I don’t know about you, but Menopause wasn’t something we ever talked about growing up…
I don’t recall my Mum ever mentioning it if I’m being honest, so my knowledge of what happens was very vague indeed. Whether that’s a generational thing or just the fact that I’m not very close to my Mum I don’t know (we never even discussed periods… so that was a shock! Thank goodness for my mates and Sex-Ed).
Anyhoo – I can’t quite remember when my menopausal symptoms first began – the irony is I can’t quite remember a lot of things at the moment. However, there is a time when I started seeing more emotional changes in myself. I was on holiday four years ago and my sister-in-law and I were talking about my niece being unable to join us – she was at university and unable to get time away. A perfectly understandable reason, right? Well, you would have thought my world had ended. Tears and snot ran down my face uncontrollably. I felt like I was having a breakdown. I remember my sister’s worlds so clearly, “oooh, I think your emotions are running away with you, could be the start of perimenopause!”
Alarm bells went off. What!? I was only 42, surely this only happens when you’re old.
These words got me thinking about other irrational responses to everyday situations that I had experienced. Ripping my husband’s head off for leaving the toilet seat up, screaming at the top of my lungs because he had been for a pint after work. The casual things that I had never been bothered by before had turned into these huge dramas.
If the high emotions weren’t bad enough, along came the sweats…
A weird clammy burning sensation started from my chest and took over the whole of the top part of my body for a couple of minutes. Night-time was awful, duvet on, duvet off; window open, window closed; leg in the bed, leg out the bed! My poor husband.
I’m now through the perimenopause stage and well and truly into menopause. Aching joints, brain fog, weight gain, itchy skin and rollercoaster emotions are all now part of me and something that I am adapting to every day.
I have bought fans which I keep in various locations around the house, and I talk about it, to anyone and everyone who wants to listen (and sometimes those who don’t want to listen are still told) and I have increased my exercise which is helping my weight but most importantly my mental health.
What I have learnt the most so far from my experience is that I don’t always want answers. I just need to know that I can be open and honest to people about what I am going through and that this is normal. I want to be able to educate others, especially young women and men so that they can support their family members, Mum, partner, wife or colleague and also be there if someone would like to have a chat so that they don’t feel alone.
We need to change the perception of the menopause and challenge the taboo. I have found a lot of content online and via social media which helps me to understand all of the different stages and I’ve also done research into HRT (hormone replacement therapy) – albeit this isn’t something I have chosen to take at the moment as I am controlling my symptoms my way. Everything I know about menopause I had to research myself, it wasn’t something I found readily available to me. Why? We educate people on puberty, why not menopause? Surely, it’s just the other bookend?
I work for Virgin Media and feel incredibly lucky that we are able to feel supported every step of the way. Our Gender Equality network is something I feel privileged to be a part of and together we are starting to challenge these issues as a team.
If you are struggling with menopause, please feel free to reach out to me. I am more than happy to listen, to talk or simply be a (virtual) shoulder.