This Changes Everything: The Honest Guide to Menopause and Perimenopause by Niki Bezzant
One of the perks of a former role I had in media was getting free tickets for shows. That’s how I ended up seeing Menopause the Musical when I was still several decades away from facing ‘The Change’ myself. It was a lark, laughing about hot flushes and brain fog while downing the specially themed cocktails… but once the pop song parodies had faded away, it occurred to me: all of this would happen to me one day. And it was a happening so significant, they made a show about it!
Now in my mid-40s, I’m perimenopausal as all get out: night sweats, belly fat, insomnia… even my monthly period has become a major event. But the astonishing thing is, it took me a few years of suffering to realise these symptoms were connected. All this time, I had just naively assumed all the symptoms associated with menopause would start when menstruation stopped – like sometime waaaaaaay down the track when I was 60, or something? In fact, I hadn’t even heard of the word ‘perimenopause’ until very recently. (Curious to know how many people are right now nodding in agreement, or are stopping to Google ‘perimenopause’.)
So I was excited to review this book, despite the potentially depressing content. (Some might not make it past the Contents page, which reads like a horror show: Chapter 7 clues you up on vaginal pain, dryness and bladder issues; Chapter 8 deals with loss of libido; sore boobs and aching joints and muscles are addressed in Chapter 12.) But nevertheless, your intrepid reviewer strapped herself in and hoovered it all up, determined to learn how to navigate this time of life which is inevitable for half of all humans: forewarned is forearmed, after all.
Fortunately, although dealing with issues that can be debilitating, embarrassing and utterly devastating, the overall tone of This Changes Everything is upbeat, supportive and positive – all while taking a much-needed aim at the misogyny associated with menopause: the pervasive stereotype of the unhinged shrew; the lack of research into and funding for menopause treatments; unsupportive workplaces.
You’ll probably recognise the author’s name as the founding editor of the top-selling Healthy Food Guide. (Niki Bezzant is now editor of Thrive magazine and health editor of Woman magazine). Her writing is so refreshingly jargon-free and down-to-earth (“I know I definitely feel more svelte when I’ve had a decent poo”) that I felt like a good friend had gone and done all the menopause research on my behalf, sifting out all the bullshit (looking at you, hormonal hair tests and bioidentical hormones) and decanting the remains into a highly quaffable tipple. In saying that, an alcohol-related analogy is not at all appropriate here, as Bezzant tells us about 10 times throughout the book that it’s highly recommended to lay off the booze. She also makes a good case for rethinking the apparently wrongfully maligned HRT or Hormonal Replacement Therapy. (Now rebranded as Menopausal Hormonal Therapy, or MHT - keep up with the play, peeps!)
I’m now feeling empowered and enlightened, and I’ve already booked an appointment with my GP to suss out my options. I’m so grateful to have read this book, and you will be too – and when I say “you”, I mean everyone, because even if you won’t be going through menopause yourself, this guide will give you a greater understanding of what others might be going through: your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend, your work colleague.
Reviewer: Stacey Anyan