Emma Doyle is a Senior Account Manager at Ovia Health. She’s passionate about destigmatizing menopause at work and beyond the workplace. She lives in Rhode Island with her teenage daughter, two dogs, and three cats.
Can you tell me a little bit about your menopause experience?
I started perimenopause about two years ago with minimal symptoms. Currently I am experiencing all the symptoms: hot flashes, bloating, weight gain, headaches, changes in my cycle. I feel aches and pains in my joints, tiredness, mood swings, anxiety, and generally just feel crappy on some days.
You don’t get prepared for menopause and we just dont talk enough about this stage of life. It’s an emotional time because you’re getting older and you have all these things happening to your body.
I was fully expecting the hot flashes and cycle changes, but the overall feeling that I have on a daily basis, I did not expect. It’s hard to describe, because you know that you are not sick, but you feel very off. It’s like having extreme PMS all the time.
I am also a single mom of a 16 year old daughter and I do strongly feel that my symptoms affect the way I parent. She is at the beginning end of all this — she got her cycle a few years ago — and is adjusting to hormones, driving, and teenage stress. So we’re both having mood swings for different reasons, which can be a challenge.
So in a way you’re seeing the mirror image of yourself in your daughter’s experience.
Yes. Teenagers can be emotional and I sometimes feel like I’m very reactive. If I wasn’t going through menopause I feel like I would be more laid back. Parenting a teenager makes you feel more alone and I’m also preparing myself for her to leave home. I’m going to have that empty nest and start another chapter.
People told me when I got divorced that I really needed to really think about myself. But I made my daughter my main focus my entire life. I built everything around her and I feel like I missed nothing. If I had to do it all again I would do it all the same, but now I’m at the point where I know I need to invest in myself.
How’re you investing in yourself now in ways you maybe didn’t before?
I joined a gym four months ago and I go every day after work. It’s another whole community! I was so nervous to go and about whether I’d be doing the exercises wrong, but it’s just been the best thing I could have done for myself. I feel so much better. My symptoms have really improved.
That’s amazing to hear. Many of us struggle to start an exercise or movement routine even if we believe it will make us feel better. Do you have any advice for someone struggling to get started?
It started for me because I was starting to have pain — my body was just feeling different and I knew it was time to make a change.
But I was so nervous to go. On the first day I went, I obsessed about what I should wear. I bought new sneakers. I sat in the parking lot outside the gym for a long time. When I finally went in, I just did the exercises I was comfortable with (the treadmill or the bike). And then looking around I started to notice that there were so many people much older than me there. I was inspired by them! They were in such great shape, slowly walking on the treadmill or chatting with friends, and I thought if they can do it I can. I track my exercise too which helps me feel really motivated.
I go after work to de-stress and find some release. I feel great when I come home and I sleep so much better. Once you start to feel better and see all those positives, that’s what keeps you doing it.
If I wasn’t going through this or feeling these symptoms, I probably wouldn’t have joined a gym or realized how much I loved exercise. If you told me a year ago that I’d be going to the gym almost every day I would have told them you’re crazy.
For someone who’s invested so much in your daughter, it must feel really good to finally be prioritizing yourself
I tell my daughter now that it’s time for me to do something for myself and going through menopause was the kick in the butt that I needed to do something for myself. Now it’s time for me.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about menopause?
That it’s just hot flashes and cycle change and also that it’s just part of life. I have learned that there are things that you can do to help ease many of the symptoms. Small changes like adding exercise into your daily routine and changing your diet. These changes have dramatically impacted how I feel on most days.
I wish more people understood exactly how you feel as you are going through this. In addition to getting older (which few of us like), your entire body and emotions are changing. There is a misconception that menopause is just when your period stops, but it’s so much more than that. Some days, the symptoms can be extreme and make it hard to do your daily routines.
In addition to adding exercise to your daily routine, what else has helped?
It’s so important to talk to others about how you are feeling. Millions of women go through this and we shouldn’t keep it quiet or just accept that it’s just part of life. Talk to friends, your healthcare provider, support groups. It helps to talk with others who know exactly how you are feeling. I even joined a FB group called Midlife Crisis and it makes me laugh at all the things that we are going through and never imagined we would.
How has this stage impacted your work life?
Working from home has been a life changer for me and I’m extremely grateful to have a job that allows me to. There are days that I would not want to go into an office and I’m thankful that the company that I work for really cares about this part of a woman’s life. Menopause impacts so many working parents. In my case, I’m the only source of income for our home — it’s so feeling supported and empowered is really important.