An unexpected meno-interlude…
The truth about why I lost my voice these last few months – and how I’m finally getting it back
Thank you so much for being here, truly. From today, I’m pausing subscriptions and payments until the new year, when this newsletter will return with a bang. If, in the meantime, you’d like to tell a friend about The Flock, or even get them a gift subscription ahead of next year’s excitement, please click below.
For as long as I can remember, a blank page has been my playground.
I’ve never experienced writers’ block or stared at a blinking cursor and wondered what to do about it.
While social anxiety has made me RSVP no to a few occasions over the years, I’ve always been able to express myself with a pen or a keyboard. So much so, I never stopped to consider what would happen to me if one day, the words just disappeared. Until they did.
This summer, I lost both my voice and myself in such quick succession I’m still not sure which disappeared first.
The facts of the past six months remain hazy in my head, the timeline jumbled and foggy. What I do know is this: at some point this spring, the gradual slide into peri-menopause that I’d been experiencing since my hysterectomy in 2020 turned into a full on skydive and, by my 40th birthday, I’d stopped coping.
The insomnia was crippling, two hour’s sleep a night as much as I could hope for. I was exhausted, in the midst of huge life decisions with very little capacity for decision-making. My brain felt muddy and slow, my memory non-existent. My joints ached and I had near constant migraines. Everything that didn’t make me cry made me angry. I persevered for months with an HRT prescribed over the phone. My symptoms got worse. Then the panic attacks started and I presumed I was losing my mind.
There’s no ideal time for a hormonal meltdown, of course – but this really was a bloody long way from ideal scheduling. Beyond the small matter of packing up our lives, our international house move had necessitated a painful renegotiation of my divorce settlement, a process that decimated my savings and left me emotionally depleted, burying me afresh in past traumas that I stupidly thought I’d locked away. Having been barely sleeping already, the small pockets of rest I was getting started to become plagued with nightmares. I’m still not sure where the anxiety ended and the menopause symptoms began – but I do know there were a lot of nights when I’d wake up drenched in sweat, my heart hammering and my head banging.
By the time we arrived in Dubai, I was almost unrecognisable to myself – and not just as a result of the two-stone hormonal weight gain. Every time I sat down to write, I’d burst into tears. I’d thought a change of scene would help, but instead, I just felt lost, wrung out, terrified – and utterly ashamed that, having been given an opportunity to embark on a new adventure with the two people I love most in the world, I instead just wanted to hide.
For months, I went to ground. My newsletter – news summary aside – tailed off, my creativity extinguished. I ignored messages, missed calls, binned emails without reading them and ducked out of social media. And then, finally, I asked for help.
The solution, if you could call it that, came in the form of not one but two remarkable doctors. The first recognised that I’d been given entirely the wrong HRT, removed progestogen from the equation, and righted me to such a degree that, within a few short weeks, the fog began to lift. The second, a psychologist, recognised the trauma I was still carrying from Arthur’s critical illness as a baby and toddler and helped me to finally begin processing it. The impact of that treatment is taking longer, the recovery ongoing and far from easy. But today, the sun is largely back out and my fingers are itching to type again – hence this somewhat unfestive newsletter!
I’ve hesitated a lot about speaking up about this, about saying I’ve been struggling at a time when so many have so much more than me to worry about. But I’m extremely grateful that you’re still here as I emerge from my hiatus, and what better time to say so than now?
I also know that, were it not for some of the amazing women in my life who’ve shared their own health stories, I may not have recognised what was happening or understood the need to seek specialist help. Their tales of emerging stronger gave me hope I could too – and led to me eventually hitting send today as well. Because what month is more synonymous with happiness, hope and progress than December with all its promise of fun and fresh starts to come?
Right now, I don’t know what 2023 will bring, but I do know I’m ready to write again – almost. First though, I’m going pause all subscription charges for a couple of weeks and spend some time catching up with my favourite people in the real world, before returning to give this newsletter the attention it deserves in the new year. My plan is to return to our previous schedule, with the news summary each week accompanied by a group discussion and a longer essay from either myself or my brilliant guest writers. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see more or less of as I work to bring this platform back to its previous glory – and to inject some joy and hope amid the gloom.
In the meantime, whatever you’re doing this festive period, I hope you have an absolute ball. Hug the people you love. Dance like a loon. Eat the cake. If ever there was a year that warranted ending on a high note, it’s this one.
I’ll see you on the flipside.