Hands up anyone who had the menopause explained to them properly. No, me neither.
Did anyone warn you how much it would affect you in the workplace? Nope, me neither.
Do you tend to keep quiet about it or find people smirk if you mention it? I do.
The menopause can affect men as well as women however I can only address the female perspective as that is what I am.
For some reason the menopause still seems to be a taboo subject. If you are brave enough to mention it there is very little sympathy and the understanding of its implications in your day to day life are often belittled precisely because no-one talks about it openly. So here I am, being open…
How does the menopause affect your work?
Not everyone suffers badly, but many of us do and it can go on for years. When it hit me I thought it just involved a few hot flushes and the loss of your monthly cycle but how wrong I was.
The closest comparison I can get to is puberty. Strange things start happening to your internal chemical balance with the drop in, mainly, oestrogen. Your body and mind starts behaving as if it is an alien entity.
For me it started off with the hot flushes, particularly at night. I would wake up absolutely drenched and I mean dripping which necessitated a change of nightwear and bedding. The ones that occurred during the day reminded me of literally (as I know) being on fire and it was impossible to cool down sufficiently to maintain any form of composure. Very, very unpleasant but I suppose something that just had to be coped with.
I then found that my energy levels dropped off. If I did not get a 30 minute nap during the day I was absolutely stymied by the early evening. Even if I did manage a daytime snooze being able to function effectively each day became a matter of pure willpower. Gigs that finished late at night became something to be dreaded. I also found that my memory (which was never great) got even worse which, in my case, when you are trying to remember talks or speeches was not helpful. And my mood fluctuated all over the place with my patience and attention being stretched to their limits all the time.
Dealing with the menopause and its weird effects
But there was a much worse symptom. I lost the ability to string a coherent sentence together. In my mind I kept losing words that have formed part of my vocabulary for decades and there seemed to be disunity between what my brain knows it wants to say and the words coming out of my mouth. Sometimes, my tongue feels incredibly weird and will not help me out with the correct pronunciation. For someone who speaks for a living this could have been potentially a death knell for my career.
I tried all sorts of homeopathic remedies to lessen the symptoms but nothing seemed to work for me. Eventually I gave in to HRT which, though it hasn’t got rid of them entirely, has brought the symptoms down to manageable levels and saved my profession.
I know that I am not alone. The menopause when it strikes alters you completely. It affects every facet of your life and dealing with it at work takes a lot of adjustment. You have to listen to what your body is manifesting and telling you and then find ways around the symptoms revealed and/or, as I have done, reconfigure how and what you are doing to accommodate them. Your brain and body have become a new, strange land that you must re-navigate around to find a new path back to some form of equilibrium.
If any of you have found ways to minimise the effect of the menopause on your working life- do share and comment below- there are a lot of us out there who would appreciate the help.