The floodgates are open and menopausal rage is pouring through. It’s about time.

The outpouring of anger and emotion across the nation in response to this week’s Channel 4 documentary, Sex, Myths and The Menopause has felt like a dam bursting. Women who have felt lonely, frightened, overlooked and misunderstood while going through The Change finally feel heard. While this subject has been covered on TV before, somehow having Davina McCall and high-profile celeb pals like Zoe Ball admitting to the horrors they’ve experienced during the menopause has given women comfort. It’s also lit the touchpaper of our anger. Like the nation’s no-nonsense tell-it-like-it-is big sister, Davina gave voice to the monstrous unspeakable angst that women have often felt they’ve had to suffer in silence and a sense of injustice that we’ve been ignored.

I well remember the loneliness, the anxiety, the mood swings, the overwhelming sense of being bereft that started when I was 47 and perimenopausal. The spikes of anger that at times became so hard to keep down that I hid in the loft for the best part of two years, to avoid screaming at my teenage sons for failing to fill the dishwasher. While I’d experienced depression before and had therapy in my 30s, this was different… this felt existential.

At times I didn’t know who I was anymore and couldn’t connect with all the things that normally made me feel happy. It was genuinely frightening.

This was more than 10 years ago, back in the days when HRT was considered too much of a danger to women’s health, so I just had to struggle through. Has much changed since then? Not enough. At least conversations around the subject are more open and there’s less of a ‘put up and shut up’ attitude. There are books, support groups and podcasts devoted to helping menopausal women. Nowadays you can say the M word without shame or embarrassment (I once mentioned at work that I was going through it and colleagues reacted like I’d said “Voldemort”). But the lack of NHS support for perimenopausal and menopausal women continues to be a problem, unless you happen to have a sympathetic doctor who actually knows their stuff about this life stage. A life stage that half the population will definitely go through!

We should know about the menopause from an early age – it should be taught at school. Like with periods and PMT, symptoms and their impact should be widely discussed – by both sexes. And not just the obvious symptoms – things like poor sleep, painful sex and anxiety, as well as the treatment options available. Instead of being a subject to be sniggered over or dismissed, the menopause should be taken seriously, because its impact can be genuinely bewildering. If Dr Louise Newson (one of the interviewees), keeps emergency appointments free for suicidal women each week, imagine how many more women are suffering alone – without a great doctor to help them.

As one member of the Audrey community said (of the C4 documentary): “I spent the first 10 minutes in tears as it’s made me realise I am going through this now”.

If nothing else, it has galvanised us. To march down to our GP surgeries to demand more and better help. To be supportive of other women going through it, especially in the workplace. But also to use our rage and turn it into something positive. In my case, after a grim few years I came out the other side of my own menopause with a new lease of life. Determined to make a fresh start and use the sense of freedom I felt to do something meaningful, a few years later I co-launched Audrey. Looking back on my menopausal years I can’t believe how far I’ve come. If you’re perimenopausal and feeling like your life is being dragged down, be kind to yourself and ask for help. Tell the people around you what you are going through; they can’t be supportive if they don’t know. Most of all, know that it will get better – and you will get your life back.

Words: Marina Gask

Useful Resources
1. – regular blog on menopause and other medical problems.
2. videos by Dr Stephanie Goodwin about menopause and HRT
3. – the patient arm of the British Menopause Society
5. Dr Louise Newson – menopause specialist in the midlands. Excellent resource.
6. www.menopause-exchange – good source of information and newsletter
7. – British Menopause Society. Excellent new information videos
8. – for women with early menopause. Twice monthly online chat available with specialists to members
9. – a site with medical, nutrition, exercise, beauty specialists

For more information on the menopause, read advice from Lauren Chiren who helps women and employers navigate menopause. And in this article there’s advice from menopause specialist Dr Stephanie Goodwin on HRT and whether it’s genuinely safe to take.

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