This was the constant question I asked myself.
Then last year, I was finally diagnosed with premature menopause after roughly six years of asking doctors for help as I didn’t know why I felt like I was losing my marbles!
The menopause is a long term hormone deficiency with awful symptoms, and every woman will go through it for many years; it can affect women of all ages, sometimes even teenagers.
Women with premature menopause experience more severe symptoms, increased depression, and a higher risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
I had not been right for a long time, and then In 2019, I started to experience chronic fatigue so strong I struggled to stay awake at work and felt like I was in deep depression. I would come home, go straight to bed and completely withdrew. At this point, I had been commuting to London for four years and thought maybe this was taking its toll and the reason for losing everything that made me “me.”
I went to see my GP and was diagnosed with “burnout syndrome”, he prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills. My stress was so severe my right shoulder seized up, and I had to support my arm in a sling and weeks of treatment with an Osteopath.
I eventually confided in my CEO whilst (whilst sobbing uncontrollably) that I was a mess and had no idea why. He immediately supported me, insisted I take some time off and sorted equipment for me to work from home as much as I liked.
Then Covid came and many lockdowns. I worked full time throughout the pandemic in my small home office, which after months felt like a prison cell. The isolation compounded my mental health leading to one awful day where I actually felt suicidal; this scared me. My now ex did not support me even when I asked for help.
After weeks of lockdown, I was still plagued with horrendous fatigue, so I went back to my GP. Whilst there, I asked for medication for hayfever (which returned after many years with a vengeance).
The only help I came away with was a prescription for hayfever; my fatigue was dismissed.
I later discovered the hayfever medication was heavily sedating!
My fatigue was now so bad I had to take breaks to sleep throughout the day and then crash for an hour or two immediately after work. I spiralled with anxiety and depression. I dreaded work every day, but as Head of Practice, I am responsible with other Directors to ensure our business was maintained and navigated through the unknown Covid waters.
I would wait until a zoom meeting ended, then cry, my confidence was at rock bottom, my enjoyment for life just went.
I was burning hot all the time. Fed up of sweating and being clammy and waking up in the middle of the night on fire.
Then came the worst symptom of all “brain fog”. Lack of concentration, forgetfulness, struggling to complete sentences in conversations or even remember what word to use.
I thought I might be experiencing the onset of dementia as I felt trapped in my own mind.
Scientific studies have shown menopause restricts brain function due to hormone deficiency. So when women experience this, we are not “having a moment” or “emotional mood”.
It is completely debilitating, and I felt embarrassed in front of colleagues.
Many women are taken through disciplinary procedures for poor performance and lose their jobs. A quick google search will show you how common this is.
The discrimination is disappointing in today’s world. Where is the support? We don’t want or choose to be like this.
Eventually, I decided to go to a private clinic in November 2020.
Blood tests showed my FSH levels were off the chart…… I was already heavily in premature menopause. I was shocked, It never occurred to me I would be suffering from menopause, but that’s because it is never talked about openly in our society and no standard education leading to so many women being ill-equipped to recognise changes, myself included.
My GP had prescribed HRT patches, antidepressants, sleeping pills and diazepam. He said it’s “trial and error” ! I’ve continually suffered from nausea from all the medication regularly up in the night unwell, then somehow managing to put my game-face on for 9 am Directors meetings after 2-3 hours sleep.
I’ve gone through a period of real anger and a feeling of grieving, feeling livid, cheated and robbed of my forties. Although I have two wonderful children (and don’t want anymore), knowing I no longer had a choice took a piece of me away.
During my 30 years in law, fighting to climb the career ladder so that I am as recognised as men have been exhausting. Learning not to react to derogatory comments, such as being told I’m “emotional” when I’m actually speaking with passion or “aggressive” when I’m assertive, experiencing the gender pay gap. The list goes on.
At Simply Conveyancing, this is not a taboo subject. We have started our journey to do more and keep going.
One of our initiatives is to provide access to the Bupa menopause plan to any colleague that needs support and also a full range of counselling services at no cost to the individual.
I had my first appointment in August with a specialist Bupa menopause doctor and learned I should be on FIVE times the dose of HR, and with the right dose, I don’t need all the other medication. The relief I felt was overwhelming.
Conveyancing firms commonly employ a high percentage of women, but management is dominated by men and often true in many other sectors.
I would urge all employers to do more:
- Do not shy away; you will lose great people.
- Do not wait for employees to mentally break and ask for help; you can prevent the crippling fear
- Be proactive. Showing you care as an employer has immense benefits to a companies success
- Most importantly, you will positively change lives for many women
Most of us will have important women in our lives that we love. Learn how to support them, so we don’t feel alone.
I spent a long time feeling like an “imposter” had taken me over, but now I am choosing to treat the menopause as an empowering stage in my life, and that simple change in mindset has been liberating.
Every day I remind myself to feel strong and refuse to let the imposter back.
Director of Risk & Quality | Head of Legal Practice