With sweat slowly trickling down your neck and a migraine throbbing behind your eyes, it can be hard to force a smile, let alone laugh.
But when the symptoms of the menopause first started to affect blogger Jennifer Kennedy, she decided to embrace the funnier side of “going through the change”.
Two years ago, Jennifer, now 49, started to document her experiences online, starting up her website Galloping Catastrophe, where she writes about everything from hot flushes and anxiety to mood swings and weight gain.
For Jennifer, who lives and works in Edinburgh, there was a lack of ordinary women talking about their journey, and she wanted to help more people feel less alone.
“About 18 months ago I was going back and forth to the doctor because I thought I was really ill due to various symptoms, but it never occurred to me that I might be menopausal – I had just turned 48 and I thought that happened when you were about 150,” she explained.
“Finally, I saw a locum doctor and she told me I was starting the menopause.
“A lot of people are devastated when they are diagnosed, but I was really happy and relieved in a way. It was just something every woman goes through, and I could deal with that.
“I posted about my experience on Facebook and there were loads of likes and shares. I thought it would be funny to hear the experiences of a normal, everyday person, rather than a wealthy celebrity or a medical expert, so I started my blog. It’s amazing how quickly it took off.”
Starting with only around 100 followers, mostly friends and family, Jennifer’s blog now has 34,000 readers and she has even published a book – something she attributes to her no-nonsense style of writing, which always focuses on the humorous side of menopausal moments.
She said: “There are so many very serious medical books and a lot of celebrities writing about how awful the menopause is for them, but no one really looking at the lighter side.
“I wanted to keep my writing quite positive, have a laugh and look at real-life experiences.
“If you think about it, there are a lot of funny aspects. If you have a laugh, people can relate a lot more.
“A reader once told me, ‘You make me laugh until the tears run down my legs’, which I thought was quite apt!”
This month saw a breakthrough in future treatments for the menopause, thanks to a new procedure that could delay the nature change by up to 20 years by tricking women’s biological clocks into thinking they are younger.
Costing between £7,000 and £11,000, the treatment sees ovarian tissue removed through keyhole surgery then sliced, frozen and preserved until the beginning of the menopause, at which time the tissue is thawed and grafted back into the body. Nine women have already undergone the procedure, and scientists say it has the potential to benefit thousands more, preventing related health complications and diseases.
With a range of treatment options, but not much expert advice readily available, Jennifer believes it’s more important than ever that women talk about their symptoms and do their own research.
She said: “There are lots of options, so it’s important to talk to your doctor and to do your own research, too. GPs often only have 10 minutes per appointment and in seven years of training they only get three hours on the menopause, and yet every woman will go through it at some point.
“And it really is a personal decision. What’s right for one person may not be right for another.
“I often hear people saying that we shouldn’t medicalise the menopause, as it’s a natural change, but when your oestrogen levels drop there are increased chances of heart attack, osteoporosis and diabetes.
“So, it can actually be a bigger issue if we don’t do anything.”
She added: “Some people sail through the menopause with only the occasional hot flush. But, for others, their life can be destroyed by it – they leave marriages, become unemployed and suffer depression.
“So, it can only be a good thing if we have more treatment options available.”
Hoping to continue encouraging women to talk, share and learn from each other, Jennifer says reaching the menopause has helped her reassess life and focus on what makes her happy.
She said: “I like to think of the menopause as the start of something, not the end. It’s an exciting part of your life, with so many opportunities to try something new, and you really can think, ‘It’s time for me now.’”
Laughter is the best medicine… but what would Gwyneth Paltrow say about having a hairy chin?
Described as a self-help book with a difference, Galloping Catastrophe is packed full of hilarious musings on the not-so-funny aspects of “the change”, including weight gain, exhaustion and night sweats.
Jennifer believes reading and laughing about other people’s disastrous experiences is the best therapy and the book’s chapters, compiled from posts on her popular blog, are designed to help women feel even just a little better about their own journey.
In the extract below, Jennifer discusses the top sentences no one should utter to a woman going through the menopause.
You have been warned…
I just sailed through it, no problems at all.
I’ve heard it can take 15 years to go through it.
Have you forgotten your HRT today? Hahahahaha.
Are you taking part in Movember?
We have run out of chocolate.
Oh, I didn’t want to say as I wasn’t sure – but you are, aren’t you… You’re pregnant! Imagine, at your age, what a lovely bump!
Don’t you think you’re maybe over-reacting?
Let’s put the heating up a bit.
It could be all in your head – after all XX and XX didn’t have any problems at all.
We have run out of wine.
There is something stuck to your chin, a hair or something… Oh um, it seems to be attached. Sorry.
Wow! You have gained wei… Umm, I mean, wow, don’t you look well.
Let’s go out and stay up ‘til 3am.
It can’t be that bad!
My granny is going through it too – you are just like her.
We seem to have no alcohol in the house.
Check out what Gwyneth Paltrow is saying about it all.
Galloping Catastrophe: Musings Of A Menopausal Woman, £7.99, is out now
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