A true account of Menopause
It was National Menopause Day on 18th October. And despite the fact that the menopause will affect approximately half of the UK population, we still have a long way to go in terms of awareness of symptoms and effects ,and support available for women in the workplace.
In fact it’s only recently that we have really started to understand the effects menopause has on half of our workforce, and that’s because we are starting to talk about it.
1 in 4 Women consider leaving their job because of menopause
I have just started on HRT, and to be fair I was equally as ignorant. I had assumed that until my periods had stopped, and I was suffering from hot flushes, that I wasn’t hitting menopause. I was wrong.
For anyone who knows me quite well, I am in complete denial about my actual age, and really don’t give one, most of the time (it does help that I have good energy levels, don’t look at the mirror very often and can put my makeup on quite happily without one).
But I have to admit, that after initially blaming the effects of lockdown, it started to dawn on me that something else was going on. There were periods of aching joints, and a feeling of real frustration that I just couldn't move fast enough (I blamed overdoing it with Joe Wicks workouts, and it certainly wasn’t good for morale when your 10 year old is streets ahead on the school run and telling you to hurry up).
There were some really weird sleeping patterns where I was waking up, wide awake in the middle of the night for hours. And then the scariest period was during a couple of weeks where my brain felt as though it was literally crawling through a thick fog. I was confused, I couldn’t concentrate, I felt anxious, and I couldn’t remember a bloody thing. I honestly thought I was going mad. Forgetfulness has always been a trait of mine, but this time it reached new heights.
It took alot to make it look like I was still effortlessly gliding through my working days, but to be honest, I was also able to hide it. We were still operating virtually, and nobody could see the forest of post it notes that were littering my laptop frame and desk throughout meetings and presentations.
And because all of these symptoms were intermittent, and not constant, I viewed them as separate entities rather than a culmination of something else altogether.
Until I watched Davina McCall’s: Sex, myths and the menopause on CH4 .
What a game changer. Not only because it was a brilliant program, with someone brave enough to face the camera and talk openly about menopause, but more importantly, it blew away the stigma about HRT being linked to breast cancer, and made me face a few home truths.
Probably the most important thing I learned from that program, is how important estrogen is to women. When our estrogen levels drop or diminish through perimenopause, and then menopause, this can have a significant effect to our physical and mental health. Amongst many other things, we are far more at risk of depression and osteoporosis. But the most significant for me was the increased risk of dementia and alzheimers, and that’s why I reached out to my doctor.
But apart from our own health, menopause is also affecting women’s careers. A recent survey found that 59% of women had taken time off work due to their symptoms. And 18 % were off for more than 8 weeks (menopause_doctor).
And yet, ironically, according to a government report, menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce.
So how do we retain an extremely experienced workforce, with so many at the height of their careers? Well, firstly, for people like me, we need to be honest, acknowledge what is happening, and speak up, not only for ourselves, but for every woman.
And just as importantly, employers need to recognise the effects, be armed with knowledge and ultimately have the right support, in place. And if your employer hasn’t done this yet, then show them examples of those who have (Channel 4 launched the UK media industry's first dedicated menopause policy and you can access it here).
And for any of you, who like me, are not aware of all of the other signs of menopause, then take a look at the below. Arm yourself with the knowledge to support yourself, your peers, and our industry.
Davina McCall’s: Sex, myths and the menopause on CH4
Balance app - Menopause Doctor