World Menopause Day – My Experience, by Lynne Friel

On World Menopause Day we invited our team to share their experiences. Here’s what Administration Assistant, Lynne Friel had to say about hers.

Somewhere in the midst of the second lockdown, in an existence turned upside down, after a long hot day on the seemingly relentless hamster wheel of homeschooling 3 kids  – one in Primary 3 that we’d just discovered was dysgraphic but had no formal diagnosis and twins in P1, with all the enthusiasm of that age but none of the skills, I am feeling the immense weight of responsibility for not only their education but what feels like their entire safety and future – physically, mentally and emotionally. I find myself washing my hands and noticing that I have managed to get sunburned whilst out on our forced march in the afternoon. I remark as much to my husband, who laughs at my bright red cheeks as only a man with Irish skin can, enjoying the schadenfreude he is so rarely afforded. 2 hours later, in the same bathroom, under the same light, washing my hands once more (happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you ….) I look in the mirror again only to discover that my “sunburn” has miraculously disappeared. A penny drops.

The mood swings, the stress, the conversations about losing my mind (and what felt like my core personality at times) feelings of utter overwhelm, weeping at anything on the radio/TV/social media, and the quite terrifying disproportionate murderous rage – all of it quite rationally put down to life in a pandemic. Hot flushes though?

I am 47, I have clockwork 26-day cycles – surely not.

I struggle in denial for a week or so, but my “sunburn” starts to return regularly at much the same time in the evenings even on cloudy days.

After a particularly volcanic day, finding myself hiding in the toilet for some respite I resign myself to a phone call with my GP fully expecting to be made to feel utterly ridiculous and palmed off with some rote words of reasonable compassion but ultimately no help.

I was lucky, my GP was amazing, turns out regular cycles and not being over 50 don’t really count for much in the hazy world of hormones. She talked me through the myriad of options and I plumped for patches and oral progesterone tablets.

Three days after starting and I am back! I cannot believe the difference, the relief, the lightness and the utter joy of feeling joy again!

The journey has continued, the doses of the patches have increased, and I no longer have regular cycles and find the lack of foresight an utter pain. The flushes return now and again (along with the tears and the murderous rage) but I feel like me again, for the most part, and at least I feel now that I have some knowledge and understanding.

Menopause is a normal transitional stage for most women and although the public focus on it now is welcome and applauded, much more should be done to educate everyone about the issues faced and how best to support those experiencing them.

I shouldn’t have to feel lucky that I had such a great GP. My experience should be the norm for every woman. I also shouldn’t have to feel “less” in any way whilst my body balances change.

As companies focus on their engagement and culture, their well-being strategies and the development of their staff, menopause should be a considered factor in every relevant case, if appropriate. At Hunter Adams, we are keenly aware of the challenges facing organisations trying to create policies to reflect their understanding and support in this area as well as the continued negative impact on staffing that is poorly thought out or a complete absence of any strategy for menopause support can have on individuals and companies at large alike.

On Menopause Day, ask what your company is doing for women at this stage in their life.