Managing the Menopause: A First Hand Account

So, why choose to do a training course and write a guide on the menopause? I am a very open person and feel that if I can share my experiences with others it might help people relate them to their own experiences or give them an insight into an area they know little about. For me it is something close to my heart and something that had a significant impact on both my personal and work life, when at the age of 41 I was thrown into the menopause, not long after having my second daughter. 

  At first, I just put the extreme fatigue and mood swings down to having a baby and toddler whilst working part time and doing a bachelor’s degree!!! Then I started noticing that when I was in my final year at university I would be listening to a lecture or reading from my textbook but not actually understanding what I was hearing or reading. At times I would have to re-read a simple paragraph 2-3 times to try and comprehend what it said. 

At work my boss started asking me if I was ok as he had noticed that sometimes I was firing on all cylinders and other times I was struggling to follow even the simplest of instructions. Not long after this I started getting hot and could not wear a roll neck jumper or scarf and would wake up at night burning hot even though at the time it was the middle of winter. I would lose my temper and fly off the handle at the smallest tings then at other times those things wouldn’t even bother me, which was just not fair on my children or husband, but I just couldn’t control it at the time, I felt totally helpless. Then the headaches kicked in and by this stage I simply broke down and found myself sitting on my works toilet floor rocking and crying. I was so scared as I did not understand what was happening to me and how to make it better.  I had always thrived on a challenge and enjoyed working under pressure, having been a senior manager in the retail sector for over 20 years, yet now I could not cope with the simplest of tasks.

At this point I decided to see my GP as I was scared I had dementia as my memory and concentration and headaches were so bad, or that I was really ill as I was just so fatigued all the time. Luckily my GP, who is switched on, suggested I have a FSH test (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and I had 3 over the course of 6 months and each came back suggesting I was experiencing early menopause. Apparently, any time before the age of 45 is considered early. 

So, once I knew what was wrong with me, I started a journey of discovery and research of which I am still on 6 years later and 2.5 stone heavier. Now I have learnt to recognise my triggers, what helps me lifestyle wise, when I am going through what I call my wonky day/week/month and I have a super employer and colleagues that are incredibly supportive and understanding. The most important factor in this is that I have not let it win I made sure that I have the support and help from both my family and friends as well as my employer. I think my husband and previous male boss must be the two most clued-up men in the UK about the menopause!

I know that the menopause, for many, is a subject that is still taboo, yet it touches the lives of so many. Therefore, it is so important to be able to talk openly and confidently about what you are going through and what support you need both at home and at work. Luckily the CIPD, ACAS and also Meg Matthews and now Davina McCall are starting to shout from the rooftops about the menopause and starting to make it less of a taboo subject and more widely spoken about. Whether you are female or male a husband, parent, employee, employer, friend or relative at some stage in your life you yourself or someone you know will have their lives touched by the menopause and this is why it is so important to know how to self help or support someone effected by this situation. 

As an employer its crucial to have an understanding of how the menopause can affect women at work. Statistics gathered by the CIPD in March last year show women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce and the average age for the menopause transition is 51. As more women go through the menopause during their working lives, it’s vital that employers encourage open discussions to ensure they get the right support.  

The menopause transition can include a range of symptoms which, on average, last for four years but can last as long as ten years. The CIPD's research surveyed 1,409 women experiencing menopause symptoms and was led by YouGov. Of those who were affected negatively at work, they reported the following issues:

•Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate

•More than half (58%) said they experience more stress

•More than half (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.

In addition, nearly a third of women surveyed (30%) said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms, but only a quarter of them felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.

Privacy (45%) was the number one consideration for women choosing not to disclose. A third (34%) said embarrassment prevented them from saying why they had to take time off and another 32% said an unsupportive manager was the reason.

The need for better support is further highlighted by the fact that more women say they feel supported by their colleagues (48%) when going through the menopause than by their managers (32%).

More awareness and support for those experiencing the menopause is needed. HR Connect are proud to be providing an introductory course ‘Managing the Menopause’ led by this blogs author, Katrina Cooper. Book your place today. 

Comments are closed