'I felt like a prisoner in my home': Gran's menopause ordeal destroyed her life
A GRAN has told how she became a prisoner in her own home after the sudden onset of menopause drove her to the brink of suicide.
Joan Graham told how she was contemplating taking her own life after medics decided to take her off the combined contraceptive pill, which she had been taking for over 40 years.
Within months she was experiencing insomnia that left her without sleep for three days at a time, crippling anxiety, pain all over her body and hair loss, while her weight also plummeted by four stone.
Speaking exclusively to the Glasgow Times Joan, 61, said: “My doctor decided I should come off the pill at 58 because I’d been on it for so long, breaking only to have my children. There was no chance of me falling pregnant again and it seemed the right thing to do.
“I stopped not expecting too much of a change, but I lost all oestrogen and progestogen in my body very quickly. My hormones were thrown into turmoil, and I was unable to shut my mind off. By the third night of no sleep, I was utterly exhausted.
“I was too tired to go to work and could barely function. I just couldn’t fall off, day or night, because my body was going into menopause from the change caused by halting the pill.
“I begged my doctor to put me on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) but because I wasn’t having hot flushes, I was told it wouldn’t help. I was told to try sleeping tablets, but nothing worked - and things quickly became worse.”
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Joan’s anxiety became so bad that she feared stepping outside her front door, meaning she had to leave her job at a primary school working with children with additional support needs.
She struggled with memory loss and began to experience severe pain all over her body, which caused her family to rush her to A&E.
Blood tests, MRI and CT scans found nothing wrong, but Joan’s health continued to deteriorate until it got so bad that she tried to end her life.
Joan, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire, explained: “I reached rock bottom and just didn’t want to go on.
“My hair was falling out and I just wanted to keep the blinds closed and sit in the dark. I became terrified of the outside world, I had become a prisoner in my own home. I was even too scared to go in the shower.
“I’d gone from being bubbly and care-free with a job I loved to being trapped inside, in pain, and feeling totally desperate.
“I didn’t want to go on living like this. I just felt so hopeless and shocked at how quickly my life had imploded because of fluctuating hormones. Thankfully I was able to get the help to slowly move forward."
The only thing to have changed in Joan’s life to explain her rapid descent was that coming off the pill had plunged her into instant menopause.
She found the support she needed after reaching out to Diane Danzebrink, founder of Menopause Support, which offers evidence-based information about how to cope with the change.
Joan was eventually prescribed HRT in 2021 and says it transformed her life.
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Within three months of taking the medication her anxiety eased, the pains she had lived with for more than 36 months slowed and she was eventually able to leave her home once more.
She adds: “I started to get my confidence back and was able to go to the hairdressers for the first time in years and out for lunch with my family. The menopause completely destroyed my life - it drove me to breaking point.
“It cost me a job I loved and a circle of friends. I don’t ever think I’ll get over what it has done to me.
“HRT has given me my life back. Nobody should have to suffer the way I have, and I’m shocked it wasn’t picked up sooner.”
Joan has bravely shared her story to highlight the impact menopause has on women. She now volunteers with Menopause Support which is campaigning for better education in schools and workplaces.
Joan added: “One in four women will experience severe debilitating symptoms that can last up to 15 years. So many women are being left to suffer in silence and unable to access HRT. This needs to change and it’s time for open and frank conversations about what women have to go through.
"It's time to make menopause matter."
For more information visit, www. menopausesupport.co.uk