Three years ago I woke up and discovered a lump had appeared in my right breast, it seemingly sprung up overnight and was 7cm long and 3cm wide, a bit like a sausage had suddenly moved into my boob.
Tests, which included a stapler like contraption that pierced my skin to retrieve tissue for a biopsy, revealed it was benign but as the initial terror of a potential health catastrophe subsided, I realised it was high time for a significant change in lifestyle.
Aged 40, I had lived my life in a permanent state of stress, depression and anxiety since the recession really took hold in 2011. I'm a freelance writer and, with publications increasingly unsure how to monetise online content, my earnings dropped by 50% overnight while my outgoings remained the same. I'm a single mum who has never received a penny in child support and, with my son in his teenage years, money was a constant concern.
So I assumed - wrongly - that all of that was why I was feeling so rotten.
Right before the lump appeared, I felt as though I was in a constant state of PMT. Everything irritated me all of the time, it was as if my brain was making that noise that electricity pylons make when you walk by them. I was incredibly easy to aggravate and I was tired. Oh so very tired. The kind of all-consuming exhaustion which you simply can't sleep off no matter how many times you go to bed at 9.30pm.
I hauled my weepy, ragey, utterly wrung-out self to the doctor and found out that my estrogen levels were wildly out of whack and, the hormone which wreaks havoc right before us ladies have our periods was racing around my body, while the 'happy' hormone progesterone was nowhere to be seen. This was why the lump appeared in my breast (some women have them in their ovaries), my PMT was lasting for about two weeks every month and I was getting such bad period pains that they were as agonising as the early stages of giving birth.
My doctor told me that I was peri-menopausal, which is something I had never really heard of, but it's basically a stretch of time before you go into menopause and, due to the stress of modern life, is kicking in for many women at 35 years of age onwards - as it did for me.
There's a fairly simple answer to estrogen imbalance: You can use progesterone cream which you slather on your skin and eventually levels things out. (Ask your doctor though if you recognise the above symptoms and they can advise.)
But what is crucial is minimising all stress, exercising regularly and changing your diet for one which is fairly healthy. Which I did. I'm the sort of person who lived on white wine, chocolate biscuits and coffee so even a feeble attempt at a healthier lifestyle did see massive improvements in how I was feeling.
As luck would have it, I met a brilliant female doctor through a mutual friend late last year called Dr. Sara Palmer-Hussey. She's a Cambridge-educated PhD and research scientist who has studied the nine causes of ageing extensively.
As a result of her research, she has developed an anti-ageing supplement called Lumity, that, as well as doing many clever things, encourages your body to produce more HGH (human growth hormone), which is our body's 'master hormone' and is a bit like a conductor in an orchestra - if everything is working as it should.
When you hit your mid-thirties your body's level of HGH declines and then everything else in your hormonal system tends to rebel; which is exactly what I was experiencing. My 'orchestra' had descended into full scale riot and sounded like gang of tantrum-fuelled six-year-olds kicking and banging a drum set with a tambourine every morning at 5am.
I took her advice and, as well as making a huge effort to balance my hormones naturally, I started taking her supplements last December - which has helped tremendously. Within one month I was no longer crippled by PMT and I was sleeping better because the ingredients lower your cortisol at night. Within two months I was thinking clearly and had more energy, within three I was like a better version of myself - my skin was plumper, my hair was no longer thinning and the rages and weepy mood swings of the past were fading into a distant blot on the horizon.
But I wish now that instead of walking about in a hormonal haze for five or six years that I had known the signs and gone to see my doctor immediately. It was silly suffering in silence for so long, and I know for a fact that many women mistake the symptoms which I was experiencing for depression and end up on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication when in fact it's a hormone imbalance that's making them feel so very down.
If you're feeling angry, ragey, tired and like you can't cope, it could be caused by many factors but it also might well be your hormones. Please get them checked and don't live your life in a haze of misery like I did so unnecessarily for so long.