I have spent the past seven years trying to decide if I was going mad. At times it has been almost unbearable as people say “Yes, those hot flushes are awful aren’t they” and I say “I don’t know, I have not had those, ever, at all!” One of the main symptoms that women often experience to tell them they are approaching a major change point in their life did not happen for me. Instead, brain fog, memory loss and anxiety fuelled by raging insomnia made me a complete mess.
My colleague wrote candidly back in 2019 about her experience of the menopause, so I thought that I would do the same with some helpful pointers as to what we, at CHaRM, can offer to help women at work based on our own experiences. The menopause is so individual in terms of how it affects women and one major step is to realise that just because someone is experiencing different symptoms to others, it does not mean that the impact on them is any less.
Over recent months I have run two support sessions for women in different businesses and the response has been positive in both cases. "I didn't know that HR could help in this way" is often the response that we get when we step in with our holistic approach to deal with employee well-being, but we are here to help.
In the support sessions, most of the individuals were sitting wondering what was happening to them and not really wanting to discuss their issues with their male managers. The fact that an “open” supportive conversation took place treating this as a mental health and well-being issue drove the conversation, with individuals giving their own accounts of their experiences. These ranged from driving along not really knowing where they were going so panicking and turning the car round to head home for safety, to bouts of serious, paralysing depression.
There is help out there for anyone who wants it. Just talking about this helps and finding the individual help for your own personal set of symptoms, which, often are not the ones that are written about on medical websites, can relieve a huge amount of stress and anxiety and enable you to function better. Whether it’s a simple change to working hours, looking at alternative medicines, food and nutrition, sleep and meditation techniques then we can help you.
It is surprising how many women suffer in silence, but talking in a facilitated environment helped them open up, resulting in them understanding that they were not alone and that help was available from a variety of sources. Our support sessions came about following conversations with managers who were concerned about the changes in behaviour they were witnessing within their team and what to do about it. Thankfully, they realised that HR specialists can help.
I’m not at the end yet, but I am better than I was. Talking, sharing and acquiring knowledge has helped me enormously – you are not on your own, and you are definitely not going mad.