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Navigating anxiety as a menopausal teenager

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Highland News and Media reporter, Annabelle Gauntlett.
Highland News and Media reporter, Annabelle Gauntlett.

When I was diagnosed with menopause at 15, I had no idea that anxiety was a prominent symptom that would soon monopolise my life and this is why we need to talk about it.

I was at an art show in my school, thrilling I know. I like art a lot, you see, and it is probably the only thing that has ever come naturally to me at school. Unfortunately I was not a natural genius, like Stephan Hawking, or Albert Einstein, but tonight my work was on display.

It may not have won me a Nobel prize, but it was mine.


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Art is something that has always felt easy to me. As soon as I pick up a pencil and paper, it just flows. That evening’s piece featured a painting of me looking into a mirror and my grandad’s reflection looking back at me.

For hours I spent the evening giggling with my best friend, Tilly, until we were asked to present our work.

Instead of being the outgoing and confident girl I knew I was, I began to panic.

Suddenly my heart was racing, my palms were clammy, my mind was spinning and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

"What's your painting about?", a teacher asked. My silence echoed in the room.

I left the hall as I ran out the door away from my peers in pure humiliation.

Next thing I knew I was in the bathroom crying, "what is wrong with me?"

By the time I had got home, my parents were ominously sitting on the sofa staring at me as I came through the door.

My mum nervously put her arm around my shoulder while my dad glared at me with a tear in his eye.

Annabelle with her dad, George Gauntlett.
Annabelle with her dad, George Gauntlett.

After a minute of silence that felt like eternity, my mum said: "The test results have come back, you have early menopause darling."

All my symptoms started to make sense, I wasn't going crazy, I had just become a menopausal teenager.

And it was at this moment my old friend, menopause, gained its right hand man: anxiety.

I never realised that anxiety would soon become my own worst enemy. But, as the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer; and that's exactly what I did.

Annabelle with her mum, Amanda Gauntlett.
Annabelle with her mum, Amanda Gauntlett.

Every time I endured a hot flush, which felt like my body was a boiling hot kettle, I would become crippled with anxiety.

Normal day-to-day chores became a living nightmare, like eating, going to the supermarket, sleeping and working.

Things that were once natural felt abnormal. I became absorbed with pure fear, worrying about things that were non-existent.

My anxiety led me to lose who I was.

Little did I know that I wasn't alone. Some 50 per cent of premature menopausal women experience a range of psychological and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and forgetfulness.

Coupled with anxiety, I suffered from brain fog, insomnia and an unexplained anger that sat on my shoulders and was ready to explode any second.

Growing up as a menopausal teenager, I received little to no support, and when I first approached my doctor with anxiety as a symptom, he tried to prescribe me antidepressants.

However, after more gruelling tests it soon became apparent that it was in fact my hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that needed altering.

I grew up questioning who I was, and how menopause coupled with infertility and anxiety was going to impact my future.

If there was more research invested in women’s health then I wouldn’t have grown up questioning if maybe I just wasn’t meant to be a mother.

Annabelle. Amanda and George Gauntlett.
Annabelle. Amanda and George Gauntlett.

I wouldn't have been diagnosed too late to freeze my eggs, leaving me unable to have a biological child.

I wouldn’t have been humiliated at my art show because of the lack of education. But, having said that, I also wouldn’t be me.

Menopause is a taboo topic for all ages. It’s a condition that shouldn’t be seen as something to be ashamed of.

I was once isolated from my peers because of my diagnosis, but it isn’t until we share our stories that we are no longer alone.

Girls need to be taught about the importance of their menstrual cycle, and the complications that can come with missing periods.

Menopause doesn't need to be an isolating place, but if ignored then its symptoms can take over which is why we need to talk about it.

I’d love to hear your story, whether you’re navigating your own menopause journey or a medical professional trying to make a difference. To get involved in the Menopause & Me conversation, email me: annabelle.gauntlett@hnmedia.co.uk

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