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Breaking the Stigma

Thursday 18th October is World Menopause Day. The Menopause affects millions of working women across the UK every day, but is a condition which can be misunderstood, misdiagnosed and swept under the carpet.

I have followed the work of Louise Newson,  Lauren Chiren and other experts on the subject over the last couple of years. My belief is that everyone must become more comfortable speaking about this subject, not just women.

Why am I writing about this?

Over 18 months ago I started to suffer from a chain of seemingly unrelated illnesses. Headaches, sore stomach, respitory infection and sore joints. Each could be written-off as a short-term ‘bug’. Who doesn’t get a hot flush in the summer?

What did start to scare me was brief lapses in my memory. I could briefly feel confused, disengaged and lose my place when working on some data. Really not like me at all.

My greatest battle came with a severe loss of confidence. As much as physical discomfort, starting to lose faith in myself and my ability to do my job was terrible.

It took a bit of luck to get a proper diagnosis. I went to the Doctor with a persistent itchy back (of all things), which led to a blood test, which led to him calling me. I was in the midst of menopause and hadn’t realised.

Help at hand

This can be a scary time, but I am really lucky. I was able to discuss my health openly with both Directors at SVL without a moment’s hesitation. I know I am lucky that these two gents were so open with, and caring for, their staff.

I also know others aren’t so lucky. We can use today to raise awareness not only about the condition, but to encourage greater openness.  If their colleagues do not know enough about the menopause then it potentially makes it very hard for a woman to talk about the symptoms she is experiencing at work.

SVL were brilliant with me. Both before my diagnosis and when my treatment began; I was offered

  • Flexible working.
  • Climate control around my workspace.
  • Opportunities for breaks.
  • Support and understanding (most important of all).

Having this support gave me the strength to go through this period with minimal disruption, which is what I wanted more than anything. We are an independent business with 40 staff. I would say SVL is an example of best practice of any size of organisation… they care for their staff.

What to look out for

If you ‘Google’ any of the excellent articles on the subject, you will read how menopause if often diagnosed as depression. We need to break the stigma related to the symptoms when a woman is lacking in Oestrogen. There is so much that can be done, but each treatment is unique and personal.

It is a condition, not an illness. Like pregnancy, but without the highly visible signs. So, look for the more subtle indicators in yourself, and your colleagues, and your staff.

Have a chat with your GP and if you start to experience what I did….treatments are available. Most importantly, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES with your employer. Research has shown that performance, engagement and productivity are all affected in this group, and 25% of women in this group suffer severe symptoms.

To conclude, I offer my thanks to my Directors and colleagues at SVL for their care and support. It’s great to be here.

Pauline Dawson – Marketing, Finance and Data Co-ordinator – SVL Business Solutions.

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