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Uma Satkunam

My Menopause Journey

by Uma Satkunam

My mother’s experience made me aware of menopause. She was one of those women who didn’t want to talk about it too much - but she did explain to the family a bit. She ended up taking HRT. But that was really my only experience of menopause before I started the transition. I didn’t speak to anyone at work or anything like that.

When I think about it now, I was in my early 40s when the symptoms started. Essentially I felt really dehydrated. I used to go to the gym a lot, and after a full workout I would sit down for breakfast and feel terrible. I would get this migraine which would last for 24 hours. At that time, the only thing I could think was that I was dehydrated or that my blood sugar had dropped really low. So I would eat lots of chocolate (of course)!

Just after my symptoms began I changed my job - from finance to setting up my own business. I noticed that with the stress of this change my symptoms got a lot worse. I was having these episodes far more frequently. Migraines, nausea and stomach issues could last up to 48 hours. By my early 40s my periods had also completely stopped.

I did manage to help myself with the migraines. I started to track my symptoms, and log the triggers. I thought if it was just dehydration I could cure it. I now drink a lot more water each day, and this has helped. Sometimes my migraines are triggered by stress - but overall it’s been a lot more manageable with time.

The joint pain (which no one ever talks about) is terrible! I used to exercise a lot (boxing, kickboxing, climbing), and have had some joint pain in the past so I was told the pain was probably due to this. I didn’t know that it could be to do with perimenopause or hormone changes. Now I’ve drastically reduced my exercise - gone from one extreme to the other. I do strength training though and this has really helped with the knee and hip pain. I can be sitting for a long time day to day. So strength training really helps. I still get symptoms with my menopause but have found ways to manage the journey.

As I move into the post-menopause phase of life I have found myself reflecting how many opportunities there were - personally and professionally. I had a great routine of exercise and work. Now, there’s no real routine. I struggle to fit exercise into my life like I used to. I generally feel good, eat well and move enough. But on the days when I don’t, and I treat myself, there’s a lot more guilt than there used to be. I think about these choices a lot more than I ever did when I was younger, and that can be hard to cope with.

The career shift into entrepreneurship that came alongside my peri-menopause symptoms has been empowering. I believe that the majority of people end up choosing their careers based on what their family is exposed to - for me that was finance. My dad was an accountant and both me and my sister chose that path. But I never really enjoyed my role in banking - being a cog in a big machine. Nothing creative about banking. So I quit!

I’m Sri Lankan and had always wanted to work with Ceylon tea. Original plan was to set up a little tea house. I took a course at the Cordon Bleu (it was amazing) and set up my tea shop. The rents and costs were just far too high though. So I pivoted - and did a lot of farmers markets. This was amazing, as I got to speak directly to the customers. Gradually - the tea took over from the cakes on the stall. I used to blend the tea at home, but I moved it to a factory in Kent to scale up the business. I then launched the [tea online](https://missteasmith.com/) last year. And I’ve now set myself up as an artisan tea business - serving other businesses (cafes, co-working spaces etc) and couldn’t be happier. The challenge for me now is selling the concept of tea, and high quality tea, into businesses.

I never felt that my journey or my menopause symptoms held back my career. And that’s a real blessing (and I know not the case for many women). I really do believe we need more education on menopause - especially the duration. In particular, we women need to know what’s happening when it starts and how to manage symptoms whether we choose medication or not.