The lovely Tara Gould writes the newsletters for A.S Apothecary – they help to tell our story, make offers, introduce therapists and new products, plants and whatever combination of subjects we are interested in. Together we make plans for general areas it might be good for me to write about in the Journal – however, given my wayward character, I seem to write whatever comes to mind; often something seasonal, or arising from a journey or a book I’ve been reading or a plant or landscape that has particularly captivated me (orange blossom distilling in Cyprus next week by the way…)
For the April Journal we discussed writing about the milestones of women’s lives, and I’ve had a week that made me really muse on Menopause so it seems a logical place to start.
Last night I held an event up at the Apothecary, it was to introduce our Tonic to a group of Lewes Women in Business and, as we tasted various bitters, conifers, citrus and flowers I was asked about the name: Fierce Botanics. Why had we chosen it to represent our company? In part it’s about being uncompromising on plants, method and taste but it’s much more than that.
It’s to do with being 54, a menopausal woman, and setting up a new company with the help of ten other older women (and two youngsters.) It profoundly disappoints me that women of my age are so easily dismissed, as if once beyond childbearing age we simply fade away into irrelevance. What’s so exciting is that the opposite is actually the case. With menopause and the definitive end of childbearing comes the opportunity to move on, to really come into our own. Whether with children or without, whether this is voluntary or involuntary, it’s a full stop, seasonal shift, a different way of being.
Virtually all the press around menopause is negative, the general discourse is depressingly familiar – loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness, hot flushes, loss of memory, anxiety, inadequacy, ageing, empty nest syndrome, disturbed sleep, mood swings and so on. It sounds like a complete nightmare. But it need not be and it hasn’t been for me. As women we seem to have become trapped in an entirely negative feedback cycle.
The patterns that begin to appear bear scrutiny – we are told repeatedly that menopause is an inescapable hormonal catastrophe. Women must bear it, and men must tolerate us whilst we do. It is mired in mysoginy.
Thus, entering the peri-menopause provokes anxiety, the more anxious you are the longer and more intense the hot flushes, the more intense the hot flushes are the more agitated you become and the less you sleep, the less you sleep the more tired you become, the more tired you become the more forgetful you are, the more forgetful you are the more inadequate you feel, the more inadequate you feel the more anxious you become, the more anxious, tired and undermined you are the more your moods will swing and the less you will feel like having sex. All too frequently enter HRT as a means of restoring the ‘normal’.
There is another interpretation: menopause is liberating. It’s the start of the most powerful time of our lives, a period of re-assessment, an opportunity to really think about the direction you are heading in and whether it’s time for a change. It’s about banishing the fear and embracing the opportunities. It’s about rediscovering yourself and celebrating your power.
The hot flushes can be moderated by diet, herbs and homeopathy. By the end of the month we’ll have our own ‘menomix’ in the shop or ‘squirrel wort’ as one client fondly named it. It is a very effective blend of herbs in tincture form that can be taken for short spells to calm flushing right down. There are two blends, one for sweaty flushes and the other for dry heat.
Anxiety can be allayed with products such as our Calm and Tranquil Balm (Tara writes about this product in relation to menopause in this blog post) and Australian Bush Essences both of which can restore peace. Equally finding an activity that nourishes you can be incredibly revitalising whether it be Yoga, T’ai Chi, Pottery, Gardening or something more lively... most of all, it's about finding something for yourself not as a treat, but as an acknowledgement that after years of giving, you need to be nurtured.
Massage therapy, from aromatherapy and deep tissue to hot stones and flower treatments can be so good for general well-being and balance, as can a really good facial where the therapist not only treats the skin but also addresses the emotional well-being of the client. There is something so comforting and restorative about therapeutic touch.
Vaginal dryness can be aided with a simple lubricant if needed – more natural lubes are being developed, including one from www.yesyesyes.org There's also great advice available from Caroline Lovett at www.cosrt.org.uk/members-2/caroline-lovett/
Sleep can also be helped hugely by good night time practice and the right remedy, herb or supplement – have a look at www.wildnutrition.com
The more symptoms can be tackled, the sooner you’ll begin to feel not just better able to cope but positive and powerful. Fiona Whitfield (www.thelifereboot.co.uk) talks about ‘a journey to being me’ and I really like that. Tilton House (http://www.tiltonhouse.co.uk) has a wonderful selection of retreats and courses in the beautiful South Downs from creative writing to floristry to health, yoga and meditation. It is a haven of loveliness.
So back to yesterday evening and our name – it’s called Fierce because to live this period of life, well, strong, successful and running the company with the same ethics that we apply to every part of our business, you need to be Fierce and it really helps to be carried along with the creative determination that menopause has brought to me.