I have written about menopause signs before. As regular readers know I like to champion women’s voices so I was delighted when the founders of Pausitivity asked for my help. Elizabeth Carr-Ellis shares the story of how Pausitivity came about and what the campaign is trying to do.
“Pausitivity began from frustration.
When I first went to the doctors to discuss my menopause signs, my GP had to search on his computer to print off information about it – four pages of A4 with a list of symptoms, the pros and cons of HRT and a few websites to go to, one of which no longer existed.
It was information I’d already read online and came about four years too late: four long years during which I’d gone through symptoms including hair loss, itchy skin, pains in my joints that woke me at night, palpitations that had me in A&E and dark, dark times when I feared my world was going to end, mixed with moments of feeling it would be better if it did…
Each symptom took me to the GP and each time I’d be given a prescription or a test (sometimes both) or told there was nothing that could be done.
Eventually, searching for ways to help my hot flushes, my husband googled menopause and announced: “God, you’ve been going through this for years.”
I can remember waiting to see the GP the next day, feeling alone, lost and ashamed that menopause had brought me here.
My feelings were compounded when he printed out the sheets. I mean, what a time-waster must I be that he had to do that? If more women suffered, surely they’d have nice shiny posters and leaflets available with up-to-date information, like they did for other life stages and conditions?
It was after writing about my experience on my own blog 50Sense that I learnt this wasn’t true and that many other women had gone through the same symptoms.
Many had also gone through the printing-out of information at the GPs’, leaving them feeling just like me: that menopause wasn’t really that important, despite the devastating impact it was having on their life.
Then one evening, waiting to discuss my HRT with my GP, menopause rage hit me. Why was a condition that could have such debilitating effects ignored? Why were 51% of the population being made to feel as if menopause was something shameful to be hidden away?
That was when I vowed to change things.
I got in touch with some women on Twitter that were also talking about menopause and Pausitivity – me, Karen Kenning and Clare Shepherd – was born that night. It’s been a mad ride ever since.
My idea was simple: get a poster designed and then start a social-media campaign encouraging people to download it and share a selfie with it, using the hashtag #KnowYourMenopause. If we made enough noise, the NHS would have to listen.
We started our campaign on 1 July, none of us sleeping the night before. Each of us did a selfie and we shared the hell out of them.
The pick-up was incredible. By the end of the week, we had support from the Scottish government, Karen, who lives in Elgin, was sharing her story with The National newspaper, with STV soon in touch to film her, and people from all over the UK – and some even from other parts of the world – were sharing their selfies.
The following week, I was at the Comedy Women in Print awards and nervously asked Marian Keyes if she would pose with the poster. “Of course,” she said.
Since then, she’s been joined by Ross King, Jeremy Vine, Helen Lederer, Jenny Eclair, Kirsty Wark, Candace Bushnell, Tracey Cox, Tony Hadley – the list goes on, before we even begin to talk about the celebrity retweets and messages of support on Twitter.
NHS staff quickly joined us, too, including the chief executives of NHS Grampian, Kent Community, Birmingham’s Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, the Aneurin Bevan in Wales and Cardiff & Vale UHB. Nurses, GPs, receptionists, HR managers – they’ve all embraced what we’re doing and sent selfies before pinning posters up around their buildings.
We’ve also had selfies from TV and radio doctors Sarah Jarvis, Nighat Arif and Amir Khan (who sent four at once!).
Outside the NHS, we’ve had support from Chief Inspector Helen Smith of Greater Manchester Police (who not only put posters throughout her force’s offices, she even took one up Everest with her for the highest selfie ever!), several councils, writers, athletes, beauticians, journalists, shop assistants… We’ve been on TV and radio, as well as the national press.
Many politicians have sent selfies and while plans for an event at the Houses of Parliament have twice fallen through (Boris Johnson should really check our diary before announcing State Openings or elections…), we’re hopeful for one early next year.
But best of all, on World Menopause Day, less than four months after our first nervous selfies, we received a message from NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership saying our posters were being put up in every GP surgery in Wales.
At the same time, we’re continually receiving sent messages saying our posters are being used on training days in workplaces or for women’s health meetings. Knowing they’re being used to spark conversations and help break the taboo is everything we want.
And there have been a few tears shed at the messages from women who have contacted us to say thank you and that they no longer feel alone and invisible with their menopause signs. Women are taking the poster to their GP to start the conversation and that means the world to us.
It’s not been easy. Clare, Karen and I only know each other through social media and WhatsApp. We’ve never met face to face.
Nor do we have any funding. Everything we do comes out of our own pockets, while our lovely poster designer Allyson Shields works without charge because she believes so much in what we’re doing. Throw into the mix the day jobs, families and the hormonal swings from those of us still going through the menopause and you can see how complicated it gets.
All this means we can’t send posters out, or do expensive mailshots to get support, or drop everything and travel the country to share our story, much as we talk longingly about it. We have no platform beyond social media and no campaign experience to draw on.
But our success despite these limitations shows how vital our menopause signs posters are – and we’d love you to help share the message.
Share a #KnowYourMenopause posterselfie with us.
Pin it up wherever it will be seen.
By doing this, you’ll be helping your mum, your daughter, your friend, your workmate – everyone who will go through the menopause now and in the future.
And that’s Pausitivity!”
What are the menopause signs you know about?