World Menopause Day

World Menopause Day Blog

This can’t be menopause… can it?

Written by Sarah, Volunteer at The Cellar Trust

If you’re anything like me, a night in with your best friend, your ride or die, is one of the best forms of therapy. I’ve made some of the best decisions of my life sitting on my best mate’s sofa, in my PJs, braless, waiting for my face mask to set. If this was ‘adulting’ bring it on.

We met on our first day at high school and from that moment on we supported each other through all of life’s ‘firsts’. First kiss, first job, first baby, as well as some of the worst hangovers known to mankind. And here we were, nearly 30 years later comparing the battle scars over our favourite bottle of wine and a bar of fruit and nut. I was blessed.
But I’ll never forget one girl’s night, when I was 39 and my friend mentioned the ‘M’ word for the first time. As with all our other ‘firsts’, it is seared into my memory. We were talking about our health – how we’d both been feeling rubbish for a few months and then she said it…. MENOPAUSE.

I nearly choked on my Pinot Grigio. What? What was that? You think it might be menopause?! In my head I’m thinking ‘This is so typical of her… always wants to be first at everything’.
“Yes” she said. “I’ve had some blood tests, my GP eliminated any other causes, so its most likely my symptoms are due to perimenopause”. I went quiet, I honestly didn’t know what to say. Wow…. menopause…. But we’re not even 40 yet!

Whilst my friend regaled me with different types of HRT, I reflected on my own health. Ok so I’ve been feeling anxious more than usual, my energy has dipped, and I’ve had 3 UTIs in 3 months…. but it can’t be menopause because my periods are regular as clockwork, I’ve never had a single hot flush in my life and I’m probably tired because work is so busy. I thought back to how my mum was when she was my age. She never ever spoke about menopause, and I don’t remember her complaining about any crazy symptoms. So, feeling smug I finished the rest of the fruit and nut and told myself that menopause only happens to other people – it clearly doesn’t run in my family. Anyway, I’m far too busy for such nonsense, I’ve got a project deadline coming up and the spare room needs re-decorating.

Fast forward to my mid 40s and those very same symptoms had not only intensified but they had multiplied and unbelievably, the spare room still hadn’t been re-decorated. My superhuman ability to perfectly manage every aspect of life was fading and I couldn’t figure out what my kryptonite was.

My UTIs were now so painful and so frequent that my social life and sex life had ground to a halt. Anxiety was through the roof. My mood oscillated from crying in the car on the way to work, to incandescent rage by home time. My sense of smell was distorted (glue fumes followed me everywhere). My eyes were so dry I couldn’t wear my contact lenses anymore and don’t even get me started on the insomnia. I had watched so much sign-language TV at 3am that I could add ‘fluent in BSL’ to my LinkedIn profile.

But I really suffered at work. My ability to focus, organise, assess and make decisions had become so impeded that I dreaded my own performance reviews. My sick leave was embarrassing and even when I managed to drag myself into work I just felt as if I was in a fuzzy daze. I didn’t know how to explain my symptoms to people. I felt like I was making excuses all the time, so instead I gradually withdrew from everyone until finally at 47, I made the decision to resign from my hard earned, well paid, career. I didn’t like adulting anymore.

My 40s were a bewildering and sharp contrast to the days of my 30s, when I seemed to excel in all areas of life, effortlessly juggling home, work and social demands.
Could my symptoms really be menopause? Once again, I reviewed the facts; at 48 my menstrual cycle was as regular as ever, no hint of a hot flush or night sweat, no hairy upper lip and not a single varicose vein. That’s what I thought menopause was thanks to growing up in the 80s and 90s. That era really did a number on Generation X. Prolific sexist jokes about women in the media and in the comedy clubs (thanks a lot Chubby Brown). The last die-hard misogynists were still in the workplace refusing to retire. Outdated HR policies made menopausal women feel like an inconvenience to the workforce and the misleading health advice that HRT causes cancer left women with zero medical support. No wonder our own mothers were too confused and embarrassed to ever mention it to anyone.

Ironically it was a 25-year-old male physiotherapist who finally jolted me out of my stupor during a physio appointment for a bad case of tennis elbow (yet another meno related issue). He casually mentioned that this kind of injury happens a lot to women ‘of my age’ due to decreasing estrogen. I couldn’t believe it. No way. So, menopause really was my kryptonite this whole time and it turns out its so much more than just swapping tampons for Tenna Ladys’.

At first, I was fuming. Why hadn’t my GP ever mentioned menopause? Where was the information and awareness? And then that silent haka, the one which most women whisper every day, manifested itself in my heart; “Fine. I’ll do it myself”.
My war cry turned into a two-year mission to find out all I could about menopause. I wanted knowledge, support, treatment options and results. And that’s exactly what happened.

With the help of some very inspiring colleagues, I launched The Cellar Trust Menopause Support Group where I found unconditional acceptance, fellowship, no judgement and LOTS of information and awareness. Now at the grand age of 50 I have never been more in tune with my hormones, my reproductive system (yes, I’m still having periods) and my mental health. Awareness is empowering. I have a fresh appreciation of the unique miracles my body performs every day to help me thrive and it will continue to do so, as long as I give it the right support. It’s a symbiotic partnership. My body is not my enemy, and it never was.

Yes, menopause has its dramatic headlines like painful sex and hair loss. But there are other, less talked about symptoms to be aware of. Things like repeat UTIs or bladder inflammation, phantosmia (smelling things which aren’t really there), tendonitis (e.g. tennis elbow), dry/itchy eyes, dry mouth, nose bleeds, cold flushes, brain fog and intense feelings of ‘losing your mind’ (you are not, I promise!), dizziness and changes in body odour. Don’t discount these concerns if you notice them. This is your body gently warning you that your estrogen levels are dropping and it’s time to do something about it.

I’m so inspired by women all over the country who are speaking up, loudly, for better treatment options, increased awareness, focused workplace support and the right to express ourselves without discrimination. Think of all that we can achieve if we keep talking about it. You’ve all made such an impact on my life, and I can’t thank you enough. Without you I would never have got the spare room redecorated.

The Cellar Trust Menopause Support Group

If you have been affected by any of the symptoms mentioned here or any other issues related to menopause please join The Cellar Trust Menopause Support Group, where you will receive a warm welcome, plenty of support and lots of information.
Meetings are online, on the first Thursday or every month at 12pm-1pm and 7pm-8pm. Open to all, regardless of gender.
Please email to register.

Other local services

You can access support for stress and anxiety from Bradford and Craven Talking Therapies – a free and confidential NHS:

Find mental health and well-being support that suits you from Healthy Minds directory which covers Bradford, Airedale, Wharfdale and Craven:


South Asian Heritage Month – Yasmeen

South Asian Heritage Month

Written by Yasmeen, Pathways to Employment Worker


South Asian Heritage Month is held from 18th July to 17th August each year. The South Asian countries have a rich cultural legacy that influences and integrates with many other cultures and communities around the world, and we have a large diaspora in Bradford.

This year the theme ‘Stories to Tell‘ is all about celebrating the stories that make up this diverse and vibrant community.

Our South Asian colleagues at The Cellar Trust will share their stories over the course of the month. This enables people of South Asian heritage to honour their culture, as well as reclaim their history and identity by sharing their own experiences.

Yasmeen, Pathways to Employment Worker, continues South Asian Heritage Month #StoriesToTell by sharing her families experience following her father’s arrival in Bradford from a remote village in Mirpir, Pakistan. A beautiful account with references to language, religion, mental health and growing up in the 80’s and 90’s.

Download a PDF copy of the Blog here


Belonging to the South Asian community was amazing as I grew up, I have many fond memories. The gatherings at Eid and family weddings always had its benefits. The food was always in large quantities and authentic and the clothes we wore were always glamourous and glitzy. There was no panic if the food was too spicy for the young ones, it was a done thing! Dad was the main breadwinner; he would provide for many families in Pakistan too as well as his own family. Times were hard but I knew no different, my parents provided us with the necessities.

Mum was an excellent cook; she was also an expert tailor. We had an industrial sewing machine; it was her pride and joy. The homes curtains, beddings and shalwar kameez were sewn on that machine. It stayed in our family homes for decades until the motor completely burnt out.

My dad left his remote village in Mirpur in the early 60’s. He recalls the first time he sat in the lounge area of the airport and thought he was in the actual plane. The courageous act of leaving his village for a completely different country and culture really took dad by surprise. He had absolutely no notion of the English language nor did he have an idea of the culture he was about to embark his new life in, but the small group of people already settled in Bradford gave him his confidence to begin life in England. Initially dad came for a year so he could provide for his struggling family back home, but the trend was settling in of bringing over families, so two years later he travelled back home and married mum. Dad would often travel to Pakistan, leaving mum with us. The trend was to travel by road, driving jeeps and cars and gifting them to family members in Mirpur. The last time he went was when I was six months old, mum recalls the winter months were severe, having to look after the family in his absent meant she had to learn quickly to become independent. Mum relied a lot on my older sister, Taz was like a mother to us. Handwashing the towel nappies, brushing the carpets then dusting the house down was an everyday chore.

Growing up in the 80’s meant we could play outside until we were called back inside, or when the streetlamps would turn on. Being the fourth child down and second daughter I had it slightly easier. I was a tom boy, dressed in shalwar kameez, my scarf was wrapped around my waist, and I was ready to tackle the outdoors. I was always kicking the football around or playing cricket. We had makeshift wickets from the milk crates. My older brothers would create go carts from wooden planks they could find from here and there, and wheels were from old prams, the joy and freedom gave us hours of fun. I loved the outdoors, trailing my brothers and watch how they would also make kites from black bin liners with twigs and branches attached to it. Looking back now, the sheer engineering work was amazing, young lads producing work of arts for pure entertainment purposes.

The weekday routine was always busy, we would attend the local mosque immediately after school, I was taught The Quran mainly at home by dad, which I preferred however I knew how strict he was with his teachings but as long as I was close to dad, I always felt safe. The core values of reading The Quran are still embedded in me, the spiritual connection I have with God keeps me going. I believe I can find all the answers in The Quran.

Some of you may remember the limited computer gadgets of the 80’s. One being the Atari – 8, my brother saved up money to buy that, so it was like gold dust. There was a particular game called ‘chuckie eggs’, he would stay up all night playing it. My brother would allow me to set up the game, I would go upstairs first so we wouldn’t arise suspicion to mum and dad. He would then pick his Urdu books and make his way in the attic. My sister would drown herself in Bollywood magazines such and ‘Stardust’ and ‘cineblitz’. I would be the one stood near the door to keep a look out in case dad came upstairs, so you can imagine the part from East is East resonating some of our life, we would try to get out of it at the time when the prayers were due or when we were supposed to read and write Urdu. Eventually we were caught out and my brother’s game was taken away from him. Like every good parent, my dad set boundaries.

Keeping our mother tongue was an essential part of our growing up, I am forever grateful to my parents to have embedded this into us. Being fluent in Potwari (my mother tongue) and Urdu (the national language of Pakistan) gave me the confidence to communicate effectively and have a better understanding of the community I belonged to. Listening to the older generation and their financial issues, political issues and family issues were always on the agenda. Looking back now, stress, anxiety and depression were not heard of, but they existed, the interpretations of the issues had mental illnesses written all over them, but the awareness of mental health was nonexistence so it would have been alien to the Pakistani culture.

Christmas was always the best part of the winter holidays, as Muslims, we believe Jesus (Isa) is a prophet, so we would celebrate the 25th of December confidently. It is also the birthday of my brother, so we had double celebrations. Mum would stuff chicken and prepare all the vegetables the side. This was the one day where the food was non-Pakistani!

Christmas day was special, dad would explain the story of Jesus to us as written in the Quran. He would also remind us that respecting all religions and humans is an important part of being a Muslim, however we believe and follow Islam. I absolutely loved these moments; he had a plethora of knowledge about everything. Dad would also look forward to The Queen’s speech, he would ask to put the volume up so he can listen carefully, bearing in mind, he was not fluent in English, he got the gist of it. I witnessed dad stand up and saluting the Queen, as a child I watched in awe of his affection. He would always remind us of the blessing we have living in England in comparison to Pakistan and the freedom to practice Islam in a western society and he has the Queen to thank.
It didn’t make a difference if he wasn’t fluent in English, the fact that we were fluent in Potwari was important. We had a rule growing up, mum and dad had preferred it when we spoke Potwari around them, not only were we being taught to respect our parent’s needs, but we were also continuously encouraged to better our mother tongue. As adults, we do the same, we speak Potwari in the presence of mum and dad, I suppose it’s like muscle memory now.

The 90’s shifted into a somewhat modern decade, white goods were more accessible, cable TV and Sky TV opened a whole new world to entertainment. Gone were the days when I was sent to the local video shops to rent Bollywood movies, Hollywood action movies were at my fingertips now, so I had choices. My older sister was the Bollywood queen, we were always bickering over our movie choices. However, I did miss the TV shows such as Knight Rider, Air Wolf, TJ Hooker, Cagney and Lacey to name a few.

The 90’s was the decade where the dynamics of our family changed, we were married, having our own children, and moving into our own homes. The approach to culture was changing, there were more young girls in higher education, it was becoming the norm. Unfortunately for my older sister, who was taken out of school at the age of 11, there was no compensation. But my parents realised they would not do the same for myself and my younger sister. The pressure of ‘what will people say’, was becoming a thing of yesterday. My mum was able to learn driving in her 40’s which was unheard of in our culture, but dad supported her.
Mum and dad would often recall in family gatherings and reflect the fact that ‘they were too afraid’, of allowing daughters to gain freedom. Education meant freedom, exploring the wider society, which could have led to girls forgetting their cultural ethics and religious values. It was understandable as my parents had a completely different upbringing, their cultural society was taken for granted and Islam was at their fingertips with mosques a few hundred yards away from their homes and the call to prayer (Azaan) was called out five time a day. But here in England it was alien to them.

In current times, being a British born Pakistani has had its benefits. I have always considered myself as the lucky one, being able to communicate effectively with the first generation through Potwari and Urdu has always given me the confidence to keep the cultural values active. I am trying to implement my mother tongue with the younger generation and have an awareness of the importance of it, especially my own children. Luckily my parents can communicate with my own children, but they still have their struggles.

Over the years we have seen people from our community and family suffer from mental illness, but it was never spoken of, purely because of the stigma’s attached. Only now, the awareness of Mental Health related illnesses is talked about. The awareness is becoming widely spread, this is making it easier for services to reach out to people from ethnic backgrounds as services have workers who are bilingual or multilingual and I believe this is due to the strong values the Pakistani community had.


For full details of South Asian Heritage Month please visit

South Asian Heritage Month – Noreen

South Asian Heritage Month

Written by Noreen, Community Engagement Lead


South Asian Heritage Month is held from 18th July to 17th August each year. The South Asian countries have a rich cultural legacy that influences and integrates with many other cultures and communities around the world, and we have a large diaspora in Bradford.

This year the theme ‘Stories to Tell‘ is all about celebrating the stories that make up this diverse and vibrant community.

Our South Asian colleagues at The Cellar Trust will share their stories over the course of the month. This enables people of South Asian heritage to honour their culture, as well as reclaim their history and identity by sharing their own experiences.

Noreen, our Community Engagement Lead kicks off #StoriesToTell by sharing her experiences of growing up in Bradford with her family following her father’s arrival from Pakistan and the journey of integrating into British society. A moving account with some lovely references to the culture and reference points of the UK in the 80’s and 90’s.

Download a PDF copy of the Blog here


My dad was just a teenager when he arrived in Bradford in the 1970s. With the support of extended family, he found work, learnt the language, and a few years later returned to Pakistan to marry my mum. I was born in the 80s, the second girl in a house of five children. We found ourselves living in the heart of BD3, a home away from home, with the security of an emerging Pakistani population. Rows upon rows of terraced houses and narrow back streets formed a neighbourhood for young South Asian families to find a community in an alien land, and some of my happiest memories are from playing with marbles and riding bikes on those back streets. Mental health wasn’t spoken about in those days, but with a backdrop of economic hardship, racism and a longing to return home, my parents and many like them found support and comfort in others who led similar lives.


I was an 80s child and a 90s teenager. Popular culture and entertainment shaped my childhood and provided a melting pot of Eastern and Western influence. The weekly Bollywood movie, on VHS, chosen from a huge selection at the local video store, provided my mum with much needed entertainment in a language that she understood. It also went a long way towards cementing my own language skills, and I can still quote full scenes from classic 80s Bollywood movies. When that was done, we’d sit down to the weekly episodes of Dallas and Dynasty, providing a glitzy and glamorous escape, a world away from our humble lives. Later, in our new house and growing up with three boisterous brothers, I’d have to endure hours of WWF wrestling. When I managed to get my hands on the remote I’d indulge in an episode of Neighbours or Home and Away, before quickly being trumped by my dad or grandma who preferred a Pakistani drama, again borrowed from the local video store. Seeing the first episode of Goodness Gracious Me on mainstream telly somehow validated my Asian roots and made me think that perhaps my Pakistaniness wasn’t so embarrassing after all. Music was an eclectic mix ranging from Take That and Oasis, to Vital Signs, Nusret Fateh Ali Khan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and gangster rap! We soaked it all up, a little bit of everything thrown into the mix to shape the growing minds of impressionable young British Pakistani kids.

My clothes were all homemade and my jumpers were knitted by my gran. I was mortified at the thought of starting high school and having to wear a maxi skirt that my mum had stitched herself. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I managed to convince my parents to buy me my first pair of jeans, just in time for the year 8 leavers party. Little did I know then that as an adult I’d be longing for opportunities to wear shalwar kameez to celebrate my beautiful heritage and to feel connected to my roots.


1992 was a memorable year for many reasons but the one occasion that stood out was the men’s cricket world cup final: Pakistan vs England, or our homeland vs our new homeland. My father’s unwavering support of the Pakistani team no doubt influenced us all, and their victory that year started our love affair with the sport. We were allowed a day off school that day and the celebrations and rewatching of the final continued for years to come. That remains one of the most joyous memories of childhood – we really saw the Pakistani way of celebrating and felt a connection with our roots like never before!

Living in Bradford and being of South Asian heritage brings a unique sense of community. The way our ancestors lived in Pakistan has continued through our lives here. Strong ties have been maintained with extended family – there were many a trip down to Rochdale to visit our second cousins. They weren’t thought of as second cousins though, they were just our cousins, because in Pakistani culture everyone is your cousin, or your aunty, or your uncle. You treat all elders with the same respect that you would your own blood relatives, whether you’re meeting them for the first time, or you have spent a lifetime with them. Islamic culture brings with it brother and sisterhood, a trust that you can turn to your sister in Islam and have a shared understanding of life. Mental health is supported though family ties, and as someone of South Asian heritage that has blended into the British way of life, mental health conversations are now more open and accepted. Some elders who are the same age as my parents and grandparents are now recognising their own mental health struggles as well as those of their children and grandchildren.

As my own children navigate adolescence, I lament at the loss of their mother tongue and am forever overcome with guilt for not working harder as a parent to pass on my language. As an established British Pakistani community, and with the huge global impact of social media, life feels even more like a big pot of biryani – chuck everything in and hope for the best! As we embrace the growing diversity of Bradford and beyond, I hope that my children will hold onto their dupatta, learn to make a mean nihari, and maybe even sit down one day and watch a Bollywood movie with their mum and dad.

For full details of South Asian Heritage Month please visit