• Holly Bell

Acceptance, Understanding and the Big Shift with Donna Gauntlett

Donna Gauntlett completed the ‘Spark the Change’ programme, and this is her story.


What effect was the menopause was having on your life?


“I didn’t know it was menopause. For about six to eight months, I wasn’t sleeping, I had increased anxiety, I wasn’t coping with anything and I thought I had dementia.


I was always so active, in the gym around my shifts, but all of a sudden, I was experiencing extreme fatigue and I didn’t feel like I could go to the gym. I would see other people in their 50s taking classes in the gym, and I couldn’t even do that, and then I would berate myself.


I had to find other things to do.


I started Pilates and running, but then I became addicted to running! I thought it was the only thing I could do. Then there came a point where I couldn't run either. I felt like I’d lost myself and I grieved that part of me.


It was like some vicious cycle, because at the same time, I knew my job was under threat, and that was making everything else worse.


I was on the verge of losing my job, I was scared that I would lose my home. As a single parent, that was my biggest fear.


Because what do you do?


Where do you go with your kids?


I was 52; my job was pivotal in maintaining our lifestyle, not just financially, but socially too.


I felt desperate, very anxious.


Fearful and angry.


I kept asking “why was this happening to me, why this is suddenly happening, what have I done that was so bad for this to happen to me, why me?”


Eventually, a close colleague suggested it might be the menopause.


I went to my doctor.


By then it was about eight months after it started.”





What happened after you were diagnosed?


“The GP prescribed HRT, (Hormone Replacement Therapy).


That was it.


They didn’t give me any other support, no signposting advice. Nothing.


They would agree to HRT, but that was all.


After two months on HRT, nothing had changed.


I was still having all the same issues, and my job was still under threat.


I didn’t know where to go, I felt as alone and confused as I had before I knew what was wrong.


At that point someone else mentioned a lady called Diane Danzebrink had a charity that could help me. So, I reached out to her.


The first thing she did was empower me a little more. I downloaded a symptom checklist and was a bit more clued up on what I could ask for, but the GP had limited options.


The second thing she did was reassure me I couldn’t lose my job, because I was protected under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Equalities Act. She suggested I got Occupational Health involved, I did, and they were good.


Six months later, I really felt like I couldn’t do my job, irrespective of my HRT, and I was referred to a sleep clinic for insomnia. The trouble was that they didn’t know anything about the menopause, so all my questions relating to my specific insomnia didn’t get answered.”





What led you to discover Spark the Change?


At that point, I knew this was the beginning of the end of my job, so I contacted a solicitor for legal representation. It was my solicitor who recommended I contact Lauren at Women of a Certain Stage.


When I first went on the website, I was desperate to reclaim my health and my sanity. I also wanted connection, to be heard, to be seen. So, I clicked the button to book a call.


Then Lauren called me, and I won’t ever forget that conversation.


It felt like the first time someone actually heard me. Lauren was the first person that ever made me feel that I wasn’t alone.


In this journey, in the awful situation I found myself in, Lauren was the first person that said to me, “I see you; I hear you; I’ve been there.”


And that meant the world, that somebody could relate to what I was experiencing.


Even my friends haven’t been able to do that because we’ve all had different journeys, and it’s hard to be there for each other when you’ve got your own stuff going on.





How was your experience with the programme?

Before meeting Lauren, I felt completely alone. I had no one else supporting me, no parents, no partner.


As a single parent, I felt so much responsibility, and I was desperate to keep my children away from what I was going through, to maintain that stability and security for them.


What Lauren gave me, which I’m so grateful for, is the help, guidance, and support to find myself again.


It was my greatest investment for myself, and I’ve learned so much ... about valuing myself, and also trusting, trusting that things are going to work out and that things are going to get better.



What were your biggest ‘aha’ moments?

The first thing one was about self care, and it's interesting because I remember years ago when I got divorced and burnt out, I had some counselling.


The counsellor was a lovely guy and he used to talk to me about self care, but I didn't get it.


Back then, I was getting divorced, changing jobs, and moving house all at the same time.


It’s completely nuts that I did all that with two small children!


Anyway, I was like, where is the room for self care?


However, I now understand, that self care doesn’t mean what I thought it did.


It's not having a glass of wine. It's not, meeting my friends down the pub.


It's about me sitting in the garden at 7am watching the sunrise doing guided meditation with my cat sat next to me.


It's me going for a walk listening to podcast or taking myself off into my bedroom and shutting the door to door reading book.


It’s me recognising that I haven’t moved for a while and factoring in some time to do some yoga.


So that to me, is my biggest epiphany.


How important it is for me to factor in some self care every day, a little bit in the morning and some in the evening.


Another one is about letting go.


I haven't mastered that yet, but I'm getting better at letting go of things.


For instance, I went to work last Friday, and the house was a complete mess, and I had a busy weekend planned. I had to do the shopping and take my son Billy to his rugby awards; he spoke at the awards presentation, which was amazing.


Before working with Lauren, I would have spent Sunday doing a full house clean. But I did a little bit of gardening and a little bit of vacuuming and that was it.


I just thought I’m not pushing myself too far because I knew I've got to go to work the next day.


And also, nutrition.


The Menopause Plan, the reset cleanse, I did with Lauren, gave me a personalised plan and this has been a life changer, because I recognise now that caffeine is no good for me.


Neither is alcohol.


And I must reduce my sugar intake.


For example, on Saturday night I only had one drink although everybody I was out with was drinking. You don't have to, but I thought, I wanted to have a drink. And subsequently I didn't sleep very well that night.


So, it’s being disciplined, just recognising that eating crappy foods and drinking isn't going to make me feel my best.


It's going to make me feel rubbish and unless I want that, I must recognise that my body operates and functions better when I don't eat and drink certain things.





What are the results you’ve had?


I have more energy by eating a much better diet.


I have the ability to say no and put myself first.


I've increased my exercise, which is amazing because that was my peace of mind before.


Growing my self esteem and regaining my self confidence.


And … prior to doing this I struggled to get my oestrogen levels higher than 430, with the HRT, when they should be close to 800, and I’ve just done a blood test and this set of results was 744.


I mean, that is amazing. Absolutely amazing.


And that's what I find really interesting, that when I first went to my menopause clinic, the doctor was constantly telling me I needed to make other changes and I just wouldn't accept that.


I thought that I could take HRT, and everything would be fine. I didn't need to make any other adjustments per se to continue with my job.


I just thought my energy would return. And it didn't. I think it was the fact that I kept trying, rather than recognising and accepting that I had to do something else.


That’s why the programme with Lauren was so good because I got it.


Every woman needs to understand how she can navigate menopause without it just changing the nature of her life, it because it doesn’t have to feel like the end of life.



How is your life different today?


I'm more honest with myself, I treat myself with care.


I'm more aware of how things make me feel and the importance of that because I want to feel better. I want to do well.


Now I listen to my body.


If the sun is out, and I feel I've got the energy, I’ll put my trainers on, and I'll go for a run. If not, I’ll just do some yoga, it's not for weight loss. It's more for maintaining movement.


Today, I'm not going to knock myself over the head on the days I don’t run.


I think I've accepted menopause now because I certainly hadn't, back in 2020 I hadn’t accepted it, and I think that is a big shift, because it is never going to go away.


It is a natural event for every woman and it's through acceptance and understanding that you can make the best of it.





So, what's next for you?


I've decided I want to raise awareness of menopause at work, which is really close to my heart because that's how I was massively failed. And I know that many other women have massively failed in the workplace too.


I know that if my work was pivotal to my security, then it is for many other women.


I know I'm not alone in that. I know that I want to help other women even if it's just raising awareness, signposting, and you know raising awareness of the work that Lauren does.


Equally, I know I've got more work to do on my self esteem, I've got more work to do on my self confidence. I'm not exactly back to where I was, but it’s all going in the right direction. And that's positive to me.


How would you sum up your journey in the ‘Spark the Change’ programme?


I think it's the greatest opportunity I’ve had, and the best investment I've ever made in myself, in understanding my body, my menopause, and how to successfully navigate this inevitable change.


And I would absolutely recommend Lauren as a coach.


If you'd like to find out more about my one-to-one Spark the Change Menopause Coaching programme, click here . To register your interest or if you want to book a call to talk through it, I'd love to hear from you.


Your coach & trainer,


Lauren


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