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No Age Limit – Hayley’s Story : Women Behind The Network

By telling my story I hope to lead the way and raise awareness of Premature Menopause/POI. As well as helping older ladies push and challenge their GP’s, when they try to prescribe anti-depressants rather than HRT. Stand you ground and shove the NICE guidelines under their noses.

As a younger woman who has been dealt this card, I want to help older ladies with my positive outlook on life. I have never let it define me or take away my spirit for a good life. I also want older ladies to support me by trying to raise awareness, as if we all stick together, we can get us women the support we deserve.

I have it tough yes, but I am not going to let it ruin me. We have one shot at this so let’s live it as happily as we can.

Here’s the background to my story….

14 years old and told I had gone through the menopause… yep that’s right 14 years old.

I will never forget that day, sitting on the bed in a hospital room waiting for the Consultant to come into me and my Mum saying those words. My Mum balling her eyes out and me comforting her asking her to not cry as it’s ok. Thing is it wasn’t ok, but then I had no clue what the Consultant was even talking about.

At the age of 12 I started my periods like a normal teenager. Then after a year they just stopped. I was struggling to concentrate at school and the nights were hell. Waking up dripping with sweat and just feeling weird. That’s literally how I described it to my Mum one day. I don’t feel like meMum, I feel weird. So off we went to the Doctor’s. I explained what was going on and I was referred for a blood test and an ultrasound. Then two weeks later a Consultant Gynaecologist confirmed I had gone through my Menopause and that I needed to start taking HRT tablets.

I was told I had a womb but a small one and that they could only find one ovary. That was the first and the last time I was going to see my Consultant. I am now 39 years old. I literally have never been contacted since. Not given any follow up appointments, no help, no guidance to understand what had happened to me nothing. Put on HRT (Prempak C) and left to just get on with it.

Even when Prempak C was discontinued a few years back I wasn’t even informed by my Doctor. The pharmacist told me when I went to pick up my meds. Meds, may I add that I have to pay for… which I find astonishing. I need to take these daily and I had none left so luckily after a long phone call Imanaged to get in with a GP the next day. Who then told me there was no exact alternative and she was putting me on another brand. But that was horrendous. All my levels went crazy and my symptoms returned, and my bleeds were so painful. I then was changed onto Femoston which I took for years. But I have since learnt after a consultation with Dr Louise Newson that many symptoms I had presented at my Doctor’s with, were in fact menopausal symptoms. My GP never linked the two and instead prescribed me anti-depressants for insomnia. He should have sent me for blood tests, which would have revealed my estrogen levels were too low and my HRT infact needed adjusting. I have also realised since taking control of this and speaking out that I should have been having DEXA scans. I have never been for one in my life. I have since pushed this with my GP and I now have one booked for Jan 2021. 

As a child I needed to learn what it all meant, and back then there was hardly anything on the internet to read and even to this day limited material to a teenager experiencing this happening to them. This needs addressing as I felt lost for years as I just didn’t understand it all. Medical professionals looked at me like I was some sort of freak. If I was given a pound for the amount of times a doctor or nurse has said to “me you poor girl” when I answer the dreaded question… “what medication do you take”. I would have had loads of work done on myself. Which leads me on to how I have felt growing up… hating what I saw looking back at me in the mirror. The one job a woman is given to do, and I couldn’teven do that properly. I felt like a failure. A failure as a woman. 

I can’t say I grew up depressed I just learnt how to cope. I grew up not liking my appearance. I suppose I felt insecure about myself.  I struggled with relationships with guys as I knew I had it looming over me that one day I was going to have to tell them. Even when I did tell them or my friends neither understood. I even lost a friend over it as she said I was lying and that it was a sick thing to make up! Charming ay…  The response I got from the close few I did tell was always the same… It will happen one day mate, loads of women are told they can’t have kids and they do. 

Nobody understood what I was saying. Because no one was/iseducated enough, No one knows what it means. Even to this day people still do not understand. So, in my words I say it how it is…. To produce a baby, you need an egg and a sperm,and I don’t have eggs, end of.

Since I have spoken out, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and in a way I feel free of it. I hope that by speaking about my experience out loud I can try and get this recognised more. To help educate all, that this can happen at such a young age as many are still so unaware of this. I have even been called a liar on some so called “menopause support groups” on Facebook, as people do not believe that this can happen. To help Mother’s if their daughters are showing any signs to get them to the doctor’s as soon as possible. I also want women to push at the doctors for them to listen to you. As doctors still sound like they are in denial that it can happen to younger women. As well as to get people to speak out and not hide it all inside, because you feel everyone will be gossiping about you.

Unfortunately, it happens to all of us females one day. There is no set age limit on it, which I am living proof of…..

The present day….

So life currently is busy, busy, busy, as aswell as working a 40 hour week, trying to get my story out there… me and my Husband are currently going through the Adoption process 😊We always knew it was the route we wanted to take. We had discussed in length the idea of going through IVF and he accepted my decision that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had already grieved for years that I was never going to have a baby of my own biologically so egg donation for me just wasn’t the way I would see myself become a Mum. In my eyes to be a parent it is to provide endless love, support and just adore your child. I know how much love I have to give,and for me to be able to give that to a child whose own parents cannot do this is a much more fulfilling way. I also now see that maybe things do happen for a reason as that reason is to find my Child and give them a much better life.

The adoption timeline is actually a lot shorter than it used to be. So please if you are considering this don’t let that put you off. Once you have got through the Pre-stage and into Stage 1 it can feel a bit slow waiting on training days and workbooks to be issued, but you just have to keep the faith that it’s just part of it all and it will all be worth it in the end 😊

We are currently heading towards the end of stage 1 and praying that we will make it into the second stage. That will be when we are working towards a date to go to panel to become approved adoptive parents.

Soooo, wish us luck 😊

Hayley

Contact Hayley on Instagram prematuremenopause14 and twitter @CockmanHayley

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I wish that I had duck feet…. Women Behind the Network- Female Leaders At 50 – Sweet Gill

I wish that I had duck feet

…and I can tell you why.

You can splash around in duck feet.

You don’t have to keep them dry.

I loved reading this wonderful children’s book by Dr. Seuss to my three boys when they were young. First published in 1965 and with cartoon illustrations, it’s a simple story about a boy who wishes that he could have different animal parts such as duck feet, a whale spout and a long, long tail. He thinks this will give him an advantage over his nemesis Big Bill Brown. The boy quickly finds out there are consequences to pretending to be someone else.

It got me thinking about how we adopt certain styles of leadership depending on the business situation we find ourselves in – it could be to connect more fully with customers; to launch a new product to stay ahead of competitors; to adapt strategically when uncertain times emerge or to simply be excellent communicators and motivate our team. What should a good leader look like? Is there such a thing as a Natural Born Leader and if the aliens landed tomorrow demanding: ‘Take Me to Your Leader!’ where would they go?

Setting up and running Maurizio Dining & Co. with my husband in August 2016 was a huge learning curve. Along the way I discovered some interesting things about myself (who knew I hadenough resilience to work with the husband!) and in hospitality, an area of business that initially I knew nothing about (love eating pizza but selling it was a new concept). Having a blended career means there’s definitely overlap in skills and attitude. My part-time work as a Video Producer is creative and it comes more naturally to me as I’ve been in the industry of broadcast television (firstly as a runner on a show called Beadle’s About!), and then video communications (mostly in education) for over 25 years. But nothing really prepares you for starting a new business as much as taking a risk and just getting stuck in.

Adventures in Pasta Land: How Not To Start A Food Business

It began so quickly that we barely had time to think. But I soon learned that this suited my leadership style well. In February 2017 we launched A Valentine’s Venetian Dinner and Drink pop-up event in an empty shop on Mill Road, Cambridge. Within two weeks we had the challenge to source ingredients, produce and price menus, market the event, sell tickets and run the evening making sure all 40 diners had delicious food and drink to enjoyplus a great ambience to be in. It confirmed to me that, despite the pressures of troubleshooting right up to opening, I’m driven by deadlines, enjoy a challenge, can lead a project creatively and be innovative on a tight budget. 

The night was a huge success and within three months we’d opened permanently as a small, local, independent Italian kitchen and wine bar. It really was a case of frugal innovation – a concept that Professor Jaideep Prabhu from University of Cambridge says is: ‘Doing more with less – whatever your location’. It’s about adopting a mindset of keeping things simple for maximum effect. Since then, I’ve tried to keep this in focus when making decisions. Here’s what’s helped me so far:• Mentoring. We were lucky enough to find a neutral voice with oodles of business experience. He helped us see different viewpoints and find solutions to move forward.Perfect at managing our different personalities, understanding our vision and giving advice.• Networking. Join like-minded groups and communities where you can build relationships and contacts to share ideasand keep learning. Locally I found the resources and short courses at EnterpriseWOMEN useful: https://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/insight/2019/entrepreneurial-myths/ and to connect nationwide I like: https://f-entrepreneur.com/about-us/• Investing in my team. Having the right personalities on board can complement your strengths and weaknesses. It’s an on-going process but a range of experience and diversity certainly helps – we’re about to employ an apprentice pizza maker who will grow professionally alongside our business.• Being creative. Thinking outside the box can bring new ideas to the forefront. Our brainstorming sessions have resulted in delicious food and drink additions to our menu. Pasta with chocolate? Er, no thanks but our Sofia Loren pizza is a firm favourite.• Trusting my senses. At first, I found it difficult to listen to customers who didn’t enjoy their dining experience. But I learned that all feedback is valuable and it’s okay to get it wrong…as long as we then put it right.• Taking time out. It’s so important to relax and spend quality time away from the business. One of our team sayings is: “And don’t forget to breathe!” Keeping your sense of humour is essential to get through tricky times.

Psychologist Kurt Lewin says there are three main leadership styles but of course there are many more: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/leadership-styles explains these in a bit more detail.

Keeping leadership fluid and transformational is what works best for me as I’m not a natural leader as such. But we do all lead in some way or other at some point in our lives, even if we don’trealise it at the time. Whether it’s taking charge of family life, standing up for ourselves at work or diving into a new venture, leadership exists in many shapes and forms. 

We’re Not Saving Lives, Just Cooking Pizzas And Pastas

I think it’s important to remember perspective. This can be easy to forget especially when things sometimes go wrong (power cut in the middle of service, dealing with unreliable suppliers or having to pivot in a pandemic).

We’ve created our 3E philosophy to help us maintain perspective.The 3Es are:

ENHANCE our customers’ dining experience (and we’re proud to say we’re finalists in the Cambridge News Business Excellence Awards).

ENCOURAGE working in a collaborative way as this helps to build our brand more organically.

EMPOWER our team to be the best they can be by encouraging a flexible and inclusive working culture where all ideas and opinions are welcome.

It’s okay not to have all the answers straight away as I believe sometimes there is no right or wrong decision to be made. I think of myself driving along my own business journey with lots of spaghetti junctions along the way. There are traffic lights that make you stop and reflect; fast lanes when you have a deadline; roundabouts to revisit a problem; hitting the curbside when it all goes a bit wrong; dead ends when it’s time to move on and success when you find that perfect parking space. The point is,whatever the adventure, I’ll get there in the end.

As Dr. Seuss says at the end of I Wish I Had Duck Feet:

And So…

I think

there are some things

I do not wish to be.

And that is why

I think that I

just wish to be like ME.

Be your authentic self and lead the way that works best for you.

Contact Sweet Gill D’Apollonio at: info@mauriziodining.com

www.linkedin.com/in/mauriziodining

Website: www.mauriziodining.com

Connect on social media @mauriziodining

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The Greatest Gift – Liz Needleman BT Group Regional Director – Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50

Liz Needleman : BT Group Regional Director North

Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40.  Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax.  Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.

I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.

There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.

By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has).  I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.

I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down.  I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step.  I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement.  One month followed the next.

Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me.  It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count.  I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.

This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown.  The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.

The something ended up being the Couch to 5k.  My body is not a temple.  I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience.  I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week.  (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all).  I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.

Where am I going with this?  My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important.  As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.

So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.

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Starting with me – Leadership, Home, Motherhood: Esther Kuku. Our second anniversary special edition blog from our Women Behind the Network Series

Starting with me…

Working life

The morning after my wedding,  I woke up next to my husband in our hotel honeymoon suite, I was living the dream. Not long after there was a knock on the door and my new step-children charged into the room, my heart sank. I longed for the romance of a first family experience, suddenly it all felt like a nightmare, on day one.

The biggest leadership training ground I have encountered, thus far,` has been my home. The founder of Visa, Dee Hock said, if you want to lead, invest 40% of your time in leading yourself.

His overarching principle is that without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire.

The first few years of being a step parent I had to learn to keep my mouth shut and just be patient. Gosh, it was so hard. After all, I was the entitled newly-wed, desperate to be the perfect wife and step-mum. I wanted to change everything in our home – immediately; I moved into the house my husband lived in with his ex wife.  I wanted new rules – new wall paper, new everything. Well that wasn’t going to work – it wasn’t long before I could see the negative impact my management of our home was having on us all.

And, most importantly on my bonus babies – who were 6 and 8 when I married their dad and had gone through a divorce.  

Born out of loss, or failure, step families can be complex and exhausting. The reality is that for many couples it’s through re-designed dreams and re-packaged plans a new-life unfolds. A new life that needs time to adapt and grow. Flexibility and respect  for difference are better predictors of success than trying to force togetherness and just becoming exhausted in the process. I was pushing too much.

The principles of not forcing relationships, or togetherness and having respect are very transferrable to leadership in a working environment.  We don’t have to like our bosses, but we do have to do what they say. If you have a step-child they don’t have to like you, but they do have to respect you when they are in your house. And, if you are a step-parent the most important people are the children – they do have to come first. 

I’ve had a few jobs and being a step-mum has been the hardest one of all, but also incredibly rewarding. Investing time in leading myself means I’ve learnt to invest time in managing my emotions that what I want most is not to be right, but to be happy. ( I am right, most of the time…).

Today, I have four children who follow me because they are inspired by who I am – not by what I do. In fact none of them really care what I do. When I leave the house to go to work every morning. They just want to know I’m coming home and that it’s a peaceful home.

 If I can ensure that peace for the majority of the time, then I think I’m doing ok on my leadership journey.

— 

Esther Kuku
love God, love life, love people.

Twitter: @mew36

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Meet and Beat Your Thinking Enemies-Women Behind The Network – Zoe Lewis

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As we enter the New Year, it’s a great time to consider which parts of your self-talk support and empower you and which hold you back.

I thought I’d share a few parts of my own self-talk that have tried to derail me over the years. Just take a look at the pictures that accompany this blog and you’ll see I’ve been on (and still am on) a journey to enable self-talk that empowers me. 

In this blog I aim to inspire you to challenge and derail any limiting self-talk you might have. Here I’ll share 3 of mine.

“I feel guilty”

My guilt has been in many areas of my life from family, to work commitments, to living the life I live. I have thought “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum & I feel guilty about not being there for my kids”, or “I should not postpone this coaching session, even though something sad just happened to me, I feel guilty that I’m letting my client down” & “I shouldn’t separate from my husband, as it will make him unhappy”.

So, how do you stop the guilt?

I recognise it and I now challenge my unhelpful thinking.

Take for example, “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum.”

There are so many assumptions in there, that when I unpick that thought…there’s no actual evidence to link the two statements – just very limiting self-talk, that I can change – based on facts or alternative thinking.

This thought re-designed now sounds like Ok, they don’t get me home once or twice a week, but what they get instead is almost every school holiday off with me. They get quality time as opposed to my misguided thinking of ‘time=love’. They have their lives and interests and I have mine; some intertwine and others are talking points when we’re together. In many ways they are more independent than many of their peers – and that’s a good thing!

My coaching tip here: The key to success is in managing the inner critic that tells you ‘You’re a rubbish parent’ or ‘You should be doing x, y, z with your kids’ – my go to phrase is ‘I’m doing just fine’.

I’m not good enough

So this, I guess, comes from a conversation I had over 10 years ago with a colleague with whom I shared that I could never run my own business as “I’m not good enough”. Her response was “You can do whatever you like Zoé” – I ran like the wind – she was way more confident than me and she had the audacity to tell me that I could do something, when what I was actually looking for were backers to support my insecurity campaign!

Have you ever been in that mode – you know that place – where it’s safer to believe you’re not good enough rather than run the risk of having a go and then being shame-faced if it doesn’t work out? 

Well, the fabulous Bréné Brown, author of “I thought it was just me”, “Daring Greatly” and many other best sellers, shares that we need “courage in the culture of shame”.

Don’t get me wrong I have had many scary moments; doubts, fears and failures, but like Bréné says in her book “Daring Greatly”…

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

My coaching tip here: Consider what it would take for you to step into the arena and be prepared to learn along the way. We are fallible human beings and that is okay. 

I couldn’t do that!

As you’ll see from my pictures I have battled with my weight and used to be a binge-eater. I’ve been on most diets;slimming world, weight watchers, slim fast, no carbs (lasted a day!) and like many people yo-yo dieted for years. 

At my heaviest I was 16stone 10lbs, needless to say, I was ashamed of my weight, but felt trapped, food was the only comfort – I thought no one knew, as it was all eaten behind closed doors, but clearly what’s eaten in private shows in public! I used to chunnel away the chocolate bars, cakes, batter mix, crisps, chips, etc. I could hide and comfort myself, I didn’t know any other way.

I knew it didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t see a way out. My lowest ebb was when I ordered a size 26 skirt for work – my manager had to sign my uniform request – I can still feel the burn in my cheeks as I recall that moment now – shame.

For me, this is still a work in progress journey. I have made significant progress in the past few years and I’ll share with you how I’ve done that, BUT the reality is that like my Brénéquote above – I’m in the arena – I have setbacks but the shift is in my perception of those setbacks and moving past them.

I gradually lost and gained weight over the following years and then made a decision 5 years ago to start on a non-stop journey, where I would accept the ups and downs but be kinder to myself and do stuff that I liked to help.

Here’s what I did

I went to watch my daughter learn to skate. I thought “I couldn’t do that” and found myself giving excuses of poorly hips as a child and a slipped disc, etc. 

Guess what? I challenged myself and for 3 weeks I fell over almost constantly and then gradually I learnt to roller skate – I now spend 2-3 hours every Saturday bopping my way around our local roller disco and I’m so glad I stepped in to the arena.

I went to the gym – I recall thinking “I can’t do that”  I had pre-conceived ideas that they’d all be fit gym bunnies and Ifound myself mentally comparing me and them. The reality was, no one cared, they were all on their own journey andnow if I see someone who is new in the gym, I always smile – in my eyes they’re already awesome for being in the arena!

I watched a Zumba session and I thought “that looks so much fun” but “I couldn’t do that” and then I Googled to find my local one – I went along and for the whole class (at the back) and felt like I just couldn’t get the moves. I went back week after week and gradually, I got the hang of it. A few weeks ago, the instructor was running late and we needed a volunteer to lead the warm up – I got up on that stage and threw myself into it! Even more awesome, my 15 year old daughter followed in my steps a few weeks later – what would I have role-modelled if I’d listened to my self-talk of “I couldn’t do that”?

I speak to my counsellor and he is helping me think about eating food without shame – that’s a new concept to me, I’m re-learning how to eat as an adult and I’ve stopped labelling myself as a binge-eater, as that’s in the past.

Guess what I learnt from the above?

“I could do that!”

So what’s next for me?

As I mentioned earlier, today sees the launch of my new business The Leadership Coaches – a team of fantastic leadership coaches who work alongside people of all levels in organisations and with individuals to help them achieve their unfulfilled goals.

I will continue to recognise and challenge my unhelpful thinking and turn my negative self-talk into empowering self-talk.

I’ve also discovered my joy of helping others through volunteering and making a difference where I can, so that will continue to feature heavily as I live my values.

So what’s next for you?

I hope that as you’ve read this, you’ve connected with your own self-talk. Your thoughts are so powerful, so as you move into 2020, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of taking back control of those unhelpful thoughts and feel empowered to be the awesome individual you are!

May 2020 be a wonderful year for you all!

Love and best wishes

Zoé x