In retrospect, I think mine is quite a typical menopause story. I’m at the point where I can look back at my numerous symptoms, understand that they’re all connected and see their cumulative effect on me, especially at work. I hope that sharing my experience encourages other women to talk about theirs.
Where to begin…?
I’ve wrestled with how and where to start. And whether or not to be anonymous. But we’re all in this together, right?
I’m a 52-year-old married woman, living in Bath, with 3 children aged 20, 19 and 16. I work as a freelance PR. First perimenopause signs at 40 and I’ve been taking HRT for the last 4 years.
I was gripped by the impact of my menopause symptoms and left feeling isolated, fearful and totally out of control. But now, with knowledge, correct medication and wider social acceptance I’m ready for whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at me next!
Menopause crept up on me with a variety of different symptoms that appeared out of nowhere. Symptoms like erratic and flooding periods, restless legs disturbing my sleep, and occasional minor night sweats. It never occurred to me at the time, especially restless legs, that they were all connected to menopause.
I just handled these symptoms and got on with life in spite of their impact.
Anxiety floored me. I’d never been an anxious person and it felt like it was affecting everything.
Menopause at work
The anxiety sapped my self-confidence at work. Constant fear of ‘what might happen if…’ meant I was finding excuses to avoid situations that used to be second nature.
For example, if I had to give a presentation at work, my anxiety fed me all kinds of negatives:
- What if I have a hot flush and my face goes bright red?
- What if I forget someone’s name?
- What if I stumble over my words, just go blank?
A never-ending list of reasons NOT to do something. I felt like my world was shrinking and I was dwindling away with it.
I still very much want to work and not thinking about retirement at all just yet.
At the time, no one else at work was talking about menopause. So, I stayed quiet. I didn’t want to be judged negatively. I just dealt with my symptoms quietly. I decided to take control, I prepped for a conversation with my GP and now take HRT. It’s worth mentioning, I was offered anti-depressants, but depression isn’t something I have felt at all, so I knew it wasn’t the right route for me.
‘The Davina Effect’
Having such a high-profile person leading a menopause campaign has relaxed the whole conversation. As individual women, talking about our experiences together means that we can thrive through menopause – not just get through it. I’m lucky that I have a great group of mates all very open about our symptoms. We compare coping mechanisms and it’s made such a difference.
It’s great to see an increasing number of organisations acknowledge the menopause in their employee and people policies. And, crucially, enabling real flexibility for people to manage their symptoms while continuing to work. It’s the corresponding conversations about bringing our whole selves to work that are just as important. Hopefully everyone’s workplace experience will be built on kindness and compassion.
My symptoms and what helped me*
I thought it might be helpful to other women if I listed my symptoms and how I manage them.
- Anxiety: Daily walking is a non-compromise for me. I’ve noticed that if I don’t get out into the fresh air then anxiety can overwhelm.
- Night heat: I experience surges of heat in the night and that’s not really changed over the last 10 years. But the frequency is definitely less than it was.
- Skin dryness: olive oil and salt in the bath, oat hand and body cream
- Nails dry and thinning hair: daily marine collagen supplement – I think it’s working!
- Thickening waistline, ‘Meno belly’: This one is hard to shift. I’m trying to alter my diet and the way I eat, which is starting to make a difference. It’s hard keeping to a restricted diet. I was going to blame my house full of teenagers, but really sometimes all I want to do is sit down with a cuppa and a barrel of biscuits!
- Restless legs: I haven’t found anything to combat this annoyance yet but it’s not as frequent as it used to be.
I know menopause isn’t done with me yet, but I feel I can face whatever it throws at me!
* Important disclaimer: This section is purely based on Vicky’s personal experience. These aren’t our recommendations and it’s not medical advice.