I became depressed aged 10 – my mum thought it was stroppy pre-teen hormones, the truth was horrifying
STOOD alone in the school playground Amanda Lewis, 10, felt incredibly sad – but didn't know why.
Her mates raced around her happily playing games like tag and hopscotch, their laughter echoing noisily around.
“My mood was incredibly low," Amanda, now 34, recalls. "I was in primary school and my focus should have been on playground games and my little friends but it wasn’t.
"I was so, so sad and I simply didn’t know why. It was like an alien had taken over my emotions."
Her mum Jayne, now 61, thought it was merely the advent of the stroppy teenage years.
But then Amanda's periods started and stopped within just six months in the same year, and she went from being a healthy weight to piling on three stone within just a few months.
Aware of the changes to Amanda's character and body, over the next three years Jayne fought for medics to take her daughter’s symptoms seriously.
I felt judged. I think some of them suspected I was pregnant
Back-and-forth to the GP, eventually Amanda was referred to a specialist women’s centre at her local hospital in Kettering, Northamptonshire, where she sat in waiting rooms flanked by women five times her age.
“Even as a child I knew something was up,” Amanda, who married Tom Hill, 31, 18 months ago, says. “I felt judged. I think some of them suspected I was pregnant – why else would a kid be there?
“For two more years I was poked and prodded with needles and perplexed doctors tried to work out what was wrong with me.
“They knew something was wrong – my brief periods, my moods – but they didn’t know what.”
Eventually, aged 13, Amanda received a shocking diagnosis – she had gone through the menopause – something that normally affects women in their late 40s and 50s.
I was so, so sad and I simply didn’t know why. It was like an alien had taken over my emotion
"I was stunned," says personal trainer Amanda – who despite being told she would never be a mum has now gone onto have to two children, Taylen, now XX months, and his older brother, Oryn, three, who were conceived through donor eggs.
Amanda, who is speaking out as part of the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign, was one of the youngest people in the world to go through menopause, which started when she was just 11. "I felt like I carried a dark secret, that some higher being thought I would be a bad mum so took it away from me, as if my life was already set out to be negative before it had even started."
“It was incredibly strange and totally unexplained,” says Amanda, from Stoke Golding, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. “I didn’t have other symptoms you might associate with the menopause – hot flushes and sleeplessness, hair loss and dry skin – but something was 100 per cent up.
“I was upset about my sudden weight change, which seemed to come from nowhere, and secretly started a calorie-controlled diet but it didn’t seem to make a difference.”
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 Sun are determined to change that, launching the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign.
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 menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through menopause.
“To this day doctors have no idea why I went through it at 11,” she says. “My mum didn't, she was in her late 30s. There’s no history of such a phenomenon in my family. It’s just bad luck.”
Amanda was devastated. “I cancelled Christmas,” she says. “I wanted all the decorations pulled down and put away.
“I just had this really strong feeling that I would never be a mum. Doctors pretty much confirmed my beliefs.
“I was really down in the dumps and my mental health suffered hugely.”
Shortly afterwards she was put on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and told she would have to stay on it for the rest of her life which had a huge impact on her – both positive and negative.
“I didn’t like the idea of being on something for much older women while I was just in my teens,” she says. “I put up a front – I was bubbly, I joked around – but my self-esteem plummeted.
I just had this really strong feeling that I would never be a mum
“The daily HRT tablets helped stabilise my moods and keep my uterus healthy, although my weight still fluctuates.
"But the change in my hormone levels was difficult to contend with at first.
“I suffered from migraines, my boobs would go flat, I suffered joint pain, night sweats, eczema and aches.
“It felt unfair that I had to deal with the menopause at such a young age.”
Amanda continued on HRT throughout her school years with the side effects coming and going. In her early 20s she started investigating what the long term effects of having her menopause so early might be.
Knowing it had taken away her chance of having children naturally, she was shocked to discover her risk of bone disease had also increased.
“I insisted on a bone scan and was disappointed to learn I had osteopenia, the start of osteoporosis – if it carried on I would have the bones of a 50 year old, so I managed to reverse the damage by taking HRT,” she says. “Fitness is so important to me, so I increased my calcium intake.”
Amanda has always been upfront in relationships that she can’t conceive naturally, telling men within weeks of meeting them, and it was no different when she met software engineer Tom on a dating website.
“But he was really kind about it and around a year-and-a-half he mooted the idea of other options such as adoption,” she says. “In the end we decided to try IVF, which my dad Larry, 75, paid for as we weren’t in a postcode which funded it.
“Using Tom’s sperm and donor eggs, I knew any baby wouldn’t be biologically mine but it didn’t matter. I also knew I would love them with all my heart.
“But IVF was emotionally and physically gruelling. I was taken off the HRT and pumped full of new hormones. Coming off HRT and going onto IVF she had instant symptoms such as sore boobs, lightheadedness, nausea and fatigue.
“It’s terrifying not knowing if it will work. There’s a lot of emotional investment. But I got four really good embryos.’
The couple were successful on the first try and welcomed Oryon at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton. Weighing 8lb 5oz, he arrived following an emergency c-section after his head got stuck and he suffered reduced movement.
I suffered from migraines, my boobs would go flat, I suffered joint pain, night sweats, eczema and aches
“It was traumatic but as soon as I saw him I fell in love,” Amanda says. “A few years later we wanted to try again, and Taylen arrived on February 24, 2021. He is technically the same age as Oryn – he was frozen at the same time, and arrived at the same hospital weighing the same.”
She went back on the HRT when he was four weeks old as symptoms such as joint pain and headaches started again. They haven’t decided if he is their last baby.
“Now when I look at my boys I know I am so lucky.
“I didn’t anticipate this happening to me, but if I can do anything to raise awareness of the menopause I will.
"About five percent of women naturally go through early menopause which is classed as under 40 to 45.
"But it is incredibly rare to have it as early as I did."
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 a mum reveals she has spent over £4k getting glammed up for C-section.
And, "I'm a proud hot wife, I sleep with other men, my husband loves it, even though he's faithful to me."
Meanwhile, a brave mum had to have her leg amputated to save her unborn baby.
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