Listen to them

Did you see that Sam Armytage quit her job on Sunrise yesterday morning? Your newsfeed would have been pretty overrun with the Megan and Harry interview hysteria.

Sam said on air: “As many of you know, my personal life the last six months has been very bittersweet. Some bits have been very happy and some bits have been very, very sad and I want to step out of this public world for a while, take some time and calm things down, enjoy a bit of slow living and spend some time with my precious family and husband and Banjo [her dog].

“My mother used to say to me, ‘edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It is your masterpiece after all,’ and that’s precisely what I’m doing.

“This is a chapter, it’s not the whole story and I have a few days left to say goodbye to you all.”

Armytage thanked viewers for “having me in your lounge rooms all these years” and added: “Now it is time for me to spend a bit of time in my own lounge room.”

Sam is 44 and – I presumptuously presume – on the brink of peri-menopause, if not embroiled in the throws of it.

Even if she’s not, I think her words would resonate with the perimenopausal and menopausal among us who are desperate for things to calm down and would love a bit of slow living. Congratulations to Sam on being able to do it.

I’ve occasionally used a phrase at HouseGoesHome – “held together with chewing gum and string” – which is how things can feel for a woman in her 40s to early 50s.

The phrase was first pronounced by my ex-husband before we had kids, when I had boundless enthusiasm and was constantly dragging him around to look at crazy properties I wanted to buy. We walked into a quaint, ramshackle timber cottage in Bondi Junction one day that delighted me. He recoiled in total horror and said there was noooooo way we were buying it, due to its chewing gum and string appearance.

Party pooper. It’s probably worth about $2million now, at least.

Anyway … I have the deepest respect for women battling the big M. I think they are amazing for holding everything together so well when it can often feel like they’re falling apart on the inside.

So, if they summon up the courage to confess to you that they’re not OK, they must be doing it bloody tough. And I ask you to listen when they try to find the words. Hear them, believe them and ask what you can do to help. Don’t brush it off – it took a lot of guts for them to admit they’re struggling.

Middle-aged women aren’t meant to struggle, we’re meant to be strong mothers and daughters and wives and colleagues who have their shit together.

It’s hard enough to be seen and valued by society at this age, so it feels dangerous to admit there’s a chink in our armour.

I read an article about a woman called Amanda Thebe last week, who has written a book called “Menopocalypse”. She’s a personal trainer who hit perimenopause in her early 40s and thought she had a terrible illness.

She began to experience debilitating depression. She had never struggled with mental health before, but she felt so listless that she’d often sit on the couch or lie in bed for hours.

“I couldn’t see the point of even getting up in the morning,” she recalls. After years of struggle with few answers, she saw her gynaecologist. After the exam, the doctor asked if she was okay and Amanda burst out crying.

“I told him I was miserable,” she says. The gynaecologist suggested something that none of her other doctors had mentioned: menopause. Amanda thought she was too young to be in menopause and she wasn’t experiencing any of the telltale symptoms, such as hot flushes.

But he said Amanda had likely entered perimenopause, the five to 10 years leading up to menopause when hormones start to go haywire, spiking and dipping seemingly at random.

“I had no idea that the symptoms I was having, especially depression, could be due to loss of oestrogen,” Amanda said.

Bloody oestrogen. It’s hard to describe how overwhelming it feels when haywire hormones are surging through you, but it’s the opposite of good. And women shouldn’t have to keep it secret.

Song of the day: The Angels “She keeps no secrets”

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