Blog : They say life begins at 40. But at 42 mine was turned upside down….

“Do you know what the perimenopause is? I didn’t.

So, when I started to experience a whole range of odd symptoms there was a part of me that thought I was going slightly mad. Like forgetting certain words, losing my train of thought during a meeting (which was highly embarrassing), night sweats, weight gain, thinning of hair, low mood…the list went on.

I eventually said something to colleagues in work and it was then that the penny dropped. I was perimenopausal.

I was only 42 at the time so I thought I had years to go before I had to worry about the menopause. And even then, I figured it would be something I would crack on with, as it didn’t seem the ‘done thing’ to talk about something so personal.

But what a difference a few years makes. I’m now 48 and suddenly – with the help of celebrity Davina McCall – the menopause and perimenopause are a thing. Something tangible. And my symptoms have a label.

My perimenopause journey over the last six years has been far from smooth but I’m hoping by telling you about it, colleagues – men and women – may learn some useful tools and advice.

I went to my GP about my symptoms four years ago. I remember the conversation clearly and I remember vividly how hopeless and unbalanced I felt, with thoughts that were completely off the scale.

My GP at the time was really supportive, he told me not to worry and sent me for blood tests. They showed that my oestrogen levels had dropped dramatically, and the symptoms I was experiencing were a direct result.  My GP suggested anti-depressants (this seems to be the standard recommendation for treatment but not necessarily the right one), the Mirena coil for progestin hormones and discussed the possibility of HRT. This settled things for a while (without going on HRT), but once my GP retired, I found myself back to square one with getting support.

In 2019 my symptoms started to get worse; night sweats, unable to get to sleep, or stay asleep, low mood, low energy and brain fog. Unfortunately, at this time, my experience with my GP surgery wasn’t great and as we went into the Covid pandemic I decided to start looking into alternative ways to access support.

I joined social media groups and sought out advice about the perimenopause and menopause. There was so much information available which wasn’t being given to me through my GP. Menopause Monday live with Lisa Snowdon on Instagram quickly replaced Coronation Street.

Perimenopause and menopause treatments are still a minefield and no one treatment fits all, but through my research, I learnt about an alternative treatment to HRT called BHRT (Bio Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy) and decided to go private during lockdown, as the additional stress and lack of support from my GP was causing me extra anxiety.

BHRT is a specialised field of medicine that corrects hormone imbalances through the use of natural bioidentical hormones. I am very conscious that I was lucky enough to be able to afford to pay for treatment and this isn’t the case for everyone. But on BHRT things did start to improve for me. I felt my ‘tigger bounce’ come back. I’m still pushing through my GP surgery to be able to access this treatment through the NHS.

In 2020/2021, when perimenopause/menopause started to become more of a popular issue in the media, I approached the council’s HR team to ask if, as an organisation, we could have a Menopause Policy in place to support employees experiencing symptoms and challenges. I was pleased to hear that we were looking at a policy which was due to be signed off and in place within a few months. It’s been live for a while now and for me, as a manager in LCC, having a Menopause Policy means that staff who are struggling know they have the support of the council.

There is also so much support which colleagues can access through the council’s Employee Assistance Programme, which I have found useful for both myself and the staff I manage and work with. I self-referred to Talk Liverpool earlier this year as I was struggling with juggling life, and I benefited from six weeks of counselling on a one-to-one basis with a fantastic counsellor.

In terms of what comes next? I always fancied myself as being ‘the new Davina’ and setting up a Menopause Warriors Group for extra support – so watch this space, as this may still well take off after this blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I do believe that we need to support each other through the good times and bad. The perimenopause/menopause is a rollercoaster ride which I may be on for a while, but at least I’m not riding it alone.”

Liverpool Waterfront