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The Menopause & Me by Silvana Greenfield

Thanks to a few high-profile celebs the conversation around Perimenopause and Menopause has become more mainstream, with a slow increase of representation and discussion in popular culture; yet it is still a topic that is often overlooked or avoided in the workplace.   

Recently the UK government decided against providing special protection for menopausal employees under the Equality Act (2010), rejecting recommendations from the UK parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, so the responsibility still lies with people like myself to speak openly and honestly about our experiences and help be the voice for people struggling with peri/menopause in the workplace. 

My story starts 5 years ago, aged 43, following a half marathon I did in London in October 2018, the usual aches and pains ensued in the days after the event which was pretty normal. It didn’t usually take longer than a few days for my body to fully recover, however this time things felt different. 

I was exhausted, physically, mentally and for a while I just put it down to my age and that maybe I needed to allow for a longer recovery period, but it became apparent pretty quickly that something was going on.  My bones were hurting. I was having pains in my lower back, hips and groin and coupled with debilitating insomnia, brain fog, acne and seriously low energy, I started to wonder if there was something seriously wrong with me. 

All of this was happening whilst working in a pretty fast-paced, time sensitive environment, no different to hordes of publishers in the games industry, especially when you are heading towards launch phase of a new IP in highly competitive landscape and in my capacity as Operations Director for the EMEA region, the pressures and responsibilities were not outside the normal realms of expectation for me. 

Having worked in the industry for over 20 years at this point, dare I say it, I was pretty proficient in my role, or so I thought.  As the symptoms of the perimenopause progressed, they manifested themselves in ways I had not anticipated and I was still oblivious to the root cause of why and what was making me feel so bloody awful.  Basic tasks which I could ordinarily perform on auto-pilot in my day-to-day role, took a huge amount of effort, oftentimes having to sense check or verify aspects many times over to ensure it was right. 

It was exhausting!!  I was having to work twice as hard for the same results and I felt that if I shared how this was impacting my work life, it would call into question my professional capacity which was a hugely horrifying concept to me. 

I was and still am massively proud of my career in the games industry and I didn’t want that to be marred in anyway, so I did my best to conceal the extent of how my health struggles caused by the perimenopause (undiagnosed), were affecting me. 

I questioned everything and I seriously thought I was losing my mind, I honestly thought I was falling into cognitive decline, so much so, I started to question if I was suffering from early onset dementia, a disease I had sadly watch my paternal grandmother endure.  This may seem like an extreme overreaction, but one I now know isn’t an uncommon worry for people in the throes of peri/menopause.   

The anxiety and emotional stress I felt throughout this period was immeasurable and in tandem, I was undergoing many medical tests, consultations for various symptoms, I was being pulled from pillar to post in varying fields; urology, rheumatology, gynaecology, none of which could really get to the root cause of the symptoms, in fact at no point was perimenopause or menopause mentioned or even flagged by the so called “experts”. 

It was only when I started to share how I was feeling with close friends that I began to join the dots, with many of us having similar stories, symptoms and signs, we all agreed that the lack of understanding, support or information from the medical sector was pretty staggering and for me personally, it opened the door to my new found path to becoming a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach.   

That journey also contributed to my decision to step away from the games industry and by openly addressing the physical, emotional, and mental changes brought on by peri/menopause, I want to lobby and challenge employers to engage in conversation, dispel myths and misinformation and provide education in the workplace.    

I want to champion the creation of a more inclusive and supportive work environment that allows all menopausal people to thrive, armed with the right support managing menopause in the workplace can be an opportunity for growth and development.