Linda Barker: “Menopause Hit Me Hard, But I Didn’t Lose My Sex Drive”
PRESENTER Linda Barker opens up about first talking about the menopause – only seven years before she went through it herself.
Here, the interior designer, 67, reveals she dealt with hot flushes, brain fog, and more.
Linda speaks about her own experience with the menopause – and how things need to change going forwardCredit: Famous
“I was in my early 40s when I first had a conversation about the menopause.
“My eldest sister Jayne, now 68, was at my house saying: “Oh my god, I’ve got to sit down, I’m having a hot flush.”
“My mum Dorothy, who died of heart disease in 2004, aged 72, had four daughters yet didn’t talk to any of us about it.
“It was weird hearing about it from my sister, but when I had my first hot flush seven years later at the age of 48, I thought: “At least I know what’s coming.”
“I was at home and it was like being struck by a big bolt, then a whoosh. It was very, very physical.
“I felt panicky and shocked. You never forget when you had your first period and it’s similar with the menopause.
“It’s another marker of womanhood, but tinged with some sadness because of what it represents.
I know a lot of women lose their sex drive, but luckily that wasn’t an issue for me.
“After concentrating on being a mum to my daughter Jess, now 30, I felt liberated when she headed off to university, but almost immediately I was hit by the menopause before I even got to enjoy it.
“It seemed quite cruel to me. I’d wake up in a sweat during the night and have to walk around the house to cool down.
“Brain fog descended and I became forgetful, emotional and anxious. I just didn’t feel in control of my life, which wasn’t like me at all.
“Small problems took on monumental proportions. The hot flushes lasted for eight years, sometimes happening several times a day.
“Then my periods became so erratic and heavy that I was tested for anaemia. The heaviness was so alarming!
“There was no warning, no cramps, just a flood, and I could be anywhere when it happened.
“Once I was in a restaurant and my friend had to say: “Oh, Linda, let’s get you to the bathroom.” That was pretty grim.
“Me and my husband Chris, now 62, have been together since I was a teenager.
“I’d communicate as much as I could to help him understand what I was experiencing with the menopause.
“I think men are quite fearful of their partners going through it, but he’s very respectful.
“I know a lot of women lose their sex drive, but luckily that wasn’t an issue for me.
“I spent a long time researching how best to look after myself.
“I’ve always eaten well and exercised, but I think with the menopause you need to go to that next level to take care of yourself.
“My mum had osteoporosis, so I’ve always done weight training, because it’s good at preventing that.
“Running really helped me, too. I ran my first marathon aged 50 as a way of saying to myself that nothing was going to beat me.
“The stronger I felt, the more capable I was at overcoming that mental attitude that I was a woman “in her declining years”.
“I also do yoga, practise mindfulness, walk my dog and go cold water swimming.
‘It’s all over’
“There’s a lake near where we live in Yorkshire and I swim there three times a week with friends.
“I tried taking black cohosh supplements, which are supposed to help with menopausal symptoms, but they didn’t do much for me.
“So I went to my doctor about going on HRT when I was 51. She prescribed me a mixture of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and it made such a difference to how I felt.
“The hot flushes became less and less over time, and there comes a point when you think: “I’ve not had one of those for a little while,” and then you realise it’s all over.
“I’m well and I feel great in myself. I don’t mind getting old, but I do want to talk about the menopause as much as I can.
“Young women need to be part of the conversation, because it scares younger generations. As a mother trying to educate my daughter into womanhood, it helps the more we talk about it.”
- Linda and daughter Jessica have launched a YouTube series called Changing Wombs – watch now at Youtube.com/Essity.
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