rules, not those set out by our hormones.
We are free.
That is certainly how Menopause Expert, Leadership Coach, Author and Global Speaker Katie Day knows menopause can be, and it’s her mission to help more women realise it. In the modern western world, women are on average likely to live more post-reproductive years than they will reproductive years. That’s potentially half your life no longer shackled by hormones.
So, what will you do with yours?
Getting your period at the age of five
Through her work with Realising Dynamic Potential International (RDPI), Katie helps guide her clients towards making the most of this experience, and battling a barrage of misconceptions along the way. As someone who began puberty at the age of five and experienced a very late menopause, Katie is well-placed to comment on the shackles of hormones. As she herself puts it, “That’s 53 years of being dominated by my hormones”. This particularly early transition made for a challenging childhood and beyond. Think about how often you’ve complained about getting your period; how average you’ve probably felt for the days during it; how it’s impacted your lifestyle in some way or another. Now think of having all that as a five year old. Most of us probably wouldn’t have even had an involved birds-and-bees conversation at such a young age, let alone understood the word menstruation. It’s a harrowing thought.
Needless to say, Katie’s growing years were, to a degree, uncomfortable, awkward and upsetting. She suffered from weight issues and never felt validated by the opposite sex. Her experience eventually led to an early career consulting in the personal branding and style industry, and a belief that every woman should know and feel that she is beautiful. It soon became apparent that she could “sort out the outside”, so now, what about the inside…? That led to Katie undertaking a coaching course and developing a five-day women’s personal development programme (which she still runs). This organically progressed into corporate leadership work and, in turn, a specialist focus in workplace gender diversity.
The dark side of menopause
Katie’s consulting spotlight on perimenopause, menopause and midlife was largely a result of her own horrific experiences. Some 25 percent of women will sail through menopause, whilst another 50 percent will experience moderate to severe symptoms. The remaining 25 percent, which included Katie, go through living hell. Katie likens her experience to a metaphorical veil or fog that suddenly engulfed her. She could see life playing out before her. However, it was taking place in a parallel universe, and she was no longer a participant. A removed observer, a fraud, Katie felt like she was losing the essence of who she was. She experienced bouts of explosive anger and frustration, she began to research suicide.
It was only thanks to a coffee with a friend who, unprompted, mentioned her gynaecologist had recommended HRT. It had been literally life-changing. The friend began to list some of the symptoms that had previously ailed her. Katie grabbed her by the arm, “give me your gynaecologist's details,” she said. “Now”.
Looking back on it, Katie estimates that she experienced about eight years of perimenopause, possibly more. She simply had no idea because nobody was talking about it or looking out for it. Here she was, in her 50s, a professional working in the field of personal development for women, surrounded by other women, and yet she didn’t know she was experiencing perimenopause. Nobody was doing anything about this. If she didn’t know about it, then how many other women were out there grasping in the dark?
Menopause and the modern workplace
Presently, midlife related courses comprise around 75 percent of RDPI’s programmes. In the early days, the corporate response was mixed. Some clients praised RDPI’s initiative, lamenting that they had waited too long for their HR departments to take action. Others were less enthusiastic. Katie recalls a course she conducted for a mid-sized London legal firm. Of the ten very senior women present, none were actual lawyers. Those present confessed that the female lawyers in the organisation had approached each of them in an effort to deter their participation. “Why give men another stick with which to beat us?”, they essentially asked. We already have it stacked up against us, why add this to the list? Perhaps, not surprisingly, Katie has found a fair portion of anti-participation proponents are female. It is not uncommon for women to specifically stifle other women in the workplace. We may point the finger elsewhere, but sometimes we can be our own worst enemies.
Connecting collagen and menopause
Our ability to naturally produce collagen begins to decline in our mid twenties (this applies to both women and men). The decline accelerates for women at the start of perimenopause. Signs include not only wrinkling and/or sagging of the skin, thinning of the hair and joint aches, but also a thinning of the vaginal walls, contributing to vaginal dryness, which in turn can lead to painful sex. All of these experiences can be the cause of concern, pain, discomfort and angst for many women, and all could potentially be addressed by simply supplementing with collagen. It’s an easy and straightforward way that may help to correct these issues, as Katie and her team are aware. As with all their partners, RDPI researched the collagen industry carefully before undertaking any activity with Edible Health. The quality of the product, and the brand’s excellent customer service, ethics and vision, reassured RDPI that they could not only take the collagen themselves, but offer it as part of their client ‘goody bags’.
What is menopause?
We know Katie’s positive definition, but what about medically speaking? It is the time when women stop having a monthly period, which in turn heralds the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It is a normal and assured part of life that, unlike pregnancy or birth, will most absolutely occur for every single woman who ages.
What are the signs of menopause?
Importantly, every woman’s experience is unique. Some of the more common telltale signs may include:
- Hot flushes (this was until recently a phenomenon largely in western cultures. Japanese women only began to experience hot flushes as they moved towards a more western influenced diet)
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Losing train of thought
- Joint aches
- Levels of aggression for absolutely no reason whatsoever (no logical explanation)
- Invisible emotional impact - “there is no reason that I feel like killing myself, or killing my partner, or not remembering my old school mate’s name”
Our transition through the menopause will have many similarities. We have certain things in common given it is a female global shared experience. However, despite this, we remain individuals. In other words - it can be detrimental to compare your own menopause journey to anyone else’s. Nobody’s is better or worse; nobody’s is harder or easier.
What are the most common questions asked about menopause?
In Katie’s experience, there are three, and they are usually asked in this order:
1.0 Does this go on forever - will it ever end?
Katie reassures her clients that menopause is not a life sentence. It is a natural life transition and as such, there is a beginning, a middle and an end.
2.0 Am I going mad?
You are not going mad. There are ways through it. Even if you belong in that 25% tier who experience the very worst onslaught, you can get through it and you can emerge feeling even better than you did previously.
3.0 Is HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) safe?
HRT is not free of risk. However, it is considerably safer than the popular press would have us believe. In fact, the correct HRT is now seen as a positive thing that can protect a woman’s heart and even possibly lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as other beneficial health effects.
What’s the biggest misconception about menopause?
In Katie’s experience with clients, it is that menopausal women are dried up and past their prime. By whom and why that myth has been purported in the west is open to debate. Katie likes to quote Eleanor Roosevelt to explain a lot in life, and it’s here she draws on her for some grounding:
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
Regardless of how women get this misconception, it’s up to us to accept or reject it. You can choose to be invisible as a post-menopause woman, but only if that’s what you want.
In the UK, women aged between 40 and 60 are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, with eight out of ten currently employed. In Asia, menopause is referred to as the ‘second spring’ - a time of new beginning. No more PMT, no more period pains, no more emotional roller coasters. The east has traditionally revered age, perhaps in direct proportion to the west’s fear and repulsion towards it.
Attitudes to menopause in the future
Katie is working towards a future that regards ageing and menopause/ midlife with more respect and awareness. Indeed, success for Katie would be making herself redundant. She aspires to a future whereby we don’t talk about menopause because we don’t have to - it’s as natural and as expected as any other life transition. However, there needs to be a lot more education, empowerment and many more conversations until this becomes normalised.
Until then, Katie will keep championing women to celebrate this natural rite of passage. She knows from experience the strength it can ignite. She has been through hell and come out of it fearless. Nothing frightens her anymore. Katie wants all women to divine this power. It is magnificent, visible, and bright.
Don’t fear your power. Step into it, embrace it. Our world needs you women more now than it ever has.
Has Katie inspired you to think about or approach menopause differently? She’s certainly opened our minds! This is part of a ‘New You’ series in which we consider trying, experiencing or undertaking something novel; something that might lead to a different and positive dimension to your life. Maybe consider joining RDPI? And, if you’re interested in other ways to find a ‘New You’, be sure to check out some of the other exciting frontiers we explore, including appointing a life coach, biohacking your well-being, investing in crypto currency and much more.
The information we have provided herewith, and all linked materials are not intended nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you.