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My personal experience of going through the menopause at work

My name is Sally Moore, I’m 52 years old, and the Sales Director for the ILX Group.

I’ve worked for ILX for six and a half years and, along with four male colleagues, I’m very proud to be part of the Senior Leadership Team. Reporting directly to our MD, Russell Kenrick, I’m personally responsible for a team of 22 people, made up of 8 males and 14 females. Overall, women represent 60% of ILX’s workforce.

Looking further back, I’ve spent 26 years in B2B/corporate environments, working my way up from a Sales Executive, to where I am now. Across a wide range of working cultures, I’ve experienced both male and female managers. Other than ILX, all the companies I’ve worked for had a greater male representation.

When working in a senior position, there comes a certain expectation, and why not? You are at the top of your game, and you must prove you’re worthy of it. With a senior position, come many pressures: company growth & profitably, employee engagement & retention, creating an inclusive, stimulating and accepting culture, employee wellbeing, to name just a few.

I take my job very seriously, and, sometimes, maybe too personally, because I’m always striving for ILX to be a great place to work. I put a huge amount of pressure on myself – I always have – but a couple of years ago I started to notice that I was struggling with certain demands that hadn’t previously phased me.

I would wake feeling negative and anxious, imagining the worst outcomes rather than the best, which was so unlike me. With that I started to doubt myself and began to feel a fraud (I’m sure there are many readers who’ve heard of impostor syndrome!) and, worst of all, that I was going to get found out. It noticeably knocked my confidence, but could I talk about it? Of course not, I was the Sales Director, the most senior female in the business… I couldn’t let the side down!

So, I just carried on, hoping this anxiousness and self-doubt would go just as quickly as it came. But it didn’t. It then began to manifest itself physically: hot flushes, there’s no stopping those! And if you’re in the middle of a presentation/pitch/business meeting when they hit you, you have no choice but to carry on. Even when your head is as red as a ripe tomato and you have sweat trickling down your neck, the show must go on. Try staying focused on the task at hand in that kind of scenario; it’s tough, I can tell you. Then the brain fog rolls in, “did I really just put the milk in the cupboard”? and, did I really just, “completely forget to turn up to a meeting”. Now, I’m known to be forgetful, but this was suddenly getting ridiculous and I became increasingly terrified of being exposed. I managed it by laughing at myself and making light of it, as that felt the only way through it. Silly Sally!

Then one morning, after a full on sweat-drenched shocking night of broken sleep – oh, I forgot to mention it screws with your sleep too – I decided I needed to get to the bottom of why I was feeling like this.

That weekend I met up with my great group of girlfriends, for a big walk we’d planned together, and I plucked up courage to explain what was going on, and how I was feeling.

“Welcome to the menopause!” said one of my pals, which was followed with similar stories from so many of these wonderful women. We shared anecdotes, advice, treatments, we signposted each other to resources. This was my first step to doing something about it and making the decision to stop suffering in silence, to stop simply putting up with it and feeling crap. I’m only 52, I’m fit, healthy, have a zest for life, and this menopause stuff wasn’t going to get in the way of these important years of my life.

Roll on two years and I’m in a far, far better place.

I did a lot of my own research and worked out what I needed to do. I was pleasantly surprised to find a load of resources on the menopause in the public domain. I followed the menopause doctor, Dr Louise Newson, and Dr Naomi Potter on Instagram. I read blogs, articles and listened to podcasts.

I went to see my GP, who was sympathetic, but not particularly helpful or knowledgeable (and she is a female in her late 40’s) and I assertively told her I wanted to go on HRT and, based on my own assessment, I was low risk. After a quick consultation, she agreed to prescribe Evorel HRT patches to replace the oestrogen that my body is no longer producing. Coupled with the Mirena coil that I was already using, which delivers progestogen into the womb, I was armed with what I hoped would minimise the unwanted effects of the PMS-type symptoms of the menopause.

So where am I now?

I sleep, I have far fewer hot flushes, I feel more confident and in control, I’m not “quite” as forgetful, I have fewer negative thoughts and fewer, less severe mood swings (my husband likes me again!). I do want to stress that my husband bore the brunt of a lot of these horrendous symptoms, but lucky for me, we spoke openly about it and he worked with me and was as keen for me to get better as I was. I’ve got my mojo back, and boy does it feel good!

I’m proud of what I have done, taking ownership of my menopause journey, and getting the right treatment that’s working for me.

Not every female’s story is as positive as mine, and this is down to many reasons; fear, embarrassment, not speaking out and seeking help, a lack of understanding, not only among women going through it, but also GPs. This latter point is evident in the many women who are misdiagnosed and put on anti-depressants. I urge all women that are experiencing any menopause symptoms to do something about it; don’t suffer in silence. This is your life, and you should be able to live it to the full for as long as you can.

I have shared my experiences to my daughters, husband, friends, work colleagues, and now to you. By being open about my own menopause experiences with women at ILX, I hope, if need be, it allows them to be open themselves and that they can rely on me and other women at ILX to offer support in whatever capacity we can.  I certainly don’t feel ashamed, or embarrassed; in fact, I feel proud and determined, and the one thing I hope you take from this blog is that there are solutions out there, so go and find what works for you.

I wish my Mum had spoken more about her menopause before she died, so I had been more prepared for mine. While I can’t change that, I can change people’s perceptions and inform people going forward. So, calling all mums out there, talk to your children and partners so you can prepare your daughters so we can collectively make a change in society for the benefit of everyone.

Thanks for reading!