“I was marketing director for an international company and had enjoyed a stellar rise to the top. I started as a marketing exec, moved to a new firm as my career progressed, and then was asked to come back to my old company again, but this time as a director.
I loved my job. I was well-known in tech circles - my reputation was good and I was often asked to speak at events or sit on panels. I was known to be firm but fair and got on with both the creative and commercial people in my industry. I was proud that I could juggle multiple projects and teams in different countries and was known for my calm manner and my resilience - I was very good in a crisis. Everything was going in the right direction.
I can’t quite pinpoint when it started, but I know that over the space of about six months I went from looking forward to work in the morning to finding it all a bit too hard. Obviously, I know there are peaks and troughs in any job, but the trough seemed to be lingering and the peaks were fewer.
My sleep - always pretty good - was disturbed. I was waking at 3am, my head whirring and I felt constantly anxious. I tried all the remedies - warm baths, lavender, pillow mists – but nothing helped and within a few days I could feel this affecting my work. And I was grumpy. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep – I felt as if I had lost my ‘charm’. I’d always had a good way with people but that seemed to have vanished. And while I wasn’t a big drinker, I found my tolerance to alcohol had disappeared. One glass of wine to relax and chew the fat with a colleague went straight to my head and made me feel awful the next day.
Looking back now I can see that these were symptoms of the perimenopause, but I was 46, my periods were still as regular as clockwork and to be honest, I hadn’t even heard of the perimenopause let alone be on the look-out for its many symptoms.
But it wasn’t just my sunny disposition that had gone behind a cloud – my professionalism slipped and I couldn’t work out what was happening. I felt like I was on a constant ‘go-slow’, like the Duracell Bunny just as it was about to run out. Tasks and project maps that were second nature to me suddenly took ages to do and I couldn’t focus. I was constantly distracted and ‘foggy-headed’.
And then there was the rage. I remember one management meeting where we were discussing a new product. The developers broke the news that due to some beta testing glitches, the launch date would be delayed. This was unfortunate but not unusual in our industry, and dealing with something like this was one of my strengths – I would usually sympathise with the developers and start replotting my dates. This time though, I erupted. Why couldn’t they just keep to time? The rest of us could. Didn’t they understand the repercussions, the relationships we had pulled on, the events planned? I was screaming with rage. It wasn’t that any of the things I was saying were unfair but my anger was an explosion. But the thing is, I felt totally rational - as it happened and after, I felt 100 per cent justified and believed it came from a passion for my work. Now I realise it was irrational, extreme and most likely hormonal.
I got the relationships back on track but this outburst, combined with my ongoing moods and fogginess definitely changed people’s perceptions of me. I think I became a little ‘past my sell-by-date’ and, when the restructuring happened the following year, I was one of the first to be made redundant.
I was on gardening leave for a couple of months and my grumpiness and fog stayed, which made me realise my work environment hadn’t been the cause. A friend of mine at the same time had set up a Facebook group for women in their late forties/early fifties and asked me to join. As I scrolled through the posts, many women were talking about symptoms similar to mine and sharing articles on the perimenopause. I started taking herbal supplements which helped my insomnia a little, but then my joints started to really ache, so (on the advice of the group) I went to my GP and asked to be put on HRT. I know it’s not for everyone but within two weeks my moods and sleep were better and the fog lifted. I felt myself again, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I got my life back.
I’m now in a new job - energetic, professional and happy. And telling everyone I can to learn up about perimenopausal symptoms - I wish I had known in my early forties what I know now, then I could at least have been aware of them.'