Jane Pangbourne describes herself as a ‘Peri-Menopause Pragmatist’ and has worked in the personal growth space for over 30 years. A fully qualified chef, nutritionist, adult trainer/assessor, business owner…and entre-preneur, she has worn many hats in her career journey to date; but what links each role is the desire to help, and to foster change.
We loved listening to her reflections on her own menopause journey and discussing her drive to support women with actionable insight through midlife. We know you’ll enjoy the conversation too.
With love, the MPowder team.
First, tell us a little bit about you. What motivated you to start Menopausal Not Mad?
I started on the back foot in my peri menopause with little information about what to expect. Now at 53, I’m post-menopausal, with an under-active thyroid and a dodgy digestion so, although my hormones are balanced now, I certainly know how my clients feel! There were a chequered selection of roles and careers that led me to where I am today; but what united them all was a desire to help.
I began my working life in Front of House and Customer Service roles which grew into management and development roles. Realising that I like to make a difference; I used my entrepreneurial flair to start a number of businesses over the years. All of which centred on helping others.
I made a dramatic shift on the back of an upsetting phone call at work within my successful training business training long-term unemployed people to move back into work. It was a challenging job with many of my clients requiring a lot of pastoral support but that was the best part for me!
I clearly remember the final straw phone call with a company who were using my services. They were shouting and blaming me for things that were not even within my area of responsibility. I was stressed, red in the face and very upset. I put the phone down and remember saying out loud (to myself) “Enough now. That’s it!” and I closed the company that day.
It was a wakeup call. I suddenly realised, despite its success and potential, the company didn’t meet my own pastoral needs, so, after making sure my staff and clients were given what they needed to progress, I walked away and took some down time. I worked out what I enjoy and what I’m good at. I kind of reinvented myself, but looking back at that time, so much of what I learned, was always there but I had ignored my own needs and areas of skill along the way.
My route to supporting women through menopause grew as I started my own menopause transition. I was around 39 when I became peri menopausal. I knew I didn’t feel right, so over the next few years, I took stock and decided I wanted to work on the things that mattered most to me, including things I was passionate about such as being authentic and improving self-esteem.
I’ve always loved medical information and I’m a totally practical being, so it was actually very natural to focus in on the medical side of the peri and post menopause phase.
Today my focus is very much on HRT and I am proud to be considered a (non- clinical) menopause and HRT spe-cialist within my community, which includes a large support group and my own HRT and hormone help group.
I inform and guide women though their menopause questions and challenges which most often involves HRT as part of the solution, but it also includes those who choose not to take HRT. I am a massive HRT advocate, but I also promote making healthy life and nutrition changes to help that hard-working HRT. My role is to be well informed, to know the facts…and to research and dispel the myths, so I’m able to present women with the truth then they can make informed decisions.
My life today is a reflection of what happened to me. I’m a pragmatic and solutions-focused person with no reason to lie to my clients. I just want them to be well! My clients receive a blend of information about HRT and support with nutrition and complementary treatments. I start by exploring their health history and symptoms then look at what they’ve tried so far.
The name of my business (Menopausal Not Mad), is also a reflection of my own experience of menopause. I really struggled and I didn’t know why I was struggling. I’m a solution finder and I get things done so I’m used to cop-ing. (many of my clients would say the same about themselves!), so I just ploughed on, but the symptoms piled on too. I felt quite manic. I would go from calm and serene to totally furious! I could hear myself talking and know I was being irrational but had no way of stopping myself! and it’s this ‘madness’ that so many women talk about - that sense of ‘not being themselves’.
What are the most common symptoms you see in the women you support in midlife?
Anxiety is often the symptom that finally brings women to my virtual door. Anxiety can take many forms, but it’s very different to clinical depression. Feeling low and angry with erratic moods; many women find it difficult to even function and feel they are losing their minds.
They’ll often have been prescribed anti-depressants - and they’re still anxious… so that wasn’t the answer!
Sometimes they’ll come to me not knowing what the issue is. They’ll say “I saw you posted something about vaginal dryness…I had no idea that was linked to menopause”
It’s heart-breaking. We’re told this is ‘normal’ and we should just put up with it. I had a client recently, in her 50s, who was still being told by the doctor that she was too young to be menopausal. (now that’s ridiculous!)
How has midlife influenced your outlook towards work and life?
I’ve learned what makes me happy;
It took until my 40s to stop listening to what others thought I should be and what I should be doing. It’s so im-portant to recognise what motivates you. It’s something all of us should reassess every couple of years.
I’ve tried doing it with my own now adult children too. They’re not doing anything other than what they want to do. And I like that.
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
The conversation about menopause is growing. There are some amazing people out there raising the profile of this life stage. We’re seeing changes in legislation and younger women and many men are now more knowledgeable about the impact of misunderstood symptoms and long-term health challenges; but with growth come fractures.
I think men need to be a bigger part of the conversation and we need to be careful of purely listening to celebrity stories and those who are just looking to make a quick profit from our vulnerability. I’m wary of the motivation behind some of the higher profile ‘revelations’ although some have been amazing at bringing the topics to public view.
I want to continue delivering quality. I don’t want the support I give to fall over just because I am too busy to look at the admin detail. I fund all my website, app, resources and research myself so need to be mindful of costs, but I do want to increase the support I have and I’m close to adding more.
I’ve developed a short course aimed at all women that tells them everything they need to know to get started on managing their menopause - from HRT to supplements, nutrition and how to talk to the doctor.
I’m also writing an e-book and my app is out after a few tweaks as we speak! .
What do you wish your younger self had known about?
Life: It’s ok to be yourself! For me I had to learn that being sociable and talkative isn’t a negative and not everyone will like you. That’s ok
Love: Never settle for second best (friends or lovers). It’s worth the wait when you find the people who matter and if you don’t find that one love, you’re better off fully embracing being with you and your true cheerleaders
Health: I wish I’d known about the menopause! But other than that, I wish I’d known that it’s ok to talk about vaginas and intimate health. I suffered with a variety of gynaecological and bladder problems in my youth (and still do!) but that wasn’t something we could discuss in the 70’s and 80’s!
Work: Aim for what makes you happy but if you need to do other work as well then, it’s worth it get to where you want to be. Only work with people who have your back and admire your work. If you settle for less than this, you’ll always feel less than your best.
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
My key piece of advice is not to panic and stress. That panic and stress will only exacerbate symptoms. Anxiety breeds anxiety. Most of what you’re feeling can be sorted.
Finding a community that works for you is really important. There are a lot of very different support groups and individuals out there, and the communities sometimes overlap. Some communities focus on stories and venting and others on promoting products to solve your challenges. My community is a positive space to discuss challenges with a view to finding a solution.
My final piece of advice would be ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes.
There is a place for releasing frustration and grief, but you then have to act. It is so important for women to know that they have the power and responsibility for their health. Empowering women is the core of what I do. There is no point blaming doctors for not knowing what to do. We have to lead! Turn up with the information, make it clear what you know and ask for what you need.
I want my clients to leave my sessions feeling in control and ready to get on with life.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
People rarely believe me when I say I’m naturally an anxious person, but that hasn’t stopped me. Knowledge is power and knowing there’s a way to feel better is halfway to actually being better.
Menopause is a constantly changing ‘phase’. It isn’t one thing, one symptom, or one point in time; so, being adaptable is key. Accept that regimes and habits will need to change over time and that life itself is a con-stant reassessment. Recognising that there are many positives attached to this life-stage can be very empowering in itself. What’s the point in wasting energy resisting getting old? It’s a privilege to reach old age.
I don’t want to be young again. I don’t miss the trauma of youth, and I don’t want my periods back! Enjoy who you are today.
The menopause course can be found here
The App is available on the App store or android – just search for Menopausal Not Mad
Her free HRT support group is here