Last updated at 9:27 PM on 9th April 2011
Whoopi Goldberg, 55, actress, divorced with one child
It really is a shock when it hits. There’s no countdown: it’s just ‘boom’. All those years bitching about my period, and when it stopped I was stunned to realise how much my womanhood was tied into it. You just think, ‘I’m hot, I’m sweating, I don’t like it!’ Nothing is good.
Wendy, 53, married with three children
I started the menopause just after my 51st birthday, and it was like hitting a brick wall. Symptoms such as hot flushes were an inconvenience, but the emotional effects were devastating. I couldn’t function and I couldn’t go to work because I was continually dissolving into tears. In the end, my doctor gave me antidepressants.
For about eight months, I couldn’t make the simplest decisions and I became withdrawn. My husband was very supportive. He would coax me out for a walk on the beach, something I could cope with.
I was on sick leave from work from July until Christmas. At that point, I handed in my notice, just to give myself relief from feeling guilty.
When I started the menopause I had a picture in my head of my body beginning to die. I put on a stone in weight, and my skin lost its bloom. Now I’m off the antidepressants, and I’m trying to see this as a new beginning, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
Maria, 51, twice married with two children and two stepchildren
The menopause crept up on me when I was 45 or 46. I felt like I had constant premenstrual syndrome and was really crabby. It was highlighted when my 18-year-old came back from travelling — he’d been away for five months, but when he walked across my clean kitchen floor in muddy boots, I exploded!
As well as mood swings, my libido plunged — my husband and I have sex far less frequently now, although when we do it’s more fulfilling.
At first I thought I had developed Alzheimer’s: I totally forgot the words for certain things and people’s names. I had run businesses and brought up a family, but I just didn’t have the mental capacity to multitask any more. For 18 months, my mind felt as though it was in a fog.
By the time I was 49, things started to improve. I had learned to scale back and make lists; I took up yoga and changed my diet, cutting down on animal protein and upping vegetable intake.
Now I have a real sense of freedom from the chaotic hormonal cycle that has governed my whole life.
I don’t have emotional ups and downs and I feel calmer and more positive. Up until the menopause, you’re in caring mode. Postmenopause, my maternal feelings are not as strong. My children have grown up and left home. I miss them hugely, but it means I can live the life I want to lead — and that makes me feel very empowered.