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Welcome to the Lotus blog! The thoughts shared on this page are personal to me unless stated otherwise. I'm not a medical expert but am simply sharing my own experience with you. I respect that everybody's views and opinions are unique to themselves and the purpose of this blog is to help visitors feel more comfortable with posting. Although it's my contribution, my perspective, I hope it will be relatable to others. I feel it's a vital part of this site as it puts a face and name to The Lotus Network, together with my story regarding infertility so that you, the reader, will know this isn't just another generic website. It is my hope that through reading my blog and participating in the forum, like minded individuals might find comfort, strength and support regarding the sensitive subject of infertility.

-Nia Fisher, founder of The Lotus Network.

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1- Scratching The Surface.

Hello......it's tricky to know where to start with my first blog here on The Lotus Network. As the title suggests, I really will be just scratching the surface of what is an incredibly complex issue. This website is my attempt to open the channels of communication for anyone who wants to share their experiences or thoughts on infertility.

I was 35 when I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure (P.O.F), more commonly known as Premature Menopause. I am childless and was single at the time of diagnosis, I only mention this because it adds a whole other dynamic to the situation. I can only imagine the stress that news of infertility places on a relationship but processing it on your own, having the dialogue with yourself presents its own challenges. If like myself you are lucky enough to have friends and family that love and care for you, unless they have experienced this loss themselves, I know you'll understand when I say that, regardless of that support network, I still felt isolated, very much alone with my thoughts and feelings.

What is it that defines a woman? We see an image, how she is built anatomically but when you strip everything away and go back to basics isn't it all about reproduction? A woman can bear a child, a man cannot (although I welcome any men who are concerned about infertility to join this site). I believe this knowing is within all of us, young and old whether we articulate it or not. I respect those who choose not to have children but if conceiving is something you have always instinctively wanted and desired, then the news that you are unable to hits right to the core of what makes you a woman. When I received this devastating diagnosis it charted a course of self discovery for me. I wasn't sure who I was any more. I felt like I had lost the essence of my sexuality, was I less of a woman now?

MON. 12th APRIL 2010

It is hard not to feel you have changed on an almost cellular level when every day that diagnosis is with you, initially at the forefront of your mind and as time passes, sitting on the sidelines of your consciousness. I am mindful that the grass isn't always greener, there is someone, somewhere right now who knows tragedy on a scale that I can't possibly fathom. However, I've learned it's about allowing yourself to say " It's not o.k that this has happened to me" and to feel the vast array of emotions that will inevitably engulf you. Grief is unique to each individual, it's not for anyone to say how you should process or move through it but in my experience you can't shut it out. It will just set up camp somewhere nearby, letting you know from time to time that it's still there until you open the door and let it in. I was afraid to do that for a while, what if it never left, what if it was all consuming, bigger than I'd imagined? Would I surface again? If you are reading this and can relate on some level, (or maybe you know someone else who probably can) then just know you are not alone. Ultimately that is what this website is for, to help people connect and find support.

The Lotus Network started as a small group on Facebook, created by myself back in 2011, just over a year after my diagnosis. The initial response was quite overwhelming and it was clear to me that women especially want to talk and express their opinions and concerns. The only downfall was that it was hard to reach a wider audience and I'd always hoped that one day I'd have the courage to set up a website like this. If those humble beginnings showed me anything, it's that through sharing we are more powerful and more useful to others than we realise.
'The lotus grows through the dark muddy water to blossom into a beautiful flower-a symbol of transformation and new beginnings'.....this passage was printed on a card, given to me on my 36th birthday with a silver pendant bearing the lotus flower. Those words inspired the name of the group and subsequently the name of this website. I loved the symbolism, sometimes our selves can feel submerged in muddy water but ever present is our ability to blossom and transform!

There are many issues that emerge from the subject of P.O.F alone, a few of which I've touched upon in this first entry. As I continue to share my journey with you, I will endeavour to tackle these in more detail and I hope from these posts, many other discussions will form.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope you'll register for free, post any comments or questions you may have for me below and continue the dialogue with others in the forum on this site.....Love and light to you, Nia x

2- Fast Forward.

As I sat down to write this second blog, it was my intention to start at the beginning of my journey. It's a path I no longer walk alone as I have a lifelong companion who will always be with me, yep, good old Premature Menopause! I almost feel I should give it another name, Rodney? Archibald? I don't know why I am drawn to the masculine, maybe it's because everything about this condition has felt so anti-feminine to me! Anyway, it's a silly notion so for the time being, it will remain P.O.F (Premature Ovarian Failure). What's surprising is that, to start at the beginning, I am actually going to skip straight to the here and now.

I could never have predicted how setting up this site and putting my thoughts down in words would have impacted me so profoundly. It turns out, in an attempt to help others, I have in fact helped myself. I touched upon the subject of grief in my first blog 'Scratching The Surface', likening it to an unwanted guest who 'will just set up camp somewhere nearby, letting you know from time to time that it's still there until you open the door and let it in'. I honestly thought I had done exactly that, let it in, but these past few weeks have shown me that it barely made it past the front door. I have been spending time reading old journals, revisiting memories and the enormity of my diagnosis has hit be all over again. It didn't come at me with one big slap round the face though, instead it just chipped away at me, my heart rate became heightened regardless of what I was doing, I felt increasingly anxious and on edge, started losing weight and before long realised that my body was trying to tell me something. It was telling me to stop, to acknowledge why I was feeling this way. How could this be possible though? I was diagnosed over four years ago now, I honestly felt like I had dealt with it as best I could and I'm certainly not in denial. I can clearly recall how the first year after the bombshell was dropped was a time of extreme sadness for me. If I had been faking it though, pretending I was doing o.k to others around me when in fact the opposite was true, then had I actually been fooling myself too? It's really hard to see the fine line between pretending to be alright and genuinely coping, after all, isn't it enough to get up each day and continue on with life regardless of how you do it? It has made me question myself, if I'd been masquerading as someone able to cope had I actually failed myself in some way? A good friend pointed out to me that it is normal to put on a brave face, to act our way through certain challenges that life throws at us. If we didn't do that, there are times in our lives when it would be impossible to get out of bed in the morning. In other words, it's fight or flight, sink or swim! I had done my best at the time to accept and live with a diagnosis that had pulled the rug from under my feet and turned my world upside down. The news that I was infertile came completely out the blue and that's the thing with extreme shock, it impacts you in such a way that you instinctively protect yourself. I built invisible walls around me, so high and so deep that it is only now I have discovered that I need some help in learning how to break them down.

My grief is visible now (to a select few) unlike back in 2010 when i pushed it way down and held it in. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I have found a doctor at my local surgery who is kind and sensitive. He signed me off work for a week whilst i was in the throws of anxiety and referred me onwards to get some help. I'm learning to be kind to myself, to forgive myself for not having lived an authentic life for the past four years. All the baby showers, children's birthday parties and social gatherings I have been to where I have not been emotionally present have all impacted me and those suppressed emotions have buried themselves in my psyche. This doesn't make me a terrible person, I haven't intentionally been cheating my friends and family out of having the real me, wholly present. I was simply continuing with life the only way I knew how but, as of a few weeks ago the sadness and grief have stepped in to the hallway and instead of pushing them out, I have pulled up some chairs and invited them to stay. Once the floodgates opened, for the best part of a month it seemed the tears wouldn't stop. I know that this is the right time for me to face my demons, to challenge the ways in which P.O.F has affected how I feel and how I conduct myself in everyday life. It is scary and daunting but i'm hopeful that as time passes and I finally receive some counselling, my houseguests will make themselves scarce. Maybe I'll see them occasionally but they won't be camped right outside my door anymore!

Before I continued with these blogs, I just wanted you to know where I'm at right now. There is no quick fix for dealing with the diagnosis of Premature Menopause and I feel it is valuable for others to know that healing and true acceptance will come to fruition in their own time. It all boils down to when we feel ready to expose ourselves to the depths of our feelings and for me, that time wasn't a conscious choice but one that naturally evolved. Being open about my journey is the best way I can think might hopefully serve others. In return, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, you the reader are actually helping me too!..........Nia x
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3- Sweats In The City.

In late April 2009 the World Health Organisation declared its first ever "public health emergency of international concern" in relation to the informally named 'Swine Flu' outbreak (later declared a pandemic). I remember travelling to work on the London Underground every day and seeing an increasing number of people wearing surgical face masks, there was definitely an underlying sense of fear and panic. It was rather inconvenient, not to mention embarrassing, that right around that time I started experiencing bouts of sweating on a scale I'd never known before. I have always been warm blooded but these unpredictable episodes completely threw me. I became adept at knowing exactly where to wait on the platform so that when the tube arrived, I could take pole position next to the adjoining carriage door and pull the window down. After this had happened a few times I dressed accordingly, no not in a bikini but rather numerous thin layers (no man made fibres!) so that I could de-robe quickly if I needed to. People would look suspiciously at me and I just knew they thought I must be sick.......Swine Flu!!!!! These were hot flashes I was having, one of the more obvious symptoms associated with Menopause.

'Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, but can also be affected by lifestyle and medications. A diminished level of oestrogen has a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling your appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature. Somehow (we don't know how), the drop in oestrogen confuses the hypothalamus — which is sometimes referred to as the body's "thermostat" — and makes it read "too hot."

The brain responds to this report by broadcasting an all-out alert to the heart, blood vessels, and nervous system: "Get rid of the heat!" The message is transmitted by the nervous system's chemical messenger, epinephrine, and related compounds: norepinephrine, prostaglandin, serotonin. The message is delivered instantly. Your heart pumps faster, the blood vessels in your skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and your sweat glands release sweat to cool you off even more.

This heat-releasing mechanism is how your body keeps you from overheating in the summer, but when the process is triggered instead by a drop in oestrogen, your brain's confused response can make you very uncomfortable. Some women's skin temperature can rise six degrees Centigrade during a hot flash. Your body cools down when it shouldn't, and you are miserable: soaking wet in the middle of a board meeting or in the middle of a good night's sleep.'
Source- www.breastcancer.org

FRI.29th MAY 2009

The night sweats were unbearable! I took to keeping a water spray bottle by the bed and I would douse myself and the sheet I was laying on, then switch on the fan and point it directly at me. The initial relief was bliss but then of course when your body temperature changes so dramatically and the flash passes, then the covers need to go back on as you get cold. Asleep, awake, covers on, covers off and so on and so on! Bizarrely though, as I look back, I am grateful for these flashes as they were the main reason that I went to see my doctor. Although I had skipped a couple of periods which was most unlike me (plus there was zero chance of being pregnant) I had attributed that to stress but the flashes were unexplainable and unnerving. My journal entries at that time followed a definite pattern of feeling teary, low moods and raging hormones. Finally, ten weeks past when my period was due I went to see my doctor. He said it was unlikely to be menopause because of my age but thank goodness he did refer me to the hospital for blood tests just to see if a cause could be determined. It took just under two weeks to get the results and as I was away visiting family at the time, my mind restless and preoccupied, I decided to speak to the doctor over the phone.

FRI.14th AUGUST '09

You'd think that the mention of menopause would have seemed completely ridiculous to me but I wasn't surprised. Although my mother experienced it in her fifties so as far as I knew it wasn't hereditary, somewhere in the recesses of my mind it had been lurking. Put it this way, I didn't find myself instinctively fighting the possibility. Then began the waiting game, the hospital appointments, the further blood tests, the numerous scenarios that were playing themselves out in my head, it was all consuming.

Meanwhile, my best friend was pregnant for the first time. I have to point out here that the term 'best friend' really doesn't do her or our relationship justice. She is like another part of me, a sister, a soul-mate and we have been in each other's lives since we met at college back in 1990.

TUES.18th AUGUST '09

The latter part of that journal entry might seem strange to some people. I just always felt that giving birth, nurturing and raising another human being was something I was destined to do. With the risk of contradicting myself, having entertained the possibility of an early menopause it's worth mentioning that I never imagined it would actually be the outcome! I was encouraged when my period made a reappearance months after it had vanished...

-The following day.....

February 2010 brought with it the news that I was experiencing premature menopause, however there was still a teeny glimmer of hope as far as freezing some eggs.

'Premature menopause is not to be confused with perimenopause. Perimenopause lasts several years on either side of your last menstrual period. Vague symptoms you may not have connected may become significant when viewed as part of perimenopause. It is during this time that you notice the most physical changes, when your periods may become irregular and hot flushes and night sweats may start. During this stage you are still fertile and may conceive although the chances of getting pregnant are often negligible. Perimenopause is the time during which your ovarian hormones start to change and your egg production is significantly reduced. One of the key indicators of this change is the rise of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone levels.'
Source- www.daisynetwork.org.uk

I was about to turn 36 in a few weeks, I had been single for a long time and although I would occasionally ponder the subject of harvesting eggs, there was a bigger part of me that believed it wasn't necessary. There was one final blood test that I could have (**AMH), it wasn't available on the NHS (National Health Service) but I didn't hesitate for a second to pay the money if it meant I could gain more information about what my body was going through.

On March 4th Claire gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Holding her for the first time was so bitter sweet that it's hard to know how to articulate it. A moment so beautiful, so precious yet tinged with sadness. This was a difficult time for my friend too, she was sensitive to how I must've been feeling and amidst her array of emotions, she felt guilty. I'll revisit this subject in more detail another time as it's worthy of its own blog!

MON.8th MARCH '10

TUES.23rd MARCH '10

THURS.25th MARCH '10

To be continued.........

*FSH Follicle-stimulating hormone
This one definitely does what it says on the tin! It stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles and is used to help encourage the growth of eggs in women and sperm in men. FSH levels rise when your ovaries stop producing enough oestrogen (however it is normal for FSH levels to fluctuate slightly throughout your menstrual cycle). I never appreciated that once you enter the world of menopause, your periods don't just stop permanently over night. Numerous tests may be taken to get an average reading. To summarise in very basic terms, a normal FSH level is usually under 10 iu/ml (international units per millilitre of blood), levels above 10-12 indicate that your ovaries are STARTING to fail, an abnormal level is considered anything above 25 and 30+ indicate the ovaries ARE failing. The first reading of mine that I actually saw on paper was from April 2010.....FSH of 104! Since my diagnosis it has peaked at 119 and dipped no lower than 63.1. With such a ridiculously high level right from the start it just baffles me how I never had any idea that my body was going through such a change. Apart from the hot flashes that only lasted for months, not years compared to some women and some absent periods, I know I didn't miss anything that would've prompted me to seek information sooner (even with the power of hindsight!). Feeling low or on edge wasn't enough for me to worry as there was plenty going on in my life at the time to justify feeling more emotional than usual. There are various factors that can determine why Premature Menopause occurs but in my case, the reason remains unknown.

**AMH Anti- Mullerian hormone.
This hormone is produced by the egg follicle that the ovaries grow to prepare an egg for release in to the Fallopian tube. These levels don't change with the menstrual cycle and a blood test determines ovarian reserve, telling you if your ovaries are still releasing eggs and indicating the quality of those eggs. The higher the level, the better (your level naturally decreases with age). A normal reading would be 1.5-4.0 ng/ml (nano grams per millilitre), low/normal 1.0-1.5. My results showed a level of 0.65.

It is imperative I state here that whilst researching these figures, I found slight variations online as far as 'normal' hormone levels are concerned. I must also mention that there are many ovarian hormones and I could list numerous other tests and results I received. I have mentioned the two above as they are key factors in the diagnosis of P.O.F.

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4- Grieving The Loss.

'Tangible'- adj.
1- Perceptible by touch.
2-Real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary.
1-Oxford English Dictionary

How do you grieve the loss of something that isn't tangible? It's a strange concept and not one that I'd had any experience with prior to discovering I was infertile. I have lost loved ones over the years, my first real encounter with death was the passing of my Grandad when I was ten years of age. I was only six months old when he came to live with my family and we had a special and unique relationship. He was of a generation that treated boys like men, who silently commanded your respect. Being a girl, the first on his side of the family for 81 years, i somehow managed to penetrate that tough exterior of his.

Birth and death are the only guarantees in life, everything in between is an ocean, a constant ebb and flow. Sometimes we find ourselves struggling against the current fighting to keep our heads above the water, or we drift along peacefully until it's time to ride the waves as they rise and inevitably fall again. The death of something that isn't tangible was unchartered territory for me and I wasn't sure exactly how to process it. In one fleeting moment I lost so much and felt like I was drowning. I lost a choice that I once had, a dream of seeing myself reflected in a little person, an ideal of how I thought my life would be, the opportunity to bear a child and have that beautiful shared experience with my mother. I read another woman's account of this in a book and she articulated it simply as grieving the loss of her dream baby. Those words stayed with me and are why I've chosen to include this blog at this particular time.

Each year the 9th-15th of October is Baby Loss Awareness Week where people all over the world honour the lives that have been lost, be it during pregnancy, at, during or after birth. I cannot even begin to imagine that kind of grief, that all consuming pain and my thoughts go out to those women and families everywhere whose precious little ones have passed. I discovered just the other day that October is also World Menopause Month. There isn't any specific date to mark the loss of a dream child though, that would seem ridiculous to many I'm sure. It's interesting that just a few months ago when I was having what I can only term as a mini-breakdown (see blog 2- 'Fast Forward') my best friend Claire suggested to me that I choose a date that can be an anniversary of my diagnosis. A date when I can honour what has happened to me, to remember it with love and kindness and let myself feel whatever I choose to feel at that time. This seems like such a positive thing to do as brushing it under the carpet or trying not to think about it really doesn't serve me in a positive way. It can be a time to do whatever I want, be on my own or be with friends and family. A day to celebrate the life I am blessed with, toasting whatever the future may hold and yes, to grieve all over again if need be.

I imagine it must be hard for close friends and family of those affected by P.O.F to understand this kind of loss and the period of mourning that follows it, whether or not it is visible to them. Of course there are other options available as far as having a child but the mere suggestion of these is not an automatic escape route from the hole a prematurely menopausal woman may find herself in. During the first year, and even now, four and a half years since my diagnosis, the suggestion of adoption or egg donation is of little comfort to me. That must sound confusing to some but for me, the reality of my infertility is about so much more than just the inability to conceive. If I could offer any advice that may help if you're reading this and are suffering, it would be to be patient, be gentle with yourself. You don't have to put a time frame on the process of grieving, as I wrote in my second blog, 'There is no quick fix for dealing with the diagnosis of Premature Menopause and I feel it is valuable for others to know that healing and true acceptance will come to fruition in their own time'. The most important thing for me is to truly be at peace with myself.....only then will I feel ready to embrace other possibilities.
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5- Knowledge Is Power.

(Continued from Blog 3-'Sweats In The City').

TUES.13th APRIL '10.

This was the day I saw the specialist at the hospital to discuss options and hormone replacement therapy. I was led to believe by the endocrinologist (a pleasant lady who I wish I'd had more contact with) that my results would be explained in more detail. Although I appreciate the quick turnaround of patients and how busy doctors are, I foolishly thought he'd have read my notes before I entered the room. The irony that the consultation room was in the outpatients maternity unit of the hospital was definitely not lost on me. I think I actually laughed out loud when I sat down to wait and looked at all the pregnant women and babies around me. Needless to say it wasn't a joyful laugh but one of disbelief!

As it happened I found myself having to explain my situation to date which, considering it was all so fresh and raw, proved quite challenging for me. I'd barely had time to even start to process my diagnosis, let alone describe it in detail. In hindsight I should have taken someone with me to the appointment, I would recommend others to do this. What I still don't understand to this day is how matter of fact and blasé the specialist was, as if we were discussing a common cold! It's not about wanting sympathy but a woman who has recently discovered she is infertile should surely be treated with a certain amount of compassion. *The fact that I thought maybe there was a pill I could take to jump start my ovaries again, that maybe HRT does this, speaks volumes as to how little was explained. I left the hospital that day none the wiser as to what it all meant, all I knew was that it felt as if the bottom had dropped out of my world and I was left swinging, helpless and lost.

It never ceases to amaze me how certain people come in to your life just when you need them, as if it's divine timing! I am forever grateful that at the time I was working with a lovely lady who, after I had confided in her, paid for me to see a specialist she knew privately. Her generosity, not just in the obvious sense, but of spirit completely blew me away. I had an appointment on Harley Street in London where I spent half an hour with someone who went through my blood tests with a fine tooth comb and explained what all the different abbreviations and numbers meant. This man looked me in the eye and acknowledged how difficult a time it must've been for me. That in itself meant more than I could possibly express. **He was surprised I hadn't had a pelvic scan just to make sure everything looked o.k should I ever wish to conceive using a donor egg in the future, just another pro-active measure that I was clueless about because it had never been mentioned before. (As I look back I wonder if this was because when the hospital specialist asked if I was intending to try to get pregnant, I explained that I was single and it wasn't something I was contemplating at that time. On my speaking those words there was a perceptible shift in his demeanour, I guess I was no longer someone who needed immediate help and so the conversation returned swiftly to HRT). I left the private appointment knowing that I couldn't change the outcome of my diagnosis but educated as to why HRT is vital for a woman of my age.....nothing to do with reversing the menopause! Immediately following that meeting I went a few doors down Harley Street and had a pelvic scan which revealed that everything looked pretty good. This is just another example of knowing your body better, it may not have been necessary at that time but in light of the situation I was in, I didn't want to have any more surprises sprung on me at a later date should I ever choose to try and conceive with a donor egg.

There are some things that, although quite obvious now, I wish I had done differently. I wish I had accepted the offer of company, not just on that first occasion with the specialist but every time I went to the hospital or doctor, at least for the first year. I'm quite a proud and private person, I worry that if I rely on anyone else it'll mean I'm less able to cope on my own. I also know that I tend to suppress my own emotions in order to protect those around me and I wanted to face everything head on, in my own way. As it turned out though, I wasn't really coping very well alone so in hindsight I should've let my guard down and accepted help and support. The second thing would've been to write down the information that i was given. I had taken a list of questions with me to that first meeting but ended up thrown in the consulting room by the specialist's demeanour, an exchange that I was hoping would empower and educate me felt more like an outer body experience!

I never saw Premature Menopause coming, never imagined it would happen to me. As time passed by I started thinking more and more about how women can know their bodies better. Looking online I found home FSH testing kits (see Blog 3 'Sweats In The City' for more information about this hormone). It occurred to me that if you are a single female in your thirties and want to have a family but aren't with a significant other (and don't want to go it alone) then how do you know if everything is 'working' o.k so to speak? I quizzed my G.P about this a couple of years ago. Can a woman request to have blood tests? If she took a home testing kit and the results gave her cause for concern, would this be enough for the doctor to follow up on? The answer was "No", I was told you have to have been trying to conceive for a couple of years with no success before that becomes an option. Great then, what use is that to someone who is single? How does that help the woman who refuses to settle in a relationship for the sake of (hopefully) getting pregnant, instead choosing to wait until they find someone they can picture having a future with? I don't know if you can request to have these tests if you have private medical and it would be interesting to know if this is in fact possible.

I will stay on HRT now until I am in my early fifties when Menopause would usually occur. It is important that my body's oestrogen levels are 'normal' as this is vital to help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones leading to an increased risk of fracture or break. I have a DEXA bone scan every two years and so far so good! I've been fortunate that the first type of HRT I tried seemed to work well for me, it would appear some women have to persevere with different forms before they find the right one. The biggest difference it made for me personally was that it helped lift the very dark mood I was in. It's impossible to know to what extent hormone levels were responsible for that mood and how much was the effect of the diagnosis but either way I am grateful for those pills! The lifting of that cloud didn't mean I felt particularly 'happy' but it enabled me to function, to be able to start trying to move through each day without what felt like a blanket wrapped around my head. I'm going to visit the subject of counselling in a later blog, I'd rather call it healing really as I think that counsel reveals itself to everyone differently. It may be talking face to face with a therapist, it may come to you from the pages of a journal or it may speak to you through the sounds, sights and smells of nature. Through any type of challenge that life throws at us, amidst any period of darkness I believe it is imperative to find some positive measure that helps to ease the struggle.

NB: www.daisynetwork.org.uk a site dedicated to Premature Menopause was a good source of information that helped clarify some details for me during those early months when I was searching for answers! More recently, 'The Premature Menopause Book' by Kathryn Petras was recommended to me. This book covers everything you can think of when it comes to this subject and is written by someone who herself has been through it! From symptoms, various ways to manage your hormones to dealing with the emotional realities of this condition. For reasons I'm not entirely sure of, I chose not to bury my head in research during the first few years but had I known about this book, well, I think it would've helped!

To be continued.........

6- The World Still Turns...

Christmas is upon us once again, it always manages to creep up on me every year and take me by surprise. As time goes by this process seems to become accelerated, the older I get, the faster the months speed by. For me it has always been a time of nostalgia, of reflection and even in the happiest of surroundings I'll have a moment or two where I feel melancholy. This isn't a recent development, I don't even consider it a negative, it always passes and is balanced by the joy and love I feel amongst family. However, since my diagnosis of P.O.F I'm ashamed to admit I have struggled somewhat at this festive time. It's as if my senses have become heightened, I'm achingly aware of families with children who seem to multiply en masse the same way couples do on Valentines Day. The first two Christmases were the hardest and I felt incredibly guilty for feeling so sad when I knew that I had, and still have so much to be thankful for. I can only describe this as a kind of tug-of-war that my conscience is participating in, striving to let go and just own how I feel without judging myself.

I have a tendency to internalise pain/sorrow/angst, not to blow my own trumpet but I'm really rather good at it. However, I take no pride in this, it's kind of like the emotional equivalent of trapped wind and there's a very good reason for the saying 'Better out than in!'. When faced with a situation that requires me to express myself and speak what are for me hard truths, well, I'd rather head in the opposite direction! I can only assume this is to avoid making the potential recipient feel uncomfortable and if I'm honest, myself in the process. Plus there is always the chance that I'll be 'seen' differently, at least that's how it feels whether it's rational or not! The problem with this is it means I'm the one who continues to carry around my unspoken feelings, wearing them like layers of clothing and sooner or later they begin to weigh me down. Although this can apply to a variety of subjects or issues, in this blog I'm speaking specifically about how I cope when faced with any number of challenging moments that remind me of my diagnosis. For example, hearing that another friend is pregnant (always bitter sweet as I'd never wish infertility on anyone else and yet it makes me feel both happy and sad in equal measure), invitations to baby showers or children's parties (I touched on this briefly in my 2nd blog 'Fast Forward') or even just your regular social gathering...scenarios that happen time and time again as is expected. At times it's simply a case of wanting to say "I'm struggling today so excuse me if I seem distant". It's a dilemma, on the one hand I don't want to go around baring my soul or giving away too much detail and yet, there is part of me that is desperate to just be honest. The thought of not wearing a brave face 24/7, of having the guts to decline an invitation because it's just too much to face....well, that would be a relief.

I have nothing but love and respect for my parents, they did, and continue to do an incredible job in guiding and nurturing me although the dynamic has changed as we have all aged and evolved as individuals. When you're a child it's easy to forget that your parents were ever young themselves, we only know them as 'mum' and 'dad' but they weren't born in to those roles. They've had to learn and adapt, following their gut instinct as they raise a family, praying that the choices they make are the 'right' ones. I have two older brothers and growing up we would have what were called 'Family Meetings', a time set aside to discuss any problems or issues in a calm and collected manner. Everyone had their say and everyone was heard. You would wait for these gatherings rather than have spontaneous outbursts of shouting or storming off and stamping up the stairs to your room. Under no circumstances were we ever allowed to slam the doors!!! I reflect on these times with great admiration for my parents, they enabled their children to have a voice whilst managing to keep control of what could've been a household/boiling pot of hormonal angst. I have no doubt that my upbringing helped me to develop as someone who was able to articulate myself, but as an adult, I don't live in a controlled environment outside of my home and it is the spontaneity of expression I struggle with at times. I do feel that I've made progress with this over the past few years, realising that it doesn't do the other person any favours if I skirt around the issue or make excuses for my declining an invitation or for keeping my distance. The biggest hurdle has been deciding when or if I should say anything (a friend of a friend of a friend probably doesn't need to know about my personal trials) and then finding a way to be honest without being blunt or insensitive, after all, it's no-one else's fault that I can't conceive! We choose our battles so to speak but I think it's especially important to try to be open with those closest to us.

My best friend made an interesting observation a few months back, noticing that on more than one occasion at parties or gatherings I would gravitate towards the children as opposed to sitting and conversing with the adults. When she asked me about why I thought I did this I knew the answer immediately. Little people don't concern themselves with whether or not I am single or if I have children of my own. Without consciously making the decision to gravitate towards them, I must've thought it was safer as I wouldn't be asked any personal questions, the odds of which are higher when amongst what inevitably ends up being a group of couples and the occasional single parent with their families in tow. I do realise how ridiculous this all sounds, chances are people have far better things to talk about but it is my own insecurity doing the thinking here! I feel like I have a neon sign in the middle of my forehead saying '40, SINGLE, INFERTILE'. On one occasion when I had assumed the position of bouncy castle monitor at a birthday party (in my defence, there were some gorgeous children present so it was hardly a chore), one of the fathers approached me and asked why anyone would choose to watch children who didn't belong to them? I wanted to shout back "Because not everyone can have children and this is the closest I can get right now!", of course I didn't but simply replied that I enjoyed it, which wasn't a lie. A brief encounter like this can completely throw me and leave me unsettled for the rest of the day. It's at times like this I long for a wing man, a Maverick to my Goose (a little 'Top Gun' reference for anybody else who loves the movie). For anyone reading this who is a single parent, whether or not by choice, or for those who find themselves in unhappy relationships I acknowledge the fact that my projection of being part of a couple may seem idealistic. Although it feels like it at times, I haven't always been single and I know that it isn't happily ever after for everyone! I understand that it's possible to feel even more alone in the wrong relationship than when you're on your own. However, I have also seen with my own eyes the joy and security that comes from two people playing for the same team, singing from the same hymn sheet. Someone who has your back, who can catch your eye across the room and let you know they are there for you. I am part of a wonderful family, small and solid, and am blessed with beautiful friends but they don't bring the same kind of love or comfort as that someone you choose to spend the last waking moment of each day with. It's a different kind of love, a different kind of embrace and this journey I have found myself on since my diagnosis in 2010 has felt all the more challenging without a man in my life to share my thoughts and fears with.

I have been wondering how best to summarise and this is what came to me.......Say what you feel, say it with kindness and give it wings so it can fly. Chances are it'll come back to you like a homing pigeon more than once but keep trying every time you feel your truth bubbling beneath the surface. Keep releasing those emotions instead of wearing them and hopefully one day, as you surrender the words, they'll take flight and emigrate to a far off land never to be felt again, at least not as often. At the end of the day, friends get pregnant, babies are born, people die, Christmases come and go and all the while, the world still turns...

Peace, love and light to you.....x

NB: 1st January.....a couple of weeks later!

Here we are, a new year, a fresh chapter, ours to write and create as we wish. I failed miserably at Christmas with everything I wrote so earnestly about in this blog. My truth was indeed bubbling beneath the surface but I wasn't open with those closest to me and I didn't say anything! I only had one day away from work to celebrate, family had travelled far to share the day with me and although I knew that just half an hour away on my own would've settled me, I couldn't bring myself to express this (I am used to my own company and know that solitude works well when I need to find peace or gather myself). I just didn't want to draw attention to myself in that way or have to explain why I needed some space. It would be wrong to attribute my mood solely to my diagnosis but as I explained earlier, I do struggle at this time of year. So, although I wore my emotions on Christmas day, I am still honouring the deal I've made with myself and will continue to try and release them. It isn't easy, that's what I wanted to add to this blog, if you are struggling then I get it, I understand. We can but try and every time we feel we may have failed, well, I guess it is only another opportunity to know ourselves better. Amidst the pressure I put on myself and the guilt that follows, I must remember to embrace the fact that I am present and aware of my internal battle. For me it's about keeping the faith, safe in the knowledge that I am growing.....

Happy New Year!
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7- Dearest You.....

Last August I wrote myself a letter....I hadn't intended to, it just happened. The launch of The Lotus Network was imminent and I figured that getting some ideas down for future blogs would be a wise thing to do. A few weeks earlier I'd had what i refer to as a mini-breakdown (see Blog 2- Fast Forward) which prompted me to do a lot of 'work' on myself. I had delved into my mind and heart, searching for answers as to why it had taken 4 years for the gravity of my diagnosis to finally hit me, or more to the point, why I had hidden from it and how in doing so, had changed the way I saw myself. I sat down to write with no particular topic in mind.....'Dearest You,' no sooner had I typed this then the rest just flowed and has remained unedited. I wasn't consciously thinking about what I was writing and it's hard to articulate where these words came from. Some would say it's the subconscious, others, the gut or heart, maybe it depends on your particular belief system but for me I feel it's my soul. It's the voice inside me that can only be heard when I quieten my mind and connect with that peaceful place that resides everywhere and nowhere at the same time, within me and around me in equal measure. This voice is the one that is hardest to heed as it usually guides me down the road less travelled but I also know that if I hear and follow it, I will never regret doing so. I am still 'working' on myself and imagine I always will, there are infinite lessons to learn and opportunities constantly present themselves that enable me to evolve if I choose to. Although I have made progress since penning this note, I revisit it from time to time as it brings me comfort whenever I start to doubt myself and my own strength. I'm including it as a Blog, to encourage others to try doing the same, to see themselves from the inside out. Even if you are very much aware of what you're writing, it is still a useful exercise to view yourself as you would a loved one or best friend, after all, many of us treat others with more compassion than we do ourselves. Try it when you have a window of time and see what it is that you have to say to yourself. You may just be surprised, I know I was......

Dearest You,

Life is strange isn't it! You've been on quite a journey these past few years and I hope this finds you well. Actually, that's a stupid thing to say as I know exactly how you are, I see you, I know every single fibre of your being. I know the real you even when you forget who that is and doubt yourself. You should know that I'm so very proud of you as you are still here......still in the game. I understand better than anyone how the news that you are infertile has impacted you but please know that you are perfect and beautiful just as you are. Believing that doesn't make you vain, it honours the miracle of life, the miracle that is you and every human being. Even though it feels as if you have been changed, this diagnosis doesn't define you, remember all the wonderful qualities that you had before, that are still very much in place today.

It makes me feel sad that you consider yourself unworthy of love in the romantic sense, that you are inadequate and less of a woman now. What if I told you that I have seen the future! What if I promised you that you will be loved on a scale unimaginable to you right now, that someone will embrace all of the complex layers that are you! There is a person out there this very second who is waking each day, and unbeknownst to them, their soul is ready to be a candle amidst the darkness of your fears and a prism that will enable your light to reach even further. Can you find it in yourself to believe that this is not only possible but true? Humour me here for a moment.......let's just say you choose to believe me, well, wouldn't that be incredible! Just imagine letting go of the worry about what the future holds, it'd mean you could live in the present, enjoy the beauty of each day, safe in the knowledge that everything is as it should be. Ha, I know what you're thinking right now......"What if I'm just setting myself up for a fall, what if none of this happens and I'm left disappointed, alone and disillusioned with life!". Well, just keep calm and breathe deeply. You don't have to start looking for things or changing who you are, I'm just asking that you let yourself acknowledge this truth and then surrender it up and let it go. I just want you to allow yourself to feel the peace that this knowing will bring. If you trust me and do this, I guarantee, regardless of what happens, your future will be beautiful because as you let go of your fears, each and every moment that you live will be transformed, starting this very second....I hope I can make you see that. Everything will change when you have faith in me and let go. You underestimate what I'm capable of. All that you need, I have, all that you ask me for, I will provide for you in abundance, I am here for you unconditionally. My love knows no ending, it began long before you walked this earth and will continue way beyond your days. When you truly believe in me, you believe in the beauty of today, tomorrow, and most of all, you believe in love, love for yourself. Once you have this.......everything will fall into place and what a ride it will be.....

My love, always......

Your true self xxxx

@DeepakChopra: Your true self is the nameless formless inconceivable reality that gives rise to names, forms & concepts #CosmicConsciousness
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8- A Whispered Message.

This is my favourite time of year. Whether you approach it from an astrological, spiritual or religious angle or if it's just simply an opportunity to give the space you live in a good clean, there's no doubt that it's a time of transition and growth. There is a perceptible shift in the landscape, trees that have stood barren for months blossom before our eyes and the earth seems to breathe again. I love the symbolism of this season, the earth is always alive but it's as if it has been sleeping, gathering strength to face the next phase of its cycle. The same can be said for us, even when we feel as if the colour has drained from our leaves, that some part of us has died, the core of who we are is constant and ready to spring in to action when we feel ready. There is always an opportunity for regeneration, to rise again and face another day, turning ourselves towards the sun and allowing the light to help us grow.

On reflection, I wonder if it isn't a coincidence that a handful of events I would consider life changing have happened to me in the past around this time. Easter feels more like the turning of a New Year, it's not about resolutions but I find I take a good hard look at myself as I try to let go of negative thoughts, patterns or behaviours and start afresh (maybe it has something to do with being an April baby?). Sometimes, if you have battled with the same issue over and over, which in my case would be a diagnosis I have no control over, the act of surrendering it 'up' can be so powerful. It's not about giving in, it's actually about taking back your power, instead of handing it away every time you chastise yourself or have self deprecating thoughts. I have felt less of a woman for being infertile, not good enough, which in turn has made me feel weak and helpless. Whilst gaining perspective and strength especially over the past year, I have also surrendered up what I cannot change and have prayed for the faith to trust in what will be, who I am now and who I may yet become.

This Easter, no doubt I will be spending some time under a tree. I have always liked the outdoors but had never experienced the healing properties of nature until I went on a spiritual retreat back in 2010 a few months after my diagnosis. I was desperately searching for some peace and thanks to the guidance of a wonderful couple and the programme they ran down in Somerset, I found more than I thought possible. Ever since then, trees have been my fail-safe choice for finding that peace within me. I'll be writing about that experience in more detail in a later blog. For now, I'll leave you with a passage inspired by my time there and suggest one thing to you....

As the days get longer again and the temperature starts to slowly climb, try and take a little time to get outside. Find a quiet spot and take some long, deep breaths (I had forgotten how effective this simple act is)....when I'm still enough I can hear the whispered message of Spring...."It's time to let go, to feel at peace, a time to grow and simply be."

Happy Easter x


'I don't think that we are dissimilar from trees. Our souls, like the roots and the trunk have been here for many many years. Our selves as we exist from day to day are the branches. Although our core is strong, solid and constant we must remember that it is natural to be changed and moved by the elements that are the experiences and challenges of life. No matter how far we feel pushed we have a resilience and a strength. It's about allowing ourselves to bend and move, safe in the knowledge that we are always connected to our roots.........'

Nia-October 2011.

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9- Time Lends A Hand.

'Time doesn't heal, it is more like a sidekick, a partner in crime.....we heal ourselves and time lends a hand.' I wrote this a week ago as I reflected on the past year. I found myself sitting on the same bench as I had 14 months ago, remembering how back then, tears would come without warning, seemingly for no reason and there was a twisted knot in my stomach. That was the beginning of my healing and I realise now, although time has been carrying me on it's wave, I am solely responsible for paddling like crazy to not only keep myself afloat but to move forwards instead of round in circles.

It was a year ago today, September 7th 2014 that I launched The Lotus Network. Although twelve months seem to have passed in the blink of an eye, i find myself so far removed from the emotional place I was in. I am grateful for this and thankful to all of you who have read my blogs, shared links, told your own stories and participated here on this site. It is of little importance how many members it has or how far it reaches, if my words have helped even one person then I am humbled by that. Although I have chosen to express myself because of the curve ball that life threw at me, there are common threads throughout these pages that affect all of us at some point in our lives, they're not exclusive to the subject of infertility. Anxiety, grief, low self esteem to name but a few, are battles most of us face. At various points since my diagnosis of P.O.F I have considered the following to be true......now I am exposing them for the myths that I believe them to be!

Low Self Esteem=Hopeless
Lack of self confidence= Pathetic
Premature Menopause=Broken

It has taken me a few years but I can now say, with total honesty, I BELIEVE THAT.....

Fertility=A blessing.
Infertility=A fork in the road of life.
Low Self Esteem=A mirror, the opportunity to learn more about yourself, to look within and ultimately to grow.
Anxiety=A wake up call.
Lack of self confidence=A challenge, like a personal boot camp to be tackled.
Vulnerability=Allowing yourself to truly be seen by others.
Premature Menopause=To be broken open...the beginning of a new phase in your life.

I've written about my struggle with a few of these in previous blogs and will be covering the issue of vulnerability soon. In the meantime, how do we accept, embrace and even love those parts of us that are dark and complicated? For me it has been a process of acceptance, to first and foremost grasp not just intellectually but emotionally, that these layers, somewhat frayed and dishevelled aren't imperfections. There's no definitive answer to this question as we all make our own stamp on the card of life but I believe the key is to keep searching. Connecting with who we really are, not who we think we should be is vital. There are preconceived ideas we may carry, based on what society or culture may expect and having children is just one of those. However, no expectation actually bears any relevance when it comes to who we truly are, the qualities we possess and the simple fact that each of us is a one-of-a-kind original. My most lucid moments, when the path seems clearest happen when I'm still. My search frequently proves most fruitful when I manage to quieten my noisy brain and in those moments of calm I feel whole. I guess you could say that when I 'do' nothing, EVERYTHING shifts and the greatest results are experienced. There was a time when I looked at myself in the mirror and felt I was fractured, disconnected from my true self. In that moment, the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to feel that way. Changing it, or even attempting to start seemed like an insurmountable, overwhelming task. When I was signed off work by the doctor (see Blog 2- Fast Forward) I was ready to really sit with my grief and get to know it properly. The anxiety that I'd been struggling with leading up to that point was palpable and I couldn't face being around people, be they strangers or friends. Even walking out of my flat was a challenge. This was also the case when I was diagnosed back in 2010 although I had pushed on in an attempt to function 'normally', to cope. Four years later I recognised this feeling and what it really represented, a wake up call! It would have been easy to hide away since the pressure to work was lifted but instead, I chose to put one foot in front of the other. Every night of that week last July I would walk to the home of my best friend where she and her husband would feed me. Sometimes we would talk about me, sometimes I'd watch her as she helped her little girl with school work or as she pottered around doing chores. My spirit felt broken and even though I knew I was standing on the precipice of change, I didn't know how to step off. Nothing about this time felt safe but still I knew I wanted to face it head on. The first thing I had to do was stop fighting with the avalanche of thoughts in my head and so I started to read. I read quotes, passages and books by authors that inspired me, just longing for that one sentence that would resonate and make me sit up that little bit straighter. The catalyst for this thirst to reconnect came as I watched Oprah's Masterclass with Jane Fonda. She spoke about weight training, how in order to make our muscles stronger, first we have to tear them and break them down*. She likened that to the human spirit, how when we feel like we are at our lowest ebb, when we are torn and bleeding there is the opportunity to heal, stronger than we were before. I wish I could quote her word for word but needless to say, this analogy provided a lightbulb moment for me. There's a gut instinct when faced with emotional pain to push it way down, hold our heads high and forge on. If we do that, where does the pain go? It doesn't just disappear and I wholly subscribe to the theory that our bodies will harbour that angst and store it away. One very special lady, Natalia, a spiritual healer and friend recommended a book to me: 'The Places That Scare You' by Pema Chodron, an American Buddist nun. The concept of facing pain, fear or anxiety straight in the eye and getting to know it as opposed to running away isn't one that sits easily. Below is a short extract from this beautiful book:

'As human beings we are as impermanent as everything else is. Every cell in the body is continuously changing. Thoughts and emotions rise and fall away unceasingly. When we're thinking that we're competent or that we're hopeless - what are we basing it on? On this fleeting moment? On yesterday's success or failure? We cling to a fixed idea of who we are and it cripples us. Nothing and no one is fixed. Whether the reality of change is a source of freedom for us or a source of horrific anxiety makes a significant difference. Do the days of our lives add up to further suffering or to increased capacity for joy? That's an important question.'

As always, I am hugely appreciative to you, the reader and I will continue to share my perspective in the hope of helping others. I shall leave you with a quote from the beautiful poem 'Desiderata' by Max Ehrmann.

'You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.'

Love and light....Nia x

*Lifting weights and performing other strenuous exercise causes microscopic tears and other damage in the tissue of your muscles. Though it might sound like a reason for concern, this damage is actually a key component of muscle development. The DAMAGE that your muscles receive while lifting weights TRIGGERS THE HEALING PROCESS and also prompts the body to try and adapt itself to prevent this type of damage in the future.
Source- www.thenest.com

10- Finding Peace.

It seems a fitting time to post this blog as the 11th-17th of September 2017 marks World Childless Week. I can't even begin to estimate how many men and women across the globe feel a sense of connection to this topic and my heart goes out to all of you! If you've previously found your way to my website www.thelotusnetwork.com and read any of my pieces (thank you by the way), you'll know my story and how I came to be childless. Regardless of why any of us find ourselves in this camp, the numbers are vast and I know each story is unique. No two people will have exactly the same experience, and beyond that, we process and heal in different ways yet there is a common thread that binds us and weeks like this one are vital for bridging the divide, talking about how we feel, not just for those of us who are immediately affected but for those in our world so they might better understand.

I haven't written for quite a while and that in itself has had an impact on me. Blogging about my story, sharing the journey has been, and continues to be, an integral part of my healing. I would recommend it to anyone, to get their thoughts down on paper, regardless of whether others read it. Not only is it hugely cathartic but it also enables you to look back and see how far you have come on those days when maybe your core is feeling a bit shaken. Remember that time is fluid, with each passing second we are changing, I know that I find some comfort in this truth. From browsing the many Twitter sites and blogs online, I sense that most people who are childless not by choice are just searching for some peace, a way to heal. I'm glad there wasn't a magic wand that could do this for me. I wouldn't know myself as well as I do today if I hadn't navigated the rivers of grief, hopelessness, anxiety, isolation.....the list goes on. From the ashes of personal struggle, in whatever form it appears, we are left with a gift. The gift to be able to relate to others, maybe a sense of compassion and empathy that wasn't as acute before. Once we are ready to demolish any barriers we may have built around us, we are forever changed and this doesn't have to be a bad thing. There are stages to go through first though, no short cuts, no study notes! I was diagnosed completely out of the blue in 2010 with Premature Ovarian Failure, but I didn't allow myself to start the grieving process until 4 years later...

2014- "The enormity of my diagnosis has hit me all over again. It didn't come at me with one big slap round the face though, instead it just chipped away at me, my heart rate became heightened regardless of what I was doing. I felt increasingly anxious and on edge, started losing weight and before long realised that my body was trying to tell me something. It was telling me to stop, to acknowledge why I was feeling this way." (Excerpt from Blog 2- 'Fast Forward')

2010 was tarnished with shock and inner turmoil, I was too busy surviving the days to listen to my body, however the one incredible thing I took from that year (apart from the births of my niece and best friend's baby which at the time were tinged with sadness) was my introduction to Mother Nature. Don't get me wrong, I have seen some stunning places, I have looked at nature before and marvelled at its beauty but had never stepped in to it, been immersed completely, at one with it. Just weeks after my diagnosis I already felt like I was flailing, I was struck by how vulnerable I was, how if I'd had no-one in my life I could speak to, no best friend or family, then goodness only knows what I'd have done. To say it was a dark period in my life would be a huge understatement. I didn't have it in me at the time to call my G.P, the tiniest of tasks like phone calls would overwhelm me, I needed someone else to take the reins for a while. The same incredible woman who had referred me to Harley Street (see Blog 5- 'Knowledge Is Power') also pointed me in the direction of a therapist on Great Portland Street in London who specialised in issues like mine. I had never seen a therapist before and although I'm sure they all have different approaches this particular one just wasn't for me. I sat opposite this lady who was pleasant enough and talked. She said very little and as I heard myself filling the pauses in conversation, I realised that I was saying everything I thought I should say. On paper, I must have seemed like I was coping well and was quite together. I'm quite good at that, good at talking the talk when need be. Although I believed everything I was saying on an intellectual level, on an emotional level I wasn't living it, I wasn't practising what I preached, not even slightly. I should've realised at the time that this wasn't purely a coping mechanism, but one of many barriers I had constructed. Maybe I should have given that type of counselling more of a chance but I didn't go back again. Instinctively I just knew it wasn't the right approach for me at that time. It transpired that during that particular stage of my journey, my counsel came to me from the beautiful landscape of Somerset, South West England. A friend of a friend had been on a spiritual* retreat down there, I was just aching for a little inner peace and so I took the time off work and tried something I'd never done before (If you're not comfortable with the S* word then just erase it, it was a retreat, that's all you need to know as once you are still enough to connect with the natural world around you, you can't help but be soothed). The programmes are run by a married couple Natalia** and Terry who are two of the most genuine, beautiful people you could ever hope to meet. Upon reading the description of the Autumn Equinox Retreat, I knew it sounded just perfect for what I so desperately needed.

'Harvest is a time when the life force energy is returning to the roots in preparation for the inner recesses of winter. Autumn is a time for letting go of what is not needed in our lives at this time-giving us the courage to take a journey of self discovery, addressing and releasing the past and encouraging what needs to blossom in our life in the coming year'
Visit www.soulrescuers.co.uk to find out more about this lovely couple and the work they do.

This is when my personal love affair with nature really took off and now it is my safe haven, I'm never more content than when I'm sitting under a tree! On that retreat I learned how to quiet my noisy mind (not always easy to do but the important point is, I know it is possible), how to breathe (you'd think I'd have already got the hang of that since I was a functioning adult) and how to be truly present. I released a lot of fear and anger that weekend, that's not to say they didn't reappear from time to time but in smaller measures. I even managed to keep hold of the serenity for about 2 weeks before the craziness of life pulled me back in to its grasp. The difference now is, I can bring Somerset to me whenever I choose to, and it is a choice! It's so easy to feel like we're being pulled along in the current, sometimes I found the sadness almost comforting. It started to become familiar and safe, the alternative was to step away from it and then what? I knew who I was within the sadness but felt like the me-before-diagnosis was gone so who would I be without my trusty cloud? If you understand what I'm talking about then here's the thing, you are still you!!!!!

"I was a lot of things before I was diagnosed and I forgot for a while that I am still all those things now. The sum of who I am does not lie purely in my inability to conceive a child; that is only a part of me. I’m not less of a woman now, I am whole."
Source- http://standardissuemagazine.com/health/going-through-the-menopause-at-35/

"Don't let this bury you"....this is what my dad said to me when I had finally received the official diagnosis that I was unable to conceive my own child. I got it, I knew intellectually what he was telling me, keep breathing, keep moving forward... but it is only now, 7 years on that I can really grasp the magnitude of that statement. It so easily could have buried me, if I'm honest, there were times when the weight of it all felt unshakable but still, I held my head up just enough to keep taking oxygen in.

We fast forward from 2010 to July 2014..... "Believe in yourself"....this is what my dad said to me as I sobbed on the phone, telling my parents how the grief had finally caught up with me and I needed help. I remember pushing back when I heard those words, "I can't do it on my own, I need some counselling, some help from a professional"......as I write this blog today, another 3 years on, I can say with certainty that my dear dad was right. Counsel comes in so many different forms, each is another tool to add to the box we have at our disposal but it is up to us how we use those tools, how we open ourselves up to accepting help and then, how we move forward. No-one else can walk in our shoes or travel the road for us, ultimately when all is said and done, it is up to each individual. We have to believe in our self, the power and light inside of us

I just knew deep down that I had to find a way of loving myself again, despite what I then considered to be a major flaw in my being. Maybe it was in fact, for the first time as I can't say for sure that i loved myself prior to 2010! Now, is it my imagination or does the mere suggestion of 'loving yourself' make us Brits a little uneasy? (I am generalising of course). Are there masses of people who still consider it a narcissistic, 'happy-clappy' concept we've inherited from our fellow humans over in the States, found in the self-help aisle of the book store? Nothing could be further from the truth but nevertheless it's an ideal that I feel is hugely misunderstood. First of all we have to remove the ego from the equation.

Ego- (psychoanalysis) 'The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity'
Source- Google

You see, more often than not this is where I get in to trouble, when my mind mediates/meddles and gets in the way of my hearing that whispering voice inside me that I know for sure is my soul. My friend Natalia** gently explained to me a couple of years ago that I was making my diagnosis bigger than it is. It would have been so easy for my ego to react but I understood what she meant. She wasn't for one second implying that it isn't devastating but it isn't the sum of my self and my life. I know and trust her, the truth she spoke was there to heal and not hurt. As a psychic practitioner she treats/heals many different people. I wouldn't look at someone and define them by their disease or disability so why should I define myself by my inability to conceive. It's only from that quiet place within that I have any chance of finding the love I'm talking about. The Greeks seemed to have a grasp on this, after all, they found 8 different varieties of love that we experience at some point in our lifetime.
1- Eros (Erotic)
2- Philia (Affectionate)
3- Storge (Familiar)
4- Ludus (Playful)
5- Mania (Obsessive)
6- Pragma (Enduring)
7- Philautia (Self love)
8- Agape (Selfless)

Philautia- 'This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with narcissism. Instead, Philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of "self compassion" which is the deep understanding that only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, will you be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, "All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man's feelings for himself."
Source- www.lonewolf.com

How do you find it? I guess the big question is, what does loving yourself mean to you? No doubt one answer will vary massively from the next but as always, I'll just speak for myself, share what I have come to believe and maybe it will resonate with someone out there. I have thought long and hard about all the different types of love in my life, my family, my soul mates and friends, the little people I'm blessed to be able to watch growing up...when I take my own self out of it, emotion aside what is it I am left with? For me, Love Is Peace. I learned how to meditate down in Somerset, when I manage to get to that quiet space, or when I am still, sitting under a tree I feel an all encompassing peace. A sense that I am safe and, well, loved! I can only conclude that if I can practice being gentle with my own self, giving myself the gift of time to connect with the part of me that just is, speaking to myself as I would a loved one, taking advice that I would offer to my best friend, then that self compassion will continue to heal me from the inside out!

I saw my parents for the first time in months just 2 days ago, yesterday on the phone my dad said, "It was wonderful to see you at peace, so relaxed and open to whatever the future holds." Maybe the practice is paying off!!!

Whether or not there's a divine reason for the hand I've been dealt, I'm at a stage now where I feel I'm responsible for honouring the life I've been given. The time and energy, and yes love, that I could have given to a child is now mine to utilise in the fullest way possible. Today as I sit here, maybe it's simply about writing this blog. I am humbled to know that my website has had a positive impact on a handful of people and that in itself is enough but I still feel I have more to do while I'm 'here'. So, dear reader, what is the life you've been given and how can you best honour it? I think the key to finding peace within, hence loving yourself may lie somewhere within the answer. As for me, well I left my nephew a couple of hours ago and as he nestled himself in to my shoulder and said he loved me, I knew, though life can seem cruel, it is beautiful in equal measure!

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