My F**kin Menopause has spawned ‘Down To Zero’
Here we are… 2019 and finally writing the play. Below is the post I wrote in 2016 which is still scarily relevant.
Has anything changed? Well my play is finally happening at the end of June, thanks to Coracle and Alphabetti taking a leap of faith with me and putting in a successful funding bid to the Arts Council for some dosh to produce the play, 4 response pieces by very excellent female artists of different disciplines and a series of mentored writing workshops.
Coracle asked me if I had any ideas for the poster and I didn’t. Then, that night, I dreamt this – so I painted it and pinged it off as it pretty much illustrates the state of my head.
You can compare and contrast Matt Jamie’s fine work in turning this daub into the poster above.
The only other things that have changed is that I’ve tried more remedies, resisted HRT, sweated so many more buckets and my partner and I now live apart. Apart-ners. On and off. Everyone gets more sleep that way. I am coping with it all but most days I want to scream, hide, sleep, cry, fly to a far flung place and sit there for days.
I am – as usual – terrified of the responsibility of writing a play that means so much to me, trying to quieten the voices that shout ‘IMPOSTER’ ‘BORING’ ‘WHO CARES?’ and settling in to do justice to the small gaggle of characters fighting to be heard. There will be darkness and light in the play, belly laughs and the odd moist eye moment. But for now I’ll just crack on as much as I can. I’ve already written most of what could be a play, but now it’s commissioned I hate it all and am starting again. Fk sake.
Below is what I wrote in 2016. I wish it was better but it isn’t yet.
This wonderful article by Rose George pretty much sums it up for many of us.
So 2014 bought Facebook repeated news of my menopause – lucky ‘Friends’. And after lots of facts and chats and messages and a very sharp learning curve for me amongst the itchy, sweaty, emotional rollercoaster, I stopped posting about it. This is chiefly because I thought my ‘Friends’ had probably had enough (although much positivity and shared experience grew out of the posts), and also because once you start to live with something it begins to become the thing that you ARE now and, although you notice it just the same, your body and mind (clever buggers both) readjust and learn a new language – one that you can’t always translate into you mother tongue.
So, it hasn’t gone away, it’s better than it was, and a combination of Menopause Plus, Nettle tincture, cod liver oil and a very understanding partner is managing to dampen the symptoms, and give me healthy nails, a glossy coat and a wettish nose. I have a meeting in March about pitching a Radio play on the subject as I think – as in all things – it’s the stories rather than the moany old facts that grab us and nudge us towards understanding, empathy and – in the case of such a global condition which affects half the population one way of another – TREATMENTS that actually work without animal cruelty or questionable side effects (longest sentence ever there?). Horse piss isn’t anyone’s first choice of medication – especially the poor horses.
So stories, characters, real life experiences. Along with the heartfelt and varied responses from Facebook and Twitter people, there is an avalanche of experience online. Every thread on the subject follows a similar pathway, with women feeling helpless and disenfranchised, a bystander witnessing their bodies changing so very dramatically. Some call it a betrayal, some just a bloody pain in the arse. So what to do? What am I learning? I’d like to share some of the stories I’ve been honoured to hear and read, when I’ve checked that’s ok with the tellers (I’ll keep you posted).
But in the meantime, I know it’s largely ignored (amongst thin lip service) and treated as ‘other’ by the medical profession (certainly the professionals I’ve come across), I know if it happened to men too there would be resources driven into understanding and treating it a little better. I know this because men have told me and others that they feel pretty damn strongly about it once they have direct experience of it, through partners, mothers, friends, sisters… but in the meantime it is famously a women’s issue and largely written off as women feeling emotional, something to ‘get over’. And it affects each woman differently – which is annoying for all concerned. I also know that, by definition I’ve become the sort of human that people in power try and stop listening to. I’m a woman, I’m knocking on 50, I’m no longer fertile, and I’m an ‘artist’. What do I contribute? Apart from a navel-gazing wishy-washy ‘let’s all hope for a better future where everyone contributes equally and hormones can be isolated, powdered and made freely available as an enervating, effervescent drink to be taken every morning with as much bacon as you can eat’. I know it’s bloody cruel timing – this loss of a hormone that – as it turns out – doesn’t just control our fertility. No, it turns out it also keeps our metabolism in check, our hair and skin healthy, our moods even (ish), our muscles strong and our bones robust. Because, get this, whether a woman wants to reproduce or not… she still wants to look and feel healthy and vibrant.
So as we share stories and experiences and I become flabby, cross and infertile (I know, form a queue), I can’t help but express my frustration… but GUESS WHAT?? Well, this is PRECISELY the time people don’t want to listen to you any more! Why? Because they see something going into decline. Us humans like vibrancy and renewal and things that glow. Vibrancy isn’t a word used to describe me just at the moment – and I’m not sure it ever will be again.
And so we ‘women of a certain age’ wonder what we have. Whether I agree with it or not, I really do get the whole industry that promises nipping and tucking, I get the need to look like we do in our heads… I mean, look, the technology is there isn’t it? Can’t we all just halt aging and be ‘beautiful’? But it’s not as simple as that is it? Even if opt in immortality and a generally agreed version of ‘beauty’ was the be all and end all – which, despite lofty claims on myriad jars, packets, tubes, magazines, adverts and tasteful 100gsm leaflets – we know it isn’t. The majority of menopausal women want nothing more than to simply regain themselves. That’s it. It shouldn’t be hard, but from where I’m leaning at the moment it seems almost completely impossible. Sounds a little dramatic? I know… and I’m not someone who gives up easily… and it’s only the menopause. It’s not a terminal disease. But it’s a complete loss of self and I was completely unprepared for how it’s made me feel.
So what’s the point of going on about this? What do I hope for?
I hope for what the majority of the people who’ve been in touch hope for… a genuine understanding of this largely inevitable female condition through research, through talking and through actually listening to each other. A recognition that it can be a contributing factor to clinical depression and drive people to desperate measures. I’ve said before that I’ve no doubt that it contributed to my mother’s depression and untimely death, she was someone who thrived on vibrancy, a social butterfly that needed people to need her, to see her as an attractive and contributing member of society. Don’t we all want that to one degree or another if we’re honest? So I made a promise that when I got there myself, when I fully understood what she’d been through I’d try and make a noise about it. So here’s me, making a noise.
The menopause is still something people don’t like to talk about – but we damn well need to.
All I ask for is your thoughts, and to start a conversation that doesn’t end with ‘it’ll pass’.
I will write the play and it’ll be a piece of work with a middle-aged woman at it’s heart. Not sexy? Not cutting edge?
We’ll fucking see about that.
I asked for title suggestions for the play… currently my favourite has to be Rebecca Gatward’s ‘Close The Window The Rest of Us are Fucking Freezing Here’… So watch this space. And if you have thoughts and stories to share please contact me on: