Carol's menopause journey
Today is World Menopause Day – a day to raise awareness, break the stigma and highlight the available support. We caught up with Carol Knowles, member of Accord’s Principal Executive Council (PEC) and one of our menopause advocates, to discuss her menopause journey so far, and what advice she'd give to others going through the transition.
Hi Carol! Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Carol – 57-years old with two grown-up children. I’ve been with the Halifax since 1984 (38 years!) where I’ve worked in branch and at a service centre. I’m currently based in Bolton branch. I’m an Accord rep, PEC member, former vice-president and menopause advocate for the union.
Sounds like you’re a busy woman! What made you want to become a menopause advocate?
I guess it was because I was so ill prepared for my own menopause journey. My mum was 47 when she started the menopause, and as far as I can remember there wasn’t a great deal to it (or maybe she never said anything being of “that” generation). I didn’t quite realise how much of an impact it would have on my life. And now I do, I want to be able to share and use my own experience to help support others.
How would you describe your menopause journey so far?
Exhausting! The brain fog, lack of interest in life and low energy came at a time when my life was quite stressful – so I didn’t think too much of it at the time. But all those symptoms have continued to this day, although they do seem to be getting better as time passes.
I’ve had to stop wearing contact lenses as I’ve developed ‘dry eye’, my joints ache, I’ve gained weight and I’m permanently warm (no hot sweats though, so that’s a bonus eh?)
Sounds like it’s been a hard transition – both mentally and physically. Have you been given anything to help with the symptoms?
I was on the Depo-Provera injection for several years, then told at 50 I had to go on the mini pill. At 56, my GP decided that I could move over to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which was great until I had a bleed a few weeks ago.
I called my doctor to discuss the bleed and I was moved on to a cancer pathway straight away with a hospital appointment and scan within two weeks – all very scary. The scan results came back fine, but I had to wait another couple of weeks to get the all-clear, which I now have, and it was a massive relief!
"I didn’t quite realise how much of an impact it would have on my life. And now I do, I want to be able to share and use my own experience to help support others."
What a scary time. We’re so pleased your results came back fine. Is there anything that has helped with your mental wellbeing?
I find the Balance app really useful and recommend it to others I speak to who are struggling. You can select the categories that apply to you, and it provides information to help you become better informed, prepared and empowered during the perimenopause and menopause.
I’ve also asked my son and husband to read up on it as I know it’s hard for men to understand just how debilitating the menopause can be. My husband is now a powerful advocate in his workplace too which is great. It’s important my close family recognise the symptoms and the impact they can have so they’re better equipped to support me.
Definitely. How’s it been working during all of this? Have you felt supported at work?
I have to say, some days are harder than others. I’m always too hot and work with other colleagues who aren’t, so it’s a bit of a running battle with the AC controls, but we’re a good team and normally work it between us.
My line manager, senior branch manager and area director are all superstars. They support me wholeheartedly which I’m extremely grateful for as I know others aren’t that lucky. We go a long way to promote menopause awareness in my management pool and across the North West network.
That’s really great Carol. As a final thought, what advice would you give others going through any stage of the menopause?
I would say take advice, be open, tell people how you’re feeling and don’t be scared to let people know that you’re having a bad or confusing time.
Download the Balance app as previously mentioned, contact one of the Accord menopause advocates, but most of all - get all the help you can take. It’s a journey we all probably didn’t know we were going to go on and we need all the equipment we can get!
Thanks so much for sharing your story Carol.
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