When we had our M+ photoshoot, we were joined by three amazing models, who agreed to share their menopause stories. One of them was Dionne.
Dionne spent much of her career in psychiatric social work before training to be a clinical aromatherapist in her forties. From there she qualified as a remedial massage therapist specialising in chronic pain and with a particular interest in pathologies.
In 2016 she moved from London to Liverpool, and her interest in wellbeing developed further, leading her to train as a Soul Midwife - someone who acts as a companion to a dying person, often providing holistic therapies to ease their journey.
What’s been your experience of menopause?
My menopause… who knows, it crept up on me. I was so busy at work in London but when I moved to Liverpool I noticed a shift; I felt out of sorts.
My husband was the first to notice that I had become clumsier - my coordination went. He said I wasn’t putting a mug down on the counter, I was banging it down, and I was tripping up a bit. I had a constantly itchy back as well, and at one point I noticed my arms came up in a rash.
Given my background, I asked my GP for some blood work, which they did and then called me to come in. The doctor explained that my hormones had dropped a lot and gave me an analogy using a brick wall. He told me to imagine the cement between the bricks are my hormones and it’s all fallen away - that’s why I was getting the dry skin etc.
I was so taken aback by his description - I felt like an object. There was no conversation and nothing mentioned about holistic care. When I tried to talk about it and ask questions, there was an air of impatience.
I was given a prescription for HRT and he said I would need to take it for five years. I asked why you would prescribe something that would just defer whatever symptoms were concerning me for five years, but he didn’t answer. I never got that prescription dispensed - I laminated it because I felt so turned over and incensed by the attitude at the time and it made me think whether I could do something differently.
What are your top tips?
Teach men about menopause and show them how to make a menopause cake!
Create a pharmacy at home using nutrition. I never thought I would be so focused on food, but I really think it helps navigate the menopause journey. I have noticed that sugar makes me itch and that tofu is like collagen for me.
Is there anything you hated?
The itchy skin!
The memory and the forgetfulness is a real challenge as well. I’m so used to being ‘on it’, and I used to laugh at my mum for always losing her handbag, but I think I’m heading that way.
I’m more nocturnal now as well, and having a duvet day/morning is essential for me. Mine is on a Monday, when I just need to spend a bit of extra time in bed and have space to myself.
Do you think menopause is something that should be addressed holistically?
To me, with my soul midwife work, I see menopause as a cycle of life. In nature you have the leaves falling off the trees and it’s a cycle of life. Of course there will be times when a cycle disrupts you, so it’s about mitigating that disruption. It could hijack me if I allowed it to but it’s about me having a relationship with it, not fighting it.
I think it’s really helpful for other people to understand more about it too. Boys and girls have mothers going through it, or sisters or other family members. There are the old mother-in-law jokes and things like that - well maybe it’s to do with menopause and it needs more understanding.
What do you think it’s reasonable for us to expect in terms of adjustments in the workplace?
I think women should be enabled to ask for what they need, so I think communication is a massive reasonable adjustment.
You can do actual things but I often hear people say they didn’t feel able to ask for things they needed. So, I think it’s about empowering them to ask for that, giving them the right vocabulary and women coming together to support one another as well.
My HR department at work has started a menopause cafe where women in the team get together to talk about how menopause has effected them in the workplace. It’s interesting to see those professional women communicating and talking about changes in the workplace that would help them.