Today is World Menopause Day and we want to highlight the benefit of being open and honest about what it’s like for women to experience menopause and the struggles that can come with it. So we spoke with Amy, a Senior Governance Executive Operations Manager who founded a women’s health support group where women from around the business can come and share their experiences and provide support for others.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your experience with menopause?
At the age of 37, I was catapulted into surgical menopause after having a total hysterectomy to tackle endometriosis and adenomyosis. Surgical menopause is when surgery, rather than the natural aging process, causes a woman to go through menopause. Due to a lack of awareness and training among medical professionals and social stigma, our needs during this critical life change are frequently ignored, belittled, or overlooked. No two menopause stories are the same, which contributes to a lack of understanding.
No one prepared me for what being a menopausal woman would mean for me and what kind of effect it would have on my body and mental health. Some of the common and not so common symptoms I have experienced are:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Dry skin
- Arthritic symptoms
- Aphasia (the inability to think clearly, more commonly known as brain fog!)
- Nerve and joint pain
- Mood changes – depression and anxiety
- Poor concentration/faulty memory
- Low libido
- Genitourinary syndrome (GMS)
I continue to suffer from numerous and apparent symptoms associated with the menopause that constantly requires numerous adjustments to my HRT. Earlier this year, I found out that I had dangerously low oestrogen levels for a woman my age, which is why I was experiencing so many symptoms in such a heightened way. Having low oestrogen levels at my age is dangerous because it can lead to things like, bone loss and osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer and early onset dementia.
Can you share some insight on how you managed dealing with menopause, especially at work?
Going through the menopause has been a struggle. I thought things were difficult when I was living with endometriosis and adenomyosis, but the menopause has changed everything about me. The most embarrassing symptom I have to deal with is aphasia (the inability to think clearly), as I will forget words or lose my train of thought while speaking, I worry that people who may not know me well, will think that I am not capable or articulate, when really, the words are on the tip of my tongue but I struggle to recall them. I have to be more prepared ahead of meetings and triple check my work for mistakes. I like to set a lot of diary reminders and “to do” tasks within Teams so that I can keep track of my work.
I set up a Women’s Health support group at work, where women from around the business can come and share their experiences with different conditions and provide support for others. It is open to everyone, and we would love for more people to join to share their stories or to learn about others and how they can support friends/family/colleagues.
What kind of support was offered to you at work? Did you find it beneficial?
Admiral has been so supportive, and I am so pleased that as an organisation it is trying to break down the stigma and create a menopause-friendly workplace through its policies and wellbeing initiatives. When I first joined, I was directed to the menopause and flexible working policies (plus others relating to reasonable adjustments and sickness). I also had a discussion with the Wellbeing and Workplace team so that they could understand my individual needs. Flexible working has been so beneficial for me, as currently I have no idea how I am going to feel when I wake up or if I have had disturbed sleep. I feel I can share what I am going through with my manager and team, so I do not have to suffer in silence or be embarrassed by any symptoms I may be experiencing that day.
I appreciate all the work Admiral do and the health themed weeks which share important information and have some brilliant guest speakers. Having these themed weeks that focus on a particular health topic are beneficial and it demonstrates that Admiral cares about what its colleagues may be facing outside of work and tackles the stigmas around conditions.
What advice would you provide to someone going through menopause?
Be kind to yourself, your body is going through so many changes that you should take the time to consider the things you enjoy doing and how you can take care of yourself. Adequate diet and exercise during the menopause are so important to help manage or reduce symptoms.
If menopause symptoms are affecting your work, you should talk to your manager or your human resources team. It might be embarrassing to talk about what you are going through, but being honest and asking for help is the first step. If you have access to flexible working, a later start might help if you’re having trouble sleeping or having the ability to work from home helps for the days when the fatigue is bad.
Try sharing with your colleagues about what you are going through, you may be surprised to find that other people in your team are menopausal (or have menopausal partners or family members) and they might understand what you’re going through. It’s really helpful to have this kind of support at work if you’re having a bad day, and simple gestures like scheduling meetings later in the day can go a long way.