Your Stories: Martina Phelan

Looking back on it now, my problems started when I was 50…

…but at that time I had no idea what was going on as I was still functioning and working full time until July 2015. I had a break down which I believe menopause brought to my door. I am now 55; post-menopausal and the misery continues. I don’t smoke, eat healthy and rarely drink alcohol. I had been jogging up to a few weeks ago (which I took up nearly two years ago). But, I went over on my foot: nothing major but very painful and I fractured my foot in two places. I did have it X-rayed at the time and was told it was fine, two weeks later I get a call: someone else had looked at the X-ray and noticed the fractures. So, I had to go back again and was given a boot to wear. I have tried lots of lotions and potions and spent a small fortune in Holland and Barrett. I am now trying alternative medicine until I see my doctor.

I received no support, and was told by my manager that people would not be walking around me on eggshells…

I worked as receptionist/admin so I was the face of the company. Not good when you’re tearful, have anxiety and panic attacks which I didn’t really understand as I never had those symptoms before. I received no support, and was told by my manager that people would not be walking around me on eggshells and that they wouldn’t change. He had a business to run and I might be better working somewhere else. He made sure I was alone with him in his office when he said this, so that was never going to help me. I did contact HR and I did manage to get a mental health policy put into place as I was so angry. I tried to get the Health and Safety Manager to put something in place for menopause but that fell on deaf ears. I am glad I no longer work there as it was a toxic environment for me, however I hope one day I can work again.

I requested to see the company doctor in August 2015 and he signed me off straight away with anxiety and depression. I told him that I had menopausal problems and that it was so difficult. I felt so poorly I couldn’t even swallow as my anxiety was so extreme. I was sipping liquid through a straw and I couldn’t eat. I was out on the roads at 5am in the morning walking my dog. I was up the wall! It was horrendous, and I really thought I was going crazy.

I was under the care of a mental health link worker. He worked with me tirelessly for 6 months and to him I’m forever grateful, however, having to turn up at A&E waiting for hours to be seen is not great when you are feeling so vulnerable and overwhelmed. I visited Urgent Care as I was told to go there by the crisis team and when I arrived there I was asked what I was doing there which was complete humiliation and very belittling to me. Then, I waited three to four hours to be seen. I told them I was having menopausal problems and they looked at me as if I was crazy!

The practice manager…bullet-pointed every part of my complaint and acknowledged that I was let down by reception staff right up to GP level…

I left my doctor’s surgery a few weeks ago and put in a huge complaint. The first response I received was not acceptable to me, and because I had left I guess she thought I would not pursue it. Well, she doesn’t know me and I said I was complaining for those who couldn’t or were too upset or not in a good place to do so. I addressed it to the practice manager the second time around and I got a very apologetic letter from her. She bullet-pointed every part of my complaint and acknowledged that I was let down by reception staff right up to GP level. I am with a new surgery now and I can only speak highly of the professionalism.

I was hoping to get to see a professor in London but I’m out of the age bracket so that was so disappointing for me. I will see someone up in Newcastle now who I have seen in November 2015. I don’t really like going as it’s The Genito Urinary Medicine formerly STD clinic so it makes me feel uncomfortable going there but I need help. The type of HRT I am talking is not working and lots of anti-depressants don’t work. As I have been saying for such a long time, I have a hormonal imbalance! Active Listening is sadly lacking.

I am lucky, however, my long term friends have stuck with me even when I have been snappy, argumentative, irrational, paranoid, and not pleasant.

I am divorced and have no children which I have cried and cried over as I didn’t allow myself to be a mam but I’m okay about it now; it wasn’t meant to be. I have found I have very few people in my life now. I was a very happy, fun, outgoing person before all this. I had a wicked sense of humour so I was popular. I think people have agendas as to why they befriend you and when you no longer fit that bill you are surplus to them. That has been a huge learning curve for me and one I won’t forget. I am lucky, however, my long term friends have stuck with me even when I have been snappy, argumentative, irrational, paranoid, and not pleasant. But like they say, they know the real me, so thank you to them for sticking around. I was never one for asking for help but when I became menopausal I had to!

I had to do all my own research and trying to get professionals to listen to me has been a nightmare up to now. I believe menopause is not taken seriously with many professionals because they don’t have the knowledge, hence more clinics and specialised teams need to be in situ. I think menopause can also be hereditary, I believe my mother who’s now in her 70’s is still suffering. Suicide on the rise, as are divorce rates and family problems as some family members say they don’t recognise their mum or partner or wife anymore, so it’s a difficulty for everyone.

My focus now is to raise more awareness wherever I can. I have spoken on local radio and have contacted TV, so fingers crossed I can get the message out there. Menopause can destroy lives. I have changed so much and I would love to have my peace of mind back, get a good night’s sleep, and enjoy my latter years if I ever get my life back. Nothing or nobody will take it away from me.

NEXT STORY: JULIE RODGERS


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