Jackie was a project manager working in financial services when she had a hysterectomy in her early 40s, and she received no advice about any potential consequences of this operation. Jackie was given 4 paid weeks off work so she put together her own recovery plan and after a month, she went back to work and coped well managing her team of 16 people.
Things seemed to be OK for a few years and then Jackie noticed some changes in herself, as she explains.
"The changes I was experiencing were now having a detrimental impact on my performance at work."
“I started getting more tearful than usual and felt anxious about things that normally wouldn’t have bothered me. I experienced heart palpitations for the first time, and my face would feel like it was burning.”
Jackie was working as hard as ever at this time and she put these changes down to stress and just pushed herself harder. Life outside of work suffered as the stress and anxiety spilled out. Others noticed and asked her what was wrong.
“Concerned friends would ask what they could do to help, but I didn’t know what was wrong with me, so how could I tell others how to help? I actually started working out in the gym every day as I thought this might help reduce the anxiety and feelings of stress but then came the insomnia and I became exhausted.”
Jackie’s confidence in her ability to do her job started to drop and her anxiety levels increased further. Her annual review ended with a rating of ‘met objectives’ and this felt like a slight for an overachieving Jackie:
“I had never been graded as ‘met’ objectives before, I would always have exceeded them. It was really upsetting to have to acknowledge that the changes I was experiencing were now having a detrimental impact on my performance at work.”
Jackie’s GP prescribed antidepressants for her but she didn’t take them as she did not feel depressed. No healthcare professionals, friends or anyone within her workplace ever raised the possibility of the menopause to Jackie. With no one suggesting her hormones might be to blame, Jackie assumed all this mess was her own fault.
After a further six months of her symptoms negatively affecting work performance, Jackie resigned with no job to go to. The next role she did manage to gain meant a pay cut of £30k as she did not feel up to another team lead position.
“So I’m 52, I’m renting as I can’t afford to buy my own home, and my salary is still £10k short of what I used to earn. I now work in the mental health field and, with a combination of HRT and antidepressants, things are improving. In my new organisation, menopause is openly discussed along with the range of psychological and emotional symptoms that are often confused with mental health disorders. I feel so much more supported at work and I’m slowly regaining the confidence I lost.”