Please forgive the intrusion – it’s the new-found rebellious streak in me…
We spoke to Melissa Fairhurst, HR Business Partner about a subject that many find difficult to broach, but that 51% of the population will experience. We hope you’ll find Melissa’s story informative and empowering.
So it’s been an unusual year. Personally I know that I have been very lucky. To date neither myself or my family have contracted covid, I have been safely working from home and am lucky to have access to countryside for exercise and walking my dogs. I have had my family with me. But covid aside, there has been a quiet, but growing, revolution going on inside me and I was asked if I would share my story and I am being “braver” so here goes…
It all started around June/July 2020, things were tough out there and had been for a few months. All of a sudden, things that I had been contemplating for a while, I had a real urge to make a decision on and actually do. A “life’s too short to worry so much about what everyone else thinks, I want to do this for me” approach and that kind of grew. In August, when it was safe and an option, I had my first tattoo. No, it does not hurt (well not on your arm (much) anyway.) The same week I took up running (couch to 5k) having previously never run before – because I wanted to do something for me, I did not want to mix with others to be able to do it and I knew I had been sitting down for too long at my computer screen. Amazingly I found I enjoyed it (hard but exhilarating as you build up) and I got to have half an hour and later, as I continued running, an hour where no one interrupted me (bliss)! I started to eat differently, (Mediterranean style diet) and as a result of these last two things started losing weight and feeling more confident. I dropped two dress sizes. It was empowering.
But at the same time, I also seemed to be getting a bit more snappy and on certain days felt a bit down. I felt the sadness “come over me”, literally. I couldn’t identify why. Sometimes I felt a bit teary. I did my usual and thought about what I could do/change. I stopped drinking my daily champagne flute (portion control!) of red wine. It helped but did not stop it totally. My legs ached at night, I thought it was the running. I bought some fab cream (made in Somerset) for restless legs – which I now rub on at night and then do some stetches. This stopped it. Then I started waking up at night a lot and at times getting really hot- I bought new nightwear. This helped but again, did not stop it. There was a day when I went from calm to having a huge rage at my eldest daughter in 0.5 of a millisecond (which I have regretted ever since). I have no idea where it came from.
The list goes on…
I thought I was taking control/putting steps in place…
It was my husband who suggested I spoke to my GP.
And so I did, I reached out. It was February 2021 by now. I was convinced and scared that they would tell me it was anxiety/depression because of the covid times/mental health impacts we were living in, but I was sure it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t linked to diet/weight or exercise because I was doing all those well and regularly and still feeling great in those aspects – which didn’t seem to “make sense” alongside these other things I was also feeling and trying to deal with. My Somerset GP (who was fab) asked me what I wanted to happen as a result of my call. I didn’t know, (despite the fact that I had prepared a mind map of everything and how I was feeling before I had the call!) He said that in his experience when people got to the stage of ringing the GP they were normally looking for help and to see if there was something the GP could offer that would help and so I said simply “yes please – I just don’t feel like me”. I think that because of the sweats at night now I had realised it might be the peri menopause so could he tell me about HRT because I confessed I did not know much about it. Might it help?
So, I won’t bore you with the detail but in a nutshell I am now on HRT patches and it feels good. It’s a clear sticky patch (smaller than a regular post it note) that you stick on the outside of your thigh and change twice a week. No tablets or potions. My waking and hot sweats went in around a week. I feel calmer and like I am on more of an “even keel”. Things still happen where, at times, I take things more personally than I probably would have done in the past but maybe we could all say that over the last year. During the menopause your levels of hormones decrease – but not on a nice regular even downwards slant like you might imagine a graph. Oh no. More like a staircase – ok for a while (flat or could go up), then a sudden drop. But the sizes of the stairs change so you might really notice one sudden drop but not notice another quite so much. I believe this “explains” the rage, the times where I have taken things more personally and the “sadness “coming over me – but the patches have helped to even out the staircase. Disclaimer – I am not medically trained in any way and I have no doubt that women’s experience of the menopause vary hugely, but this is my way of describing it.
I deliberately did not title this blog anything to do with the menopause or include my age at the start (I am 48). Why – because my perception (no research conducted!) is that it would have meant some of you would not have read this far. Would you? Maybe not – because you are male, or younger/older than me. But this health issue affects us all because either you have experienced it, or you are now (apparently it lasts for on average 5 years), or you will in the future. And if not, then I am pretty sure you know at least one woman in your life and they have/are now/will be in the future experiencing it. Or maybe you are a manager and this is/could be impacting on your staff? 73% of staff at SCC are female and 51% of the world’s population, so this is real, and it’s happening all around us right now.
So, this is the start of me joining a growing group of women who are happy to talk about this stuff.
But most of all, I just wanted to say, it is not just you and there are people who can help/listen. It always has been and it always will be good to talk. And if you want to join the conversation do get in touch.
At Somerset County Council we have a policy to support our female staff during the menopause and a Menopause page on our Working Well site with resources and advice. You’ll also find some brilliant colleague networking groups, including a women’s health group.
Melissa shares some useful resources below
- If you want to know more you can watch the recent Davina Mc Call one off programme… https://www.channel4.com/programmes/davina-mccall-sex-myths-and-the-menopause
- You can follow The Menopause Doctor (Dr Louise Newson) on social media sites.
- There is a private Somerset menopause clinic https://www.somersetmenopauseclinic.com/ you could contact.
- I have also recently bought a book – not read it cover to cover yet – Peri Menopause Power by Maisie Hill which has rave reviews – again, other books available.