• paulaholahan

You, Menopause and I - Compassion

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.”. Dalai Lama

This blog is about being compassionate to ourselves and I believe that we don't practice it enough, myself included. Two weeks ago I found out I have Primary Lymphoedema, which is when the lymphatic system gets blocked up when it's purpose is to get rid of fluids and toxins. I have it in my abdomen, (it's usually in the arms or legs), I was born with it and is exasperated by hormonal changes and abdominal surgery. It is a chronic condition and if not treated or managed it can lead to cellulitis and swelling gets larger. In addition, I also have a frozen pelvis as a result from sepsis, which means my pelvic organs are congealed in scar tissue and I am post menopausal for the last 4 years and I am 49. As you can imagine, at times it's been very difficult, but I am also very grateful to have the tools and resources (family, friends, professionals, skills) to reach out to get the help and support I have needed, even in times of crisis.

Why am I telling you this?

I am sharing this with you because since I transitioned through puberty, I thought I was going mad, a hypochondriac and embarrassed by the continuing swelling of my tummy. I went to numerous professionals over the years, told them my symptoms but they never dotted the lines until my symptoms reached a crisis point. However, the impact on me and my family has been huge.

Subsequently, I have had conversations with friends and clients and the story seems so familiar, particularly when women are post menopausal and they realise the impact their hormones have had on them throughout their lives, particularly transitioning through puberty, becoming a new mum, peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause. I use the analogy of being drunk for 35 years, have had the hangover and now I've got the flashbacks.

What has struck me as I reflect, is how accepting we are, even though we know something is wrong, we get that little bit of assurance or dismissiveness from professionals, or when results don't show up anything and we plod along. But we don't plod along, because we are tired, feeling anxious, feeling depressed, feeling unwell, in pain whether it be our joints, muscles, organs, feel unheard and we end up taking it out on ourselves and those around us. If the experts don't know what is wrong with us, how are we supposed to know? Along with our hormonal symptoms, we have careers, families, relationships, a life that we are managing day to day and then throw other environmental factors and it's no wonder it can be enough to destabilise us and everything, at times, can come crashing down around us.

What can change?

  • By having more conversations with other people who are similar to you

  • Find a GP you trust, who will listen and have a honest conversation

  • Find a women's physiotherapist

  • Look at your nutrition / exercise / hydration

  • Keep a diary of your symptoms, notice any patterns

  • Professionals become curious about your patients symptoms

  • Keep fighting your corner

  • Being non-judgemental and setting aside your own experiences or agenda

  • Being aware of when our loved ones need to talk

  • Giving someone space to explore what is going on by asking 'tell me more'

  • Asking yourself or someone what will help to make it better

  • Offering support whether it be emotional or practical, for example going with someone to see their GP or specialist

  • By exploring all treatments and options available

  • By reassuring your loved one they aren't going mad

  • By becoming educated about how hormones can affect us whether you are female or male

  • By being honest and empathetic

  • Learn about self-care tools like breath work, relaxation techniques to help you tolerate your distress and symptoms

  • Include your family and friends in conversations by being honest

  • Becoming consciously aware of how you are and thereby responsible for managing it

I also believe that not enough is not talked about hormone changes that happen with men, but that's another blog. All of these things I have listed can help you practice to be compassionate to yourself and others.

How has coaching helped me?

Coaching has had such a positive impact on me. I practice being consciously aware of my symptoms and managing my conditions by looking at how different things will be helpful or useful to me. I notice the emotions I experience and I look at what things will help me to feel better. I learned I can't predict the future, I make plans but they can be adapted to allow for any of those last minute events that can still annoyingly happen unexpectedly. I have learned to manage my own expectations and that I can't control other people or make them think what I want them to think, feel or do. I practice gratitude and take pleasure in the small things. I am happy to share my vulnerability (hence the blog) as it means I accept myself. I identified what my values and strengths are and use them on a daily basis in my personal and professional life.

Something that I found useful that I would like to share is that after my recent diagnosis, I wrote myself a letter from my compassionate self. I can't tell you how helpful it was, as I've also been able to include in my letter about making a plan of how to go forward, reach out to those around me including friends, family and professionals. I imagined my life what it would be like if those experiences didn't happen to me and I concluded that I'm glad they did because I hope I've become a better version of myself and in my professional compassionate capacity I can share my own experiences with permission, coaching skills and techniques with you.

However, that does not mean I would wish this process on anyone but by sharing coaching psychological tools, I hope the impact is that you become your own self-coach, you don't feel that you are on your own and there are people / professionals out there who can help. I would argue that by becoming consciously aware of how we are, we can take responsibility for our own way of being.

I've included a list of professional helplines and resources that you can signpost to. This is not an exhaustive list and I would suggest that this list is to get you started becoming curious about what else is out there which can help make you and your life better.

Take care, Paula

Resources and useful links

This is the British Menopausal Society's website where you can find lots of useful information


This is an example of women's physiotherapy available and in no way am I endorsing them, it is an example of what to expect if you find one in your local area


All you need to know about lymphoedema.