Why we need to increase diversity in the menopause discussion – with Karen Arthur

Karen Arthur

Karen Arthur is an ex-teacher, now Fashion Creative, who makes bespoke clothing for women as well as teaching them to use their sewing machines.

And last year, this amazing 58 year old (grandmother and model!) decided it was time to help diversify the menopause scene by starting her new podcast entitled ‘Menopause Whilst Black’. 

I caught up with her to chat about her story and why she felt compelled to share black women's menopause stories. 

You can watch the video below or listen to the full interview on the podcast.

What led to you starting your podcast ‘Menopause Whilst Black’?

“I started menopause six years ago. It was an awful time as I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Anyway, fast forward to 2020, and I'm trying to live my best life the only way I know how, and then lockdown happened. Soon after that came the Christian Cooper incident in Central Park, and then the next day, the news of George Floyd's murder at the hands of police.

And I felt a rage bubble up in me that I hadn't felt in the same way before. Racial trauma is hard enough, but I just wondered, how are black menopausal women coping in this mess?

When you Google ‘menopause’ and click ‘Images’, it's a sea of lavender and very sad white women with their heads in their hands who look nothing like anybody I know.

So I started a survey for black women. I asked questions that they hadn't been asked before. The little research I found showed that black women were more likely to develop menopause symptoms a couple of years earlier, and also that we were apparently going to suffer more severely.  

I felt compelled, is the only way I can describe it, to share black womens stories, so that they don't go through what I went through six years ago. 

And I have two grown-up daughters, and I don't want them to get to a point where they don't have the information, because we don't get taught this stuff, do we? 

And that’s how the podcast started.”

What happened to you during menopause?

My menopausal symptoms were hot flushes, but I thought that it was my heating! I'd just got a new boiler, and I thought it was faulty. And I had tingly legs, which some people describe as insects crawling under your legs. 

Then there were the mind symptoms; anxiety, depression, paranoia, brain fog, I couldn't remember things, and I lost the will to create. That was the biggest indicator I think, that I didn't want to sit at my sewing machine. 

Therapy unravelled all that for me. I highly recommend it!”

Did you try anything else to help with your menopause? 

“I went to a herbalist, and I don’t know if it worked, but sitting in a room with a woman who was only focused on me was the most healing experience. So I'd go anyway!

I learned mindful meditation, and I did a lot of just being quiet. I re-learned my body. I re-learned my mind, and I came back to myself, and I've emerged much better, much more honest. I have put boundaries in place too, that's a biggie.”

What would be your number one tip for women over 50?

“I would say if there's something that you want to do, then get up and do it, and don't let the fact that you have never done it before stop you. This isn't the end. This is the beginning, trust me.“

You can find out more about Karen Arthur on Instagram @TheKarenArthur and @MenopauseWhilstBlack 

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