Looking back, I realise I was about 44 or 45 when I started my menopause journey. Even now, at 50, a doctor will occasionally say to me, ‘Wow, that’s young!’ It probably is the younger end of the spectrum for this transition. But here’s what I believe, having now had many years of quiet, tentative whispered conversations with my friends in the same age bracket: being that ‘young’ and perimenopausal or menopausal is more normal than you might think. I can name a dozen of my friends who had similar experiences to mine in their mid-40s. And each of us did so in silence, because we had no idea that they were all signs of a normal process that indeed could start at that age, so we endured the crazy things our bodies were subjecting us to in embarrassed silence. Like me, many of my friends hoped that our extreme mood swings, insomnia and random three-week periods were one-off freakish experiences that would just go away if we ignored them. Because somewhere along the line, we decided as a society that this stuff is impolite to talk about, something private, even shameful – too much information. What I realised, thanks to friends who were happy to open up about their personality transplants and loss of libido, was that because women are scared to talk about it, even medical professionals can have the view that menopause isn’t really a thing until you’re well into your 50s.
Of course, I know why we don’t like talking about it. It’s not exactly sexy or glamorous is it, this stark biological reminder of your body’s onward march to the inevitable? I remember being a small girl and hearing my grandmother muttering darkly about some moody friend or other who ‘really hasn’t been herself since The Change’. My child brain would spin, convinced she was talking about some sort of supernatural, horror-film style transformation. And no one would give me a straight answer about what on earth ‘The Change’ actually was. Not polite conversation. Even as I write all of this I’m fearing having my card marked with a big black stamp screaming something like ‘PAST IT!’ And I know I will get some emails from people telling me I should keep this sort of thing to myself.
But I went through a lot of misery, a lot of days of feeling like I didn’t have the energy to put one foot in front of the other. There were times when I was utterly low and couldn’t figure out why. I went through some near hysterical fears about my health when my body was doing some downright weird things. (I will spare you those details). And I endured that for a good few years. If we talked about it more I would have realised a lot sooner that this was normal and treatable. And now that I have the right help and care, I can honestly say I’m fitter and have more energy than I ever did in my 20s.
This is why I’m happy to talk about the menopause, and even happier to welcome Meg Mathews to this issue to do the same. Her mission to raise awareness and acceptance of the menopause has inspired a brilliant manual that I urge every woman – of every age – to read. I hope you find it useful advice. Even if you’re not there yet, my great wish is that you enter that life stage with a lot more information and power, and certainly far less shame and embarrassment, than I did.
A few things I’m coveting this week
Pure genius. Nail polish eraser cream, £13.95, parfumdreams.co.uk
Because beds love a new-season look, too. Bedspread, £135, oliverbonas.com
A perfect match for jeans and white trainers. Coat, £329, baukjen.com