Don’t underestimate a menopausal woman

Feeling so annoyed about something that you actually take action is a powerful thing. And for me, starting a campaign and seeing it take off at great speed has been phenomenal.

Many women begin the menopause without realising it. I know I did. Palpitations, hair loss, anxiety, aches in my joints – each a classic menopause symptom, if only I’d known it. #KnowYourMenopause started because I got angry sitting in the GP’s waiting room for a follow-up appointment for my HRT. Looking around at the posters on the wall for breastfeeding clinics, ante-natal clinics, the signs of stroke and heart attack and dementia, I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed that there wasn’t one single piece of literature about menopause.

At my first visit to discuss symptoms the doctor had to print off four-five pages of A4 of information, most of which I’d already found out googling my symptoms. Apart from being a waste of paper, this was maddening. Surely this information should be readily available?

I may never have a stroke, or a heart attack, or dementia and I’ve never had children, but from the day in October 1978 when I got my first period, I was always destined to have a menopause. So why did I know all the signs and symptoms and clinic times of conditions that may never affect my life but absolutely nothing about the one that definitely would? And why, in a GPs’ waiting room, was menopause a taboo subject? That’s when I lost it and thought: “Right. If the bloody NHS won’t give us a poster, I’ll do it myself.”

“I sent them a message: “I’ve got this idea. It could be nuts…”

I’d talked about the lack of information with a few women on Twitter and that night, after ranting to my husband over a glass of wine or three, I sent them a message saying: “I’ve got this idea. It could be nuts, but I actually think it could work.

Pausitivity was born that night.

I got in touch with a designer I’d worked with and she happily agreed to donate her time and skills. “We want something empowering and amazing and colourful,” was about as precise as I got in giving her a brief. We were blown away by the finished result.

Seeing the #KnowYourMenopause poster, which lists all the symptoms, will not only help women understand what they’re going through, but it will also make them feel less alone and help break the taboo that surrounds menopause.

Using the power of social media,#KnowYourMenopause took off straight away and the Pausitivity team – Karen Kenning in Scotland, Clare Shepherd in South Yorkshire, Suzanne Blair in Canada and me in Kent – are constantly on WhatsApp saying: “You’ll never believe who has supported us…

It’s been amazing having people like Dr Sarah Jarvis, who’s appeared on The One Show and on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show, print out and pose with one of our posters. “Everyone (male and female) should know the symptoms,” she said. Channel 5’s Dr Amir Khan, from GPs Behind Closed Doors, was one of the first to say we could put a poster up in his surgery and Dr Nighat Arif, who appeared on BBC’s Wake Up to Menopause, shared a selfie of them in her very own office.

@DrAnushkaGP tweeted us a pic with the poster directly behind her seat so when patients look at her, they’ll see it. “Looking forward to starting more conversations,” she wrote. If I’d seen that behind my GP, it would have been so welcoming.

Unison Wales sent us a whole series of photos with the poster up in their offices, with regional officer Darron Dupre saying he was: “Proud to support the #KnowYourMenopause campaign and the wonderful people behind it”. Bradford University is using it as part of the Menopause Awareness Week, we’ve had MPs Sharon Hodgson and Eddie Hughes pin it up in their offices, authors Darcey Steinke and Marian Keyes have give us their support and we’ve been promised a selfie from Jenny Eclair – when she gets over her fear of her printer!

Pausitivity and #KnowYourMenopause has taken over my life and we’re all delighted. On Monday, we heard that the Scottish government – yes, the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT – was backing us 100% and would use our posters as part of its new period and menopause policy.

“The Scottish Government is backing us 100%”

Richard Lochead, minister for further education, and Christina McKelvie, equalities and older people minister, are among many Scottish politicians, national and regional, giving us their backing and putting the posters up in their regional offices.

“The Scottish Government is happy to support Pausitivity’s campaign to raise awareness of the menopause,” said Ms McKelvie. “For too long it has been a taboo subject and not discussed as a natural part of ageing and life for women.

Not only that, we’ve had celebrities, MPs, GPs, celebrity GPs, union officials, store assistants, vets, health workers, nurses, athletes, counsellors – so many people retweet positive messages or share their #PosterSelfie.

We’re in the early stages of planning something for World Menopause Day. We’re not finished yet…
And you can help by downloading the poster and pinning it up in a public space like a community centre or local cafe. Click here to find out more.

Words: Elizabeth Carr-Ellis. Poster by Allyson Shields

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