Simran is a career-driven individual who works as an industrial pharmacist and development coach. After a painful experience left her feeling mislead and unsettled about dating, she developed an interest in female empowerment, which drove her to challenge stereotypical, cultural views about being a single woman. During her course of healing she faced setbacks and also embraced changes such as focussing her mindset on personal growth and wellbeing. She talks about her journey with Doyenne UK.
What pressures have you endured from being single and how has this affected your mental well-being?
The majority of Indian families, including my very own, define success as being married with children. To this day, even when I visit my own grandparents the first question I am asked is, “Have you found a boy yet?”. This year has been one of the hardest years of my life but has pushed me to the edge, to the point where I am able to firmly respond with, “No. My personal interpretation of success is happiness, a progressing career and self-reliance. Could you please ask me next time how I am feeling or how my career commitments are going?”. It would be a lie to say I haven’t mentally struggled with being single. I am constantly surrounded by weddings, childbirths and family pressure which really does get too much at times.
You’ve been witness to a cut-throat industry that can be excessively image focused; how has this influenced your view of yourself?
In today’s world, people are “followers”, upholding the status quo and engaging in typical or mainstream interests advertised on social media, dress sense and behaviours. I cannot stress enough how much I despise this. This has led me to encouraging people to become the best version of themselves and the importance of originality, especially during my coaching. Embrace your uniqueness. This defines your personality – be different, be confident and be proud of that. Put bluntly, stop giving a shit what other people think of you.
The dating experience that left you feeling uncertain had detrimental effects on your self-esteem. What were the key lessons you learnt to reach where you are today?
It took me a very long time to even try dating after only ever being in one long-term relationship. It is safe to say my perception of associating dating to a game was correct. I can hand on heart say I have never been made to feel so worthless, scared and emotionally hurt in my life. I treated someone with complete respect and care and was made to feel like an option, like a car one takes on a test drive. It broke me. Lesson? Not everybody has strong values of respect and loyalty like I have been brought up with. I admire relationships from my parents’ generation where one appreciates both the strengths and weaknesses of their partner. Most importantly, instead of having the “thank you…next” mentality, (quoting Ariana), a partner should stay with you to help and motivate you, to turn your weaknesses into opportunities and to grow as individuals and not give up at the first hurdle. Life is about growth.
How have you built up your resilience and confidence against negativity and backlash that you have experienced?
I am on a journey where I do spend a lot of time alone and am mentally preparing myself for a single life. I fill this with dancing, cycling and it’s now even become normal practice for me to go to the cinema and restaurants alone. I support people experiencing emotional challenges in their lives. Why? Put simply, I do not believe it is right for anyone to be made to feel so low like I was. Hence, I have found my strength and developed my resilience by giving motivational talks and delivering coaching which I have now become so passionate about. My personal journey is not complete but ongoing.
Some women reading this will have have gone through or are going through similar experiences. Why do you think it is important to openly share these stories in order for progression to be made?
Most people did not even come close to understanding my feelings except for Priya, (founder, Doyenne UK). It has taken a lot of courage for me to write and share this publicly, but I do think it is important. Why? Because mentality needs to change for progression to occur. Success in Indian households needs to evolve from being associated with marriage and some men need to stop using the term “dating” as an excuse to treat women like a monthly or even fortnightly gym membership they can renew/upgrade as they wish. It is because of this mentality and personal experience that I am apprehensive to date again. I will continue to prepare for the future whatever happens and have found strength in being alone. I will be stronger and better regardless of outcome, because I have chosen to be.
As proof, I have just booked a solo backpacking trip Costa Rica!!
Interview with Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE, international development and women's rights activist and writer. Helen is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British Suffragette movement whose efforts led to women in Britain gaining the vote, and is the founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WPSU).
Helen talks about valuing our connections and how starting small can result in bigger changes for gender equality and women's rights.
Helen’s book, ‘Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now', can be bought from Waterstones and Amazon:
When I met the team at Harley street they treated me as a ‘whole person’, not as someone with one dysfunctional body part.
After years of suffering unexplained discomfort and pain in her pelvic region, countless visits to a variety of consultants and hours of research into her symptoms, Rachael was eventually recommended to a clinic in Harley Street where she met a consultant whose best interest was to help her get better. He took all her symptoms into consideration and she was diagnosed as being hypermobile with a tilted pelvis. Finally, when the physical symptoms were under control, she spent some time with a cognitive hypnotherapist who help her to deal with the emotional problems that had arisen as a consequence of living with this undiagnosed condition. Here, she tells us her story.
Could you explain your experience in a little more detail?
My pelvic pain problems started from the age of fifteen with excruciatingly painful periods. This then expanded into bladder pain, vulvodynia (a painful condition of the pelvis made worse by things such as sex or sitting for prolonged periods of time), and severely tight pelvic floor muscles. In that time, I had been referred to so many consultants; urologists, gynaecologists, psychologists, urogynecologists, and given numerous clinical diagnoses such as endometriosis and interstitial cystitis (not to mention, ‘this is all in your head!’) These hospital visits also coincided with several operations, all to no avail.
When I met the team at Harley street they treated me as a ‘whole person’, not as someone with one dysfunctional body part. As well as seeing a biomechanics specialist, I was referred to a women’s physiotherapist and a urologist who was knowledgeable about this type of condition. From this point my recovery could begin.
What made you want to share your story?
I didn’t meet the team in Harley street until I was twenty-seven years old. During this time, I had spent countless hours conducting research on the internet, or in chatrooms trying to find out what was wrong. I also spent thousands of pounds on private consultations and healthcare supplements.
I don’t want anybody else to have to go through that process and spend 12 years getting an answer or diagnosis that helps them. If one person reads this and gets the help they need quicker than I did then it will be worth it.
How were you emotionally affected by your condition?
To begin with, the emotional side of my condition didn’t affect me; this would be something that would get sorted and I could carry on with my life like any normal teenager. But, years of no progress, constant pain, restricted diet and affected relationships meant that my mental health really started to struggle. I developed anxiety and would have regular panic attacks at university. On two occasions I developed depression for several months. Furthermore, due to the lack of understanding of my condition, I was hyper aware of my health, and this caused me to develop health anxiety (hypochondria). I would constantly ring my mom for reassurance at even the slightest thing, it was all very dark. Having an understanding and supportive family really helped at this time.
How did that impact your relationships with yourself and other people?
I’d say out of all my relationships, my relationship with myself was impacted the most. The lack of understanding of what was happening to my body despite my best efforts made me frustrated, and my self-confidence plummeted as I couldn’t socialise like everyone else, never mind consider starting a romantic relationship. I would also come have disagreements with my family on a regular basis as I was triggered very easily.
Do you think Doyenne UK is a good platform for women to be able to share their experiences?
Absolutely! I think one of the biggest reasons that my condition is so under researched is because women ‘put up and shut up’. There needs to be more conversation about the issues that affect us specifically, and any platform which encourages women to get together and talk about these things in a non-judgmental safe space is fantastic!
What would your advice be to women experiencing underresearched conditions that may be of a similar nature?
Number one, you know your body better than anyone. Listen to your body and how it responds to different things such as food, exercise, anything! If you’re in pain or something is up, that’s your body saying to you ‘I’m not ok!’. Just because someone with letters after their name tells you that you have a certain condition or disease doesn’t necessarily mean its true (this happened to me on several occasions). Yes, the doctors are experts but only YOU are inside your body and can feel what’s going on.
Secondly, and it took me a long while to get to this point, remember that your body is on your side. I used to get so mad at my body for being the way it was, but now I understand that the symptoms that were being presented were a physiological response to perceived threat or set of conditions. My body thought that it was doing the right thing, and me getting mad only served to increase my stress levels and make everything worse.
Third, TALK. Talk to your family or your friends, or someone that you know will listen. I kept everything to myself for so long because I was embarrassed about speaking about my condition. The road to recovery started when I told my mom. Having someone to go to when I felt low, or someone to bounce ideas off about what to do next helped immeasurably.
Fourth, research your condition. For me, knowledge was power. Some of the biggest strides I made in getting better came from my own research from reputable sources like books or scientific research articles.
Finally, own your condition, but don’t become it.
Interview with Marcelle D’Argy Smith, award winning former Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and creative writing lecturer.
Marcelle talks about fighting for recognition and the importance of engaging with life.