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National treasure, TV presenter, exercise guru, mum to three children. But it’s in her role as menopausal campaigner that we love her most. Here, in an extract from her new book, the 55-year-old opens up about the shame she felt when she started taking HRT but why it’s now her secret weapon.
‘In my life, I try to basically be fairly straight up and straightforward. I am very honest with my feelings. I’m not a buttoned-up person. I will give you an uncomfortably long hug after I’ve only met you once; I talk to every single baby in the street; I have to talk to every person that walks past me with a dog, about their dog, and how old it is, and so on. I’m very social and I literally pour out my soul to anybody I ever meet in the ladies’ loo in a nightclub. I’m very open.
But here’s the weird thing. When I went on HRT, I felt SO ashamed, and it’s hard to find the words to describe why I felt unable to tell friends. I think it was caught up in: I was old, I felt dried up, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t grin and bear it when I was so tough – I’d had three home births, I had done this crazy Sport Relief challenge, but perimenopause floored me. And there I was, ‘taking a drug’ to make me feel better.
That’s how I perceived it. I had friends of mine who all seemed so happy in their lives, coping with everything, so able. I just felt like I couldn’t talk to them about it.
I really believed people would think that my decision to take HRT would be based on some sort of vanity – that I wanted to appear or look or feel younger, that in some way what I was doing was anti-natural. And I’d been so pro-natural up until that point: a drug-free birth, a clean-living lifestyle, exercise. I eat healthily. I felt like HRT was somehow negating all of those healthy lifestyle decisions that I was making.
It’s so interesting what’s happened to my perception of my hormones in recent years. I was helped to reframe the way that I look at it – and that is, hormone replacement therapy is exactly that. I am not trying to turn into a superhuman, to be able to lift weights suddenly or be able to do some extraordinary feat of sporting prowess. I’m not looking to become a nymphomaniac (although that would be nice?!). I’m not doing it to be thin, and I’m not doing it to make my face look younger. I’m doing it because my world was falling apart, and it helped me.
But now – and this is a very different spin on it – I’m actually taking it for the health benefits as well. Obviously, the relief from the symptoms is massive, but I am doing it because I am informed. I mean, I am REALLY informed. I have gone forensic on the menopause. I read SO many papers and resources, on everything – even parts of the menopause that don’t affect me personally.
I am a massive advocate of freedom of choice; so whatever choice you make, it just has to be an informed one. So many women – too many women – are robbed of making that informed choice because of an absolutely unacceptable lack of available facts and an all-pervading mistrust of HRT. ‘
Menopausing by Davina McCall, published by Harper Collins, is out now.
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