The Positives of Menopause
As I sat in the car with my Mum with my six-week-old baby on my 40th birthday, she said to me, “Well, it’ll be menopause for you next then!”
I laughed yeah right, great… oh, you are serious?! Why was I only hearing about this now?
It transpires perimenopause starts early for the women in my family - and, due to only having one ovary thanks to a tumour in my teens, at 39 not only was I well on my way, but I also most likely got pregnant with my precious second rainbow baby with one of the last eggs my body squeezed out.
Menopause for many women has and does feel like a dirty, scary word and not one often uttered by a man, especially in a work environment and certainly not in a positive way. As recently as 6 years ago, when I had my baby, there was very little information available with GPs ill-equipped to advise and scaremongering about HRT was (and is still) rife.
Given half the population is or will be affected, it is shameful to think that many companies don’t have menopause policies - or even a simple compassion for it.
While it is admirable that the number of women joining the surveying profession is on the up, there are many women with lengthy careers who simply drop off the radar around the age of the menopause and I don’t think that’s any coincidence.
And I could list the symptoms many of you may have heard of - embarrassing hot flashes, irregular periods that catch you off guard, night sweats and difficulty sleeping which leave you exhausted, vaginal dryness and low libido which can make a woman who enjoys physical touch a shadow of her former self - all these things and more (there are 34 symptoms officially listed) lead to a lack of confidence which, in turn, can affect our work and how we feel about showing up every day.
For me, as well as many of the symptoms above, hormonal depression (perhaps with a dash of post-natal depression) and exhaustion led me to feeling suicidal most of the time. I woke up every day feeling like I had a hangover but without the pleasure of a tipple the night before.
Yes, me - the one with a community, podcast and member of RICS Governing Council. And it’s still something I need to work on as I navigate my menopause journey for the next few years.
Finding the help and figuring out what I needed to support me wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t about ‘fixing’ me. Because, just like adolescence, menopause is the biggest opportunity for personal growth only this time with a lifetime’s experience - if you choose it to be.
Much of my career success has happened at this time in my life and so, while you may feel so much is not possible from due to the headaches, weight gain, tender breasts, itchy skin, random allergies and panic attacks and all you want to do is hide under the duvet (and then kick it off because it is so darn hot), I want you to know there really is hope and you will find the right path for you to navigate; you’ve just not worked it out, yet.
I can’t give you a magic formula, but I can share some insights from my own journey:
Expand your network
Join the free webinars, podcasts, follow menopause experts on social media and sign up to their mailing lists. Get it on your radar and in your subconscious. Encouragingly, many experts are women empowered and motivated to make a change for others - they 'get it' and have been through the same thing. There is a lot of free advice and support available. The same goes for if you are a man: you can’t ever understand but you can empathise and that will go a long way in supporting your colleagues or a partner.
Educate yourself and your GP
Keep a log and track how you are feeling, Dr Louise Newson has a great app with lots of free information. And if your GP isn’t listening, find another one. I ended up joining a private health scheme for £20 a month and was fully supported, tested, and monitored to a better state of health and mind.
Pay attention to your diet and exercise
It absolutely makes a difference. The food you eat affects your chemical makeup and so it naturally affects your hormones. Keeping your body active also helps your mindset, just do something you enjoy rather than pound away for the sake of it. Pilates has transformed my body, allowing me to run regularly which I couldn’t do before.
Do the personal development
It’s a good time to take stock of where you are in your life - what gives you satisfaction in both your work, family and relationship. Where are you spending your time, energy and money? Do you need to ditch the things that are not serving you and do more of what makes you come alive and feel good about yourself?
If you are or have previously been a member of the RICS, LionHeart is also able to support you or a family member with coaching.
In the words of author Elizabeth Gilbert, “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all of the time. After that she is free to become whoever she truly is.”
That is how I feel about my own menopause journey and although I have difficult, low and frustrating times I know this too shall pass. I’d love to hear about yours too so do please reach out.
Marion Ellis FRICS is founder of Love Surveying Ltd and the Surveyor Hub online community and podcast. She is a member of RICS Governing Council and a volunteer networking ambassador for LionHeart.
- Download our menopause webinar and menopause at work resource document here