Flood Alert

by Victoria O'Farrell @vjofarrell    #WorldMenopauseDay

We were in a queue at Universal Studios in LA, (yes LA ,California! Trip of a life time and all that!) when I said ‘I’ve got to go!’ With blood streaming down my legs and filling up my denim shorts, I locked myself in a toilet cubicle in shame. I tidied myself up, tears welling up. ‘What the hell is going on? I’ve just finished my period and now this, blood, thick clots, so much blood!’.

It was a 2 mile walk in the beating sun to the nearest chemist to buy some heavy duty sanitary protection. This was not the glamorous Californian look I was after; sweating in the 30 degree heat, blood stained denim shorts, blistered heels from the 4 mile walk in ill-fitting trainers……….

The rest of the holiday was a constant checking that I hadn’t flooded, checking that I had supplies in case I flooded, avoiding situations of total public humiliation in case I flooded- it was tense and un-fucking-fair!

The next occasions were at work, flooding in an SLT meeting, flooding in a governors meeting, flooding in a lesson, flooding whilst supervising after school detentions; all shameful, embarrassing and humiliating experiences. I don’t think anyone else even noticed, except the time I left a big red blood stain on a fabric chair. A male colleague saw it, averted his eyes in shock, or was it disgust?

And then there was the time in the car driving on the M6, stopping at the motorway services, tying a dog towel (it was the only thing I could find in the car) around my lower half as I discretely made my way to the toilet cubicle. And the many times waking up in bed in a pool of blood and clots. All these times with no warning; no pre-cramps, no 3 week cycle, an unwelcome surprise. All occasions varying in duration from 2 days to 10.

My doctor suggested that it could be my fibroids but otherwise could not make an absolute diagnosis except ‘irregular menstrual bleeding’. It was a colleague at work who I confided in after a flood. I had to rush home to get back in time for a meeting and she had seen me go and asked me on my return if I was ok. When I told her, she said ‘oh that happened to me for 2 years, it’s the pre-menopause’. And that was the first time I had heard about it. The PRE-MENOPAUSE, FLOODING, 2 YEARS!

I’m still experiencing the no-notice floods but I am better prepared these days. Before I go into a meeting I place a heavy duty pad in my knickers as a ‘just in case’ strategy. I carry spare knickers and a change of bottom halves with me at all times. I carry emergency supply of protein/ energy bar because these floods wipe me out and put stars in my periphery vision. Sunbathing and swimming can be a bit tricky but I look out for an ‘exit strategy’ and if there isn’t one, I remain padded up and clothed. Someone once suggested using a menstrual cup so that I could relax in my swimwear on the Cote D’ Azure but those cups are way too small for my flow, I’d need a ½ pinter at least!

I’m in my 3rd year of this, knowing now that it could be another 2 years to go yet; every woman is different. Some women don’t have any of this flooding business, others have a short spell, whilst some have 5 years of it. As well as being better prepared for flooding, there are other things I have done:

  • Spoken openly about flooding to my immediate family of men, this subject cannot be taboo at home
  • Spoken openly to women colleagues and friends of 35years+ so that they either know what to expect or share their own experiences

Things I have not done (yet):

  • Spoken to my line manager about flooding because I feel embarrassed and awkward about it

Things I must do:

  • Speak to my line manager about it, not just for me but for other women
  • Share my experiences more widely so that other women are educated and know that they are not alone. Also so that men are educated and have an awareness of what their female colleagues and loved ones may be experiencing.

Is there anyone out there who would like to join me educating others about flooding and the pre-menopause? Contact me via twitter to share some ideas on how we can do this.

#WorldMenopauseDay #menopause #perimenopause

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