Women have revealed how they debilitating menopause symptoms have turned their life upside down and forced them to quit their jobs.
Recently, Jo Whiley admitted going through menopause made her feel like a ‘liability’ on air when she started suffering from crippling brain fog.
The radio 2 DJ, 56, said she was hit by low moods and self-esteem, as well as feeling the ‘wobbles,’ a burning mouth and a general state of mental confusion.
Now speaking to FEMAIL, three women have revealed how they had no choice but to quit their successful careers after menopause symptoms made them feel paranoid, and in some cases, unable to cope with life’s daily stress.
Heather Hancock, 54, from Cambridgeshire revealed her brain fog was so severe, she felt she was developing early onset dementia and stepped back from her job as a healthcare company board member.
Meanwhile, nurse Lauren Hopkins, 48, from Hackney, London, who also suffers with multiple sclerosis had to quit her job after working 30 years as a mental health nurse because of extreme symptoms, such as brain fog that left her depressed and ‘Niagara Falls-like’ night sweats.
And Jo Moseley, 56, from the Yorkshire Dales, didn’t realise the anxiety and deep sense of sadness she started feeling aged 48 in 2013 were actually symptoms of her perimenopause.
All the women revealed how Hormone Treatment Therapy – HRT – alternative medicine and exercise and therapy have helped them overcome the symptoms, and that it is possible to go back to a normal life.
Heather Hancock, 54, from Cambridgeshire
Heather Hancock, pictured, 54, from Cambridgeshire, feared she was suffering from early onset dementia due to her crippling brain fog
Heather Hancock, 54 from Cambridgeshire said she became paranoid after developing her first menopause symptoms.
She said that she didn’t experience all the symptoms people associate with menopause, namely hot flushes and night sweat. However, her brain fog was so bad, she would forget what people had told her 20 minutes before.
She began to worry she was suffered from early onset dementia and that she could not perform in her career as a high-ranking executive at a healthcare company.
‘I can see that was the beginning of my perimenopause. By the end of 2018 I was really struggling. I had night sweats that affected my sleep, my mood was disturbed and I had terrible, crushing anxiety,’ she said.
Heather had always relied on her brain, and having her mental abilities impacted by brain fog was a scary experience that left her anxious and fearful.
Heather, pictured now, said she had to quit her job due to her menopause because she was not able to perform at the level that was expected of her
The 54-year-old said her menopause cost her her relationship and her job. But after being diagnosed and treated with HRT, she said her life is back on track
‘My brain just wasn’t functioning, I would lose my train of thought and couldn’t recall what I had literally just said and I was scared – I thought I was starting with dementia which my father had,’ she added.
She said her fears were stemmed by the fact her own father suffered from dementia, but his symptoms were dismissed due to his old age.
Due to anxiety, Heather said her relationships with her loved ones deteriorated.
Heather said menopause is not a taboo subject and needs to be discussed openly so as to help other women in the workplace
‘My behaviour completely changed – my daughter thought I was bipolar. I decided to face up to whatever I had and made an appointment with a psychiatrist. After careful questioning he confirmed that I wasn’t suffering with a bipolar disorder, but had significant mood disturbance and was just terribly sad,’ she said.
Heather’s menopause symptoms came at the cost of her long-term relationship, and her job, because she could not meet the demands anymore.
It also put a huge strain on her relationship with her daughter.
When Heather contacted her GP, she was told she had anxiety and depression, and that she needed to ‘take a step back, calm down and meditate’.
But Heather arranged an appointment with the Online Menopause Centre, where she learned she was actually severely deficient in key hormones and told she was ‘running on empty.’
She was prescribed HRT and said she was back to her old self in just a few weeks.
‘I now have a great relationship with my daughter, I’m starting to talk to my ex-partner and I’m now doing a job I love as an MD of a tech start-up business.
‘I was lucky that I found a doctor who completely understands the menopause and also took the time to understood me as a person and not just try to treat my symptoms,’ Heather added.
The Online Menopause Centre, which was founded by Dr Laila Kaikavoosi, offers video consultations and treatments to help women go through the menopause and perimenopause.
Heather now wants greater awareness of the menopause so it is no longer treated as a taboo subject.
‘Menopause was something that was always under the table and never talked about but it is so important that women talk about it and get the right help from someone who really understands your body,’ she said.
She also called on workplace to support their female workers, in order for them to get the right help and now leads workshop where she teaches women what to expect in their careers.
One in ten women has had suicidal thoughts because of perimenopause
A survey by the women’s health website Health and Her found that one in ten women has had suicidal thoughts directly related to perimenopause.
The survey of 2,000 UK women aged 46-60 who have experienced perimenopause was carried out by OnePol.
It found that nine per cent of women who went through perimenopause admitted to having suicidal thoughts.
Meanwhile, 86 per cent said they had suffered mental health issues as a result of their menopause symptoms.
The same survey found that 37 per cent of women did not seek any help with their symptoms, and eight out of ten said they had not discussed them with their partners.
‘They need to encourage and support women to get the right help and all those years of wisdom are not lost but can be used to great effect,’ she said.
Heather said she felt the great negative impact menopause had on some women’s mental health could be linked to a high suicide rate among women aged 49 to 54.
Since In 2018, males and females aged 45 to 49 years had the highest suicide rates in all age groups, according to the ONS.
‘The utter hopelessness that I felt meant that I could have been one of those suicide statistics had I not found such a wonderful doctor who knew what was happening to me and gave me hope to push through and regain my life. Only this time my life is so much better,’ she said.
Since her own experience with menopause, Heather had created her own business to coach women in the workplace and teach them how to handle life’s challenges.
Jo Moseley, 56, from Yorkshire Dales
Single mum from the Yorkshire Dales Jo Moseley, now 56, said she didn’t recognise the symptoms of the peri-menopause when they presented themselves in 2013 when she was 48.
‘I thought it was the stress of raising my sons, of looking after my parents, who had both been diagnosed with cancer,’ she explained.
The single mother said she had no idea why she was feeling so depressed until one day, where she burst into tears after dropping her bags in the biscuit aisle of her local Tesco.
‘My sons and I refer to it as the “Chocolate Hobnob incident”. I just felt like I couldn’t cope with it all, just asking how did my life get to this – all of these intense, conflicting emotions welling up inside me,’ she explained.
Jo Moseley, 56, from the Yorkshire Dales, said she suffered from acute anxiety and only realised later that it had been a symptom of her menopause
‘The emotions I could explain with my life as a busy single mum and the worry for my parents, but now I think back I was experiencing tinnitus, itchy skin, night sweats, cold flushes, anxiety, brain fog,’ she revealed.
She said the symptoms and emotional turmoil brought her ‘to her knees.’
‘The worst thing was I had no reason why – why my body hurt, why my head ached. It was only about two or three years later I pieced it together from conversations I had on twitter and did a bit more research,’ she said.
But Jo was relieved when she realised she had in fact been going through perimenopause.
‘It was a lightbulb moment, looking at the list of symptoms and realising – oh, that makes sense, that’s why my body aches, that’s why I’m going through cold flushes,’ she said.
‘It was like being in the dark and switching on a light. I’m so glad that we are beginning to talk more about it,’ she added, saying you can’t do something about what you’re going through if you don’t know what it is.
Jo, pictured now, said rowing and exercise helped her overcome her anxiety. She did not take HRT at the time because she believed she could not, due to the fact her father suffered from breast cancer
‘So many women just don’t know what they’re going through – I was one! I would mull it over and over – is it depression, is it anxiety? And none of the answers felt right.
Jo said she was not prescribed HRT at the time she was going through her symptoms because she mistakenly thought she could not take some, due to her father’s breast cancer.
She said she found other solutions that worked for her at the time, but that if she was 48 today, she’d look at HRT very different.
‘We need to talk about these things – so women know that they can get help and they deserve help for their perimenopause symptoms. Our bodies and minds are going through it – let’s not be ashamed of it. That does nobody any good,’ she said.
After her Tesco breakdown, Jo began rowing at the gym and used exercise to soothe herself.
She also began seeing a therapist in order to work through her feeling of sadness and process the death of her mother, who passed away right before Christmas 2013.
‘I just felt like my emotions had gone off a cliff. Saying it aloud made me feel a lot stronger, and I told the counsellor I needed to stop waving and row my way back to the shore,’ she said.
Jo’s now a keen paddle-boarder, pictured, and her story was adapted into a movie titled Brave enough
She said self-compassion and exercise were the only thing that helped her through her perimenopause symptoms.
‘Self-compassion through the menopause is massive. It’s not pull yourself together – it’s gently holding yourself. It’s not that you aren’t tough. I don’t know any woman who gets to 50 who isn’t tough, who isn’t a hero,’ she said.
‘But it’s about letting yourself be treated kindly, too. If you’re in their forties and fifties you’re juggling a lot of people and things, and that’s hard work, and they should appreciate yourself for doing that,’ she added.
Jo decided to take part in two half rowing marathons for Macmillan Cancer Research as well as a full marathon on the anniversary of her mother’s death in December 2014.
In 2019 she became the first woman to stand up paddleboard coast-to-coast. This endeavour was made into a film titled Brave Enough.
Lauren Hopkins, 48, from Hackney
Meanwhile, in Hackney, London, Lauren revealed she had experienced the most extreme symptoms of menopause at a young age.
After suffering with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome for years and after an ectopic pregnancy, Lauren decided to go through a hysterectomy aged 38, in 2011.
She had done extensive research into the matter and requested to be put on HRT, especially with a patch, however, she was not given the patch immediately.
‘I remember coming around like my body was on fire and calling the nurse because I thought I had a rampant infection,’ she said.
A doctor told her it would take six weeks for the body to realise her uterus was gone, but Lauren said ‘No, mate, I need it now,’ and pushed to get the patch.
Once she was given the patch, Lauren, who suffered with MS, went on with her life as normal, until she was taken off the HRT by her doctors.
They suspected she had a stroke, and took her off the menopause meds in January 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic.
Lauren Hopkins, pictured, 48, from Hackney, went through menopause at the young age of 38 after undergoing a hysterectomy
‘I just had some extra MS symptoms and [the doctors[ thought I was having a stroke and then Covid-19 hit and I didn’t want to bother the GP with trying to go back on the HRT I just thought “I’ll grin and bare it”.’
But Lauren admitted she couldn’t cope with the severity of her symptoms, and turned to medical cannabis, which she claims has helped.
Lauren said she suffered from ‘nuclear’ night sweats and hot flushes. She was put on HRT swiftly after her hysterectomy
As a result she had to quit her job.
‘Being plunged into the menopause last year, it completely made everything so much worse, so much more difficult, I was having the symptoms of MS, and trying to juggle those with the ones that I knew where menopause-related.
She came back on the HRT in April 2021, and said it helped drastically with her symptoms, which included night sweats, hot flushes, brain fog and depression.
‘Night sweats don’t even describe it. It was like a nuclear reaction inside you. All the words that are used really downplay [what it is like].’
She joked she’d need a ‘wind turbine’ on her desk rather than a fan to fight her sweats and hot flushes.
‘I have been a mental health nurse my whole like, I never had anxiety, and I was now having all this anxiety,’ she said.
All your health goes into it, you have to watch your calcium and all of it. But last thing you want to do when you’re feeling c*** is going down to the gym and lift some weight,’ she said.
‘Sometimes I felt “oh my god, is it ever going to end? Am I going to be in the menopause for ever and ever?”, ‘If this is what it’s going to be like, then can I cope with it?”,’ she said candidly.
‘When I started having those darker thoughts, that kind of prompted me to do something about it and to get back on the HRT and the cannabis,’ she said.
Having restarted HRT in April and said she is feeling better than ever and has even gone to the gym and felt it had given her the motivation to go back to living.