Hello, hello! It’s good to be back. And, of course, I’ll excuse you for maybe not even noticing I’ve been away.
My absence wasn’t due to illness, although I certainly wasn’t feeling well. Nor was I on holiday. I was, in fact, at home, racked with anxiety, a tearful, fearful, anxious wreck, a shadow of myself and unable to work, or to write this column, unable to drive or to cook or do anything useful at all.
I’ve cried a thousand rivers in the past few weeks and I’ve got nothing to be sad about. I’ve been fearing for my sanity and am scared to do things that I’ve been doing with ease for years, even things as simple as shopping for food. I had to leave the supermarket mid-shop last week because I became overwhelmed and panicked.
Don’t ask me why at that moment – I haven’t got a clue. What I do know is that there are thousands of bewildered women like me who may also be struggling and not getting the help they need and deserve.
It’s hard to describe, but it’s scary and it definitely isn’t me. I feel as though I’m losing my mind along with my former self. I’ve spent the last few months in various states of fear, rampant anxiety, joylessness and depression, feelings I’ve thankfully, rarely felt before.
It feels like I’m gradually being dragged away from the person I used to be… and it’s all down to a cruel event that stealthily robs women of who they are when they hit midlife. It’s the menopause.
It slaughtered my mum and turned her from a warm, smiley, busy lady who loved life into a tearful, fearful wreck of the woman she was, and now it seems to be doing its very best to see me off too. It has left me feeling so dark, day in and day out.
I’ve even felt unable to work on some jobs for the very first time since I’ve been working – when I got my first paper round at the age of 11.
I thought I’d escaped the nasties that maturity can bring, that I would be among the lucky ones that drifted into senior years with everything still intact, but menopause wraps its tentacles around women’s lives, and does its best to make sure it cuts some of us down as best it can.
I never bow to illness if I can help it, but I’ve been floored by this, invading, as it seems to, the very heart of who and what I am. And what I used to be.
I’m reluctant to punch below the belt, but the truth is if it was a male problem, it would have been treated seriously decades ago.
Thankfully there are saviours, such as the menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson, who when she appeared on ITV’s This Morning earlier this week, racked up a record of over 7,000 calls from desperate, worried women whose lives have been badly affected by the so-called “change of life”. Surely something simply HAS to change.