Menopause happens to every single woman, but it doesn’t mean that everyone has the same experience. The things I hear most from the ladies I speak to are ‘I didn’t know what was happening to me’ or ‘Am I the only person this is happening to?’
This is why I decided to do a series on real life menopause stories. Just real women talking candidly about their experience. You’re not alone. I spoke to the lovely Clare Jackson about her experience of the menopause and how it led to a whole change of life.
Sharon Macarthur (SM): What stage of menopause are you at and when did you first start noticing a change?
Clare Jackson (CJ): I’m peri-menopausal. Looking back, I can now say I started noticing a change in my late 30s, but it took me until I was 44 to go to the doctor’s and find out what was going on. I hadn’t made the link between my symptoms and menopause, mainly because I had my son at 35 and thought it was just my hormones settling down, and I thought menopause was something that happened when you’re much older. When I was around 42-43, my symptoms were starting to interfere with my sleep, work and recreation, and that’s what motivated me to get checked out.
SM: What symptoms have you got?
CJ: Thankfully, I’ve been almost symptom free for 12 months. Prior to that, I had several years where I suffered with migraines, flooding, mood swings, night sweats, and irregular periods.
At the start of September 2018, I missed a period and then I missed another at the start of October, which brought a range of symptoms. I get hot flushes from around 3am until I get up, and because my sleep is broken. I can feel very tired during the day. My energy usually hits a low point at 2-3pm, and if I can, I’ll usually have a 30 minute nap.
My mood has been very changeable too, going from being in tears to being full of rage. I feel a lot of collective rage around stories in the press like those relating to the #metoo movement and Brett Kavanagh, and when I hear stories from my clients about assaults etc. I go from wanting to be alone to wanting to be with other women, and I feel a lot of anger. I really believe that this is due to my upbringing and my relationship with men, especially my father and partner.
SM: If you are working how has menopause affected you day to day?
CJ: I’m self-employed as an Arvigo Therapist and Massage Therapist. On my busy days, I’ve felt exhausted, literally dragging my ass through the door to then do my duties as a parent and partner! But when clients cancel or don’t show, or on my day off, I try to use that time wisely. Today I walked onto the fell and lay in the sunshine listening to the Guilty Feminist Podcast. I try really hard to practice self-care as I tell my clients to do this regularly.
When I’m working, if I’ve had my period it’s been hard as they’ve been getting heavier and heavier, and I’ve found this extremely tiring. My treatment room is warm as people are undressed so when I’m having a hot flush, I feel as if I’m melting.
However, I’m educating women about the Menopause through my work and what I find is that I can make the symptoms visible, normalise the menopause, and open up a dialogue with clients. Many of them tell me they’re unable to do this in their workplace, so I feel lucky in that respect.
SM: What support are you getting from work or from others?
CJ: As I work alone, there is no one for support, there’s just me. But I’ve had to do as much research as possible to help my clients, and in doing so, it has helped me. I’ve attended some great workshops as I result of the network I have on Facebook.
My partner and my children, who are aged 13 and 10, found it confusing to begin with, but I’ve had conversations with them about how I’m feeling and about my varying symptoms. This has helped a great deal. I’ve found that I’ve had very little or no support from the females in my family, including my Mum and my sister, which I found upsetting. My best friend who is older than me has been a great help and comfort.
SM: What action are you taking to help you get through the menopause?
CJ: I attend various workshops, take herbal remedies, read lots of books, practise yoga, meditate, get outdoors as much as possible, eat a healthy diet, and practise Arvigo abdominal massage. I gave up alcohol as it made my symptoms worse.
I’ve reduced the amount of time with ‘friends’ who I felt were negative or a drain on my energy, and I speak my mind and say no more often.
I’m about to set up a Menopause cafe in my area so women have somewhere to go where they can socialise and talk about what their experiences.
SM: What’s been your biggest menopause surprise?
CJ: My change in career came as a result of entering into the peri-menopause although I hadn’t realised it at the time. I love what I do. It was a huge shift for me as I had been in my career for 25 years and thought it was what I would do for the rest of my life. So when I left, it shocked a lot of people and made my partner angry, as I went from having a salary and all the benefits to having nothing and building a business from scratch. I just knew it was the right thing to do and when I look back at my client base and see that they are mainly menopausal women, I believe that I started the menopause early for a reason.
SM: What would you say is good about this stage in your life?
CJ: That I feel confident enough to say it how it is. That I have 2 loving children and that I’m my own boss.
SM: Anything else you would like to add?
CJ: Yes, lots! Especially around sex and the menopause but it’s probably better that I don’t because I could go on and on. It’s an area my clients really struggle with but I feel it’s such an important topic for this time in a woman’s life.
Where do I come in?
Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org