We’ve got a brilliant episode in store for you today with Fay Reid, the founder of 9 to 5 Menopause. Fay delivers some home truths about the reality of menopause and how companies and organisations can proactively help anyone in their team experiencing menopausal symptoms at work.
In this episode, Fay shares:
- The key symptom that signalled the start of perimenopause for her
- What she did to help herself
- The trial and error process of finding the right HRT for her
- How she began helping individuals navigate menopause at work
- Simple things that can really make a difference for anyone experiencing menopausal symptoms at work
Fay says that you can’t treat women differently because they’re going though the menopause!
Thank you, Fay!
Get in touch with Fay:
Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming onto the show Fay. I’m so excited to speak to and hear about all of the amazing work that you’re doing around the menopause. But let’s take it all the way back to the start. And can you tell me the story of your very first period?
Fay: When you asked me to come on the podcast and I know and I knew you would ask me about my first period and I kind of travelled back in time. I was like, Holy moly. So I was probably around age ten or 11, I think I was around 11 when I got my very first period. I just started secondary school in the U.K. And so in the U.K. you have since then, you have primary between five and age, ten, 11. And then you go on to, I suppose you call it high school in the US high school. So I just started my secondary school and I remember getting my period and the thing that sticks out for me and you have to remember that I was born in ‘67, so that would have been ‘77, ‘78 that I got my first period. And my mum wasn’t kind of how could I put this kind of versed in what the latest fad was or the most popular thing? So for me and I think, Jesus, how did I manage that as an 11 year old, I had what is called as a period belt. We’re going back in time.
Le’Nise: Yeah. You know, it’s so funny because I had a guest on the show about two weeks ago and she used a belt as well and she was talking about it. So I’m excited to hear your experience with it.
Fay: So basically it is literally a belt. And then the front of the belt, the back of the belt, you have kind of what you call like a hook, like a hook and only thing. And the pad itself, you hooked it on to the front and you hooked it onto the back and that was your sanitary towel and it was thick. It was a bit like a nappy. And I just kind of accepted it and just kind of rolled with it. But I think over time my mum must’ve seen how uncomfortable I was with that. And then we progressed to maxi pads and they were maxi and there were pads.
Which was an improvement on the belt. But still for I think that must have been so traumatic for me because then I became really self-conscious. Like especially going to school and could it show was leaking and yeah, there was a few times I had a few accidents and had to tie my sweater around my waist and stuff it. I never really think about it, but hey. It was actually quite dramatic. It wasn’t an easy transition.
I never had that build-up of like, Oh, I want my period. I want my period. I knew it was going to come. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t something me and my friends talked about. Someone might have said, Oh, so and so’s got her period, so and so has got her period because she’s had a leak. You know, I mean. And, you know, but. Amongst my school friends, and I didn’t have many friends in school. To be fair, we never really discussed a lot, actually about our periods. We never had those. Well, I never had those conversations. So to suddenly appear and then be presented with a belt and a pad, I was like what the hell? What’s happening? Is this what I’m going to go through this? So I think, moving on from that, I think probably a couple of months in I, my mum presented me with a pack of like maxi pads, um, which I was very relieved to get because the whole situation they would never flush down the toilet. Like it was hell. It was hell.
Le’Nise: It sounds like your mum was very aware of what was going on with you. She knew that maybe through conversations or maybe through just watching you, that the belt was not very comfortable for you. Were you having very open conversations with her about the changes in your body, about periods and what to expect?
Fay: I was the oldest of four children. I’m the oldest of four children. My father died when we were when I was very, very young, I think. Yeah. Before I started, my parents, my father had passed away and my mum would so concentrated on bringing up four kids. We in my adult life, my mum and I had a very open relationship and talked about stuff. At that age I was so awkward and just slightly embarrassed. Just like, what is this thing releasing from my body? Like. Just. It was too awkward for me. So we never really had those conversations and. I think she just picked up that. Like, obviously I was feeling a bit like awkward about it all and not wanting my siblings to see especially my two brothers and just like, oh, it was just. But she knew intuitively. She knew. And hence she then presented me with a pack of maxi pads. But it was only myself. As I moved through my teenage years and into early adulthood that I started to hear about things like tampons. And I was just like, Oh, what? These tampon things. This is great. Can we do away with that completely? Can we just make it a little bit more sexy and discreet?
So I bought my own tampons and as I as I grew into my later teenage years because I had a part time job, so I kind of just bought those for myself. But, yeah, I. It’s funny, I used to just very much view it as being ugly and horrible and just like God, everyone can see I’m on my period. I’m going to leak through. I can’t wear white skirts, just everything like that. I hated it.
And but it is funny as I went into my early twenties and I went on, I’m just trying to think I went on the pill when I was about 18 because I was just like my mum had me when she was very, very young. It was unplanned and stuff and I was like, I didn’t want that for me. So I chose to go on the pill. But believe it or not, when I got into my mid twenties. I stopped taking the pill because. I knew it was altering my body somehow. I didn’t have a regular boyfriend at the time, and I was like, I just want my period to flow. I just want it. Which is quite interesting considering before I just kind of wanted to make it discrete and compact and nobody should know about it. But I got into my mid twenties was like, Well, I’m not sleeping with anybody. Why am I on the pill? It’s altering my body, like just let it flow. And I think it was in my mid-twenties that I started to really kind of recognise my body and what it was doing and my hormones. So that was really I don’t know how to say it when we’re talking about this stuff. I’ve thought about myself but never really examined it. Yeah.
So by talking to you now, I’m just like, okay. And you know, from that point on, I’ve been very aware of what my body does and can do and especially around my cycle. Once I stopped taking the pill, I was very, very in tune with my body in terms of. Getting spots. I knew my period was coming and sleep to about two days before my period to three days with sleep would be horrendous, tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep and either emotional to the point my friends started to notice the pattern when I was like when I had PMS and stuff and there’d be something on the telly and they’d text me or call me and just got you what you sound so. And I mean. Yeah. And you’re crying aren’t you. Yeah.
So all those things and like having my period the first day or so incapacitated beyond tired and exhausted and then the end of that period, just like. Yeah, feeling really. Buzzy, really bright. Wanted to clean the house, wanted to do so much stuff. And I’m like, Oh my God, that was regular every single month.
Le’Nise: Just going back to your experience of your period before you went on on the pill, you said that you wanted to kind of hide it, keep it tucked away. Were your periods painful then? Were they were they tiring? What was I know you said you went on the pill for hormonal contraception.
Fay: Yes, I went on the pill for hormonal contraception just for the fact of I don’t want to get pregnant. But in terms of my period, I think I just wasn’t comfortable with them. And I think. And I would. Based on the fact of going back that initiation of the period belt and this thing. So you can imagine it’s a belt is not secure. The only thing in the scheme that was secure was the pants.
It’s not secure. Yeah. And it was ugly and unattractive. And just like I’ve got do this every month. You might like it if that’s your initiation. It ain’t fun. And I to me, I just kind of wanted to. Kind of. Nobody could see it. I look back now, nobody could say it, but for me it’s just like, Can we just hide this thing away? I don’t want it to be prominent in my life in any way because I’d have my period, then I’d have to get to school and then it was the whole faff and then I’ll go against the toilet and then roll something up and put it in your sleeve. Well, you do not mean to hide that you’re going into the toilet, change a tampon or it’s out. So I just yeah, it was quite dramatic. So to me, I kind of just wanted to suppress, supress. It was happening in any which way.
Le’Nise: Yeah. And then I really finds the words that you use quite interesting. So you stopped the pill because you wanted to let your period flow, like literally let it flow and then you were able to tune in, So like you were able to tune in quite well with your body. You were aware of what you were experiencing before you had your period, what you were experiencing during your period, and then how until that’s kind of fast forward into your thirties maybe your. or forties, what was your experience of your period, the same as you’ve described through your thirties and maybe your early forties?
Fay: Yes, I would say was when I hit my thirties, um, is when I start to track my monthly cycle and that was because I wanted to have children. So I was very aware of just keeping a track. And also before I kind of made a decision like, yes, I really want children, it was just to see what was happening to me throughout the months because you have a little chart. Do you crave sweet things? Yes. When are you getting spots, yes. Where you getting angry? Yes. So all the typical symptoms, I just kind of wanted to try. And each month it was the same, I would say as I got older, my cramps became more prominent. When I was younger, not so much. I didn’t really notice it, but as I got older, my cramps became more prominent. Definitely some times. And it’s funny, I remember now because I was trying to conceive. I actually each month felt my ovulation. I was like there goes an egg. I could feel it going. And it’s a weird feeling if you’re in tune with it, you kind of know. But each month I could just feel it going and. Like I said, I always really wanted to have children. And because I’d split up with a long term partner, that wasn’t going to happen. I made the decision to go it alone. And so I had to be really aware of my body in terms of the fertility treatment that I was going to be receive. So that was quite interesting for me as well, just to kind of scrap, track things.
I didn’t end up having children. It just wasn’t to be in my kind of. What’s the word I’m looking for? It wasn’t in my future. It might seem to have children surrounded by God knows how many godchildren children, some really poor. But I didn’t end up having my own. But it did make me so much more aware of my body and what it was doing. And it’s funny because I do have my menopause project, which I am quite passionate about. And one of the things that is very commonly said, it’s like when your periods stop, you know, you’re start in the perimenopause and the rest of it. I had my periods regular as clockwork, everything the same for the first five years of my perimenopause. So when people say, oh, periods don’t necessarily stop all the time as I had mine for the first five years.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about that? Because there is this kind of narrative at the moment in the UK, very powerful narrative around menopause, that it’s going to be a whole a time of upset and tumult and emotional upheaval. And there’s this narrative that menopause will be bad. And I really want to talk about your experience and the work that you do, because we know that there’s no one not everyone’s period and experience of their menstrual cycle is the same. And it’s the same with perimenopause and menopause, where you could be having regular periods all the way up to the day of of the menopause. So let’s talk a little bit more about your experience.
Fay: So one of the things I try and I try and one of the things I often say, can we take the negativity out of it, please? Because we talk about women having babies and it’s a bit like giving birth is hell. Let’s keep it real.
It’s not a walk in the park. Yeah. Some people might shoot it out in 2 seconds or something, but they the 24 hours, it’s a big celebration because they’ve got the advice, they’ve got the care. They know what’s going to happen. It’s the same with the menopause is going to happen. You could tell from it blink and you and your and your goods or you’re going to have a really rough time and I I’ll make no bones about it. My menopause at one point was horrific,I was 45 and I had just started a brand new job literally the first week sat at my desk. I have a hot flash. I have no idea what just happened to my body. It had to happen a few more times before. I was like, Oh my God.
I’ve just had a hot flash. A good few days went by and because I didn’t know what was happening, I was thinking, What is that? I just kept going, What is that? And not questioning that not going to my sleep, not looking it up, just ignoring it.
And then it happened again and I was like I’ve just had a hot flash. Internally,
I laughed so hard. I was like, What the hell? I’m 45. It’s not for the menopause once. And so because at that point I was just like. I was like, how I am now? I’m like, I’m still like going out and still like having a glass of wine. I still like buying clothes. I still like to enjoy myself. And my perception was very stereotypical. One of being old and over the hill and coupled with that. Like, I hadn’t seen any black people being represented going through the menopause. My imagery was little white ladies with grey hair wearing beige clothes, and that was my imagery in my head. The other imaging was like, Well, youre past it, you’ve just started menopause, so that’s it. So for a job I started and I just had hot flashes. I was in that job five years and I did not tell anybody in senior management. H.R. People team what I was going though.
Le’Nise: Can you just talk a little bit more about the actual experience of the hot flush? Like what? What it felt like to some listeners who may be experiencing the same thing can kind of start to develop a vocabulary for themselves.
Fay: Mine was a wash of heat that started from my chest and went up to my head and if she was just like much, it was just like somebody squeezed a hot cup of air inside of me and I was like, Oh, my God. Now for me, I my initial initiation into the menopausal world was hot flushes. And I was fine with it. I kind of just coped with it. I’m very much holistic, natural remedy, kind of girl. I will go to ayurvedic medicine, vitamins, all that kind of stuff. So I just took myself off to a specialist health shop. And interestingly enough, I spoke to a young sales assistant and she said to me, I said, I’m going through menopause. I think, what vitamins do you recommend? She was like, Oh, sorry. This poor girl. Super helpful. But she went to a reference, looked it up, said, magnesium is good for menopausal women and I’ll take it.
But for me, what I had to adapt to having the hot flashes. I had a very long commute from where I live to my job, which meant because I live quite centrally in London. So for me, getting on the underground, it was very much the train was already packed. I’d get on, I could feel a hot flash, come in. I couldn’t control it. I could feel myself start into like, Oh, God. And then I’d be dripping with sweat henched like this amongst people when I couldn’t even get a tissue to my brow or anything. And I was like, This is hell? This is hell. So I changed my commute to work, which meant it was longer, but bearable. I just. I just took a bus partway to the main train station and got on a train because I worked outside of London. So as everybody was piling in, the commuter belt were piling in. I was going out and I got a seat and it was like, this is this is how I’m going to have to do this. And the only thing I realised by having the hot flushes, maybe I did a little bit research. I couldn’t wear anything. Synthetic. Synthetic fibres will exasperate your sweats. So my wardrobe now is 99.9%. All just natural fibres, cotton, linen or silk. So I can’t wear anything which is polyester or synthetic because one, it makes me sweat. And two, my skin just starts to it. So that was one of the main things from having the hot flushes that I had to adapt to it.
Le’Nise: Better for the environment as well.
Fay: Well, I think at least I’m being sustainable. Yeah, I’m doing my bit. Yeah.
That was kind of fine for the first year. But one of the things which is well known, which they call it the trigger for your menopause symptoms and stuff is stress. And stress can like anything, that stress can trigger your symptoms and make them worse. And for me, it was the fact that I was in a job supporting a CEO, which is quite high powered. The company were preparing to go for sale. I was privy to a lot of information the other staff didn’t have. I’m a personal assistant by trade, so I do a lot of executive assistant meetings, travel, all that kind of stuff for senior figures. So the business had started to prepare for a sale, which was highly confidential at the time, and my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sent me off a cliff. I just. I lost it. I just wasn’t coming. I was I. I think back now. And I see I was just a functioning mess. I wasn’t sleeping at night and day sweats. I developed severe anxiety. I had achy joints. It was just a plethora of symptoms across the menopause. And it got to the point where I was very close to my mom. She had me when she was 17. And by the time I reached my adulthood and into my forties, we spoke every day. We had a very, very open relationship and stuff. And I started to see a counsellor because I wasn’t coping with the realisation I was going to lose my mom. I was, I was that broken. And it was actually my counsellor that directed me and said, I think you should see your GP. And one of the things I’m super, I will always, always be grateful for because I have so many women that go to them, medical practitioners or GPs or doctors and they’re pooh poohed when they say I think I’m going through the menopause. They don’t get the help. I went to my GP, cried for a couple of minutes before I could even speak. When I eventually told as she went, Yes, sounds like perimenopause. Let’s get you some blood tests. But in the meantime, let’s get you some help. Here’s some HRT. And I jokingly say, this but if the woman that prescribed me crack, I would have taken it because. ] I love it, because I was a mess and I was broken.
And it was from there, kind of my journey into the menopause world really started. So first off, she prescribe me some tablets, checked in on me. How are you doing? Why don’t I just feel much better? Let’s up the dose then. Off to dust. Still really no difference. Let’s try some of the other ones. Well, there’s other HRT. There’s more than one. And I was like, Oh my gosh. So I never realised my my knowledge around the menopause was very vague. So eventually she got me onto some tablets, were kind of like, okay, that’s fine. Not majorly feeling back to myself, but like, it’s okay is fine. Still having hot sweats, night sweats, still had a bit of anxiety and stuff and achy bones, but I kind of just accepted it because I didn’t know any difference. I started to do some research and I was just like, What is going on here? One, the only people I could find talking about it were white women. Two, they’re all affluent. None of them had a job. They recommended this private chef, this private nutritionist doing this specific yoga class, which was like 1130 in the morning.
And I’m like, this is I’ve got to go to work today. And it was the realisation, just like where are the women have jobs. And have to navigate the menopause. I cannot be the only one. I cannot be the only one with a job. I cannot be the only black person going through this menopause. And that was a big light bulb moment for me. And I was just like, this isn’t on. This is just not on. And I initially started 9 to 5 menopause, and I knew I wanted to do something around menopause. I just didn’t know what my focus would be. And I think I opted for the 9 to 5 based on Dolly Parton’s working 9 to 5 song. That’s why I got the inspiration, it came on the radio is that that’s what I’m going to call it.
I’m going to put the work in, lady. And I just kind of wanted to showcase what I did and what I. What what helped me to navigate this journey because, one, I was like. I am not old. I wasn’t even 50. And I didn’t like adopting the stereotypical imagery and narrative that’s out there. Is not who I am. That is not who I am. I like clothes and I like fashion, it’s fashion for me. But I kind of just one of the things I do is like the clothing edit on my Instagram just to show you, because you look good girls, just because you’ve reached a certain age, don’t, don’t give up on taking care of yourselves and making yourself feel good in your own way.
Now, going back to the HRT issue, I was lucky my doctor gave me HRT, which was the start of getting me out. At some point the tablets are got discontinued and I went back to her. She went, try these patches and that was a revelation because I was like I taking the patches and I was like. Oh, if only I feel better. But it was, It was such a revelation. And I was just like, Oh my God, to know that there’s not just one tablet, to know that there’s patches out there. It was.
HRT has given me my life back like right now. Again after a couple of years, patches got discontinued. How to Mess with Women’s Health, I tell you. By that stage, I’d done my research, so I. And I was thinking about this before talking to. So, like, now I actually have the Mirena coil and have oestrogel alongside it because what the Mirena what the Mirena coil gives off is helps to replace what you’re losing in your body and estrogel. But also, I think.
Le’Nise: If it’s a synthetic form of progesterone, just I just want to be really clear with people who are listening. Yeah. Since the progesterone in the Mirena coil is a synthetic form of progesterone, but it doesn’t. It’s not the exact same as the progesterone that you produce when you ovulate.
Fay: Yeah, I’m glad you said that, because that is very true. That is very true. And the have in the Mirena coil and using this gel is the best. I felt in probably about ten years. My family know is that my friends notice it and it’s it’s that thing. And the one thing I will stress and I will always, always stress this I am very much holistic, homeopathic kind of person. My mom’s from the Caribbean. There’s loads of things she used to do for us as kids in terms of treating a cold and stuff. So I’ve always had that. However. I want women to make choices which are right for them. And I want to make sure women are not judged for their choices. Because in both camps, I’ve heard women being judged for taking HRT and also have heard women being attacked for not wanting to take HRT. It’s a choice and it’s an individual choice and no one should be judged for. HRT was the right thing for me at that time because I was, I was on the floor. I can’t describe enough how much of a broken woman I was, I wish there had been more guidance and knowledge out there because when I started research there was nothing. And so I was going through everything cold turkey, like, what do I do with this? What I do that and having to find out for myself what’s. What I could do to help myself.
Le’Nise: What you said there was so interesting about this kind of there is the pro HRT camp and then there is the no HRT camp. And, you know, people make choices for varying reasons. But what I see at the moment in the UK is this very, very pro HRT narrative and this kind of expectation that if you’re going through perimenopause, if you’re going through menopause, that you should definitely just get yourself on HRT. And there’s I think there’s a lot of nuance missing from the conversation where, you know, you need to find the HRT that’s right for you, you can’t just go on any HRT willy nilly. You know, there might be medical reasons for you not to go onto HRT. You just might not want to you know, you might that’s also a choice.
But what my I’m very concerned about this narrative that the push. Yeah, it’s a push. And this kind of there’s a doctor, Dr. Louise Newson, and she’s talking about menopause as an oestrogen deficiency, which is completely, completely wrong, like medicalising the menopause which is we have to be clear about this, is that it is a natural phase of life. There are negative symptoms that people can experience because of like I think it’s because of modern life, you know? Yeah, it’s like stress is a huge one, but it’s not an oestrogen deficiency, it really isn’t. And that kind of really negates the fact that this is we we go through this new into this new phase of life, you know, and to medicalise, it really takes a lot of the power out of, you know, navigate navigating this time where you almost step into a new sort of power. So I’ll be honest, I’m 43. I’m in.
Fay: You look so much younger.
Le’Nise: Thank you. I’m in perimenopause denial. But what I. I can start to see and what I can see. My friends who are a bit older is that despite the symptoms that they experience, they step into this new power. And I find it so fascinating and just to say that menopause is an oestrogen deficiency really does women and people going through menopause like a real disservice?
Fay: I think it’s a hard one because Louise is, Dr. Louise Newson is coming from it from a medical view standpoint. I myself, I suppose what I want women to see is one, the knowledge. Two. I’m just a normal woman who is navigating the dating world, while trying on dresses to get on the first date and getting more hot and sweaty and still having sex and having a 9 to 5 job. And that’s what I want them to see. And if they can take something away from that. Great. And you’re right, there is a quite a big push around HRT. And I think it’s because women. A lot people want women to see that they can get that help with HRT. But I think coming from from the black community standpoint, HRT is still the bogeyman a little bit. So my sister’s going through it and she’s not touching HRT and she’s like, No, you’re right. I know you’re a big menopause ambassador and you’re looking at this, but no, I’m not taking it. But that’s her choice.
And it’s quite funny also that with all my close girlfriends, because I talk about menopause a lot these days now I never push it on them. I let them come to me and ask the questions like I’ll never go well you should start taking HRT, and I’m like, It’s your choice. You do what you want to do. And it’s funny. I’ve been working with a company that do menopause treatments, ayurvedic, from yoga through diet, through meditation and stuff like that and that, and I love it and I wish I had been exposed to that when I first started or knew about it. It’s that thing now.
The generation coming up behind us will know about stuff like that stuff. And I very much want to present menopause in a more realistic, normal way. It’s going to happen. It could be a bit shit. You might get some sleep. It’s nice. You might get hot and sweaty. It’s going to happen, but it’s not the end of the world like. And I make myself smile and also slightly awkward because it’s just not really me to say that. But I’m like, I feel like I’m living my best life right now. I feel like I’m living my best life from things like during covid that it’s it’s funny because I live on my own. I’m single at the moment. And during covid it was one of those things where like all of a sudden I had very, very long periods where I was just constantly horny, just like, What the fuck is this? Why? Where does this come from?
And then I was like, I lost my sex drive. It’s come back. Because I’d lost it all. I just hadn’t even put my mind, though. And I was like. Oh, because you lose your sex drive in menopause, sometimes it’s just like, Oh, this. Those little things I’m learning about myself. And now I’m kind of just rolling with it rather than being angst ridden or trying to hide it like and not say anything about the menopause. I only name it, it’s me. And I’ve now put my face out there, so it’s too late now to take it back.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Can you go back to what you were saying about HRT being kind of a bogeyman in the black community? Can you talk a little bit more about why you think that is? I agree. I have my thoughts, but I’m really curious to hear what you think about this. And where do you think where you think it’s come from?
Fay: I think there are certain things which are entrenched in communities and that could be the Asian community as well. That could be the Indian community. I think from as far back it’s always been seen like that and I think that’s one of the reasons my sister won’t take it. And I’ll tell you a little incident I had. It was a summer’s day, really warm and I was sat at a bus stop. And there’s a lady next to me, a black lady, and she was fanning herself like a maniac. And I just looked and I just instinctively knew and I that I said menopause.
So. Oh, my God, I’m so confident. Oh, is. So we got talking. And at one point I said to her. Have you thought about don’t you get the HRT? She made me feel so small. She was horrified. Well, I’m not taking that. And I was like, Oh, okay. I felt so awful that I’d suggested it to her. I just shrunk in myself. And I think it’s just because they just didn’t as bad they was. Many years ago, there was all the stories in the press that gives you breast cancer and all the rest of that. That’s now changed. More medical research has been done on it. The information that was that the media put out was very wrong, and I think they’ve adopted that and they just don’t move from that. And also, when I started, they say that your menopause could mirror your mum’s menopause is one of the things they say so straight was that mummy what was your menopause, like I don’t know. She didn’t get to memories. It was like it’s happened and it’s gone. It was that kind of thing. And I just said, When did you start? So I don’t know. But and I remember because I remember distinctively my mum was very happy. Go lucky. Just a beautiful, lovely lady. But there was a period where she was miserable and grumpy and really whingeing because I remember saying to my sister at the time, Jesus, mummy’s miserable. And I was like, I mean, look, I think it was really I just don’t it, it was around the age and started and I think you were going through the menopause because she’d sometimes say to me, I don’t have a period for three months and that was it. Or then she’d go, Oh god, my period suddenly started. So that was her erratic journey into menopause. But she never, ever said the word menopause. Never.
Fay: So that. Okay, so I had to navigate that myself. And I say especially to black women, talk to your daughters. Don’t hide it away. Because I think our predecessors, our mums and our grandmothers, they just got on with it. They never spoke about it. It wasn’t something to be spoken about.
Fay: They just got on with it. Yeah. Now was the generation that like, Hey, I’m showing my feelings, I’m talking to a counsellor, I’m talking about it. They didn’t do that stuff. They just didn’t. It was up there with it.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. And I. You’re making me think of my like so my maternal grandmother, we knew she was she was going through the menopause because. So my mom’s half of the family’s from Bahamas and so hot all year round. And so she would just be like sweating, like mopping her brow constantly and, oh, she’s having a hot flash. And it was just like, okay, like this, but you didn’t really talk about it.
But everyone knew that she was. Yeah. Yeah. And then I think about my mom’s experience and, you know, we, we talked about it because of the work that I do. But she like, I think about like the hot flashes that she experienced and like the night sweats and like not being able to sleep. But until I started doing this work, she just accepted it as a normal thing because, you know, that’s what she saw in her. In her mother. So I guess this is. This is normal and you just have to put up with it until it just goes away. So it’s so interesting hearing your experience being quite, you know, just things not really being spoken about.
Fay: We don’t talk about it. And I think this is where the conversation is pivoting where. As I said, we are that generation that are talking about it. We’re not I’m not ashamed of it. When I says if my hotflashes very much that I’ll go. But I’m not I’m not I’m not saying anything. But now I’m not ashamed about it because it’s something that’s happening and it’s something that’s going to happen to women time and time and time and time again. And we need to normalise it. We normalise women having periods. We normalise women having babies. Can we just normalise the fact that a woman is going to go through the menopause? And just to be aware and. My thing is be aware and do what is right for you. Don’t let anyone judge you for any choices that you make. Just do what is right for you. And just ask questions. Get your information and stuff.
I was very shy until a few couple of years into my menopause, and I wish I did ask more questions or done more research. I’m on HRT now and that’s fine. It worked for me. I do not regret it. I’m glad I’m on it because it gave me my life back because at the time I was in a very, very low, dark place. And I think. The one thing I will say and it goes back to our conversation how the HRT is being pushed. Please. Women or ladies don’t suffer. Don’t be a martyr if you feel that bad. Get the help. Please don’t be a martyr. And also, if you decide not to take it, that’s fine. But don’t be a martyr. We’re living for longer. There’s a life out there to be enjoyed. Don’t let preconceived notions hold you in a state where you’re just not living or you’re just not happy. It’s not worth it.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. And also to add to that, there is if HRT isn’t the path that you want to go down, if you’re listening and you’re thinking, I don’t want to go on HRT. There’s a lot that you can do in terms of the way you eat, how you move your body. Lots of very powerful supplements that you can take.
You mentioned magnesium earlier. Magnesium is incredible for helping to reduce hot flushes, night sweats, helping to kind of help improve a night’s sleep. So just know that there are so many options out there now. I want to talk about the work that you do, because I find that you have this organisation now, 9 to 5 menopause, and you work with individuals. You work with companies and you work with organisations. And in terms of the work that you do with organisations and companies where you’re bringing awareness within the workforce of menopause and you’re helping to formulate menopause policies. Can you talk more about that? Because that feels very new and very interesting.
Fay: Yeah, so it’s been quite a busy year for me this year and one of the things I want to do is bring awareness of the menopause into the workplace, and that’s based on my own experiences of not feeling comfortable to speak up and say anything. So one of the things I do is I go into companies and I’ve given awareness around my own journey or between me and HR, we have a discussion and it’s presented more of a panel discussion. And I say to them, Think about what you guys want to know about the menopause. And they and have two or three staff members asking me the questions and I can answer.
And one of the things I insist upon, if at all possible, is they have a male staff member present asking me the questions because I also very much advocate men to be aware of what’s going on for various reasons. One, being a male member of staff could be line managing women who are going through this. And to quickly say also when you said about medical reasons why people don’t want to take HRT. You have to remember that women go through cancer. Women who have had hysterectomies, they might have a form of menopause and they could be in their twenties and thirties. So it’s it’s good if a male staff member’s aware of what a could be going through and what things they could be doing to make their life easier. Also, you could have a male member of staff, his wife or partner at home is having an horrific time of the menopause that will have a knock on effect on him and in turn could affect his performance at work where you could have a young man at home in his twenties. His parent is going through the menopause. That could also have a psychological knock on effect on him as well.
When I look at their menopause policies and talking to them, I said, just be mindful. It could be really simple things of giving a staff member a fan on their desks, helping them. Is it easy if they sit in their window because it’s going to be cooler? Is it easier if they can amend their start and leave times to work because they’re not travelling to the rush hour is not so stressful? Could they? If they wake up and they’ve had a horrendous night, are you going to make it easier for them to say, okay, stay at home, you can work from home. They could be home in their pyjamas at lunchtime. They could go to sleep for 45 minutes to recharge themselves. So there’s loads a lot of things that companies can be looking out for to support their staff and to remember as well. It’s not just your average lady in the 50 year old sixty year old age bracket. You’ve got youngsters going through medical treatment. You’ve got trans people who are transitioning and they will have some form of menopause symptoms, hysterectomy, cancer. There’s a plethora of people that this could be affected by.
Le’Nise: What’s really interesting is this idea, the idea of a menopause policy, you’ve made it sound very positive and very empowering, whereas other times other people I’ve heard talk about menopause policies, it’s very negative. It’s like, Oh, look out for these symptoms. Like, Oh, they might be having hot flushes or they might have brain fog. But what you’re talking about is, okay, let’s help our employees. So let’s create an open dialogue so they feel comfortable saying, can I sit there or can I have a phone? Or Can my work hours be adjusted? And I find that so, so interesting.
Fay: I think because don’t get me wrong, this there’s still people coming in and going, no, not the bloody menopause again, almost rolling their eyes, just like oh Brenda’s having a hot flash. I used the name Brenda, I don’t know, but that’s the name of the woman to describe that person. So there’s still a lot of negativity and it’s quite interesting for me, October being Black History Month and World Menopause Month, I was busy. It’s a little bit quiet now and I’m like, Well, the blackness doesn’t go away and not the menopause. That’s just conversation.
And I think one thing I’ve definitely picked up and I think the whole cost of living thing is not helping either. So many companies are cutting back and not putting their money towards the training as such. So they’ll do more next year, but also until it’s made the characteristic in law companies don’t have to do anything. So if they can just. Right. Look out for these symptoms. And here’s a link to the menopause. Charity is on menopause policy. There you go. They’re going to some companies are better than others. Some companies are putting their money. Where their mouth is and then others are just doing lip service. So until it becomes normal, you won’t see the push that is needed. And some people are still quite negative about it. Yeah, just like God. It’s like the whole George Floyd thing and everyone jumps into the big diversity bandwagon.
Oh, we need more black people on seats. Like you should have had them before, but hey, it’s okay. And people go. Not another black person. We employ only black people. Now, trust me. I’ve heard that. I’ve heard.
Faye: Good. Yeah, it’s like B is because people are not used to it. It’s like and just darkness. It’s like these, like the whole launch of the Christmas adverts and they introduce black people having Christmas dinner and all the rest of it. And the backlash, I’m like, You realise we’ve always had black people eating Christmas dinner.
What do you think you’ve been doing living under a rock?
But this is what’s happened and people have not used to being confronted with that narrative around the menopause. And because also, as we said, it was always whispered in menopause, like people said, uncomfortable. And to be fair, you have to respect to something, feel uncomfortable because not everybody’s comfortable living brings in things and stuff. So you have to respect that. But at the same time, it’s like same as me. Come on, let’s just get the programme a little bit here.
Le’Nise: Yeah, you have to. You have to meet people where they’re at and know, as you say, no, that everyone isn’t going to be fully stepping into this yet and conversations around this yet. But if someone’s listening and they’re going through this and they know that they have to have a conversation with their employer about what they’re experiencing because they feel like they are slowing down at work. And they want they don’t like that, but they’re nervous. How? Because I know that you also mentor individuals as part of the work that you do. What would be your advice to them?
Fay: It’s really hard because unfortunately I’ve spoken to too many individuals that have just handed in their notice and left their jobs because they didn’t feel supported and they felt scared and they felt bullied. I think depending on your company, one, can you talk to your manager if you can brilliant, because then you can sort out something between you. And is there somebody in charge of the people team you feel you can go to and that will listen to you. And three. Don’t be scared. Depending on who who you work for and how they operate and how they view the menopause. Whether they have a policy or not. A policy. Don’t be scared to ask for that help. Because two things. One, the amount of industrial tribunal cases citing menopause has increased. Two, I’ve heard. Let me see how I can say this, because I don’t want to disclose any information. I’ve heard of people being women being reprimanded in work, and it’s only when it’s got to a quite a serious level that they disclosed they were going through the menopause and they were like, Oh, because she was trying to hide it, do her job. And certain things were happening which caused her to get in trouble. But when she when she when she describes the menopause was is not. Oh. So as hard it is, hopefully you’ve got a company or a line manager where you can go and speak to them and just let them know. But don’t be put off. Because I think companies should be aware you can’t treat women differently because it comes into the Health and Safety Act.
You can’t treat women differently because they’re going through the menopause. And if you need that help, you need to work from home an extra day or you need to come in later and leave early or whatever. Just have a little think. Also, if you really struggle, have a think of a scenario you could present to them, just say, I’m getting really hot. I can’t cope. The office is too hot for me. Can I sit near the window? Can I have a fan or can I sit on a different floor? Or do you not me, try and think of a scenario that could help yourself and present it to them because you’re going to them with something and they’re like, What do we do here? They ain’t got a clue. So if you could come up with an idea and also because this covers on I could talk to you for so long, you got to think and I think it’s Tesco’s that have introduced the thing where they’ve allowed the um the people on the floor, the cashiers to change their uniform so to have a different style uniform because all those uniforms are synthetic.
Do you see what I mean. Yeah. So they’ve introduced a policy where you can wear something which is more believable. Mm. That those kind of things have a little think of depending on your work, what it is, where you, what you do, if you can come up with a scenario or an option to present to your company. Happy Days.
Le’Nise: So what you’re saying is to be really practical in one, Don’t be scared, be really practical. And when in what you suggest, when you speak to your line manager so it’s or whoever you speak to, it’s not just I’m going through the menopause, it’s I’m going through the menopause. It’s affecting me in this way. And this is the way that you can support me.
Fay: Yeah. Then because I think if you go in blind they haven’t got a clue.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. So if someone’s listening to this and they’re thinking, I need her help, how can people get in touch with you? How can they work with you? How can companies work with you?
Fay: So how companies work with me? I’ve done a lot of work for the NHS, funnily enough, I’ve done a lot of awareness talks with them. I am a registered trainer on a training provided, so I go to companies and run workshops. Individuals can contact me on my Instagram or on my website,. Or they can just send me an email fay at fayreid dot com. And I, I love talking to women stepping forward. Like the other week a lady contacted me and just said my hair’s falling out. It’s been really brittle and stuff and it was a black lady and I went right. I had the same problem. Start taking collagen, use high intensity moisturiser on your hair and stuff like that and just gave me some tips. So honestly, if they’ve got a question, just drop me a line and I’m happy to answer it.
Le’Nise: All the links will be in the show notes so you can check those out there. What’s the one thing what’s the one thought that you want to leave listeners with today?
Fay: Don’t be scared. Because the young, young women that I hear coming up and going back to our earlier conversation again is the negativity around and the moan and just like how it’s so bad. And young women are now stepping forward and saying to me, is it that bad Faye? And I’m like, no, it’s not. Don’t be scared. Because now we have knowledge and we have people like myself and Karen Arthur who are standing up and going, Hey, this is the menopause and stuff. And you can still live happy, fulfilled life. And it’s for a period of time. And if you can get your symptoms under control, you’ll be fine. Don’t be scared.
Le’Nise: Fantastic. I mean, thank you so much for coming on the show and for being such an inspiration and for the work you do. So thank you again.
Fay: Thank you for having me on. Feels such a pleasure that you asked me to be on your podcast, so thank you very much.