Q&A with Deborah Garlick, co-author of Menopause: the change for the better

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Deborah Garlick founder of Henpicked and co-author of Menopause: the change for the better

Deborah Garlick is passionate about helping women live better lives by raising awareness and understanding around the menopause. Henpicked, started in 2013 as an online community for women to take their conversations from the coffee shop out into the wider world, sharing their wisdom and offering guidance, support and tips on a wide range of topics.

Since 2016 Deborah has also been working with employers to help them understand how menopause affects women at work, raising awareness and helping them educate their colleagues and line managers. Menopause In The Workplace was launched in 2017.

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We love the name! How did you arrive at Henpicked? 

Thank you! It’s a play on words - hand-picked by hens. We wanted an abstract name that would be open to all like-minded women rather than have an age threshold. One of our friends came up with Henpicked and it made me laugh because my daughter calls me (Deborah) hen.

We love the strapline ‘for women who weren’t born yesterday’, which is a legacy of the late, great Carolyn Lazarus’, founder of Totally4Women.

What’s been the biggest surprise or revelation for you, as you’ve addressed issues and interests for 40plus women?

It would definitely have to be the lack of knowledge around the menopause, and that so many of us don’t even talk to each other about it. It wasn’t an area we expected to focus on; Henpicked is happiness, health and wealth.

But whenever we published a menopause article link-clicks would fly up. Eventually, when I think women got used to us talking about it, they joined in on our social media. The same comments over and over - women were really struggling, didn’t know what to do or just didn’t know anything about it.

It’s been a massive learning experience for me, like so many women I’d never even thought about it until it arrived. Having learnt so much in the last few years, I understand what was happening to me in my 40s was perimenopause. Wish I’d known what it was then.

How much has Henpicked changed since launch?

The concept is still the same and will always be the same - a supportive community where women can share and learn from our combined experience and wisdom. I know how grateful I am for all I’ve learnt and the support I’ve had from other women, even those I’ve never met in person.

The biggest change is two communities became one in 2016.  Caroline Lazarus founded Totally4women in 2012, she was a kind, passionate woman, determined to help raise awareness around women’s issues through a welcoming community for women everywhere.

Tragically Carolyn passed away in 2015. Carolyn’s husband, Marc, and I believed the communities were so similar that we brought them together in 2016. We’re both custodians of Carolyn’s legacy – T4W, and Henpicked. And I hope we do her proud.

How do you think online communities support women?

Women were supporting each other long before we went online. What the virtual world does it makes it easier to find like-minded people. If you need help or advice, there’s someone, somewhere who’s already experienced it, will be there to listen and help.

Not forgetting the social side, meeting new people and having fun. Every day someone makes me laugh.

What inspired ‘Menopause: the change for the better? 

Don’t really know where to start with that one. Inspired is one thing; we wanted to do something to help everyone understand menopause, the facts; what women can do if they’re struggling with symptoms and where to get help. And change the way we all think about it.

More than that. We know too many women’s symptoms get in the way of them enjoying life. That’s wrong. Imagine if with the right awareness, education and support working together we can change that.

We’ve talked to so many women who tell us that their post-menopause years are their happiest. Why not us all?

Commitment is as important as inspiration. I don’t mind telling you how many times we nearly gave up. There are so many possible answers to the same question but which one’s right? So much information is too technical, we wanted an easy guide. The first cartoon in the book I think was spot on – ‘you’re about to go on a mysterious journey’. Time to de-mystify it.

I’m so grateful to all those who stood by us and helped make it happen. From those who shared their questions and stories, the experts who answered them and Bloomsbury – it really was a community effort.

Over the moon that we did it.

What do you hope the book will achieve?

We want to help thousands and thousands of women (and men) live happier lives. Everyone needs to know about menopause, women experience it first hand but others play a vital supporting role.

Moving from taboo to normalise? Maybe even celebrating menopause as the next chapter in our lives. 

What 3 tips would you share with women to deal with their menopause?

  • Learn about menopause from reliable, fact-based sources.

Women are often surprised by the range of symptoms, or are being treated separately for different things. ‘Thought I was falling to bits’ is something we hear too often. Appreciating its part of the same thing – menopause – is often a relief. And then understanding there are many things that can be done to relieve symptoms, whether that’s naturally or medically.

  • Ask for help if you need it.

We’re all different and need help in different ways. If you need help ask for it, whether that’s from your GP or those around you. They aren’t mind readers so be as clear as you can what help you need. May not be a big thing but may make a big difference to you. Please don’t wait until symptoms get unbearable.

  • Talk about menopause openly.

All the mystery and negatives perceptions don’t make this easy for some of us. At first we practiced saying menopause 3-times a day until it felt like no big deal, you might be surprised how quickly people go from a hushed ‘menopause’ to feeling confident talking about it. Take the first steps.

Not really a tip but something I try to do myself all the time. If you think someone else is struggling, ask what you can do to help. We’re all learning and as our combined knowledge and confidence grows we can spread the word to help everyone.

We all have a part to play - it starts with each of us. When we all work together, things will change.

What’s next for Henpicked?

More of the same and as much as we can handle, joining forces with others.

We have the Henpicked website, now the book and to reach more people we started working with organisations across the UK to introduce menopause in the workplace awareness, education and support. What organisations have then done, recruited to the cause, has inspired me.

Changing the way everyone thinks about menopause – changing the culture in the UK – is going to take a lot. We all contribute in our own way and I ask that we all join together until it’s done.

Menopause: The Change for the Better – may seem aspirational but I think it’s something we can achieve. And it’s certainly worth doing.

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Read our Hot Flush review of Menopause: The change is for the better and get our special Hot Flush discount code to purchase a copy.

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