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
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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
“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.”
“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!”
“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.