My sex life died, I couldn’t see & I feared I had a brain tumour

Unable to see straight and with no feeling in her legs, super-fit Amanda Thebe collapsed on her bedroom floor.

“I had to hold onto the wall and crawl across the floor,” she says. “It came on so quickly. I had vertigo and dizziness and threw my guts up for two days.”

Amanda Thebe is determined to help women have a happier and  healthier menopause

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Amanda Thebe is determined to help women have a happier and healthier menopauseCredit: Instagram/@amanda.thebe/
Amanda has sought solace in fitness and encourages other menopausal women to get active

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Amanda has sought solace in fitness and encourages other menopausal women to get activeCredit: Instagram/@amanda.thebe/

Though she initially thought she had simply overdone an intense workout, Amanda was actually suffering from the effects of perimenopause – which occurs a few years before a woman reaches menopause, due to plummeting oestrogen levels.

Despite having always enjoyed great health as a personal trainer, her symptoms started suddenly in 2012, when she was 42.

“It first hit me right after a tough boxing class, but when it kept happening over the next few weeks, I realised this wasn’t the effects of exercise, but something more serious.

“I’d lose feeling in my face, legs and arms so that I couldn’t even walk for several hours at a time,” she says.

It was like something slowly withered and died inside of me

Amanda, now 51, also began experiencing severe migraines and developed a short temper, which left her screaming at her two sons and husband Stuart, 48.

“I was horrible to him. He’s a patient, kind person but I didn’t know if I wanted to be with him anymore.

“I was questioning everything in my life, including our marriage. One night I told him I hated the way he was always so outspoken.

“Afterwards, I thought ‘but that’s actually one of the things I like best about him.’”

The couple’s sex life inevitably suffered, too. “It was like something slowly withered and died inside of me.

“Sex had not completely gone, but it was rubbish, and apathy came over me.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have sex with my husband, it was that I didn’t even think about having sex.

“It felt like a loss, and I was grieving and thinking, ‘Oh, God, is that it?’ After a pretty active sex life previously, I think he was bereft, too, but we didn’t really discuss it then.”

My son looked genuinely scared of me. My whole personality had changed

The smallest things would make Amanda, who is speaking out as part of the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign, let rip at sons Cameron, now 18, and Eilean, now 14.

“I remember screeching at my youngest about something trivial. He was only five then, and I was horrified that I sounded like a wild banshee.

“He looked genuinely scared of me, and I knew that wasn’t OK. My whole personality had changed.”

Amanda, who is originally from Middlesbrough but now lives in Canada after she and her husband initially moved to the US in 2001, was deeply concerned and underwent a raft of medical tests over the next two years.

“I was forever Googling my symptoms, and my cousin who worked in radiology thought I might have a brain tumour,” she says. “But perplexingly, all the tests revealed nothing.

“As time went on, I withdrew into myself and became engulfed in depression. I asked myself, ‘Am I just going to be this miserable, horrible cow for the rest of my life?’”

Fabulous Menopause Matters

An estimated one in five of the UK’s population are currently experiencing it.

Yet the menopause is still whispered in hush tones like it’s something to be embarrassed about.

The stigma attached to the transition means women have been suffering in silence for centuries.

Central Recorder are determined to change that, launching the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign to give the taboo a long-awaited kick, and get women the support they need.

The campaign has three aims:

To make HRT free in England
To get every workplace to have a menopause policy to provide support
To bust taboos around the menopause

The campaign has been backed by a host of influential figures including Baroness Karren Brady CBE, celebrities Lisa Snowdon, Jane Moore, Michelle Heaton, Zoe Hardman, Saira Khan, Trisha Goddard, as well as Dr Louise Newson, Carolyn Harris MP, Jess Phillips MP, Caroline Nokes MP and Rachel Maclean MP.

Exclusive research commissioned by Fabulous, which surveyed 2,000 British women aged 45-65 who are going through or have been through menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through menopause.

50% of respondents said there is not enough support out there for menopausal women, which is simply not good enough. It’s time to change that.

Eventually, in 2014, a routine appointment with her gynaecologist provided some answers at last.

“I told him everything and without missing a beat, he said that I was perimenopausal. Rather than getting typical hot flushes, my symptoms were all neurological.”

“He said what I was going through was fairly typical, so was it all the more baffling that so many specialists failed to diagnose perimenopause. One of the problems is that there’s so little medical training about it.

“But I was incredibly relieved to know what was wrong, and that I wasn’t losing my mind.”

Role models for menopausal women are people like Jennifer Aniston and J.Lo, and all we see are unachievable goals

Her gynaecologist suggested HRT, but Amanda declined it as she was concerned about a possible risk of breast cancer – which was actually untrue. Instead, she started taking antidepressants.

“They helped with migraines, but my other symptoms returned. So I started on HRT in 2016. That made me feel better for a while, but then I’d go spiralling back into a dark place.”

“As I was still working, I would be so depleted by the time I got home in the evening I’d just have no time for the kids,” she says.

In all, Amanda’s struggles lasted eight years, and most of her symptoms only stopped last year. 

“Although HRT helps some people, there’s no one fix for everyone. But for me, it eventually just calmed down. It was like I had to work through it gradually.”

Despite having Long Covid last year, her overall good health has returned – and the couple’s sex life has recovered too.

“That side of things has really improved, but I had to put the work in, and understand more about brain function because so much of the change women experience happens on a neurological level.

I want women to know that the transition to the other side of menopause is freeing and liberating

“The brain changes size and shape to cope with declining oestrogen, and that affects how we feel.”

“But my husband and I have grown stronger through small intimate things we’d stopped doing, like holding hands, talking more and snuggling up on the sofa.”

Calling herself a ‘menopause warrior,’ Amanda believes more needs to be done to help women deal with the inevitable midlife changes.

“Role models for menopausal women are people like Jennifer Aniston and J.Lo, and all we see are unachievable goals.”

Her frustrations inspired her blog, The Shite Nobody Told Me About Perimenopause which went viral.

Her Facebook group also has a huge following, and she wrote a book documenting her battle with the ‘Menopocalyspe’, which offers her advice on exercise and nutrition.

“It’s like a giant jigsaw, and I believe that lifestyle choices, like the food we eat, how we manage stress, sleep and exercise, can help us fit the pieces together.

“I want women to know that the transition to the other side of menopause is freeing and liberating. While it is life-changing for most women, it doesn’t have to be the end of life.”

What is the menopause and what age does it usually start?

Menopause is a natural part of ageing, which usually happens when a woman is between the age of 45 and 55.

In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51.

It occurs when oestrogen levels in the body start to decline.

During this time periods become less frequent or they can suddenly stop, and after menopause occurs women will be unable to become pregnant naturally.

Around one in 100 women experience menopause before the age of 40, and this is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or premature menopause.

Many celebrities have spoken out about their own experiences, including Lisa Snowdon, Davina McCall, Michelle Heaton and Zoe Hardman. 

What are the symptoms?

Menopausal symptoms can start months or years before your periods stop, and can last until four years or longer after your last period.

Symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Changing or irregular periods
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Anxiety and loss of confidence
  • Low mood, irritability and depression
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex
  • Reduced libido (sex drive)
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Weight gain
  • Bladder control

See https://amandathebe.com/ for more information and follow @amanda.thebe.

Menopocalypse: How I Learned To Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too (Greystone) is out now.

Also, see how many dirty nappies is ‘normal’ to what a sleep schedule should REALLY look like – baby expert answers common Qs.

If you are a mum of babies or children using a highchair see this story on how to keep their toys off the floor.

Check out the mum hacks that help organise your household you will love this piece on how to help kids hold on to their pen lids.

Amanda has written a book called 'Menopocalypse' that details how she thrived during the menopause

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Amanda has written a book called ‘Menopocalypse’ that details how she thrived during the menopauseCredit: Instagram/@amanda.thebe/
Personal trainer Amanda first noticed symptoms aged 42

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Personal trainer Amanda first noticed symptoms aged 42Credit: Instagram/@amanda.thebe/
Amanda believes that lifestyle choices have a big impact on menopausal symptoms

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Amanda believes that lifestyle choices have a big impact on menopausal symptomsCredit: Instagram/@amanda.thebe/

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