RAGE coursing through her veins, Kathryn Colas screamed at her husband Antonio over yet another petty thing.
It was their fifth argument that week – and their 20th that month.
“I couldn’t go on,” she says. “I was yelling and screaming at him non-stop about everything – household chores, the kids, what we should eat…
“We’d stopped having sex, and at times I thought I hated him.”
Kathryn didn’t know it at the time, but she was in the depths of the menopause – and over the next 10 years she would tell her husband of 25 years she wanted a divorce, walk away from her much-loved career – and even worry that she was losing her mind.
“I felt completely lost and questioned my own sanity,” says Kathryn, 70, from Uckfield in East Sussex.
“In the midst of it all, I felt that all I wanted was a hug. A hug that I could sink into and just feel loved, with no sexual connotations.
“I was in such a dark place. Depressed, I didn’t know who I was any more, what my place on this earth was really all about.
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.
The Sun 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 the menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through the 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.
“I wondered if it would be best if I wasn’t here at all.
"I would say this to my reflection in the bathroom mirror every day and I was previously an optimistic person.”
By early 2006 it had started taking its toll on her marriage.
“Ever since we met after Antonio travelled to the UK from his native Spain to learn English, I’d always considered him the love of my life.
“We got married in September 1975 in Oxhey, Hertfordshire, and had our girls in 1978, 1980 and 1993.
“There was the odd bicker of course. But we were happy together and in a loving relationship. There was no indication our marriage would end in divorce.
“Suddenly though, everything he did annoyed me and I’d find myself picking fights over the most innocuous of things. He would shout back that it was all my fault and I would retreat into my own shell because I couldn’t find the words to express how I felt.
“My brain just wouldn’t or couldn’t find the words. We had big rows. I was shouting back but it would always end in my tears and us distancing ourselves from each other both physically and metaphorically. It was a terrible atmosphere. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
That spring, despite their problems, the couple decided to go on a tour of South America to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.
“It should have been the trip of a lifetime,” says Kathryn. “But I still felt totally lost. I felt like a doormat, and I blamed Antonio for everything.
“We seemed so distant, so out of touch with each other. So, soon after the trip and following another weekend of one catastrophe after another.
“We were constantly rowing about anything and nothing. I couldn’t cope with the feelings of being so unworthy. This wasn’t me but I didn’t know who I was. I said: ‘Let’s make ourselves happier and end things’.
"I wrongly diagnosed myself with bipolar disorder, which causes periods of extreme depression and mania."
“We both agreed and said we would each see a solicitor the next day. All I could see was an abyss. A black hole of despair that I thought I may never recover from.
“I knew in divorcing Antonio, now 74, what I was giving up – years of marriage, my status and a beautiful home. Those are material things but they are also important things. They mean a lot to people. It wasn’t a decision we’d made easily.
“I was about 52 by this time. One of the children was at uni, the other was working and had moved out and the youngest was at home. Luckily she was at boarding school, a weekly boarder, otherwise I do believe I really would have committed suicide.
“Again, I questioned my own sanity. Was I going mad?
“We carried on living together, tiptoeing around each other. He threatened to move out although he didn’t in the end.”
And it wasn’t just her marriage which was tumbling down.
Kathryn, who’d worked her way up the corporate ladder and was proud of her executive salary as a sales and marketing director for a country house hotel in Surrey, suddenly quit her job.
“My bosses didn’t want me to,” says Kathryn. “But I felt I couldn’t cope with anything any more. Nothing made sense. I couldn’t make a decision to save my life. I was used to balancing so many plates in the air and now they had all come crashing down around me.
“When I left school at 16, I was very proud of myself because I had qualified as a shorthand typist, and went into secretarial work before becoming a PA, then moving into sales and marketing.
“I had always felt ‘capable’, able to adapt to whatever was thrown at me.
“Having a major role running a hotel was the best job ever. I was good at it and I loved it.
“But suddenly I felt out of place and out of my depth.I didn’t know what I was doing.”
On one occasion, Kathryn flew into such a rage she swept everything off her desk.
“It was basically over nothing,” she says. “I made a decision about a situation and my husband overruled that decision.
“I just saw red. I wanted to smash everything. As a senior executive that was not a good message to send out to my staff. I swept everything off my desk and stormed out to go for a walk in the local woods. Luckily it was a quiet afternoon and I thought nobody saw what had happened – although somebody must have because my desk was back in order when I came back to the office.
“It wasn’t like me. I just didn’t know what was going on. I began to research my symptoms – the arguments at home, my lack of control at work. I wrongly diagnosed myself with bipolar disorder, which causes periods of extreme depression and mania.
“This is when I resigned and said I couldn’t work.”
Fearing she was having a breakdown, aged 52 Kathryn went to her GP where she outlined her symptoms – the loss of libido, her foul temper, hot sweats and confusion.
“My GP diagnosed depression and referred me to a psychiatrist who offered antidepressants which I declined,” she says. “Through my research, I came across the British Menopause Society (BMS) and joined, attending all the medical conferences and making notes.
“They were describing my symptoms in detail. It was a revelation. I was then elected by my peers onto the Medical Advisory Council of the BMS where I had close connections with professors and experts on every ‘ology’ you could think of.
“I was lucky enough to interview one of those experts, now retired Professor John Studd, when I was about 56 and I tentatively asked him about bipolar, as I ticked all the boxes.
“He dismissed that and I learnt that my mental health issues were related to hormones and it was all part of the menopause.
“Like so many women, I had no idea quite how severe the impact could be.
“Some menopause specialists implied that my experience was rare but it isn’t. Women do not tell their GPs or specialists all this. They don’t know anxiety and mental health issues can all be part of the menopause transition.”
"Brilliant women with years of experience, shouldn’t be put out to pasture because they are going through something of which they have no control."
Kathryn was offered HRT, which replaces lost hormones in the body, and now takes progesterone vaginally and oestrogen and testosterone gel.
The impact has been significant. I found my ‘normal’. I felt good on waking up, I felt creative. My symptoms were no longer troublesome and best of all, my libido returned and sex was no longer painful.
“As it began to have an impact on my mood, I realised that I loved Antonio – I always had – and I didn’t want to be separated from him.
“Thankfully, he forgave me and we are still together 15 years on.
“Work wanted me to come back, they were incredibly understanding, but I realised that I needed to do something different.
“I wanted to raise awareness of the menopause among businesses.
“So, in 2007 aged 57, I launched my first website, SimplyHormones. I just wanted to get the message out there. This led to me publishing a book, How to Survive Menopause Without Losing Your Mind, and in 2020 I launched The Kathryn Colas Academy.
“We launched with a pilot training course for professional trainers to understand about menopause in the workplace and a brand new community was born.
“I want people, both men and women, young and old alike, to understand that menopause is an actual thing and women are experiencing real symptoms and real distress.
“There’s been great strides in raising awareness of important issues like mental health and pregnancy in the workplace and I applaud that.
“But now menopause needs to take centre stage.
“Bosses have to realise the truly huge impact it can have on women as young in their 30s to their 60s and actually how recognising menopause can have huge benefits within the workplace.
“Look at what it did to me – I resigned from my job as a senior executive because of it. My husband said it was like living with a stranger.
“But women, brilliant women with years of experience, shouldn’t be put out to pasture because they are going through something of which they have no control.
“This is a real issue impacting women the UK over. It’s something I will fight to resolve.”
For more information visit Kathryn Colas Academy.
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.
- 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
Plus, my neighbour left her son with me to go to the shops, she never came back and I raised him as my own.
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Meanwhile, a mum says woman can have it all, as she wakes up at 4:40am to look after her eight kids and run her business.
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