Lash-Ed Issue 4 October 2019 - Page 48

Menopause. Do you really need to know about this stuff?

By definition, it's a day in your life . . . more like 5-9 years, on average!

I was rudely awakened early one morning with severe pain raging through my lower abdomen. I’d never felt pain like it - other than giving birth. I recall my terrified looking husband about to call an ambulance as I begged (ordered) him not to do so as I was expecting a busy day at work. A few hours later, my concerned looking Doctor insisted that I go to hospital. I thought I knew better. I didn't have the time so I just laid up quietly for a couple of hours in the hope that it would pass. To my delight rather than medical insight, the pain eased at lunchtime so I went in to work.

Within 2 weeks, I had a rather intrusive scan and told that ‘it would probably be wise to have surgery as it would probably solve a lot of problems’. They said the word probably twice. This gave me my excuse to put it off for now! I was 41, with a deluded belief that I couldn’t stop working so my body would just have to wait until I could fit it to my diary. What was I thinking? I put it off as I was terrified.

7 years on, I was booked in for surgery on my daughters 21st birthday in February. Spookily, it was scheduled at the same time she was born and in the same hospital building. She begged (ordered) me not to postpone. She said it was a good sign - despite the fact that I was 'getting rid of her first home'. Her exact words! It was rescheduled for March due to bad weather!

The term Menopause means your last menstrual period. A natural life event. After more than 7 years with horrendous ones, my menopause day was coming, thanks to the operation that I shouldn’t have put off. A lesson learned. You’re taught about starting your periods in UK schools but they don’t tell you the bit about when they stop. When they start, that's a day in your life and you know it. Whilst by definition, the menopause is a day in your life as it’s that day 12 months since your last period, there's a lot that can go with it for 5-9 years, so before, during and after. Joy!

I didn't know - as many women don’t - that I was in perimenopause, the phase leading up to the menopause. I’d only heard about this term last year when in hindsight, I should have known and prepared for it years ago. It explained so many of my symptoms as I had so many at the same time. I’d buried my head and put it off until I was older. Now needing to know, I found lots of information in so many places and became the champion for it in an organisation that employs around 6000 people with a fast changing age demographic. They were totally clueless too! I learned that 80% of women will experience some or many of the 35 menopause symptoms. For 25% of them, they will be severe. Half will not see their Doctor and many Doctors in the UK have little if any menopause training. This is subject of a campaign by Diane who you may have just read about over the page. It’s startling as around 77% of women just don't realise that their symptoms are due to their menopause and many are being misdiagnosed. I didn't have a clue and in hindsight, I had 15 obvious symptoms with 5 being severe. During the last year, they have had a significant impact on my ability to work at the pace I once enjoyed! It’s been so frustrating.

Each woman’s menopause experience will be different - and for different lengths of time. Aren’t we lucky? Due to surgery, one of my major symptoms was resolved. I won't miss the years of heavy, painful periods and the months where they didn’t stop. I started out my lash career offering a mobile treatment services. I really struggled with the limited facilities available. The loss made me exhausted and looking back, I wonder how I coped! I think it was the lash addiction that pulled me through!

As I ticked that one off the symptom checker, another one got me – brain fog. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to explain. Woman often talk about their baby brains where they forget things when they’re pregnant or after giving birth. For me, it was a million percent worse than my baby brain! I took for granted that I could do or oversee several things at once and keep track. Now, I have to stay totally focused on one task alone. My husband knows not to interrupt me as I’m typing as it breaks my concentration and I have to get back into the zone again and that’s time consuming. If you’re used to life in the fast lane, this is a nightmare! Also, add 18 months’ of nights where I averaged 3-4 hours’ sleep, my mood and concentration levels were being challenged!

I recall many clients having hot flushes during treatment and my couch covers would be drenched in sweat. I didn’t mind as they just suddenly come on and they can’t help it. The moment I had my first hot flush a couple of years ago, I realised just how uncontrollable they can be. I had a strong desire to stand outside completely naked in artic weather conditions – that’s how bad they can be. Now I know what it was like for my clients, and why one begged me to let her lay naked on my couch as I lashed her a few years ago . . .

For too long, the menopause has been a taboo subject or one of humour and ridicule rather than empathy and understanding. That came to bear when my friends 2018 Christmas gift was a hanging plaque that says 'Mood swing due in 6 minutes. Be afraid, be very afraid'.

My family point out the factual inaccuracy. It should read ‘6 seconds. Run away!’. This is bonkers as I was proud of my extremely high level of tolerance. I certainly needed that for my lifelong career in policing!

I could go on with many other symptoms but you can probably guess how it severally affects my ability work at the pace that I used to enjoy. This is one of the main reasons why we have a gap between editions 3 and 4 of Lash-Ed. I hope I’ll be forgiven! Please . . . .

So why am I talking about something so personal? Three reasons.

1. As a woman experiencing it, I wish I had known more before I started going through it. It was affecting my work and my close relationships and I had no idea why. I had no idea how I could help myself. Neither did my Doctor.

2. My clients experience it and I now feel better able to cater for their needs and put them at ease

3. As an employer, I have responsibilities for the health, safety and the needs of my age-diverse team. A legal and moral duty duty.

I think most of our readers are either women, employers or both. 80% of women are likely to experience symptoms that can have a significant impact on their lives and their ability to work. It’s wise to know what may be round the corner as the symptoms can be both mental and physical.

Psychological symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, irritability, brain fog / forgetfulness, difficulty coping, panic attacks, loss of motivation and drive, loss of libido, confusion, feeling helpless, lower confidence, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and depression (passing or clinical).

Physical symptoms include night sweats, hot flushes (sometimes called flashes), heavy or irregular periods, aching joints, palpations, itchy skin, headaches, nausea, vaginal Dryness, hair loss, bladder weakness, urine infections, brittle nails, weight gain and osteoporosis.

As Employers, we have a duty of care to our staff. If their menopausal symptoms are severe, they could have a substantial adverse effect on normal day to day activities. This may meet the legal definition of a disability under the Equality Act, one of the Protected Characteristics (England and Wales. There may be similar laws elsewhere). >>