Over the past ten years, I worked in senior transformation roles, typically in financial services. I held significant budgets, managed global teams and hit all my time, cost and quality targets. I was a go to person, for complex, challenging and problematic change programmes.
Around four years ago, over several months, I started having to consult my diary, to check which meeting I was going to next. I began to pause, prior to making decisions. I stopped speaking up in meetings. It was fine at first, as I had built capable teams and everything progressed to plan.
Then one day, I found myself being emotional in a debrief with my boss.
This was out of character. Neither my boss nor I knew what the cause was. For several weeks, I carried on. Increasingly, I lost my confidence; became more sensitive to others looks, comments or lack of; stopped sleeping and generally started working longer instead of smarter.
My team carried me through. My directors were starting to question what was going on with me in their meetings. A spiral of doubt about my ability started in both my, and my bosses’ minds. But no-one was talking about it.
My private concern was that I had early onset dementia.
I left my job.
As a sole parent, with a child in junior school, I felt that I needed create a safe environment for my son and then I could worry about myself and what the rest of my life was going to look like.
I finally saw my GP and he was great. Initially, I was diagnosed with ‘low mood’ a further conversation led to a blood test. This showed I had been through the menopause.
This felt like the best news of my life.
I knew as soon as the word menopause was uttered, that I was fine and that I was going to devote my time, to making sure no-one goes through the experience my boss, wider colleagues or I did.
Never again should a boss and his immediate report be so unaware of what is going on. My boss and I had worked together for several years, always producing great results. Neither of us had understood what was going on with me.
I am passionate that all organisations, women and men should know what the menopause is; what the 34 recognised symptoms are and how to support a woman going through it. It is a passing phase of a woman’s life. Typically, but not always, peri-menopause (the process leading to menopause) happens between ages 45 – 55 and 80% of women have some symptoms that impact their life to one extent or another. It can adversely affect personal and work relationships. Organisations lose key female personnel at a huge cost to the organisation. This is preventable. Business in The Community (BITC) did a study in one organisation that demonstrated a spike in dismissals of women, aged 45 – 55, who had no previous disciplinary record. Coincidence?
Menopause – the time when a woman has ceased to have periods for 12 or 24 months, depending on who’s definition you follow, is a natural life stage. My menopausal story may seem extreme. Sadly, it is more common than it should be. Please don’t let this be you or someone you know. Please, get educated, know how to look for the signs and learn how to seek or offer help and support.