World Menopause Month: ‘I remember running out of work in floods of tears’
Sarah realised how little support and education women receive about menopause when she began experiencing it herself aged 43. As she struggled to manage her symptoms – all while working for a very male industry – she decided to do something about it
I'd like to say that my wellbeing has always been at the forefront of my lifestyle, but sadly that isn’t the case.
I only really started to take my health seriously when I hit my early forties. And to be honest my gynaecological health wasn’t something that I felt was important.
You would have thought that being someone who'd had lots of treatment for unhappy-looking cervical cells, polycystic ovaries, and a not-so-great childbirth would have given me a kick up the backside to ensure I was taking that area of self-care to another level. But sadly it didn’t. Same went for my general health, to be honest.
Being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid (previously overactive) and psoriatic arthritis meant that I had to take matters into my own hands. I fought for the right medication and I was blessed to be given it.
With that, and a now very healthy lifestyle, I lead a normal life. You would never know that I have to self-inject every two weeks.
So you would think with all of this the menopause would be a walk in the park. Well for one I am, like so many other women, so uneducated when it comes to hormones and how they are balanced.
You would have thought that that and going from a pleasant happy-go-lucky woman to being called ‘Psycho Sarah’ (along with an illustration) by your boss would have rung some alarm bells. Erm, no, I just thought he was being his usual charming self! My day job is in construction which is notorious for being male-led. Maybe one day this will change.
Fast track the next couple of years and I started to notice that the way I felt was really off. For example, I can remember on one occasion running out of work in floods of tears for no apparent reason.
I just felt as though there was this dark cloud following me around that would not go away. My brain felt foggy and I felt detached from people. I suffered terribly with vaginal dryness (I was even sent for a scan) and it was so painful just to go to the toilet. And yet no one seemed to want to help me.
Unfortunately, my GP wanted to put me on anti-depressants when I wasn’t depressed. So once again I decided to take the bull by the horns and do some of my own research. I went back to my GP with a list of requirements and items to discuss. (I still feel they always must have dreaded me attending) and had to pay privately to be able to get the correct HRT for me, because like so many women one size does not fit all.
With all of this in mind, I knew that there must be other women who felt the same. So I decided to start a closed Facebook group in my local area. We now have nearly 500 members of which 80% are local ladies. I wanted to build a community of real women who can support one another.
We meet once a month to share our stories, tips and to generally build friendships. We have also incorporated ‘buddies’ within the group to connect with new members, and have produced posters and flyers that were handed out to GPs, health centres, workplaces etc. My husband even has it plastered all over the back of his work van!
Following on from this I built a website to be able to log all of the research I had found, along with incorporating a friendship forum. This has now developed further afield but my heart will always be with my community in my local town and the surrounding communities of women that need that connection with someone who cares.
I am hoping that other women will build pockets of support in their local area to build friendships because women supporting women makes all the difference to the season of menopause.
So you see, Wellbeing of Women is a vital charity when it comes to research, development and education in areas that affect women on a daily basis. For one, the fact that they are interested in a possible link between endometriosis and autoimmune disease is groundbreaking but they have also funded research with focus on improving attitudes towards menopause in the workplace and helping women manage their symptoms.
Maybe my daughter’s generation will have a better understanding, along with endless possibilities because of this wonderful charity.