by Nancy B.
If you are anything like me, if you start researching or looking at a topic, it takes you down a rabbit hole and the next thing you are sitting there, ten hours later, ready to lie down in a dark room with no sound.
This week I have re-watched Davina’s McCall’s brilliant Channel 4 documentary, Sex, Myths and the Menopause. I’ve just taken delivery of Dr. Jen Gunter’s new book, The Menopause Manifesto, and I was also lucky enough recently to attend the online launch of The Menopause Charity, which was brilliantly informative. I drew the line at trying skincare especially designed for the menopause, though. I’ve heard some glowing reports, but it felt a step too far right now.
I’m wondering at what point too much information is a bad thing, but maybe that’s because right now many of us are trying to sort out the facts from the fiction, and then, even more importantly, trying to find out what is actually available to us. I thought Davina’s hour was superb TV: she was candid and open, and the show itself put lots of facts out there, although to be honest, I felt like she deserved a series of documentaries.
When we have been waiting this long, an hour just didn’t feel enough to answer so many questions. However, it did cover lots of bases and made me realise that I’m not alone.
I did feel a sense of outrage, though, that some women get to a place where they are suicidal, and yet only one in ten of us are taking HRT. What about the other nine? I know all my neighbours were probably asking the same, but only because I was shouting it at the TV. That may sound too simplistic, that a suicidal woman going through the menopause gets ‘cured’ with HRT, but it is true that women who are offered antidepressants don’t find them to be effective. If you watch the show, you will come to understand that HRT does help many women get their lives back, or at least go into their second act with a renewed sense of themselves.
I made my husband sit through the show, too. In case you were wondering, it wasn’t just for my benefit. My husband is a psychotherapist. I would like to point out here that I don’t get free advice on-tap and he often doesn’t listen to a word I say. After a day with clients, the last thing he wants is me delivering him a fresh load of problems. However, I ‘sold’ the idea of watching the show to him as I assume that, at some point, he may have a client who is going through the menopause and it might help if he knew more about it. He actually found it really helpful, and I hope understood me a little bit more at the end of the hour. He still finds it perplexing that the wife who once had a razor-sharp memory now seems to have replaced it with a jelly-like substance, but he does like Davina, so I felt like she was speaking on my behalf.
Dr. Jen Gunter (look her up, she’s a takes-no-prisoners gal) wrote this week that we need to be far more vocal than we are at present, and that the language we use around the menopause needs to change, too. I’m a lot more passive by nature, but I did laugh when she said that we talk about women’s eggs being ‘exhausted’ by the time we reach menopause, but the language we use around men is far kinder, to say the least. Medication becomes ‘little blue pills’ and we aren’t so direct as to give them out for erectile exhaustion, are we? It’s much more acceptable to use the word ‘dysfunction’ after all.
The fact that we actually need a Menopause Charity is maddening in itself, but if you check them out online, they are already doing sterling work and actually sorting out fact from fiction for us, so that women like me don’t give themselves an injury overworking their already tired brains. I recently watched a brilliant online Zoom session with them, and I was shocked at the amount of women giving up valuable careers as they were not coping during the menopause.
The thing is, if women are actually giving up work, is time off always the answer? No, it’s not, although more time management might help some of us. What we actually want is to be healthy enough to stay at work, not sitting at home feeling rubbish and worrying if we will lose our jobs.
I’m wondering if I’m driving everyone else nuts now with my HRT message, but we need a fully engaged medical profession, at every level, to take seriously something that happens to every woman. And that affects every person on the planet, too.
I do get myself a bit overwhelmed at times. It is part of my nature and then I go into reverse gear and do not want to engage. I really don’t like injustice and I get infuriated that women are being sold short when it comes to their health. Of course, all of this is coming at a time when the NHS is under immense pressure, but I think there is never a ‘good’ time to fight for fairer treatment. We do tend to put ourselves to the back of the queue, and that has to change. Even a non-medical person like myself now has enough knowledge to understand that nine out of the women in the UK are currently locked out of a treatment which could be so beneficial to them, and not just in the short term, either. The longer-term benefits of HRT, including reducing the risk of osteoporosis and possible heart disease are always worth considering, too. I’m in it for the long haul.
I think it was really brave of Davina to make that documentary. She had been told it might make her seem ‘past it’ or less attractive in some way. This is the Davina we have grown up with, who started off on MTV, made Big Brother part of our cultural history and now has us in regular tears on Long Lost Families. She’s shared her past history with us, whether it’s been about addiction, or heartbreak, but the joys of her life, and our lives, too. She was the perfect person to talk to the nation, and I do hope, if enough of us speak up, Channel 4 will commission some further shows to investigate the issues in that first show more.
This week, for the first time in nearly 15 months, I am meeting my own friends. We aren’t really group-chat people. We use it for the swapping of basic information only, so I will have to remind myself not to start quizzing them all about their libidos before they’ve even opened a bread stick. I’m right off bread sticks, by the way. As someone who has been like a beanpole for five decades, I now look like I’ve swallowed a rubber ring that has settled just above my hips bones.
This may leave me with one saving grace, perhaps, as not one friend will be able to utter the same line I have heard since we all first got spiral perms: ‘It’s alright for you, you can eat anything you want and not put on weight.’
Well, my friends, I no longer have this luxury. I just hope someone gives me some clues of what I can eat while I’m asking them how they are feeling about increased bloating, night sweats, and how many pumps of estrogen is the holy grail of HRT.
I bet Davina wishes she was my mate, now, too.
Until next time.
To catch Davina’s groundbreaking documentary go to:
To checkout Dr. Jen’s latest book go to:
For more information about the Menopause Charity and to watch their brilliant launch broadcast go to: