Hot flushes? No sweat! celebri­ties open up about their menopause

it’s gone from be­ing an em­bar­rass­ing se­cret to a topic of ev­ery­day con­ver­sa­tion. Midlife women open up about what got them through theirs… This is the new me

Woman & Home - - Contents -

We need a bit more un­der­stand­ing – the menopause is sim­ply part of ev­ery woman’s life

The menopause took the writer Jenny Tucker by sur­prise – but talk­ing to her girl­friends helped get her through.

i never thought i’d be­come that woman. the woman who buys a tank­ini for her beach hol­i­day, cries at dog food ad­verts on tV and per­ma­nently sits (in a vest) by an open win­dow when most other hu­mans are swad­dled in jumpers against the bone-crack­ing cold. but then, four years ago, the menopause came crash­ing into my world (i was 51) and life, as i knew it, changed rad­i­cally.

it was as though all the switches were sud­denly turned up. i felt hot­ter, more tear­ful, an­noy­ingly for­get­ful, con­stantly tired, and (big sigh) inches wider. the lat­ter was par­tic­u­larly ex­as­per­at­ing be­cause, even though i was go­ing to the gym reg­u­larly, i just couldn’t shift my pil­lowy tummy. some­thing strange had hap­pened to my mid­dle bit. Even the skin tex­ture

was dif­fer­ent. if i am go­ing to be re­ally hon­est here – and i’d love to dis­pel all the taboos that are never talked about – it looked lumpy, a bit like tapi­oca, or cur­dled milk, and i re­alised that for the first time in my life, my stom­ach, which had been through two ba­bies and a cae­sarean, had sud­denly grown its own layer of cel­lulite.

of course none of this made me feel

at­trac­tive, or even in con­trol of my life. i’ve al­ways been some­one who could cope in a cri­sis, and i ran a tight ship at home and in my ca­reer while still man­ag­ing to get my high­lights done ev­ery six weeks. Now i was on fire in­side and my skit­ter­ing brain was bounc­ing from sub­ject to sub­ject like a crazed pin­ball ma­chine. i re­mem­ber be­ing in a work meet­ing one time and i was so hot my glasses steamed up. as the heat, which started in my toes, flooded through my body, i felt rigid with panic. My mind was blank, my heart was rac­ing and all i could think about was get­ting my sweaty palms around an ice-cold glass of wa­ter. but did i say any­thing? No. the meet­ing was full of men and it seemed in­com­pre­hen­si­ble >>

Gil­lian an­der­son Ac­tress

“It was just 8am and I re­mem­ber throw­ing my coat on the floor in front of my chil­dren, say­ing, ‘This day sucks!’ As the day went on, I kept hav­ing to ex­cuse my­self from meet­ings and go have a cry. I felt like my life was fall­ing apart, and friends sug­gested it might be hor­monal… Per­i­menopause and menopause should be treated as the rites of pas­sage that they are.”

Mariella Frostrup

Writer and pre­sen­ter “We need to open up about the menopause. For two years i slept ter­ri­bly and felt anx­ious but had no idea it was linked to the menopause. i didn’t have any­thing i thought i was sup­posed to look out for. We need to help women un­der­stand what is go­ing to hap­pen to their bod­ies. the more women talk about it, the less of a shame­ful se­cret it will be.”

dawn French

Co­me­dian and writer

“You have to sur­ren­der to it, to the ex­pe­ri­ence of it. I found it was a thief of my mem­ory, so I had to write lists to re­mem­ber stuff – I still do. But the main thing is, you can’t pre­tend it’s not hap­pen­ing; ac­cept it and, if you need help, go and get it. Lots of my friends are on HRT patches and pills, and there’s so much out there to as­sist you.”

KiM cat­trall

Ac­tress

“lit­er­ally one mo­ment you’re fine, and then an­other, you feel like you’re in a vat of boil­ing wa­ter, and you feel like the rug has been pulled out from un­der­neath you. you’re not alone. i feel that part of liv­ing this long is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this, so i’m try­ing to turn it into a pos­i­tive thing, in the sense of ac­cep­tance and tol­er­ance and ed­u­ca­tion about this time of life.”

Yas­Min le Bon

Vet­eran model

“You ache all over, you’re tired and frac­tious, and you de­velop an ex­tra layer of pad­ding all over... you can’t re­mem­ber where you parked your car. It’s im­por­tant to tell peo­ple this. I share this with my girls be­cause I want them to be a bit more pre­pared than I was.”

Julie wal­ters

Ac­tress

“i still get hot flushes. that’s 15 bloody years. still, it’s noth­ing like i did then. Rip­ping off your nightie and Grant [her hus­band] think­ing it’s some­thing else!

No – don’t get any ideas!”

aManda redMan

Ac­tress

“The menopause shouldn’t be so taboo be­cause it’s nat­u­ral. I was film­ing on New Tricks when mine started. They would have to stop shoot­ing be­cause my face would sud­denly go bright red and the sweat would pour off… How hideous for our moth­ers’ gen­er­a­tion be­cause it was some­thing they didn’t dis­cuss. They must have felt so lonely.”

that I would pipe up, “oh don’t mind me sit­ting here in a pud­dle, it’s just my menopause.”

I re­cently read a re­port by bri­tain’s lead­ing women’s health ex­perts sug­gest­ing that work­places need to pro­vide for menopausal women like they would in preg­nancy. which ba­si­cally means we don’t want to be la­belled as ill, but it would be very help­ful to have a bit of un­der­stand­ing, aware­ness and sup­port. I’m all for that. there is of­ten a ter­ri­ble con­spir­acy that any­one menopausal is “past it” and, al­though we can have dif­fi­cult days, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be amaz­ing in our ca­reers. And al­though I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that it isn’t easy to be open about symp­toms and our feel­ings, it does help when oth­ers com­pre­hend what’s go­ing on and, ul­ti­mately, ac­cept that it’s sim­ply part of ev­ery woman’s life.

be­cause we are all in this to­gether, I’ve turned to my girl­friends for sup­port. we laugh about hav­ing to go through the al­pha­bet to re­mem­ber some­one’s name and are uni­fied in the de­ci­sion to al­ways wear lay­ers so you can peel off when nec­es­sary. but the one thing, which did hit me the hardest, was the ab­so­lute end of my fer­til­ity. I have two boys – who were hard to con­ceive – and I’d han­kered af­ter more chil­dren. the odds had al­ways been against me, but when the pos­si­bil­ity of preg­nancy was ir­re­vo­ca­bly re­moved, I felt bereft and heart­bro­ken. the fi­nal­ity of this still makes me sad, but like most ex­pe­ri­ences – even the re­ally dif­fi­cult ones – you be­come used to it.

And that’s the same with the menopause. I have be­come used to it. I de­cided not to take med­i­ca­tion as I felt I could man­age with­out, and even though I dab­bled with var­i­ous health reme­dies, noth­ing seemed to make much dif­fer­ence. my so­lu­tions are sim­ple: I spend more money on face creams and tai­lored clothes, I go to the gym three or four times a week and re­ally flog the sit-ups, I eat well, I try to get plenty of early nights (be­cause in­vari­ably I wake up dur­ing the Am hours for a while) and I ac­cept that al­though I don’t feel as sexy as I once did, sex is im­por­tant in a mar­riage – and as I’ve just cel­e­brated my 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary, some­thing is go­ing okay.

my next birth­day is just around the cor­ner and there’s still plenty of oomph in me yet. Just, please, don’t buy me a polo-necked jumper as a present. or send me a card with a fluffy puppy on the front.

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