Emma shares her story of how using Stella helped her regain her sense of self after menopause symptoms left her unable to recognise herself.
The first time I realised that something wasn’t right was about five years ago when I was in my mid-40s. I teach children with behavioural issues and it can be a bit of a challenge. I was in the classroom when I felt hot and flustered. I thought it was down to the class playing up but then it happened again when they were behaving. I had these weird temperature issues a few times and thought to myself, “Oh is something going on?”
Not long afterwards it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t had a period for a few months. I remember saying to my partner, “I’ve gone through menopause in three months. I’m all done and sorted!”
Only now do I realise how naive that was. I had assumed you went from one state into another like a switch as I didn’t have a reference point. I don’t have any family to ask what it was like for them and I was a bit in the dark.
Initial symptoms were confusing
My hot flushes were so odd and I would describe them as muddled as they weren’t all the time. I had what I know now to be night sweats too. I had spoken to my doctor a few times about feeling tired, unable to think properly and struggling to find the right word.
I went back to the doctor when I stopped sleeping well and my brain fog worsened. I was offered sleeping pills and antidepressants but I felt strongly that I didn’t need them. I wasn’t depressed, just finding functioning difficult. I didn’t understand what was happening and, why me?
It felt like my power was slipping away and all these things I had taken for granted were gone.”
When I was having all these symptoms, I began to have some difficulties with my teenage children. It was a perfect storm. I’d always been someone who can balance loads of different things, be very independent and get on. I just wasn’t able to be as effective.
Struggling to manage at work
All of this didn’t help with my self-esteem. The more symptoms were happening, the more I was supposed to be talking about it to get help but I would just clam up. I felt like I was not in control and in my job, I needed to be. It’s the sort of profession that if the children sniff any vulnerability, you’ve lost your authoritative edge.
There is one day that sticks in my mind when I realised how discombobulated I had become. A colleague stopped me as I was walking through the corridors and asked me if I was ok and to take some time in their office. I couldn’t understand what the problem was until it was pointed out that I was crying. I hadn’t noticed.
I’d gone from someone with a plan A, B and C to someone who struggled to manage.”
It was only when I went from having no periods to a constant period without a break and heavy loss of blood that the doctors started to act. I suspect it was because something tangible and biological was happening, rather than emotional.
My work was brilliant and HR came with me to talk to the doctor as I was so exhausted by it all. They tried to remove my womb lining but, in the end, after a period of medication, things began to settle. My constant bleeding eventually stopped and I didn’t have to have a hysterectomy which was the next option. I had some time off work to recover and I started researching menopause. I listened to podcasts, watched some Instagram lives and realised I wasn’t failing.
How Stella has helped my menopause
I first downloaded Stella after seeing it on Instagram and thought to myself that I’d give it a go. At the time, I felt I had to put my health first and make time to get myself sorted as I didn’t recognise who I was anymore.
I was surprised that Stella had all this helpful information that resonated with me. It stops me from feeling alone and my coach is there for questions, answers and signposting to useful pieces in the app.
Life really is a roller coaster and Stella helps me keep on track instead of hurtling out of control. I know there are still lots of bumps in the way, but Stella is a pocket of loveliness, a friend in my pocket and companion through the chaos of menopause.
I now have strategies to manage symptoms and I am struggling to remember life before Stella.”
Sometimes you can look at all these women on Instagram who can talk about all these things and who everyone turns to, but I sit there and feel sort of inadequate. Stella didn’t make me feel I had to be someone I am not or that I had to suddenly develop huge confidence. It helped me realise that what I was feeling was perfectly normal and it gets me through without feeling lost.
I can remember that I am capable and strong, and it’s ok to remain the person I am.”
I’ve enjoyed the structured lesson plans and I like the fact they are there to return to if I get a bit behind or want to check something. The information is well written and approachable, and I liked that it was based on science and facts.
Restoring my sleep and managing anxious thoughts
I started focusing on my problems with sleep and found benefits right away with Stella’s getting ready for sleep section. I made my bedroom a mobile-free room and prepared for bed properly and it made such a difference to my sleep. I can tell you it’s not very often that I miss keeping my sleep diary! Getting sleep sorted was helpful and key to feeling back in control.
The managing thoughts, worries and behaviours section was so relevant for me too. It was good at putting it all in perspective as it’s so easy to run around and beat yourself up about it all. Stress management was also brilliant.
My Stella coach has been so amazing and it’s been so valuable to have a real person who checks in with how you are doing. I’ve tried other apps where you have a robot doing it and you can see right through them.
The best thing is there’s no judgment – Stella’s approach is very much, ‘Wherever you’re at, we’re here for you’.