Early menopause: sometimes known as premature ovarian failure, or primary ovarian insufficiency. It’s here, it’s very real but how much do you actually know about it and are we talking about it enough? (Spoiler alert: no.) We caught up with the incredible Romy London (gird your baking loins) to discuss everything from hot flushes to Harry Potter and how early menopause has affected her life. Ready? 👀 Alohomora! ✨
Hey, Romy! For HANX fans who haven’t met you yet, can you sum up what you do in five words?
Romy - Recipe Developer & food photographer (that’s as much as I can fit into 5 words, ha!)
What’s the main misconception you’ve found around early menopause?
I think most misconceptions I’ve come across so far evolve around younger women that haven’t shed a thought on menopause thus far thinking ‘oh that’s ages away, I don’t have to know anything about that now’ - and I used to be one of them! There’s therefore a lack of knowledge around what actually happens to us during menopause. It’s not just the time in our lives that periods stop and hot flashes start, there’s so much more to it.
Before I got diagnosed I was never aware of how much menopause and it’s symptoms affects one’s mental health - I feel my menopause has gone on a big ‘mental health issue’ shopping spree since it started and it’s difficult for friends my age to understand why I’m suddenly having trouble sleeping, anxiety or simply no energy to even deal with simple everyday tasks.
And how long did it take to finally get your diagnosis?
My symptoms started around 4 years ago, but it actually took almost 2 years until I had a diagnosis. It all started with heart palpitations and hot flashes and when those symptoms first arrived I had no clue what was wrong with me. I went to my GP and explained, they did some blood tests (but only checked nutrients) and also sent me to the hospital to have my heart checked, but both results came back normal. That’s when my GP had the brilliant idea that ‘oh I think you just have anxiety’. It was a frustrating (mis)diagnosis - I had never known what having an anxiety disorder felt like before and my hot flashes and palpitations kept arriving at the most random of times, so after these words from my GP I spent almost 2 years wrecking my brain and wondering why I suddenly had anxiety and what was wrong with me. I kind of beat myself up about it as I felt I must’ve done something wrong, or gone down a wrong thought path to suddenly have anxiety and it made me feel exhausted and miserable most of the time.
My diagnosis finally came after one of my friends got diagnosed with PCOS. Talking through her symptoms, I really saw myself in it A LOT and during a routine check at the GP, I actually asked a nurse how to test for PCOS. After I explained my symptoms, they agreed to test my hormonal levels - that’s done via a simple blood test. 2 weeks later I had my diagnosis, though I still spent weeks and months heading to different doctors to make sure the diagnosis is right and to check if there was anything out of the ordinary that could’ve caused it (there was nothing that the doctors could see).
Has lockdown affected how you manage your symptoms?
In a weird way, I actually feel that lockdown has allowed me to focus on my own mental health more and that’s helped me find ways to deal with certain things much better. My brain is on a constant overdrive and feeling overwhelmed with things that are just a normal part of life for others, stripping back what I do in my everyday life and especially the amount of social interactions I have on the regular (they can be very overwhelming for an introvert in menopause) has really helped a lot this year.
From podcasts to playlists, what inspires you while you work?
I actually do a variety of things ‘on the side’ whilst I work, depending on the task at hand - I love audiobooks, the Harry Potter ones being my all-time favorite (I’ve read/listened to each book more than 40 times by now). I go through phases with podcasts and love both some light-hearted and entertaining ones (such as Potterless) as well as work-related ones (Food Blogger Pro, Youtube Creators, and Simple Pin Podcast for example). When I cook I often have Youtube or Netflix on my tablet I the background and whilst I edit my photos I’ve recently been watching Gilmore Girls in the background. Everything to keep my mind occupied and giving my ever-fluctuating focus somewhere to go when it’s ‘tired’ of the task a hand ;)
Banana bread: over it. What’s your prediction for the next big thing in lockdown baking?
It’s definitely babka, that I’m not just saying it because I just recently added a banging, fluffy vegan babka recipe to the blog haha! (Get your babka on with Romy right here…)
How can we spread awareness about early menopause?
I think we need to normalize talking about menopause more and we also need more women in menopause to openly speak and raise awareness around it. Menopause is often something people shy away from, they are embarrassed, and don’t want to feel weak in front of others. We need more strong women to openly talk about it, I think that’s the best way to spread more awareness without shoving the information into people’s faces ;)
Thanks for sharing, Romy. If you’ve got an inkling that you may be experiencing similar symptoms, please consult your GP or head to The Daisy Network for support from people in the same position. Desperate to give Romy’s recipe’s a try? Follow her on IG here, bookmark her site here and join the conversation over on our HANX Life forum here.