Name: Catherine, 52
At least twice a week Catherine puts on a woolly hat, swimming costume and special gloves that were a gift from her kids and walks into the freezing waters of the North Kent Coast near Whitstable. She has taken up cold water swimming with a group of like-minded supportive women who call themselves ‘Getsalty Whitstable.’
Yet just two years earlier Catherine didn’t even get into the warm, inviting sea in Australia during a family holiday to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. Looking back at photos after the trip, Catherine didn’t like what she saw and says alarm bells went off in her mind. They were evidence of her staying on the beach, covering up her body whilst her two children played in the water. Catherine says that the holiday memories and starting to feel that her body was altering in ways that she couldn’t control, spurred her into making some changes.
“I remember talking to my sister and saying I’ve got a belly. My sister sympathetically said it is the menopause, you can’t do anything about it now, you are stuck with it. When she went home I thought why should I be stuck with it. These were my first menopause symptoms where I started to gain weight and couldn’t shift it so easily. Then I started a few other minor symptoms.
“It’s like the wheel of fortune thing, someone spinning that daily and seeing what lovely symptom will you get today, Will you sweat all night, will your skin itch, will you wake up, will you put on weight – and you think no I don’t want all this.”
I thought I need to get healthier and get fitter because my body is changing, there is nothing I can do about that but I want to try to keep up with it and deal with these changes better. At the same time as I was having menopausal symptoms, Louisa who set up ‘Getsalty’ in Whitstable, she had started to do the cold water swimming last year in Jan 2020. I was working with her once a week and she would come in and tell me about all these amazing swims she had had. So I finally went for my first swim.
The great thing about this group is there is no pressure whatsoever. No one will make you do what you don’t want to do, there is no competition, nothing. Also the camaraderie and what we get from each other is great. I appreciate every single woman in that group for a different reason. We all have a common bond of getting in cold water. Some days your brain goes running in, other times you are thinking I don’t want to get in. Some days there is sea froth and you have to time your entry into the sea to not get knocked off your feet.
Don’t accept what you are told about the menopause. I was told I would always have a belly and that I would get these symptoms and I would just have to deal with it. There are other ways. For me, I know that the act of cold water swimming has helped me deal with this change in my life. I feel like I am back in control and I feel comfortable with who I am.
Catherine’s Menopause Story is part of our curation of images and short films creating in partnership with Getty Images. These challenge the way women going through the menopause are portrayed in society, illustrating the joy of exercise and how it has changed their lives – building community, friendship, adventure, fun and camaraderie. Find out more about the #menopossibilities campaign here.