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two hilarious chapters from my new book..

Life Begins At Fifty - The Book
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I was on BBC Tees radio recently talking about the menopause, if only fleetingly, as there were lots of other women who wanted to bemoan the difficulties associated with ‘the change of life’.  I’ve previously thought that I was one of the lucky ones, as ,although I had noted that my body shape had changed (as in my bum started to move rapidly south),  I didn’t actually experience some of the most obvious signs, such as horrendous hot flushes or wanting to throw plates at anyone in a flash of temper, but the more I’ve spoken to one of my lovely  friends,  who  has a definite interest in everything au naturel, I realised that she had been an absolute Godsend in smoothing the way forward for me.

I’m not one to make a mountain out of a molehill.  In fact I’m probably renowned for putting a great big smile on my face and just getting on with life.  In fact sometimes I’m a bloody good actress.  And there are times in life when I’ve had to be, (think separation, divorce, trauma, grief and broken hearts.)    I suppose my motto has always been, ‘Don’t let the buggers get you down. ‘   But looking back, the menopause just sort of crept up on me.  I used to think my eyes were really dry because I spent so long looking at a computer whilst writing ‘Life Begins at Fifty’…but they are still dry now!  My skin often comes out in what looks like ring worm all the way up my arms when I’m in the sun.  Not always, just sometimes.  I recently read that skin conditions can be hormonal.  Oooooh!

I sometimes get brain fog, not when I’m particularly stressed or anything, just things like I recently thought to myself, ‘What the heck is that flower called?  Come on, Helen, come on, it’s easy, it’s just a flower.’  Then five minutes later it just popped into my head, a bit like looking through the arched window in Play School.  ‘It’s a geranium!!!!’   How embarrassing!  You can understand why I’ve kept that to myself until now, ha ha ha!

And here’s the other thing that started happening to me, which I realise now I was in denial about until very recently.  I used to wake up feeling a bit anxious or really low, for absolutely no reason at all.  But being the brilliant actress that I am, I just plodded on, feeling crappy and yukky and all, grinning all the while.  And then my lovely friend confided that she had been feeling all of the above and more, and had gone down the natural route (she didn’t fancy taking HRT and imbibing the urine of a mare.  Urghhh!)  and told me about bio-identical hormone creams.  Up until then I’d never even heard of them, but she explained that when we go through the menopause oestrogen becomes dominant and we need to balance it up with more progesterone, and that is what these little miracle pots of cream do.   Alleluia!

It’s only in retrospect that I realise how crappy I felt before, whereas now I feel back to my old self, I feel surprisingly normal!    Amazing!  And since I’ve discovered them, I’ve been amazed at how many high profile people have admitted to doing the same; Carole Vorderman, Lorraine Kelly and Ruth Langford have recently all spouted forth about the wonder of them to encourage others to try them too, rather than suffering in silence.  And why do women have to suffer in silence?  Why are they misdiagnosed with depression or put on Hormone Replacement Therapy , which actually only postpones the menopausal symptoms, rather than cures them, (so that when you stop taking HRT the symptoms return with a vengeance)?   My lovely friend said her doctor got quite aggressive when she told him she didn’t want to take HRT.  But then why on earth would you take synthetic hormones when you have natural ones available?

And why is there this hush hush aspect to the menopause (or even the peri-menopause which kicks in about ten years before your periods actually cease)?   What is so embarrassing about the fertile period of your life coming to an end that makes grown women talk in whispered tones, as if they have leprosy, rather than just embarking on another phase of their lives?   I’m sure in some  long-forgotten tribal communities somewhere in the Third World they’ve got it all sussed out and are probably taking natural herbs or certain potions to lessen the more debilitating effects of the ‘change of life’, so why has it taken us so long to catch on and catch up?

It’s high time this subject was discussed honestly and openly, so that middle-aged women can embrace the change of life, rather than fearing it.   Come on girls!  Speak up!

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