Of all the ways I thought I’d end 2019, being on telly wasn’t in the plans. But what can you do when BBC Breakfast come calling?
We’d vowed, in Pausitivity, to take it easier in December. It’s been mad since we started the KnowYourMenopause campaign in July and we hadn’t had a break – even our holidays were spent on the phone tweeting and sending messages.
December, we decided, would be a breather month during which we could have a little bit of a life again and enjoy the festive season like normal people. I created an advent calendar featuring supporters so we could tweet something each day and thank everyone for their hard work.
The final day was to be 24 December, with a video featuring everyone who had sent a selfie. (Disclosure: I had to trim it as it was so long! My apologies to all the doggies and noticeboards, shop windows, bathroom walls and bookshelves left out).
Yeah, that didn’t work out at all.
In early December, I got a message from Danielle, a researcher at BBC Breakfast who I’d met while filming for their wonderful Wake Up To The Menopause series.
“We’re doing a follow-up to the series and I wondered if it had impacted on you in any way that you’d like to share?” she said.
“Oh, it’s only completely changed my life,” I replied…
I explained how Pausitivity had evolved because of Wake Up To The Menopause – it got several of us talking on Twitter – and the next thing I know I was on a train to Media City in Manchester to meet Louise Minchin (a hero).
Best of all, I’d get to meet my Pausitivity team-mate Clare, who was going to appear with me, and we’d get to share the KnowYourMenopause message on the BBC.
So suddenly, instead of getting ready for Christmas, I was on a train and then booking into a hotel in Media City!
Filming was bizarre. First of all, I met an old workmate I haven’t seen for about 20 years while trying to meet Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse outside the BBC studios (they were on the BBC Breakfast red sofa that day).
Then I met Clare and Louise and it was like meeting old friends.
The idea was that we would be in a cinema, watching a film of Wake Up To The Menopause highlights, then we’d chat about it.
So far, so simple. Clare and I hoped we’d be able to plug the campaign a bit and I wore my Pausitivity T-shirt so at least there’d be a visual representation of it.
But then they showed the film and there were all these wonderful photos of our poster. It was all about it!
The dam burst. Pausitivity began with an idle idea at the doctor’s one night and six months on we were on the BBC. Our poster was on national telly and it was inspiring women everywhere.
I felt a lump in my throat and then the tears began.
I’ve always been a watcher: the person on the sidelines who’ll have an idea, share it and then see others get the credit. Or I’d dismiss it because I didn’t have the courage to voice up. So to see a campaign I’d started on the big screen was amazing.
The last six months have been tough. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been amazing, but we’re campaigning between families, jobs and life itself. Spreading the message has taken over.
Plus Pausitivity has no funding so everything we do comes out of our own pockets – every poster we print, laminate we make, trip to discuss the campaign costs us.
(We dream of having banners with our logo on them, badges and T-shirts to give out, professionally printed posters, mailshots on Change to target hundreds of thousands of people at once… I particularly long to have our poster displayed on a bus stop next to the Department of Health, but as that costs around £500, it will continue to be a dream. For now.)
And because I’d always been so dismissive of… well… me, I’d never given the campaign the respect it deserves. I kinda shilly-shallied about it when I was talking because it had started with an idea by me – the bairn from Byker who didn’t have an indoor toilet until she was 9, was bullied at school, screwed up her exams, watched exciting opportunities go by and, basically, has never felt good enough.
All of which resulted in tears!
At one point, I reached over and squeezed Claire’s hand and she squeezed mine back, both of us too emotional for words.
Waiting for it to be shown was excruciating. I opened up in the filming more than I ever have, talking about bad times when I would look longingly at the Thames on my lunchbreak and wonder about jumping in and escaping, and while I didn’t regret it, I was worried about how it would appear.
The night before, I woke up at 2am and didn’t get to sleep until 5. I didn’t even wake up when my husband and the cat got up.
I slept through the piece!!!!
Thankfully, this being breakfast TV, it was shown again at 8.20, by which point I’d had coffee and was feeling reassured having had messages from Clare.
The finished piece was more than I could ever have hoped for. I cried all over again and then cried again as I read messages on Twitter and Facebook saying how much it had inspired people. It also boosted the menopause talk again and gave a push to other campaigns, which is amazing.
And then, at 4.30pm, my mam called to say how proud she was. I didn’t cry then – she would have been disappointed in me if I had! – but I fizzed.
We’ve had loads of messages since and we’re feeling energised and ready to go – even if our low-key December ended up being far from it. I’m off to Westminster to talk about the campaign with Carolyn Harris MP in a couple of weeks and we still hope to have the menopause meeting in the Houses of Parliament that the political events of the last few months disrupted (thanks, Messrs Johnson and Corbyn!)
I would never have imagined any of this on 1 January 2019. It goes to show that you never know how life can go (so if you are having dark times, please remember this – life is swings and roundabouts and nothing stays the same.)
I don’t have words enough to thank everyone who has come into my life over the last year and changed it more than you will ever know – not just in Pausitivity, but also Dr Nighat Arif, my menopause group in Canterbury, all the Pausitivity supporters and my fabulous followers on Twitter and Facebook and 50Sense, who make me smile and give me the strength to continue when it seems too hard.
Here’s to 12 more months of the same…
What do you think? How can we go one step further? Let me know in the comments below
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