Nutritionist Clare, 67, talks about the freedom, adventure and confidence that being ‘beyond menopause’ brings in this, the fifth in our Menopause Monologues series in conjunction with TENA
This article is in partnership with TENA.
I’m 67 and proof that life post-menopause can be the best stage yet. I'm happier, more fulfilled and more positive than at any other time in my life. Of course, menopause affects all women differently, and some of us struggle more than others. If you’re in the depths of menopause – plus, dealing with other mid-life challenges such as children leaving home or caring for ageing parents – it’s good to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My menopause was early, due to a full hysterectomy at 39, after years of battling severe endometriosis. I’d say I’ve been post-menopausal since I was 51, which is when I gradually started decreasing my HRT dose. I took a training course in nutrition, determined to enter this next stage of life in the healthiest way possible.
But then all my healthy intentions went out the window and the symptoms returned as I grappled with grief. This was after my eldest daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia – she left us 18 months later, just before her 21st birthday. I was eating badly and drinking too much and, in turn, my symptoms – night sweats, fatigue, brain fog – returned with a vengeance. I had to sleep on a towel and keep spares at my bedside to swap throughout the night.
I knew I had to get my life back on track – my other daughter needed me. Using my nutrition training, I cut back on alcohol, drank more water, ate at least five portions of fruit and veg every day, and took up walking and cycling. Soon, the night sweats subsided, mental clarity returned and, finally, I felt in control again. Unfortunately, despite how much I’m loving this stage of my life, the one overriding legacy from my menopause years is urinary incontinence, which can be frustrating at times. I’m careful not to have a cup of tea before walking the dogs, and I plan my route so I know there are toilets nearby or trees to squat behind (if it’s not busy!). I always carry tissues and wear a pad if I’m going on a long walk, just to give myself peace of mind.
I decided to dedicate part of my post-meno journey to helping others progress through this life stage in the happiest, healthiest way possible. In my late 50s, I launched a business, yournewlifeplan.com, offering wellness strategies to help tackle symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, night sweats and muscle aches. Then, in 2019, I co-founded the Pausitivity #KnowYourMenopause campaign to raise awareness and give women the knowledge and resources they need to face the menopause feeling informed and empowered.
I’m passionate about spreading the belief that life doesn’t stop after the menopause. As well as launching a business, other things on my ‘60+ bucket list’ included raising over £70,000 to establish a teenage cancer unit at the hospital where my daughter was treated, and a 350km cycle ride around Cuba to raise money for the Teens Unite charity – both of which I’ve done.
I wish we talked more about the wonderful freedom that comes with post-menopausal life. Of course, it doesn’t help that society perpetuates the myth that you’re invisible if you’re post-menopausal. It’s easy to lose confidence during the menopause, as your body changes and your self-worth can decline – it’s only natural – but it’s exacerbated by our negative portrayal of ageing. In films, on TV, and in other media, older women are portrayed as lifeless, or just a bit simple, as though they’ve lost all control of their lives. And menopause is never a serious topic of discussion. The more the mainstream media perpetuates this myth, the longer the taboo remains about the menopause and ageing, which stops women asking for help.
I now have the confidence to be who I am and to do what I want – rather than always trying to meet the expectations of others. I'm more in control, more confident and have the freedom to live life exactly as I choose. This is my time, and I plan on being an ‘ageing teenager’ for many more years to come!
For when you need stylish discretion
Post-menopausal life can be amazing, despite the fact that society at large tries to tell us that no periods = no use. Old-fashioned is not a strong enough term to express how inaccurate that viewpoint is. And, thanks to women such as Clare, we’ve got more role models showing us that we can live a full, rich, adventurous life at any age. Plus, there are amazing products out there to make sure symptoms like urinary incontinence don’t hold you back. Step forward, TENA Silhouette Underwear, available in a range of sizes and colours to suit your needs. These discreet pants look and feel like normal knickers, so you can wear them with every kind of Christmas party look, whether it’s jeans and a pretty top or an all-out sequin number. Plus, they offer you dryness, odour control and security – whatever you’re up to this festive season. Now go forth and enjoy your freedom…