Meg Mathews: Why I’m grateful for the menopause

·5-min read
'I know my body and my mind better than ever and it has given me the strength to make some big changes,' says Mathews - Jooney Woodward
'I know my body and my mind better than ever and it has given me the strength to make some big changes,' says Mathews - Jooney Woodward

When I started the menopause, I thought it was the beginning of the end. I worried I would feel terrible all the time, and I couldn’t get my head around all the changes happening to my body and mental health. It was a challenging time to say the least, but I paid my dues and now I’m reaping the benefits.

For one, I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been and as I get older I feel more comfortable with who I am. I don’t feel the same pressures I felt in my 20s, 30s or 40s – now, at 55, I feel free to be who I truly am.

Society seems to assign us to the scrapheap when we hit a certain age. The pressure to keep looking like you did in your 20s can be unbearable. Luckily for me, I have a platform to speak truthfully about the changes all women go through and I hope by using my voice, I have empowered other women to speak up and feel confident in their own skin as they approach this new chapter in life.

The positives of menopause are the obvious: no more periods, or worrying about if you have a tampon in your bag on a night out. But there’s also a feeling of renewal – embracing and exploring new adventures and seeing what life has in store for you is really exciting.

Having lived in Primrose Hill for more than 30 years, I made the decision at 55 to move to Cornwall. I feel strong – mentally and physically – and I love the freedom that comes with living by the sea. The freedom to walk with no shoes on, the freedom to swim in the sea, the freedom to walk my dog Ziggy along the sand dunes, the freedom to meet friends for dinner and not worry about being photographed by the press.

Now I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I still have my favourite pieces from the old days, but my style is much more relaxed. I spent years on diets and worrying about how I looked. Now I’m happiest with the wind in my hair.

On this journey navigating the menopause I have stopped drinking alcohol, I have overcome my crippling anxiety, I’ve appeared on many TV shows talking about menopause, I have written this column, I have had a purpose.

This was unthinkable in my 40s when fear of failure and constant worry about what people thought of me held me back. I’ve dropped the people-pleasing and now I choose to spend my time with my nearest and dearest. The friends who mean the world to me. We lift each other up.

Something else that comes with age is the power to say no. Whether it’s a date I don’t want to go on, or a business opportunity that doesn’t serve me or fit with my goals. I value my time and have said yes to so many things over the years to people-please. Now I say no to things that take up my time unnecessarily and it feels great.

I love piercings and have over 30 of them. I got my first tattoo at 50 to celebrate my birthday. It was a small heart on my face! I now have several others including ‘This too shall pass’ inked on my chest, and ‘Love yourself first’ on my arm. These tattoos remind me daily to love myself – and remind me that my inner rebel is still there!

I have absolutely no intention of stopping. I’m always looking for new adventures and my work raising awareness of the menopause will certainly not cease any time soon. Although we have come a long way, there is still so much work to be done to break down barriers and batter down doors to make things happen and allow women to have access to the help they need.

My menopause journey definitely became easier when I opened up about what was happening to me. When I finally realised it was the menopause and not a nervous breakdown, I knew I had to speak to my daughter and then-partner to explain what was happening and how I was feeling.

I found my dream team of menopause specialists including gynaecologists, doctors and homeopaths. These women are now dear friends and people I speak to weekly. I did my research, which felt empowering but it also meant that I was armed with the information to help others.

I now know that experience is more important than stuff. Since moving to Cornwall I have met some wonderful people and reconnected with old friends. We walk, swim, surf and work out at the gym together and it’s so empowering. I surround myself with people who make me laugh and I look forward to spending my time with them.

That feeling of dreading ‘going out’ or attending an event when I would be in the public eye (to be judged) is over and I can’t tell you how freeing that feels.

The menopause wasn’t easy for me. It felt like each day was a struggle as I suffered badly with 32 of the 34 symptoms. But looking back over the last five years, I have been on an incredible journey. I know my body and my mind better than ever and it has given me the strength to make some big changes, and a renewed determination to enjoy life more than ever.

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