I thought growing old would take longer. When I was a wee nipper, old meant being like my nana who took her false teeth out at night. She had naps and ate pink wafer biscuits.
Now I realise getting old isn't gentle nudging over decades, for me it felt more like a smack in the face almost overnight. I think denial had a lot to do with this feeling and hey, let me not forget I'm not dead yet. I'm forty-feckin-five!
But before you say 'ohh, that's not old, wait until you're my age' or 'age is only a number, you're as young as you feel' I have felt old....er in the last 12 months. It's a fact and sad as it is to say, nothing you say will really change that.
Thanks to bloody hormones, fatigue and memory loss have been my biggest challenges. I've questioned myself about Alzheimer's and I've had a huge internal battle about my abilities to do every day things that used to come so effortlessly - remembering people's names 5 seconds after they've just told me it, why I went upstairs for the 3rd time and staying awake after my tea.
The energy I needed to concentrate on my work was exhausting. My PMT was worse than my 14 yr old step-daughter's. I had regular stonking headaches that meant I couldn't think straight and got the most urgent sense to have a pee that came on with the flick of a switch. I stopped exercising and then felt guilty about being a poor role model for my son.
The conflict in my head about what I felt I should (as in used to) do and (as I work for myself), what I needed to do each day was very real. I didn't think I would be needing to slow down yet! To say this has been a little stressful is an understatement.
To top this off, society is hell bent on defying the aging process. We are told we can delay the onset, combat wrinkles, keep the podge at bay and stay young as if getting old is the worst thing that could happen in life.
The self improvement industry tells us to wake up with downward dogs, lift weights, run, eat walnuts and kale whilst completing a Sudoku. The burden of eating well and moving more to reduce the likelihood we won't die of diabetes or dementia is huge.
Rather than regretting answering too many emails on our death beds, we'll be saying 'if only I ate more flax seeds and avocados'
The diet industry continues to convince us we are unlovable in out current bodies. Time and time again I see social media posts that are hung up on turning back the clock, as bits of our bodies migrate south.
We've been brain washed to believe the myth that losing weight will improve our health, yet scientific research does NOT show this. Yet we are told again and again like a stuck record to eat less and move more. Because that's so simple isn't it?
I mean, how many people do you know who have been told to do that and off they go and do it, ta da! We are being set up for failure which we then put down to a lack of willpower. The shame and punishment this raises is heart breaking.
It's 2019 and women are experiencing epidemic levels of body shame. Eating disorders are on the rise in 40 and 50 year olds. Sure, we might reason we 'want to feel healthier' but what is often going on beneath the surface is fear that our body is changing beyond our control.
Women are mourning the body they once had. The messages are not subtle: Unless you are slender, you have a body that’s wrong and needs to be fixed. And shame is the natural reaction to feeling wrong or bad.
For many women, navigating menopause brings a loss of identity, anxiety and panic. Having to accept the option of bearing children will soon be off the cards as many watch their kids leave the nest. Experiencing loss and looking after ill parents can be a reminder that life is finite.
The focus on weight and body in our 40's and 50’s makes perfect sense. With so many unknowns, we can distract ourselves and at least feel a mild sense of control by taking care of what we eat. This is certainly something I did in my teens and as a young adult and it's not surprising I see this in so many women now going through menopause transition.
But let me say this - your body is doing the best that it can. Surrounding yourself with constant negativity will not only drain your energy, but steal your confidence and pull your focus away from your skills and talents.
One of the things I did was clear out anything which did not serve me positively. I unfollowed people and social media accounts that stressed me out. I let go of friendships that made me doubt myself. I even left work, vowing never to work with people that made me unhappy or uneasy.
Let me ask you this. When was the last time you thanked your body for what it does so well? Managing the billions of bio-chemical reactions that keep your system so balanced. OK fair enough, it may be struggling with keeping your body temperature constant, but the ability to get up in the morning and take a deep breath or make that first cuppa. The love and warmth you give with your best hugs. The giggles you create with those crappy jokes or the goose bump moments when you sing.
Today and just for fun, if you feel your inner bully rearing its ugly head, can you shift the focus instead to how your body serves you. Self compassion and kindness are key to getting through menopause and growing old happily. I'm learning that and as I'm accepting where I am, I kinda like it! I'm back exercising and feeling miles better! I hope you will notice a little weight lifted if you try this too.