My guest on today’s episode of Period Story podcast is Lorraine Candy, an award-winning journalist, editor and best-selling author. Her new book, What’s Wrong With Me? 101 Things Midlife Women Need to Know is out on May 25th and available for pre-order now!
In this episode, Lorraine shares:
- How she realised the extreme anxiety, panic attacks, heavy periods and night sweats she was experiencing in her late 40s were actually symptoms of perimenopause
- The differences between Gen X, millennial and Gen Z women in how they approach menstrual and hormone health
- How she dealt with perimenopausal rage
- The identity changes that can happen in our 40s that enable us to choose how we want to be
- What she wants women in their 20s and 30s to know about perimenopause
- The importance of friendships
- And of course, the story of her first period!
Lorraine says that whatever age you are, it’s so important to check in on yourself everyday and ask yourself: ‘Do I want to do this?’, ’Is it serving me well?’, ‘How am I really feeling?’.
Thank you, Lorraine!
Get in touch with Lorraine:
Le’Nise: Hi, Lorraine. Thank you so much for coming on to the show today. Let’s get started with the question I ask all my guests, which is tell me the story of your very first period.
Lorraine: Well, we have to go back in time 43 years ago for that because I’m 54 now.
So I started my periods when I was 11, which actually was, I think, quite young. It would have been in the eighties, early eighties. But it was I think when I look back, I knew absolutely nothing about it. It wasn’t talked about at school. My mum was very old fashioned and very traditional. She didn’t really talk about it at home. She found it quite embarrassing. I have a sister as well, a younger sister and I remember at the time being absolutely terrified because I really didn’t physically know how I was going to deal with it. You know, I was going to have to ask my mum to buy sanitary pads and she she when I told her, she says, she said, well, it can’t be. You’re only 11. I don’t really believe, it’ll be something else. And then nothing else was said. So I was in a sort of strange place of I didn’t really know what to do. A friend’s mum had given her some sanitary pads at school and as I talked to her and I bought them and then I had to say again to my mum, you know, I do really need some things to make and I didn’t really know. You know, you have to remember back in those days I didn’t even know what to do with used sanitary pads, where would I put them in. And they were so big in the bathroom. You know, I grew up in a tiny bungalow in the middle of nowhere in Cornwall. Where was I going to put this in stuff?
It’s just, I think, for women of my generation. So I’m Generation X, it was, you know, you either had a family or a parent or a woman around you who was really going to tell you about it. And there were the kind of sort of old school hippies in the seventies. You know, a friend of mine, her mum had a party when she had her first period. So there was such varying ways of dealing with it. But societally, it was still we were still shameful. I mean, there were no period ads on television until after the eighties. You know, no one ever mentioned the word tampon. If you bought any sanitary products which were then called, I think they were called feminine hygiene products, you were given a brown paper bag to take them away in in local shops. So, we didn’t start in a good place, I don’t think. And then obviously when I went on to edit Cosmopolitan and Elle and the big glossy magazines, I was very aware that even the most basic information it has to still be out there. We have to still tell people about it, and I was very aware of that, when I’ve got three daughters and a son that my daughters were incredibly well-informed, in advance, probably too much so though it was probably embarrassing for them. But that was the beginning of my period journey. But I do remember at 11 thinking this doesn’t feel, you know, right, that we’re not all just talking about it’s a bodily function, like another bodily function that, you know, a woman or a young girl is going through. So perhaps we need more information on that.
Le’Nise: And you didn’t learn anything about it at school?
Lorraine: We had a PSHE. She I think they call them lessons and well, they were intermittent. You all had PSHE and religious education, I could never work out why they were swappable as lessons. But we we weren’t really as far as I can recall. And I might be mis remembering, we weren’t really given, you know, the basics of where do you go to buy this? How much would it cost? You know, I went to school at a comprehensive and I looking back, I can imagine period, poverty was a real thing for some of the girls in that Cornish comprehensive, you know, who were arriving at school, not well-fed, so buying tampons, sanitary pads, probably would have been the lot, but we were never told any of the practical. And I think also we were given the idea that, you know, we would we would almost bleed to death every month. You know, it would be gushing of blood. We didn’t it wasn’t till I was much older, sort of 16 or 17 that I found out it’s just a very small amount of blood you lose. And we certainly tied periods to, you know, being pregnant. There was that shame, massive fear and shame around getting pregnant as well. You know, as a teenage girl in the kind of more urban areas. So it was a sort of, it was a strange time. I just I don’t remember the school being in any way helpful, and I’m sure that might have been a one off experience. Perhaps other schools were more helpful and girls had different experiences.
Le’Nise: You were definitely not alone in the women that I’ve spoken to of your age on the podcast, you know, and in other areas have described similar experiences to yours. And I wonder the shame and this lack of knowledge that you had about your period. How did that kind of tie into your experience of your period, itself? Did you you know, you have this experience. Your mum wasn’t very helpful and you had to kind of scramble around your friends to figure out what to do. You weren’t learning much at school. And then. How was your actual period? Was it heavy was it painful?
Lorraine: Well, at the time, I think I mean, I don’t blame my mum. I think that Boomer generation of women found it very difficult and they didn’t know either. They hadn’t got the information. So I had very heavy periods and very irregular periods for the first year and really going on for the first 2 to 3 years, which I don’t think is abnormal for, you know, we I present a podcast called Postcards from Midlife, and we have Maisie Hill from the Flo Collective on, and she was talking about how teenage girls just don’t understand their cycle and how it affects them, as I’m sure you know, Le’Nise. And, but I think I was confused as to why it was so painful. I’m announcing I can take some four or five days and, you know if I’d done it, didn’t luckily coincide with with O-level exams or things like that. But if I’d been in that place, I mean, certainly, you know, I did a lot of sport as a teenager and it certainly prohibited me sometimes with sport. So I was just too it was just too painful to to be running or playing that role or doing any of those things during that time. And I wish I’d known more about it. I do wish I’d known that, you know, I could have gone to see a doctor about it and perhaps found out a bit more about it and looked at ways of alleviating it. Certainly with my daughters at the moment, one of them has said this is just unbearably painful. I’ve gone straight to the GP. Can we have can we talk about why this might be painful for her? And what were the options about making it easier for her?
Le’Nise: I think that’s really interesting how you you took a completely different approach with your doctors, sorry, your daughters and you said at the beginning you almost gave them a bit too much information, which I think, you know, there’s never kind of too much when it comes to this sort of thing, but then kind of taking it to the other end in your book, What’s Wrong With Me? You talk about your experience of perimenopause and how there was a line that I found really fascinating where you described your late forties as constantly living in an escape room looking for clues to the exit. Can you talk a little bit about how you navigated perimenopause and what you did to come out of the other side of it?
Lorraine: Yes. So perimenopause is the sort of 10 to 15 years before menopause, and menopause is 50 is the average age in this country is the year after your last period. But in that time leading up to that, you have huge hormonal fluctuations and that can be upwards of 40 symptoms of that. And oestrogen is in every part of your body. It’s literally your petrol. And when it disappears some months or comes back the next month, it causes all sorts of problems particularly, my symptoms are mainly sort of neurological symptoms. I had extreme anxiety and panic attacks and night sweats, night terrors and just things that really had never been part of my life before, there’s no history of mental illness or depression in my family. I was extremely depressed and I had no reason to be. There was no evidence. You know, there is no history health wise for me to have that. And there was nothing in my life that would have forced that. And there were just so many things coming together.
And I’m a journalist. I was working towards the end of my career and beginning my career on Sunday Times Style and I just started to look at what might be happening while I pretended everything was kind of okay, because women do. And, you know, it’s why we set up the podcast. We started to just find out more and more. And eventually I saw an expert, Dr. Louise Newson, who said, Yes, this is the perimenopause, you your fluctuating hormones, so that the progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen that fluctuate are affecting all parts of your body and it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. And you know, we’ve interviewed women in their forties who say, really, I was a bit hot at night. And that it, but we’ve also interviewed women who attempt to take their own lives, and that’s come completely out of the blue, and that’s because it’s the way oestrogen works in the brain.
So yeah, it was a real learning curve. And the other thing that happened to me, which I actually wrote about in the Sunday Times, which I think was a bit shocking at the time, it’s about four years ago, was I had had after my teenage years, I had sorted my periods out. They were very light, they were incredibly regular and never had any pain. I had had I had four children. I’d gone right the way through with really no significant gynaecological problems. But around the age of, I had my last baby, at 43, around the age of 47, my periods were Armageddon like they were. They were so heavy, I would be concerned about going from the bathroom upstairs to the kitchen downstairs. They would. It was just and I thought, well, perhaps I have some form of cervical cancer. Perhaps there is something really desperate. This is a really common symptom of perimenopause. And it was they were agonising. I was spending days in bed with terrible headaches, and it was that really that symptom. And I went to the doctor because my actual physical day to day life was becoming quite difficult. I remember having a meeting in a in a room in one of my jobs, and I couldn’t leave the room until everyone else had left the room because I had flooded. So it was I knew I was to leave a mark on the chair. I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it was so it was sorting that out. But what I look back and think now is why did I ignore that? It was about a year that went on and I thought, well, I mean, you know, I’ll just sort of, you know, wear tampons and a pad and wear this and do do you know, and I’ll just sort of plan my day around it. So I’m near the loo and all of that.
And I think and I talked to a lot of women for my book, you know, because the tagline is 101 Things Midlife Women Should Know. One of the things women should know is that is not normal. You don’t have to put up with it. You can go and talk to your doctor. And hormone replacement therapy is what worked for me. I mean, within a month my periods were absolutely back to normal and then I opted to not have periods, but it was I really think women need to not try and stuff, tough it out. You know, that Gen X is a real you know, a lot of us, I think, have what they call burnout now. I think we worked really hard because we were so grateful for all of the opportunities we’d been given. And we, you know, we couldn’t really talk about periods out loud anymore. People would come up to me as I went to the loo and say I read your piece on periods and oh my goodness, I’m going through that. And I said, Well, we should all be, you know, we hide our tampons when we walk to the toilet. That’s ridiculous. You know, we should be able to have a normal bodily function that’s normal for anyone who, you know is going through monthly changes. It just felt I really feel that we need to talk about it a bit more.
And if I’d known that was coming and I was also severely anaemic, obviously because of this which affected, you know, my, my, you know, how I felt day to day I would be sitting down on the sofa and waking up 4 hours late because I was absolutely exhausted. I had low iron, I had really low ferritin count all these things that I just sort of put up with because I thought, I don’t want to make a fuss at the doctor. And I’m sure it’s perfectly normal and it like, you know, it’s. Generally, we’re a funny generation. I’m really hoping that millennials and Gen Z don’t, that they really investigate their health as soon as it changes.
Le’Nise: Why do you think that is, that Generation X are very much about, you know, you just have to get on with it. You know, don’t complain, just, you know, just put up with it and then maybe eventually you’ll figure it out.
Lorraine: Well, I think it is a massive generalisation, but I think we work in a very patriarchal system. It’s not set, it’s not fit for purpose for women. It doesn’t work for us and we’re trying to work within it as opposed to working or lean around it or manoeuvre ourselves. And actually it just doesn’t work for us.
You know that this there’s just a better way of doing things where there would be more support for us for our kinds of physical issues that we might go through. But I think we were also to have it all generation. We were really taught. And I guess we absorbed it a lot of us, I did certainly without really thinking it through. You know, we made changes where we could and where are kind of I mean, I always worked for male bosses, even in a really female business, like women’s magazines, you know, the money was was controlled by men. I we, we asked sometimes for things that would make it better, but we didn’t ask enough. And I guess we felt that we took have it all and we we decided that meant do it all. So we tried to be, you know, brilliant at home, brilliant at work.
And, you know, I have to say, men just didn’t step up. They couldn’t they didn’t do better. Even where families where people were saying, you know, my husband, you know, we have equal equal care, etcetera, etcetera, and that’s all brilliant. But what there wasn’t was equal thinking. So the emotional labour was still very much the the woman in the partnership thinking of all the things that had to be done today or, you know, sometimes I sort of joked with my friends that we would wake up once we had children while we were doing full time jobs, we’d wake up and think, How can I keep everyone alive today? That was literally our first thought. You know, where are the children? How will they do this?
And, you know, we didn’t sometimes we didn’t help ourselves. We didn’t talk about paid childcare that we were paying for, that was invaluable. We couldn’t have done our jobs without it. We didn’t talk about how amazing our jobs were and how they made us feel brilliant and gave us a real sense of self-esteem and self-worth, a really great role modelling for our daughters and our sons. So it was maybe we were just sort of finding our way through, but I think we had a real, you know, we can do hard things, tough it out attitude in general. I interviewed nearly 100 women for the book and that was a very you know, I tried to pick women from all kinds of diverse background backgrounds. And I interviewed Black women and Brown women as well. And the theme was the same across every everyone. You know, we we going to have to get this done in this patriarchal system that doesn’t quite work for us.
Le’Nise: What are the some of the biggest differences that you see amongst Millennial and Gen Z women?
Lorraine: I think they are much kinder to themselves. They are much more informed. I mean, the brilliant women who set up all these kind of particularly around menstrual health, are beginning to set up brilliant businesses. As you know, We Are Flo. There’s Bloody Good Period for period poverty. There’s what Maisie Hill does. There’s all of this kind of work going on now. And so and it’s based, I think, a little bit in that kind of area of looking after yourself, being kinder to yourself.
And and the medical profession has been largely unhelpful and unkind around women and their ability to endure pain. The pain has been extraordinarily wrong. I was listening to podcasts yesterday as well where, you know, women can get pregnant in a in a 24 hour period within four weeks. That’s the only time a woman can get pregnant. A man can make a woman pregnant every single day, every single hour. But it’s our responsibility to take on birth control. That’s not fair. You know, and birth control for a man is much easier sorted out than it is for a woman. And it can sometimes take a year to get your birth control. It’s not fair. You know, vasectomies are still viewed as something quite unusual. Many women are very desperate after childbirth to too, for their husbands, partners to have vasectomies, but that’s still considered unusual. You wouldn’t dream of asking a man… There’s so many inequalities.
But I think millennials and Gen Z are absolutely aware of that. And I think Millennial and Gen Z men are aware of that and they’re aware they need to do better and they will do better. So I think the tide is beginning to turn. It’s a glacial pace, unfortunately, and also it’s just inbuilt in our culture that we give men a break around this kind of stuff and we, we really shouldn’t, you know, and that we should be talking to our sons. You know, I asked my husband to talk to my daughters about their periods. I didn’t want it to just be me because I wanted my son to see that and I wanted my son to be in the room. He’s 16 now, when this kind of thing was discussed because I think it’s really important and actually, you know, to not have that shame or embarrassment or which my Gen Z daughters absolutely don’t. I mean, they really don’t have any shame or embarrassment around their periods. They’re very vocal about what they use and how they use it. And, you know, with the cup works and all of that, they’ll talk about that in front of everybody. And I think that’s a good thing.
Le’Nise: Yeah, I, I completely agree. I want to just talk a little bit about you have a whole section in your book around rage and this kind of midlife rage. And I find it so fascinating because, you know, you talk about how women have been told for most of their life that showing their anger isn’t ladylike. And I certainly, you know, remember conversations with my mum even now where I will get angry about something and she would say, okay, calm down, calm down. And she’s kind of cusp, middle kind of Gen X, Baby Boomer and the anger showing anger is not, you know, the done thing. But, you know, I feel very you know, it feels very potent in a way when I am able to express my anger and rage sometimes because, you know, there are a lot of things in the world that can make you feel rage. I just want to kind of chat a little bit with you about that section in your book and what you would say to any woman who is listening and is struggling to express herself and this rage she might feel inside.
Lorraine: Well, the rage is, I would say, 100% common feeling across all perimenopausal women, less so after menopause. I think. So from a physiological point of view is the loss of oestrogen and the fluctuations of the hormones. I mean, there’s no one test for being in perimenopause because one day you have oestrogen, the next that you don’t notice the fluctuations, the causes, the problem. But with Gen X, I think we’d also got to a point in our forties where we just had enough and we just couldn’t do the bending around. You know, you get older, you’re more experienced and you just think, you know, I’m not going to keep quiet in this meeting anymore. I’m going to ask them not to speak over me again because it’s impossible for me to get to the end of my sentence. So I’m going to say at the beginning, please don’t talk over me.
So I had reached a kind of point of I’m just I’m not putting up with that anymore. And, you know, and you watched your daughters sort of dealing with bits of it. And I just thought, I’m not having her deal with it again. I just think this is really unfair. So I’m going to make it a point and we’re going to talk about it. But the rage has a physical and emotional component and it’s is absolutely it’s really overpowering. Sometimes you’re absolutely physically furious. And I mean, I got really cross with with I remember reversing the car into something and really losing my temper a lot. And that was, you know, when I went on hormone replacement therapy around 50, that did ease the rage, but I didn’t lose the fury. I was still quite cross about everything and I just decided to put it to a good use. But it was a shock for me because I had you know, we had been told as a generation that, you know, that the language around women losing their temper is shrill. You know, that’s such awful, negative, derogatory language around any woman who is seen to be shouting or losing her temper or raising her voice or, you know, you know, you’ve got to remember a generation that really didn’t see a female newsreader, hardly ever. We didn’t see women in any adverts about the medical profession unless it was nurses. And also we saw nurses, as you know, it’s sexiness, it’s Halloween costumes and things. So, you know, we have Benny Hill as part of our I mean you won’t know that. So it’s just an abhorrent Saturday night programme and know we had a lot of things where women were persistently inconsistently demeaned and had to be quiet as well.
So for us it was, you know, I think suddenly you just boil over and you just can’t deal with it anymore. Certainly that’s how I felt. But it really just comes out of the blue, this rage, and it’s really so common. I mean, Davina McCall wrote about it in her book. She talked about it on the programme that she made. Kate Muir, the journalist, she wrote a number one bestselling book. It’s just she talks about it as well through, you know, how it just catches you by surprise and it’s just there, but you can turn it to doing good things with it, I think, because it is a bit of a force of nature.
But you know, what I would say to women is recognise it may come. You know, the whole point of us doing the podcast, of course with me writing the book with the women in their sort of mid-thirties through to recognise that these things might be coming, I mean things that help with the rage are exercise. Absolutely. I’m was very anti yoga. I thought it was ridiculous. And how could that possibly work? Actually, that really helped, taking that up really helped with the rage. For me, it really calmed me down. I learnt about breathing. I found other places to put it so that it was perhaps a more positive than a negative emotion. So I would recognise it. I would sense it might be coming and not feel that you were alone or there’s anything wrong with you or there’s anything wrong in voicing what you feel about things. I think that’s really important and hopefully the millennial men and Gen Z men are less likely to talk over you in meetings.
Le’Nise: What’s really interesting is that, you know, this great psychiatrist called Dr. Julie Holland, and she talks about oestrogen as the hormone of accommodation.
Lorraine: And yes.
Le’Nise: When you’re kind of thinking about the menstrual cycle at the end of your menstrual cycle, when oestrogen is naturally declining and progesterone is naturally declining, you, some women do experience this kind of anger or this kind of more forthrightness, and that can be described as being kind of moody or, you know, shrill. But it’s interesting when you remove oestrogen and you’re kind of more willing to speak your mind and say what you really think. And I know it’s different in perimenopause, but it does feel like a version of that and it gets smeared, you know, Oh, she’s moody, she’s being bitchy when actually, you know, women are just more likely to speak their mind during that time of their menstrual cycle, which I find really fascinating. And when you talk about it, you see you see women starting to connect the dots in their mind. And, oh, actually, that’s probably what’s going on for me.
Lorraine: Yeah, I think the key is and as you was saying, when you came onto the podcast is to recognise what’s going on. Yeah. Work out how you deal with it yourself.
Le’Nise: Yeah. And in, in your book you talk a lot about changes in identity and you know, navigating your forties where you get to a point where you almost feel like, you know, okay, I’ve got everything sorted, you know, even though you’ve got kids and they’re constantly changing, but you kind of feel your work, work is sorted, you know what you’re doing, and then you’re hit with all of these physical and emotional changes which, you know, as you described in your book, can, can kind of change the way that you you view yourself. And, you know, you describe in your book this, do you use, as you say, this line where you had this sense of feeling like you didn’t belong here in this space and time. And I feel like that will be something that a lot of women in this phase of life will connect with. Can you talk a little bit more about this?
Lorraine: Yes, because it’s something I explored quite deeply because I’d written a parenting book about parenting teenagers, teenage girls. And during my research for that, I’d learnt that the teenage brain from the age of 12 to 25 is basically dismantled and put back together again from a neurological point of view. But while that’s happening, you’re building the thing that’s the most important thing you’ll ever have, and that’s your identity is core to your day to day life. How you react, how you behave, so much influences, but it’s really what you hold on to and keeps you strong through everything, your identity.
So when you get to your forties, the immense amount of change is like an earthquake for your identity. Again, the oestrogen affects the brain, but other than that other things are happening. You are losing people, people are dying around you. It’s, you know, you lose friends, you see terrible things. Your parents are elderly. They need something else from you. You know, you’re parenting them in a way that you weren’t before your children leave home. So I think empty nest syndrome, my eldest left home three years ago and I had thought people were making a bit of a fuss about it. And this is surely this was buoyant. We got them ready. They went out, how amazing and exciting it was. I was grief stricken. It took me out. It was really just the worst feeling. We had a family unit and suddenly it was a totally different family unit overnight. It was a totally different family unit. So our day to day behaviour changed.
So there was so much change. I started to wonder, you know, who was I within that change. And I think the other thing that’s core to identity, I think, is if you’re lucky enough to be able to have children and also even if you if you know your journey to through motherhood, trying to be a mum, failing to be a mum, not failing, but not being able to be a mum, all of that suddenly comes into view. It’s like it’s sort of presented to you in front of you and you start to kind of be examined. It’s a very emotional time and you think, Well, where do I belong? Do I belong to, I don’t belong to the women mothering younger children anymore. I don’t belong to people who go home to their parents so that their parents can look after them anymore because I’m having to look after my parent. You know, you just don’t belong in any kind of tribe anymore. You don’t fit anywhere. And it’s a little bit of a lonely feeling because we haven’t talked about this before. Everyone assumes they’re going through it on their own and there’s not, there’s like an army of women going through it all at the same time, and we need to use those women a bit bit more.
And I think this sense of not belonging really undermines you. It’s very upsetting. It’s a real shake of it makes you lonely, it makes you sad. The thing is, what you’re doing is entering what the therapist called the liminal void, and there’s an immense amount of change and you sort of have to sit with that, paying for a bit. And when you come out the other side, you think, actually, you know, this is who I am. No, this is who I want to be. And in a way, what’s brilliant about it, because I don’t want to frighten women going into this phase, because the more you know, the more wonderful it is When you come out the other side, you can form your identity. You can choose. As a teenage, you didn’t really have a lot of choice. It’s sort of based on context and learning. And you know, what will you be as an adult? Whereas now you are an adult, you have a bank of experience. You can choose how you want to be. Do I want to be that hard, unbending person anymore? Do I want to be that kind of person that can’t say no, that doesn’t set any boundaries and or can I just choose to be this now. You do have to sit in the middle of it a little bit. The void, as I call it in the book, feeling the pain of the departure of the other bits of you and the kind of sense of questioning who you would be, but your hope filled. And then you choose what you want to be. And I think that works for every situation. I don’t think that’s just me speaking from a very privileged white point of view. I think, you know, we don’t know everyone’s stories and what they’ve been through, but I think most of us can start thinking about choosing as women who want to be who.
Le’Nise: I think that’s really powerful because I definitely see women, certainly in their fifties, my friends who are in their fifties and sixties, they do have this potency about them and I absolutely love being able to speak to them and tap into their experiences.
And actually, you gave a really interesting example of the book where one of your friends, she had had her own business. She was very successful. And then she decided to wind down that business. And she almost lived, she said she lived like her teenage son did for a year, where she just kind of took that time to figure out who she was and then decided to step into something else that became ultimately quite successful as well. But I just thought that was, you know, that was quite fascinating.
And just kind of tying in to what you said earlier about, you know, the experience of this time in other cultures and other ethnicities where there is this kind of different view of women who are in this phase of life and who have gone through, who are post-menopausal, where there is, they’re more revered, they’re more respected. What do you think that we need to do in the UK to get to that place just for women who are kind of post-menopausal to be viewed differently?
Lorraine: We do live in a really ageist society, unfortunately. And and very bizarrely, you know, youth is still tied to our fertility. The idea of, you know, how fertile we are, and the moment we’re not fertile, we’re not useful. And it’s such a patriarchal, bizarre thing that’s still going on. It’s a huge set of messages that are all manner of wrong for women. But as you say in other many other cultures, Japan, places like that, there are words for menopausal women which are, you know, leader, powerful, but it’s a very different, you step into a whole different place.
And actually the has been shown in some studies that there are less symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause because women approach it in such a positive way because society’s behind them and encouraging them and saying this is, you know, these are the glory days, they’re coming. It’s going to be amazing and we all respect you for it. Whereas here it’s this, we didn’t see women culturally over 40. It portrayed often in a positive manner. It’s starting to happen. But, you know, if you look at TV, if you look at songs, if you look at presenters and all that kind of thing, it’s all younger is seen as better or the language is is still that. So we just we need to gradually start changing that.
And what I mean by that, I don’t mean that you know, we all have to be JLo at 55, you know, opening the Super Bowl on a whole upside down and amazing for her to do that. But she work. That’s her job. She works incredibly hard to do that and she does it in her way. But, you know, there’s a million, we need to see more women staying longer in in jobs. You know, we need them in schools, staying longer in their job so that young women can see that that’s potentially you can do that forever. Or we need to hear of women stepping out of jobs and doing different things and finding who they are and working in it in a different way. So it’s just really gradually talking about it, I think, out loud and making sure that we don’t associate ageing with bad things.
You know, there’s a lot of debates around at the moment around midlife and all this talk of menopause and perimenopause and we’re frightening younger women and we shouldn’t be putting misinformation out there, which is ridiculous. Or, you know, if we don’t, that’s a very male attitude to keep stop women talking about things because we don’t want to hear from them. I think the idea is we put it out there, we say, this is all the information. This is where you get support, be ready for it, and then you’re not going to hit 43, 44. You know, and go through what I went through the age, which was a real shock and very supportive. And I think we need the health you know, we need the medical profession to back up around this actually, you know. The reason hormone replacement therapy is not as widely used is what is a terribly misleading survey done 20 years ago, which has been repeatedly discredited for all its findings and that influence a huge amount of women. But, you know, it works for me, doesn’t work for everybody, hormone replacement therapy, but it’s literally not offered. Two thirds of GPs prescribe antidepressants instead of HRT. You know, anti-depressants, while they may work for some, just keep an army of women in a zombie like place. And it really doesn’t solve the actual physical problem. And, you know, in other cultures, Black and Brown women are not listened to in the same way that white women are with by the medical profession. So their journey through menopause and perimenopause is even more difficult. I mean, we all we all know that we’re consistently ignored by the medical profession, anyway.
We had an esteemed cancer doctor, Professor Michael Baum, on our podcast, and he said that in the early days in his career, he would go around the wards where there were women being treated for cancer and turn up their morphine drips because they were much lower doses than men being treated for cancer. So it’s literally endemic in the medical profession. And I think that will start to come out to not, you know, treat women with the support that they need. So all of that sort of needs to start happening around us, but just ourselves, we just need to be really careful of the language we use around our daughters and younger people around this. You know, we are it’s impossible for women of Gen X to talk about her size without saying how fat she is, without using the fat word. It’s just we just can’t do it. And it’s a terrible thing. We we look in the mirror and we say how disappointed we are. We are naked. I mean, I do a lot of open water swimming, so I’m in a swimming costume a lot and I’m changing by the side of lakes and pools with loads of women, all different shapes and sizes. And I just wish the attitude that what we really don’t care was an attitude we could take into fancy gyms. It was an attitude we could take into school changing rooms. It’s, you know, to not be critical of ourselves, to not, you know, if we think it just don’t say it you know don’t use was referred to us as old don’t keep talking about you know that senior moment and all of that. Those are the little ways we can stop, you know, degrading ourselves really around getting older and talk about how amazing it is because it is really amazing, you know, to feel this less vulnerable, to have really good boundaries around what I will and won’t do and how I will won’t let people talk to me or deal with me is really powerful, really helpful.
You know, some women choose to do all sorts of things around looking better at this age, and that’s great for them. Some women don’t. But if you don’t, don’t talk about wrinkles as bad things, don’t talk about it. The language, I think, is really important.
Le’Nise: I completely agree. I think that I feel really positively about, you know, perimenopause and menopause being discussed more. But something I find a bit worrying is how much negativity is part of these conversations and how when we, you seem to have you have conversations about perimenopause and menopause in the press is very much alongside all of the negative symptoms, hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, the senior moment that you mentioned. And I would love to have more of this. You know, and you will have more of a sense of yourself and you will have more of a sense of what your boundaries are. Knowing that you can say no, that no is a complete sentence. Knowing it’s okay to not say yes to everything. I would love to see more of that because, you know, as you say, when a young woman reads about, you know, this time of life, it can feel quite, quite negative.
What would you say to someone who is in their twenties and thirties? And, you know, this isn’t really on their radar, but it is something that should be because what you do in your twenties and thirties will have an effect of your experience of your forties and fifties. What would you say to them? What do you think they really need to know?
Lorraine: Well, I mean, I just I don’t think young women want to hear about menopause and perimenopause. I mean, I wouldn’t have done I just would have thought is just so far away. So it’s like when you’re 11 and someone talks to you about when you’re 15, you just can’t imagine it. It’s and it is a whole different world.
But what I would say generally is to get to know about your physical health. We had Dame Lesley Regan on who’s kind of the most senior gynaecologist in the country. She’s the chair of Wellbeing of Women and she has studied this for her whole career. She said tying up what you go through as a teenager to, you know, this kind of joining the dots all the way through your life is really, really important. So be absolutely clear on your health from the age of 18 onwards.
You know, think when you go to the GP and ask about, you know, whether you’re going to go on the pill or what all of these things, get the information, say, will this affect me in five years time? Will it affect me in ten years time? How will this play out when I’m older? What am I going through now that may be relevant to what I will go through when I hit 40, when it all changes because it’s such a massive physiological change for women. There’s so many big studies being done around because heart disease is the biggest killer of women. Dementia is a big killer of women. All of these things start to become relevant when you’re 40. So what can you do in the lead up to that, that will help towards that. Obviously, we know and we’ve just about. Lesley, suddenly the lifestyle changes are really important. You know, alcohol, whether you exercise or not, the kind of exercise you do what’s right for your body, what’s not right for your body, really get to know yourself and don’t see that as self-indulgent or, you know, being obsessed about your health. Really do properly get to know. That’s what would I say to my daughters what’s going on here every month, You know, how are you feeling? And I think all of these are markers for things that could happen or be relevant as you get older.
We absolutely know gut health is just probably the most important, the gut brain axis unquestionable. We know that from all the evidence now. So nutrition is really important. But this is not about denial. This is about adding in, not taking out. We really know about movement. We know that that’s incredibly important. So this is not about doing triathlons. This is about 30 minutes outside. We know nature helps. We know vitamin D deficiency is really problematic. So I think all of that. Doing a constant review of your health and what you might be missing and what you might need to add in is really good.
And also, you know, the biggest, biggest killer of women and well, not physical care, but the biggest. And we had a doctor on who’d done massive studies into longevity. The one thing that keeps you living longer is social interaction. So loneliness is a killer. I mean, it really is. It’s more harmful. And this is from various books that we’ve had and scientists we’ve had on our podcasts. And I’m not saying this off the top of my head, it’s absolutely true. It’s been scientifically proven isolation and loneliness. So keep your social connections. Really do keep them keep the good people around you, and particularly in midlife, you are going to need to soften, you’re going to need to ask for help. You’re going to need to be vulnerable. So whatever your background, wherever you’re from, it’s not a Gen X thing to ask for help. I think it might be more of a millennial thing, hopefully, fingers crossed. But that keeping that connection, being members of clubs, doing things in teams, working in teams is really, really important, it’s vital, reduces stress levels, and we know stress is a really big cause of inflammation. So reducing that stress level, even if it’s just tiny things every day, a ten minute phone call, all of these things are good prescriptions. That’s social prescription, I think for women is really important.
Le’Nise: And I loved the chapter in your book where you talk about friendships. I thought that was really powerful because that’s kind of something I’m thinking a lot about at the moment because, you know, you get to a point in your life where you you are so busy and you’re just focusing on how can I get through this day, how can I get through this week? And certain people can fall off the wayside, by the wayside. And, you know, you said, you know, if you haven’t spoken to someone in a while, just, you know, just check in, you know, because they might be thinking of you just as much as you’re thinking as well of them as well. And that boost that you get from connecting with someone. It’s just it’s so, it makes you feel so much better on so many different levels. So, yeah, really, really powerful, super important.
Lorraine: Super, super important. More than, you know, drinking a pint of water a day or deciding to be teetotal, it is more important.
Le’Nise: Yeah, definitely. You’ve shared so much and I know that listeners will get so much from your book, so it’s What’s Wrong With Me: 101 Things Midlife Women Need to Know and it will be available on the 25th of May.
Lorraine: Pre-order Now apparently pre-order is really helpful but the money doesn’t go out until the book’s posted here.
Le’Nise: What’s the one thing that you want to leave listeners with?
Lorraine: I think whatever age you are, check in every morning and ask yourself the questions. Do I want to do this? Is it serving me well? How am I really feeling? Because we get wrapped up in wellness and we think, Oh, wellness means do this, Wellness is how am I really feeling? And what things could I do to make me feel better? And also, it’s okay to feel sad. It’s really okay. It’s not a big problem to sit in that space sometimes, feel the pain of it and come out the other side. It’s not. You’re never going to be happy all the time. It’s impossible. So big. Accept that. And I think that’s that’s the main thing. Just constantly checking in with yourself on what’s working and what’s not working.
Le’Nise: Fantastic. Where can listeners find you?
Lorraine: Well, I co-host a podcast called Postcards from Midlife with Trish Halpern, where we interview. I mean, we’ve had everyone from Elizabeth Hurley, Claudia Winkleman, Davina and all really big experts about midlife. So and that’s for all, all women with really interesting women on, on, on Instagram @lorrainecandy. I’m pretty active there and that’s it really. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s it. I’m a podcaster. We have a live show 2 day live festival in May on the 19th and 20th, where all the experts that we’ve had on the show and all the many of the celebrities will be there. So we’re going to get all the midlife women and their friends in one place, in Islington, in London, at the Business Design Centre. That’s postcards from Midlife.co.uk. You can get tickets there. So yeah, we’ll be presenting there and hopefully gathering lots of information so that we can share that with other midlife women.
Le’Nise: Fantastic. Thank you so much.
Lorraine: Thank you.