Where did my sparkle go?

by PeriMenopausalMe (real name withheld) #WorldMenopauseDay

Sometimes, actually quite often, I feel that my sparkle has stopped sparkling and a dullness has taken over. What the hell has happened? This feeling throws me into a panic and then I start to consider doing things to boost the spark; get a tattoo, dye my hair red, learn to ride a motorbike, take a solo trip to Barcelona, dance all night to disco tunes. All these boosts are fine, they certainly get me sparkling again but they’re not long-lasting and I can be thrust back into the ‘dull’ place again, especially when I am at work.

My confidence has taken a knock of late. This should be the time in my life that I am striding out into the next stage of my career journey but it’s just not happening. I have lost direction, motivation and, more than anything, my self-belief. I have never been cocky or overtly self-assured, there has always been a humble side to my character (drummed into me from a young age) and the imposter syndrome has put in an appearance on many occasions. But this more recent sense of low self-esteem is new, it’s debilitating and long lasting.

It’s stopped me from speaking out, applying for jobs, effortlessly taking myself out of my comfort zone, all things that I certainly would not shy away from in the past.

When I catch myself not doing these things, I get cross with myself and then force myself to do them, and you know what often happens then? I do them, but I do them badly! Or not as well as I perceive I should have done. So why has my confidence taken a knock? There’s no-one to blame here, not even me. Although, it’s me and things that I used to find so subconsciously easy that are faltering. I forget things, names, places, words, dates, conversations, order of events and actual events. And when I say forget, I mean a complete blank for a period of time. I can be asked a question about something that happened only a few days ago and I struggle to fully recollect it all. I say words like ‘I think …’, ‘I’m pretty sure that…’ or ‘if my memory serves me well…’ Which doesn’t sound very convincing or fills the other person with confidence, so I then think ‘oh no, this person must think I’m really stupid that I don’t know…..’ This forgetfulness happens indiscriminately and can be about something important or trivial. And then, with no prompting, I can remember things clear as day.

With all this unannounced stealing of my ability to recall, you can see why I may be hesitant to apply for leadership posts. Who wants a forgetful leader in charge, a leader who as a result of being forgetful, shies away from speaking up, a leader who then becomes frustrated by the forgetfulness and is in a bad mood, cross with herself and everyone else! Oh god, this just isn’t me! I’m usually smiley, happy and take everything in my stride AND bloody remember stuff!

And then there’s the anxiety that can overwhelm me in the early hours and kept me awake from 2-6am. Usually I drift off to sleep relatively easily, and then BOOM! my memory strikes back and I’m wide awake. Wide awake with worry about the thing I have just remembered, and the worry about my loss of memory and the worry about my loss of self-confidence in doing my job, or applying to do another job.

I get a tightening in my throat, I can hear my pulse in my left ear, the noise of my own breathing and blood pumping round my body keeps me awake. I toss, I turn, I get up, I make a sleepy tea, I bed hop, I puff my pillows up, I put my calming app on (a monotone male voice, which my husband once thought was a man lurking in our bedroom).

Sometimes I manage to get to sleep but when that alarm goes off at 5.40am, I feel so unrested, knots in my stomach and a feeling of nausea. There is no way that I would pull a sickie the morning after, even though I may have only got 1 or 2 hours sleep and feel dreadful.

So what’s causing all this?

Recently, I have had a voyage of discovery on twitter and facebook. Both platforms have served me so well in the past and yet again they have come up trumps. I discovered so much I never knew about the MENOPAUSE! Sunday 18th October was World Menopause Day and I had my eyes and ears set firmly on blogs, webinars, dancefit classes, interviews etc. I learnt that my forgetfulness, lack of self-confidence and anxiety is due to my change in hormones because I am PERI-MENOPAUSAL. My forgetfulness is known as ‘brain fog’. My brain fog is a recognised cognitive effect. My low self-esteem is a recognised effect of being peri-menopausal, it’s a physiological impact of a changing balance in hormones. And the anxiety is because I cannot explain or stop the brain fog and lack of confidence. It all becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, and one which is hard to break. Just simply finding out about all this is not going to break this cycle, but now I know there are some things that I can start to do, and then research some more and put others things into action.

As result of my findings this weekend I am going to try a few strategies:

  • Carry my notebook with me wherever I go
  • Write bullet point notes for ALL my meetings and phone calls
  • Retrospectively put meetings and phone calls in my diary so that I have a record of them
  • Tell chosen colleagues that I am peri-menopausal and that the changes in my hormones are causing brain fog which I find difficult to accept, then ask them to be supportive by following up any interactions we have had with an email that bullet points key issues and decisions we have made
  • Tell friends and colleagues about the cognitive and physiological effects of being peri-menopausal, so that they grow in knowledge about what could be happening to them or women they know

#menopause #perimenopause #brainfog #WomenEd @WomenEd

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