My story: menopausal migraines, memory slips and hot flushes
Claire shares her menopause story – and the strategies that have helped her regain her zest for life
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment my perimenopause symptoms started.
All I know is one moment I was living my life full of zest, feeling carefree, but by the age of 48 it was though a light had gone out.
My previous sparkle was dampened by hot flushes and night sweats, my mood became unpredictable, and I couldn’t remember the names of people who have been in my life for the longest time.
I went to my GP and they told me I was perimenopausal. Wow. All of a sudden, I felt like a grown up and my body was changing and growing older too.
I would say my symptoms have been fairly typical. As well as the hot flushes I found the weight had started to creep on.
In the past this had often happened at Christmas, but with a new regime of exercise, diet and cutting down on alcohol I always managed to shift it.
Now things were different: my body shape was changing and I was gaining what is unkindly known as the middle aged spread – that is the fat that accumulates around the abdomen and buttocks during mid-life. And no amount of walking, eating less or yoga classes seems to shift it.
I’ve always suffered with migraines, but they have become more acute and at times, scary. Thankfully the migraine medication I have been prescribed helps me to keep them under control.
And then’s there have been the memory issues. On occasions I have seriously thought I have early onset dementia. I have to write everything down, and make notes for absolutely everything. Now if only I could remember where I left my memory notebook…
I’m proud of who I am and the journey I’ve been on, but in the early days, I found the attitude of those around me to my symptoms hard to deal with.
The prevailing attitude from others was to soldier on: go and see the doctor and ask for some tablets, you’ll be fine.
It wasn’t their fault. Menopause is one of the last great taboos. it’s been happening since the beginning of time, so we don’t talk about it.
And even when we do, it’s treated as though it is just ‘women’s problems’ or even something amusing.
As children become women of reproductive age, they teach sex education in school, periods and contraception, but where are the lessons on the changes that take place when your days of being ‘fertile’ are over. Who tells you about the physical and mental changes? The question of feeling somehow less feminine?
It feels like things are finally starting to change. Menopause is no longer a dirty or funny word. There are celebrities bringing the menopause to the fore. This for me and for many others has been a game changer, bringing the conversation on this hugely life changing experience to the front page.
My daily regime now includes HRT to substitute the hormones which my body is no longer producing.
I’m now 54 and I have a confidence and surety that I’ve not experienced before.
I am a Member Relationships Director with Nationwide Building Society. This means I have a responsibility for colleague development and wellbeing which I adore.
I take pride in my appearance but I’m more focused on how I feel, and I have built some disciplines into my life. I try to walk on the beach every day and take some time for me. I’ve started to listen to my body when it lets me know I need to slow down.
And I understand the importance of putting my own gas mask on first. I need to be the best version of me for those around me as well as for myself. Which is why finally I invested time in speaking to my GP about my symptoms.
I wanted to share my journey because I have three daughters who are the ‘why’ in my life.
They are in their mid-20s and I want to be their role model. I hope that in some small way they are grateful to me for encouraging them to be independent women, free to make their own choices in life, showing empathy and consideration to others, whist educating them too.
And when they reach this stage in their lives they will be prepared and not afraid to talk openly about they own personal experience.