My red patent leather shoes.

I remember being 4 years old at a wedding reception feeling like a ladybird surrounded by giant, cheek pinching hands, ready to ruin my wings, and my mum saying that she needed to speak to someone but to stay right where I was, she’d “be right back”. There was a terrifying crushing in my chest that felt like a bad tummy ache; I fixed my eyes on my wonky reflection in my red patent leather shoes; my chin started to wobble. I had never had such an intense feeling before and never wanted to feel it again. It strangely disappeared when the familiar smell of my mum’s Estee Lauder Youth Dew wafted towards me and I was engulfed in a wave of relief. That sensation came back to me intermittently over the years as it would for any reserved individual, and it would leave me as it came, maybe not as rapidly each time, but the welcome hug of comfort would still be experienced at some point.

That same sensation came to me day, after day, after day, after day when I hit 45 and there wasn’t a whiff of Estee Lauder Youth Dew that would resolve it. Absolutely nothing would resolve it. Its shadow lurked in every corner, successfully wrapping its darkness around my throat; throwing its weight against my chest. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that feeling was anxiety and I was intensely experiencing one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause.

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