Living with menopause - Ginger’s story
In this blog, Ginger reflects on her experiences with menopause. She explores the stigma around menopause, the difficulty the symptoms have been for her mental health and how she overcomes her low days.
I’m 47 years old and have been living with symptoms of menopause for the past 8 years.
Throughout my life, I struggled with erratic and heavy cycles, and thought this was normal. I’d be hunched over in pain for days, get migraines and extreme lower back pain that would run down my legs. I thought this was normal and just cracked on with life.
Moving on, aged 32, I delivered my first daughter in 2008. Things started to go south with my cycles - they never started. The doctors told me I entered menopause and that if I wanted more children, I’d need to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to kick-start my system again. I did this and delivered my second daughter in 2011 aged 35.
This time around, I didn’t stop bleeding. After several tests, my consultant strongly recommend a hysterectomy due to the abnormalities. His response was a very clarifying moment for me: "If you don’t you could be receiving chemo treatment by the end of the year and is that fair on your two daughters?”
I felt lonely even though I had people around me.
So, five weeks later, I went under the knife and had a total hysterectomy. My ovaries remained but were damaged during the surgery. This is where my story of menopause begins.
Since my surgery, I’ve struggled with two elements: 1) the stigma that I’m too young to be experiencing menopause and 2) the symptoms themselves.
1) The stigma of being ‘young’ and in menopause has had a negative effect on my mental health.
When trying to join in on conversations at work with women who were describing the same symptoms as me - such as night sweats, memory loss, low self-esteem – I’d get told "you’re too young", "I don’t think you really know what it’s like" or, my favourite, "you saying you’re in menopause at your age is like someone who has a headache saying they have a migraine." Trust me, I know how debilitating a migraine is!
In order for anyone to listen, I always had to say that I had a hysterectomy and a surgically induced menopause. I didn’t want to have to tell people this but if I didn’t, no one believed me! This left me feeling isolated from those experiencing similar symptoms and those who were not going through menopause. I felt lonely even though I had people around me.
2) The symptoms over time are bizarre and constantly changing.
I experience hot / cold flashes, where one minute I can be bundled up like it’s -40 degrees and then 30 minutes later, I’m in a summer dress like it’s 40+. I go through a lot of clothes!
What affects my mental health the most is the pressure I put on myself. There are some days where I’ll be in a meeting and I know what I want to say, but physically can’t get the words out. I feel frustrated and annoyed with myself, and this knocks my self-esteem.
What affects my mental health the most is the pressure I put on myself.
Whilst all of this is challenging to life, there are a few things that are important to me. When I’m feeling at a low point, I focus on these. Firstly, my family. They keep me grounded and support me. The girls give me more cuddles (they’re 14 and 11 so, I’ll take what I can get!) and hubby takes on more responsibility around the house so I can have more ‘me time’.
Secondly, music. I love music and ensure that music is always on somewhere in the house. I love Imagine Dragons; they’ll be on all throughout the day, even on repeat!
Lastly, but just as important, my work friends. We have a menopause group which is great as we can support each other and most of my staff are aware of what I am going through. I feel safe to tell my staff when I’m struggling, and I know that they’d help and support if they needed to. Mostly, to let them know that I may need a little more time to action something – they understand.
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