The time has come for drastic action. Emigration to the Southern Hemisphere is my only hope. Either that or adopt the posture of a pipistrelle bat. Both drastic, both necessary. You see, I’ve received a sign, one that has been trying to pierce through to my consciousness for a while.
My body parts are migrating south. And my self-esteem has decided to elope with them.
And to use the current parlance, am I embracing, leaning in, enjoying the journey, and generally going with the flow? Am I hell! I’m going to employ Star Wars defences to combat Nature’s Tormentor, and thief of self-esteem… the menopause.
Am I joking? Yes…but not wholly
Having spent most of the menopause in pain, in deep sadness, and in total bewilderment, I’m now beginning to experience renewed optimism about finding the ‘old me’ and to restoring a more robust self-esteem (less of the old, perhaps the ‘original me’ is more apt).
Having never seen myself as someone with a low, fragile self-esteem I was now learning to sail through uncharted water. Sure, I’d had the usual adolescence angst about appearance and body image. This wasn’t much helped by being flat-chested and taller than every boy within a 100-mile radius. But the opinion I had of myself was free from any doubts about my infinite brilliance – I could conquer the world if I wanted to! And this rock-solid evaluation of my own self-worth remained undiminished until my early 50’s.
This is when menopause decided it was time to pay a visit (and without an invitation. How very rude). She also decided it would be fun to travel with a companion, so brought along grief for company.
Where did my body – and my self esteem – go?
As it’s so subjective , how we value ourselves and what we believe about ourselves can be undermined in no time at all.
In my case it was a succession of small, apparently insignificant things that tipped me into depression and anxiety, and embarrassingly, it began with the body part migration. Why embarrassing? Because I was shocked that something so vacuous and self-absorbed managed to sabotage my mental health. Nevertheless, it’s how it started…
It began with my muscular, toned thighs being thieved and replaced by a pair with the texture of cold porridge. But it didn’t end there. Thieves returned time and time again leaving me with sock-dented ankles, a face so deeply sleep-creased on awakening that I resembled Tommy Lee Jones on a bad day, skin that suggested I may well be turning into an onion, a backside that resembled the rear-end of a Shire horse, and the final indignity, the joints of an arthritic 90 year old.
Add to this delightful inventory memory loss, confusion, bloating, impatience, and despair, and you have the perfect excuse for pulling up the duvet and staying in bed.
Flipping the joy thieves the bird…
Thankfully, I decided against adding bed sores to the list but instead gave these thieves a good poke in the eye. And so began my slow revival, starting with challenging my negative beliefs and showing myself a little kindness.
As a great believer in the sanity of asking ‘can I do anything about this?’ I developed a step-by-step approach to damage limitation of my self-esteem. So, when looking in the mirror naked puts you off your next meal, remember, this too shall pass…
Practical strategies for speedy restoration
When I could no longer play netball (aged 52), and the masochist personal trainer was kicked into touch (lest I suffer heart failure) then yoga has been a fabulous replacement. My advice would be find a teacher who takes the time to focus on you, and use that time to simply breathe, stretch, and notice how your body feels. Before you know it, suppleness is restored, limbs become elongated, joints move freely, and you can start to strut your stuff like Mr Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
Sock dents, dry skin and sleep creases
The sock one is very simple, wear ones with soft tops. Indulge yourself a little by choosing silk or cashmere as these feel super soft and they won’t collapse like Nora Batty tights (Falke do lovely ones).
Dry skin takes a little more dedication – begin with cutting down on the housework and invest in a good quality exfoliator. Dust is mostly dead skin after all! Joking aside, if you can be truly disciplined, daily skin-brushing can be quite brilliant when followed by a rich moisturiser or body oil – shop around here a little until you find one that is perfect for you. From a nutrition point of view I’ve found increasing the amount of oil in my diet to be brilliant (if a little less immediate in its impact) so increase the amount of olive oil, oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and or a good Omega oil supplement to be really sure.
Sleep creases have been banished forever with the introduction of a silk pillowcase (no longer the exclusive domain of genteel Victorian ladies it seems), drinking more water, and limiting alcohol, all of which have removed any signs of puffiness. Another simple yet brilliant introduction to my skincare routine has been using a jade roller; this is said to not only increase the efficacy of oils and serums but also helps to tone and firm stubborn floppy bits like chin-line and neck. Result! If I can remember, I put mine in the fridge while I’m having my breakfast, I’m convinced the shock of the cold makes my skin contract!
Middle-aged spread is not in any way a tasty toast topping, but something that crept up on me slowly despite working out like a loony. It took a trip to India to shift it. And it wasn’t the scourge of Deli belly that did the trick for me… but the fact that I didn’t eat bread, butter, cheese, or milk the entire time. The weight just fell off – if only I’d known it would be that simple! Of course, now all I eat is cardboard and lettuce ……just kidding, there are plenty of alternatives, although I shall lament the loss of cheese.
Finally, a daily dose of laughter, along with music, has been a huge saviour. So, anytime you find yourself deliciously moisturised, holding a yoga-pose, while laughing at yourself singing with a silk pillowcase on your head you’ll know your self-esteem is simply tickety boo !
About Angi Egan, menopause columnist and blogger
Having experienced the menopause, and all the delights this involves, Angi brings a real life perspective and a much needed dash of humour. Previously Angi has headed up large retail brands across the UK, Europe, Asia & USA. She is an expert in Spa and holistic medicine and has experience in psychotherapy, coaching and business consultancy.
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The M-word Blog – a fantastic and entertaining blog that covers the insights and musings of a middle-aged, menopausal female