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When Madhu Kapoor went through the perimenopause she had no idea what was happening. A lack of help at work compounded the problem and sent her spiralling down. Now Madhu’s back in the driving seat of her life and is doing all she can to stop other women from going through what she did. She’s 56 and lives in London.
As told to Marina Gask
‘I have been happily married for 30 years with two daughters who are now in their 20s, and until eight years ago, my life was great. I had a job I loved, a wonderful work-life balance and a good social life. I was in a good place. Yet I did not know what was around the corner.
I have always been surrounded by women and I used to hear about hot flushes and how awful they were, but I never heard any women around me discuss the topic in-depth, particularly within the Asian community. So, when my perimenopause symptoms became severe in 2016, I genuinely didn’t know what had hit me.
I had been employed in HR since 1990 and worked in a variety of HR roles within a government department with a total service there of 23 years. I built relations with council and employers to help the unemployed return to work. It was a demanding role, but I really thrived. And I thought that, as I had given the organisation 100%, I would always have their support when I needed it.
My perimenopause journey began in my mid 40’s in 2010, although I didn’t realise that was what it was. I began to have minor signs of my body changing such as allergies increasing and skin and nails changing. But by early 2016 I was suffering with night sweats, which interrupted my sleep. I had low energy and suffered from insomnia regularly, leading to poor concentration. I lacked confidence at work and my self-esteem suffered. Where I could previously multi-task and deal with multiple queries at once, even with distractions, I now found that brain fog impeding my listening, note-taking, and information retention. My anxiety quickly increased. I simply could not cope.
My periods became irregular, and the bleeding became heavy. I’d had a Mirena coil inserted in September 2015 but found my bleeding continued for 20 days a month, making me feel drained, lethargic and unhappy. I had it removed in February 2016.
At this point, I had a kind of emotional breakdown. I was tearful and anxious. I almost didn’t know myself anymore. I knew I needed help, but it was hard to speak up about what I was going through. In Asian culture, it’s not easy for women to be open about such things, and you don’t always get support and understanding from family members. It took courage to speak to one of my managers at work, but I was offered no support. I was distraught and knew it couldn’t go on.
Everyone who knew me assumed I would retire with this employer, but I abruptly made the choice to resign in March 2016. No questions were asked. No support was provided. Looking back, a little help from them would have gone a long way in helping me manage my symptoms at work and overcome my anxiety. But I resigned in a state, scared of what exactly was happening to my body and mind and thinking resigning was my only option when it came to coping with my physical and mental symptoms.
If no one was going to help me, I realised I had to help myself. I went back to my GP and insisted on being referred for specialist help. Seeing a menopause consultant and gynaecologist meant I could try various HRT prescriptions until I found the right fit. I also saw a counsellor which helped change my mindset. I was more open with my family, who were immensely understanding. The symptoms didn’t disappear – in fact, I’m still not through it – but getting help and support changed everything for me.
From this experience, I started to consider how information and support for those going through the menopause was lacking. Others must be feeling lonely and suffering with similar symptoms. That is when I decided that I wanted to help those going through menopause, so other women wouldn’t have to endure the same fear and isolation I experienced.
I believe no one should feel alone or like menopause is a taboo subject. This is why I set up my menopause mentoring business, M for Menopause. My aim is to go into the community and talk to women in a real and supportive way, women from all cultures who may be feeling particularly isolated during the menopause. All women need advice and understanding, and I advise them on how to be their best at work, how to improve relationships at home and the small steps they can take to get through this life phase. And I also go into businesses and organisations to raise awareness and provide advice and support for employers and their female employees, helping employers to get comfortable about the subject and start normalising the conversation.
Of course, every woman’s experience of the menopause is different. But I do believe that if you’ve got unresolved issues in your life, they will emerge when you go through the menopause. The tragedy is that I left a job I loved and later regretted it. If only I’d been given the right support at work, things could have been so different. I still have low days, but I’ve learnt how to manage them.
There is much to feel positive about now. I no longer have periods, which is liberating. And the fear of getting pregnant has gone. HRT has been an absolute godsend. And being open with my family about what I’m going through means they can really give me the support and understanding I need. One thing that has really helped is writing a book to help other women, sharing the advice and information I wish I’d had when I first started the perimenopause. I’m in a much better place but it’s been hard won. The good thing is, it’s pushed me to turn my experience into something positive.’
‘It’s our menopause – Let’s make it work for us’ by Madhu Kapoor will be published in October 2022.
You can visit Madhu’s website here: https://www.mformenopause.co.uk
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