There are a number of symptoms that you can roll up into one big symptom. Depression. And I have a whole separate section for that journey.

I would include mood swings, crying spells, loss of joy, anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, tired/lacking in energy.

If you have never suffered from depression, this can be a very scary time. It completely changes your personality. Formally “outgoing” women can become reclusive, non-communicative, combative.

And this can be a huge concern to other family members. I am lucky that I have a very supportive partner, but we were new to our relationship. We were still riding on the high of “new love”. So the peaks and troughs were quite marked and he could quickly spot when things were going awry.

For couples who have been married for many years, they may also be living with children in their teens. The young loveable children are becoming young adults from hell. And then Mum joins in. It’s a very bewildering time for everyone.

I’m not making light of the situation here. I am a mild mannered soul. I am renowned for my eternal patience and calm exterior. And I can count on one hand the number of times I have lost my temper in 50 years of life. (I suspect I’m about to alarm my friends and family as they read this).

I have chucked knives around the kitchen in unexplained fury. (The drainer of my old flat still bore the dents). And I destroyed my favourite stereo by hurling it across the room. All it needed was new batteries!

I was just grateful that at this time I was still living alone. I am especially grateful that my temper has never reached such heights since living with my partner.

I have suffered depression on and off my whole life. So, temper not withstanding, these symptoms were not new to me. And I have developed a Toolbox to help me cope when my dementors* came to visit.

That hasn’t stopped me falling into a pit of despair. It just means the toolbox is the metaphorical rope round my waist that my partner and I use to help haul me back out.

But these symptoms do need to be taken seriously.

If left unchecked, they can lead you down a very dark hole. I have had thoughts that have scared me to my core. And for some women, the despair is just too great. Male suicide figures are still greater than females. But statistics show that there is an increasing level of suicides in women in their 50s and 60s.

My point is, too many people, men especially, think the menopause is a joke.

I hope by now you can see, it isn’t.

* In her Harry Potter novels, author, JK Rowling, created Dementors as a metaphor for depression.

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