Mum who quit three jobs and told she was ‘depressed’ by doctors diagnosed with perimenopause
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For four years, mum Katie Taylor had no idea why she was experiencing exhaustion, brain fog and low moods.
She wondered whether she might be going through early-onset dementia, and ended up quitting numerous jobs because she was 'embarrassed' to say she wasn't coping.
Katie, from London, visited multiple doctors, but her symptoms were passed off as depression and the result of her 'juggling too much'.
It wasn't until four years, three jobs and one visit to the gynaecologist later that she received the diagnosis that would allow her to start to get a handle on what she was feeling: she was going through perimenopause.
Perimenopause refers to the time during which the body makes the natural transition to menopause, and although Katie was showing 'classic' symptoms, none of the doctors she'd visited had been able to spot it.
"10 years ago, when I was 43, I was a very busy mum but I was coping really well with my life," Katie told Tyla.
"But then, over a four year period, I started feeling a whole host of seemingly unrelated symptoms - everything from low mood, brain fog, aching joints, very poor concentration [and] insomnia.
"I'd go into a meeting at work and I'd be looking at a budget and I just couldn't concentrate. It was look like looking at, almost like a different language."
Katie was 'existing on about three hours sleep a night', and began to feel 'disconnected' from the world around her. She 'didn't feel any joy', but she didn't think she was experiencing depression.
At the same time, she didn't think she was going through menopause as she was still having periods.
"Eventually, the doctor said, 'look, you know, you're obviously juggling too much. Ask your employer if you can work less'," Katie said.
She went part time - a decision which she admits resulted in her becoming a bit of a 'hermit' - but came to realise even that was too much for her.
She decided to quit, and in spite of her repeated efforts to get back herself into the workplace, the way she was feeling led her to resign again and again, quitting a total of three jobs in four years.
"I went back to different jobs, maybe one was more local, one was less hours or one was less demanding. But it was... just that I wasn't well," she said.
"When I went to my [second] job, it was just, 'oh, here we go again'.
"It's a male boss, and I'm embarrassed and I can't possibly talk about it... And actually, by that point, my periods started getting much, much, much heavier to the point where I was suffering with anaemia... It was just embarrassing. I couldn't even leave the house."
Not knowing what she was dealing with made it hard for Katie to explain to employers what she was going through, and in turn they weren't able to offer the support she needed to go through the transitional period.
Now, Katie is hoping that no other woman has to go through such uncertainty.
After years of struggling with no answers, she 'burst out crying' one day to her dad, a retired breast cancer professor.
She told him she didn't recognise herself and had a feeling of 'impending doom', and he expressed belief it could be hormonal.
He advised her to go and see a gynaecologist, and she had her diagnosis within 10 minutes.
"[Perimenopause] was a word I'd never heard of," Katie said. "It just didn't seem right."
The doctor then explained that oestrogen levels typically start to change after the age of 40 - though people can be 'plunged' into menopause early as a result of hysterectomies or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), when the ovaries stop working normally.
After learning what was happening to her body, Katie experienced a 'lightbulb moment'.
She took to Facebook to start a discussion group about her experiences, and had 1000 member requests within 24 hours.
"I realised, 'oh, my god, okay, I'm not alone. I'm not going mad'," she said. "This is happening to lots of women. And they were all telling me the same, they were leaving the workplace, they were going part time, they thought they were going mad, they were misdiagnosed."
So Katie decided to help others also going through these changes by setting up The Latte Lounge; 'an online platform for midlife women offering support, information and signposting for all your health and wellbeing needs'.
She assembled a medical advisory team, and is now able to offer advice to both women and employers on how to access and offer the best support.
She explained: "We have a free symptom checklist on our website, and just by having that, whether you take that to your employer or you take it to your GP, you've done the work for them already.
"You can do things like scheduling one-to-one meetings with your manager to discuss how you're feeling. And we go into a lot of workforces and do awareness events, [explaining] how [menopause] can affect you, how, as an employer, you can help women."
Katie recommended a whole host of 'easy workplace adjustments', including providing fans, offering flexible working hours and providing breathable uniforms.
She described such measures as a 'no brainer', explaining that 'if you can keep women in the workforce, you're saving thousands of pounds on employing and retraining people'.
"Having the opportunity to have some sort of flexibility and open conversations at work is so important for everyone's mental health, because... as midlife women in particular, we're juggling so much - ageing parents, young children, work [and] husbands or partners" Katie said.
"And we want to do it, and we are capable - we can do it all. We just need our employees to know we're not going mad, we're not useless. We're just at a time in life which is a bit wobbly."
Through the Latte Lounge and the Make Menopause Matter campaign, Katie and her colleagues have called for mandatory menopause training for all GPs, as well as better education in secondary school.
She's hopeful that younger generations 'won't need to suffer', because they'll know about everything that's coming their way.
As for Katie, knowing what was going on with her body has allowed her to 'rewind the clock by about 20 years'.
"I've never had so much energy or enthusiasm, and I'm able to juggle everything again," she said.
"Before, I was just lying on a couch. So I think when employees realise how transformational [knowledge] can be, they'll want to know."
For more information and resources, visit The Latte Lounge here.
TYLA has contacted the Royal College of GPs for comment on GP training.