The ‘M’ word

Emma Banks
By Emma Banks

Hear from Emma Banks, CEO at ramarketing as she reflects on how being open, and daring to share her menopause experience and journey with HRT with the agency and her social media following has led to building an empowered community of menopause mavens!

It’s been a while since my last blog about hormones and the dreaded menopause and since then the team at ramarketing has been talking quite openly about it and how it has impacted all of us in different ways. 

As an agency we have a menopause policy, we encourage open and honest conversations and we have an active menopause slack channel where tips, advice, and support are shared regularly.  

Rather than getting back on my soapbox about all things peri and post menopause, here are some short snippets from some of the wonderful women I work with about how this ‘thing’ has impacted them and how they have managed it (with courage, grace, and good humor).

Catherine Mair

“Looking back, it’s clear I’d been suffering for a while; years in fact. Some women in my life back then were terribly unhelpful. Peri/menopause seemed like a perverse badge of honor; each of them trading experiences in a one-upmanship kind of way. I stayed out of the conversations, convincing myself there was nothing wrong and keeping my symptoms under the radar. But I became increasingly worried. 

Excruciating joint pain and muscle fatigue. Debilitating brain fog, forgetfulness, and inability to concentrate. Disturbed sleep and night sweats. A deep decline in self-esteem; feeling utterly useless in my relationship and in society at large. I continually put it down to something else. Lack of exercise. Drinking too much coffee and alcohol. Eating too many processed and sugary foods. The pandemic. The death of a relative. Perhaps I was in a prolonged bout of depression and anxiety. Crikey, I even considered I might have early-onset dementia. I was terrified.

I didn’t outwardly acknowledge I was struggling until earlier this year when Emma and I just happened to sit next to each other in the office and got chatting. She was incredibly encouraging. I felt so relieved, keen to educate myself further, and determined to seek help. I booked a GP appointment immediately and quickly got a cyclical treatment regime underway. Now in my fifth month of HRT, my physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms have noticeably improved. I have more energy, I’m better able to cope with the natural ebb and flow of daily life, and can even remember what I’m doing in another room once I’ve entered it! I’ll be forever grateful to Emma for her candidness and support.”

Aranda Rahbarkouhi

“After having my son at 40, health became my number one priority. However, because of the pregnancy, there was an overlap in symptoms which made it difficult to tell whether it was perimenopause or postpartum. By the time the bothersome symptoms kicked in, I didn’t have time for them. I’d taken on a new full-time job and my mum had just died. My husband and I were working around the clock and I remember thinking something has GOT to give. Then Covid happened. Wow, working from home with mood swings, tears, brain fog, sleepless nights, heart palpitations, and just the irregularity of everything. I put it all down to stress because I wasn’t exercising and my weight had ballooned. I hadn’t stopped to think for one moment that it could be perimenopause. 

Things changed when I started at ramarketing. Having a female CEO who doesn’t just pay lip service to women’s health is HUGE. Having the support of colleagues going through the same thing and knowing they genuinely care about me is amazing. 

The flexibility in my role has enabled me to get back to the gym which has helped me lose weight, build muscle, and combat the brain fog. 

Working in life sciences and pharma has also made me much more aware of my health. I try to cut sugar wherever I can to avoid insulin spikes and I fast between 16 and 20 hours at weekends to give my liver a rest. Menopause is not a taboo subject at ramarketing and knowing what I know now, I’m ready to take it on when it strikes.”

Gemma Dunn

“I genuinely worried that as I turned forty that my decline had started. Overnight I changed from being a positive, easy-going, worry-free character to an anxious, sleep deprived, overweight depressive. Something was clearly seriously wrong with me… memory loss, heart palpitations, hand tremors, the list went on. I genuinely thought I had early-onset dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or worse. Keeping most of my symptoms to myself and struggling more and more with concentration and energy management (it’s hard to hold it together when you’ve self-diagnosed a long-term medical condition and you’re barely sleeping) I battled on.

Then, one fateful day, a conversation with girlfriends over dinner made me start to realize that perhaps this was a hormone shift and perimenopause. Cue lots of research, reading, podcasts, and conversations with colleagues and I became 99% certain that maybe I wasn’t seriously ill after all. Having watched a Davina McCall documentary I ordered her book ‘Menopausing’ and devoured it page by page. I cried. A Lot. Suddenly I had all the explanations and answers I needed. 

A week or 2 later I had a conversation with Emma in the office and she gave me all the encouragement I needed to book a GP appointment. I received an immediate diagnosis and the irony was not lost on me that I collected my first prescription for HRT (transdermal patches) on World Menopause Day 2022.

So, after a three-year blip. Life truly did begin in my forties. With renewed vigor, a healthy sleep pattern, dwindling anxiety, and the support of my wonderful menopause mavens I am enjoying the best decade of my life and I’m so grateful to the women and colleagues that surround and support me daily.”

Pam O’Connor

“In the US where I’m based, open discussions about perimenopause and menopause are mostly still taboo subjects, largely due to ageism fears. It’s refreshing to join a company where it’s openly discussed. Let’s face it – all women will experience this, so let’s banish the stigma!

When I raised the issue with my doctor, he said unless my symptoms were intense, to just learn to ‘live with it.’ Hmmm, not ok by me. This led me to Google and querying friends. Before long, my social feeds were filled with all manner of herbs, ‘cures’, and diets, including conflicting information about the risks and benefits of HRT. What’s a gal to believe? Does it cause increased cancer risk? Is weight gain on HRT inevitable?

For the past year, my occasional hot flashes were well controlled by an over-the-counter herbal supplement. But of late, achy joints, anxiety, skin changes, and the dreaded brain fog led me to seek out HRT from a company that prescribes a compounded formula after a telemedicine visit. 

I recently started the transdermal HRT cream and will assess its effectiveness in the coming months. While it’s too soon to tell, I’m happy I took proactive steps and intend to keep a sense of humor about it all. I’m so grateful to ramarketing’s community of women with whom I can share successes and setbacks and to Emma for leadership on this topic!”

To all of you out there who have women or those who have the anatomy of a woman in their forties and fifties (and beyond) in your life, be brave, and if you haven’t already, find out how they’re doing. See if they need any additional support while they navigate a heap of weird and often debilitating symptoms (often in isolation). As the wonderful women at ramarketing prove communication is key and by opening up to others we can support each other. 

However much we revere youth, this group is more vibrant and committed than you might think. Believe me, it is hard to feel as if you’re fading and becoming invisible – I for one am committed to ensuring our whole team, wherever they are on their journey, have the chance to thrive, feel valued, and shine. 

No-one fades here!

Read Emma’s previous blog Hormones at work.

Useful resources:
Dr. Louise Newson
Balance app
Menopausing by Davina McCall
Sex, Myths and the Menopause
Sex, Mind and the Menopause
Carolyn Harris MP
Menopause and me podcast
Pill revolution

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