We spoke to actress Michelle Collins about her experience of the menopause.
Team MM: When did you experience your first symptoms?
Michelle Collins: I think when I was about 49. I had just started a play up north in Bolton and I was on Coronation Street at the same time. I just remember feeling stressed, very anxious and extremely tired. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was down to the new job as Coronation Street was a big thing or because both my new roles crossed over for a bit. I didn’t have hot flushes but I did feel very overwhelmed by everything I was doing.
Team MM: What were the worst symptoms that you experienced?
MC: Anxiety and insomnia. In fact, I still sleep badly. I started to have very restless nights and I was always waking up in the middle of the night. It was a vicious cycle as I was tired during the day because I hadn’t slept and yet I couldn’t sleep at night. The sleeplessness also made the anxiety worse and made me a bit tearful. I was also doing things that weren’t really me. For example, one day in an anxious state I reversed my car into another car on my driveway!
Team MM: When were you formally diagnosed?
MC: I visited my local GP about my symptoms and was offered a blood test. I also went to see my gynaecologist who said that all my symptoms were classically perimenopausal. I started taking the patches [Hormone Replacement Therapy] and they really helped. I also got into things like black cohosh and sage. Neal’s Yard also have some great products. I did read up a lot.
Team MM: Did you find your local GP supportive?
MC: Yes and no. In the end, I went to see the same gynaecologist that I went to when I had my daughter because I knew that he was a specialist in women’s health and an expert in the menopause. The NHS are brilliant but they have got to be far more supportive of women than they are now. I know people who have gone to their GP about their symptoms and been refused patches because their GP just doesn’t like prescribing them. A lot of women are frightened to talk about it and their GPs won’t talk to them about it. Many women are having to take a lot of time off work sick. It is getting better (there is now a menopause expert at my local GP surgery) but there is still a very long way to go.
Team MM: Did you feel comfortable talking about the menopause with your loved ones?
MC: I had just started going out with my boyfriend when my symptoms first began and I was embarrassed to talk about it. As I was working away a lot, when we did see each other I didn’t really want to complain about how I was feeling. I was also having mood swings at the time. We do talk about it now though. In fact, he wanted to listen to the Woman’s Hour menopause special on BBC Radio 4. If my daughter asks why mum is in a bad mood, I say, “Well yeah, it’s called the menopause!”
Team MM: As someone in the public eye, do you think the media should do more in talking about the menopause?
MC: Definitely. Even 3 or 4 years ago, I would not have talked about my experience. I’m 55 now and have been going through it 6 years. When I first started that new job on Coronation Street, I would like to have said that I’m going through the menopause and I’m feeling a bit anxious so bear with me but I felt embarrassed. It was a taboo subject. Meg has really helped and the way Meg’s done it is very good as the website is very informative. People need to know about the different variations of symptoms and they need information so that they can decide whether or not they want to do HRT, go the holistic route or not do anything. It’s great that the media are starting to talk about it. Woman’s Hour did a whole week on the menopause earlier this year. But it’s still a taboo in a lot of people’s eyes.
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