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Rachel - Interview 14

Age at interview: 51
Brief Outline: Characterised by erratic periods, hot flushes and feelings of depression, Rachel's menopause transition impacted on her ability to function effectively at work. Over-the-counter medication and sharing information with family and friends has helped.
Background: Rachel is an unemployed accounts assistant. She is single with no children. She started the menopause at age 49. Ethnic background/nationality' British-Caribbean.

More about me...

Rachel’s menopause story started two years ago with changes in her periods from a regular 28-day cycle to fortnightly bleeding. Concerned by this irregular pattern, Rachel saw her GP who confirmed through a blood test that she had started the menopause. Uncomfortable hot flushes throughout the day and night accompanied by ‘absolutely dreadful moods’ and more erratic and heavier periods followed. She describes the menopause as ‘like a foreign body had come in and attacked me’.

Feeling generally unwell, lethargic, close to tears and unable to think things through or make decisions, Rachel’s symptoms impacted significantly on her ability to function effectively at work. Although with serious concentration and time she was able to complete tasks, she found it a struggle and colleagues noticed that she was becoming more withdrawn. Yet while she was willing to discuss her feelings with girlfriends, she felt unable to confide in younger team members at work. She suggests that this may be because the menopause is a sign of getting old.

As a forum for sharing experiences and information as well as laughing and joking about symptoms, Rachel’s ‘support network’ of girlfriends, her mother and sisters has provided much needed reassurance and support throughout the menopause transition. One girlfriend recommended an over-the-counter tablet containing ‘red leaf clover and these sort of things’, which over a three-month period helped ease the hot flushes and feelings of depression. The Internet has also been very useful as a source of facts about the menopause.

Rachel believes that GPs need to be more supportive and make more literature on the menopause available to women. She compares the lack of support and information provided by her GP and practice nurse with that of an ‘absolute God gift’ female GP she saw on one visit, who explained about the menopause and its symptoms, and showed empathy with how Rachel was feeling. 

Recently made redundant after 20 years in her job, Rachel feels positive about the future as she searches for a new position, possibly in a different field. She is still experiencing menopausal symptoms though these are not as severe as before. To her surprise, her periods have recently resumed a regular monthly cycle. While no longer frightened by the changes experienced during the menopause, she wonders whether there is an end in sight, especially as her mother, now in her seventies, still gets hot flushes.

Rachel was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in February 2009.

 

Rachel’s night sweats affected her sleep

Rachel’s night sweats affected her sleep

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Did you get them at night as well?

Yes I got them at night in bed.

How often at night did you get them?

During the night it could be two or three times in the night I had to get up and put the fan on.

And so were you sweating a lot as well?

Yeah.

Did you have to change your clothing or your bedding?

I’m a bit of a freak at night anyway. I’ve got a t shirt on and pyjamas and I jump into bed and if I got hot the pyjama top came off obviously I’ve got a t shirt on so if I felt hot that’s what I’d do. I’d get up and turn that on and take off the pyjama top which is only a nylon or cotton sort of thing. And put the fan on to cool down five or ten minutes and then go back to bed. But yeah, that would be a pattern in the night.

Did it have an impact on your sleep as a result of that?

Yes. Yeah. Because yeah I mean you’re working nine to five and you need a good night’s sleep and it certainly did make me feel erratic.

 

Rachel’s friend suggested an over-the-counter herbal treatment to help her anxiety and depression

Rachel’s friend suggested an over-the-counter herbal treatment to help her anxiety and depression

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Oh it’s been dreadful. It’s been absolutely dreadful. I have felt depressed, I have felt like I’m near to tears I have felt generally unwell and like I’m unable to think things through, I’m unable to make my own decisions. I think it was about early part of last year that’s how I was feeling like I’d just generally wanted to and I did, I broke down into tears and think what the Hell’s going on with me. I think one day I just drove round to a girlfriend’s house and I said, “I don’t know what the Hell’s happening to me” and she explained her story and that girlfriend suggested she was taking like, well it’s not a vitamin I suppose, but it was like something. It’s a form of tablet that you could buy over-the-counter. And in this tablet it had certain things like red leaf clover and these sorts of things that are supposed to help you whilst you’re going through the menopause. So off she went and she bought me a bottle of this and then I started to take it and I must admit I don’t know if it was a mind over matter thing but I must admit about a week after starting to take them that that depression that I was experiencing started to lift. But I don’t know whether or not it was mind over matter because I’m not taking them anymore.

How long did you take them for?

I took them for three months.

And do you remember the name?

Meno something.

 

Rachel’s mother now talks openly about the menopause even though it wasn’t spoken about in her day

Rachel’s mother now talks openly about the menopause even though it wasn’t spoken about in her day

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And your Mum, is your mum still alive?

Yes my mother is still alive.

Does she talk about it?

The strangest experience I have of my mother, my mother must have been probably about 45, 50 so I must have been twenties then, early twenties and I remember Mum coming home and Mum saying how hot she was and I said “It’s not hot outside.” I specifically remember this. I don’t know with my mother’s age group or that peer group, that group, they seemed to have taken this on board, not spoken about it openly very much like it wasn’t the done thing. They’ve taken this on board, they have suffered immensely so if there was some sort of support like we all sit and talk together now. They probably didn’t do that I don’t know twenty, thirty years ago they probably didn’t do that and I think they suffered quite a lot.

And does your Mum talk about these sorts of things now?

Yes she does. Yeah. All of 76, 78. She openly talks about it now. I will have friends round and she’s there and we’re all talking about the same thing and she’ll share her experience. She will say “Oh well I didn’t use anything, I didn’t take anything” but and I always say “Well, that was you.”

 

Rachel felt she was ‘losing her grip’ at work. She struggled to complete projects because of her...

Rachel felt she was ‘losing her grip’ at work. She struggled to complete projects because of her...

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From a work point of view I was finding it a struggle, not day to day process but if I have a specific project that was on board that needed to be completed within a time scale or I needed to gather information, I felt lethargic. I felt that I wasn’t being assertive and I felt that I was like losing my ability to think things through. That definitely affected me, that side I noticed and that’s when I said, “Well what’s happening here, why is this affecting me?” Well it’s affecting your brain isn’t it really, and you feel incapable like I couldn’t function. I wasn’t functioning as well as I should be and obviously you don’t want your employers to think that they’ve assigned you a piece of a piece of work and you’re not able to do it. But with serious concentration and time I mean I was able to complete whatever it was that I was doing or had to do but I felt it a struggle. I felt that I was losing my grip.

And with your work colleagues, any change in the way you related to them?

With my work colleagues I felt that what people spotted in me was how quiet I became, not that I was always chatting a lot in the office but for a period I said very little. I contributed not very much to general conversation and I always had done and I don’t know whether or not I was becoming a little bit withdrawn.

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