As I sit in a quiet corner of a busy Chesterfield café, a gust of mild Spring air rushes in, declaring the arrival of a vibrant middle-aged woman whose energy is nothing short of contagious.
She is author Shelley Chapman, who has recently self-published her first book entitled Menopause Matters.
The book takes a light hearted approach to demystifying the menopause; far from full of medical jargon stripped from a GCSE textbook, it is an interactive journal designed to assure those who are undergoing a similar experience that they are not alone.
“It’s a natural process, like puberty in reverse, and there’s so much light at the end of the tunnel!”
But by no means is Menopause Matters just a book for anxious middle aged women. Chapman sees the bigger picture, and has not only the ambition to paint it, but to hang it in a gallery exhibit.
Because, while the symptoms of the menopause are experienced by the individual, their effects are felt by many. Partners, for instance, may feel distanced due to a diminishing libido. It is a change which can have profound effects on a relationship, and it is for this reason which Chapman encourages those of us with a Y chromosome to pick up the book ourselves.
“I’m just me – a housewife who said to herself: ‘There’s got to be more to this than just growing old.'”
It is an inevitability that as children mature, the role of the mother naturally subsides. But to where does the institutionalised nurturer then turn?
“Suddenly I had time, and I asked myself: ‘What do I do with it? I’m not the woman I was at 20, or 30… So who am I?’”
And for Chapman it was this question which signalled the beginning of what she refers to as her Menopausal Journey. Such phraseology is the pin which secures the underlying theme of Menopause Matters; for women to embrace a time of transition as a journey, an opportunity like never before to take control of their lives and send them in the direction they wish.
“It’s a time for women to put themselves first.”
Chapman wanted answers, and over fifteen years, a uniquely lengthy menopausal duration, it is the answers to which she devoted herself. It is from that dedication that we may now benefit, for that is what Menopause Matters boils down to: a hearty compendium of answers.
“There’s no one fix fits all, but we can point you in the right direction.”
She refers now not only to her book, but to the self-help community she is creating through social media.
“…Because doctors aren’t trained to help you apply makeup to saggy eyelids!” She laughs.
Chapman offers practical advice borne of the greatest of all inspirations; personal experience. But it is arguably the interwoven thread of positivity, the font of which is very much her own personality, which will not only stay with the reader, but ensure they keep coming back, opening to a random page here, starting a new chapter there.
“It’s not about hearing everybody’s sob story…”
Rather, Chapman has created a frank A to Z to which can be readily referred, alongside a digital community based on communication of shared experience and understanding.
“We have a giggle,” she told me. “The menopause isn’t as scary as you think – as long as you know what to expect.”
Menopause Matters can be found on Amazon.co.uk alongside its digital format for Kindle.
Should you like to tap in to Shelley Chapman’s ever-expanding social media community, check out the Practical Menopause Help Facebook page, or find her on Instagram at shelley_menopause_help.
Author: Shelly Chapman lives in Chesterfield and is a wife and mother. Her daughter Emi’s business Lilypad Cafe on Soresby Street has featured in S40 Local, continues to receive great reviews and, if you’ve not been, is well worth putting on the to do list.
Words & Images: Jack Alexander