World Menopause Day: How do you really feel?
Here at Olivia, we spend a lot of time talking about the different symptoms of menopause, advice on healthy lifestyles and relationships, experiencing menopause at a young age, why your gut health matters…the list really does go on (and you’ll have a hard time getting us to stop!).
But we don’t want to ever lose sight of you, the person going through menopause. In honour of World Menopause Day, we wanted to take some time to recognise your menopause experience, asking exactly how it feels to be going through this seismic shift in midlife.
We sent out a little survey on our socials, and the responses were moving, to say the least. One comment that cropped up often was of feeling different, ignored and out of sight.
That has really stayed with us, and reminded us of our mission - to ease the menopause experience and provide robust, cutting-edge guidance on symptom relief. We also want to let you know that you’re not alone - there’s others out there experiencing the same thing.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in and see what the responses say.
Our first respondent, Shona, explains that she has felt “unexplained and unacknowledged” in menopause, followed around by a “fog in which you doubt your competency”.
She also notes how it feels to enter this new stage of life, where “being ignored or invalidated by the community you live in is the norm”.
It’s hardly a secret that society prizes youth over age, and that traditional gender roles can make it difficult for older generations to feel accepted and valued.
A silent journey
Symptoms alone can be stressful, invasive, and downright bothersome.
But it’s even worse if you don’t feel supported in how to manage them. The M Report notes that many in menopause often seek out information about symptoms by themselves, with only a third turning to medical professionals.
No doubt this contributes to these feelings of invisibility and insignificance. Navigating new and confusing symptoms can make you feel alone and separate from the rest of the world. It’s important to always seek medical guidance in order to receive individualised, tailored advice, no matter whether you opt for medication or lifestyle changes.
The information is out there, we promise. It’s just about going after it.
Another respondent, Jenny, has noted that she can’t “function anymore”, feels “deflated, full of anxiety” and experiences “enormous amounts of migraine attacks”.
Unfortunately, the hormonal fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone can impact many different areas of your life, from mental health to headaches.
Knowing what causes this surprising array of symptoms may go some way in easing the stress you may feel, though we know it’s not everything.
Everyone knows about hot flushes, but did you know there are 34 symptoms of menopause in total? Depression, allergies and headaches are some of the lesser known ones.
Having the vocabulary, and the knowledge, to describe what’s happening to you is a vital step in taking ownership of your journey. It goes a long way in dispelling the clouds of mystery around what is happening to your body if you know that hormonal fluctuations are behind some of those funky changes.
Being more in tune to your body can also help with communicating your experience to others. Being vocal about what you're going through can help ease some of the burden, as well as letting those around you know how they can best offer support.
Lost in the workplace
For Kay, what surprised her most about menopause was feeling like “a completely different person and not recognising myself”.
This is hardly surprising! Menopause can affect so many different areas of your life, and many folks report feeling out of control in a body that doesn’t behave like it used to.
Kay also noted that she doesn’t work anymore, saying “I actually don’t think I could now!” Menopause can wreak havoc on your ability to do your job, which is why it’s so important to create safe, trusting environments in the workplace.
But with none (!) of the respondents to our survey saying that they felt supported with menopause at work, is it any wonder that people like Kay feel unable to be a part of the workforce?
Career highs, menopause lows
Unfortunately, menopause seems to hit when many of you are experiencing the high point in your career. You may have been climbing that greasy pole for years, navigating childcare and partners whilst still killing it in the workplace.
Finally, you’ve come to a place of respect, perhaps even seniority, when all of a sudden, hot flushes and brain fog make even the simplest meeting an insurmountable task.
Beyond work, this generation is also known as the ‘sandwich’ generation. Many of you will be supporting both parents and children - financially, emotionally, and more. The associated unpaid labour that is expected of women from society can cause immense pressure and when menopause hits, you might not know what way to turn.
Lack of societal support
For Thea, menopause has been, in a word, “tiring”.
She finds it difficult to work, due to a “lack of energy, motivation and concentration”. Brain fog is a typical menopause complaint, with many finding it hard to focus and get things done.
And with over 80% of survey respondents saying that society views and supports those in menopause “very badly”, it can feel difficult to reach out and get help at the time when you need it most.
A dearth of knowledge
Is it any wonder that society supports those in menopause so poorly, when so few of us even know anything about this time of life? The M report indicates that around half the UK female population know “nothing or very little about the emotional and mental aspects of menopause”.
Changing a whole society feels like an impossible task, and we’re not asking you to take on that as well as navigating hot flushes! But little drops make the mighty ocean, and taking that first step to communicate both what you’re experiencing, and what you need, can help make the waves that move society.
This might look like asking your boss for extra support around deadlines, or having a partner help you out with changing the sheets after a bout of night sweats.
What can you do?
So, can we learn anything from our lovely survey respondents? They were kind enough to leave some advice for anyone else beginning their own menopause journey:
Kay notes that you should “be prepared - physically, mentally, and emotionally.”
Jenny says that you should “get help from the very first symptoms”.
As for Shona? For her, the most important thing has been “communication”. We couldn’t agree more - letting loved ones and colleagues know what’s going on can go a surprisingly long way in easing the burden of menopause.
We also need society to change. That means employers taking menopause more seriously, partners shouldering the burden, and friends and family stepping up to offer more emotional support. This should be something that we all take on together.
For now? At least you’ve got the Olivia app to see you through. This app is perfect for you if you’ve been wondering:
How you can manage hot flushes
What to do to feel more energised
If HRT is safe, or even effective
How to survive in the workplace
And so, so much more. We also offer a wide range of programs dedicated to symptom relief and healthy habit forming, so you don’t have to suffer hot flushes and brain fog in silence.
We know that menopause can be quite the headache. We see you and we acknowledge everything you’re going through. We also know how strong you are, at every point in your journey.
What a glorious human you are.
“The Gen M Invisibility Report.” https://gen-m.com/insight/. Accessed 18 October 2022.