On May 30th I trundled off rather reluctantly to the menopause clinic at Queen Charlotte’s hospital. I did this because when I had my check up three months ago, I told the doctor I had some hot flushes and insomnia. The symptoms weren’t bad but she referred me, and I thought I’d go as I am worried about weight gain. Even though I am reducing what I eat, I seem to be increasingly shaped like a turnip.
I saw a young woman doctor who looked rather like one of those women in Personnel, girlish some how whilst being slightly over-dressed with stiletto heels. I noted the sapphire engagement ring on her finger.
She fired questions at me and I tried to explain that I have hardly any symptoms now.
She ignored that and recommended HRT.
I was surprised as I’d always thought women who’d had cancer had to avoid drugs containing oestrogen. Glancing up briefly from her pad she said they had no evidence that HRT would cause ovarian cancer to return, but then she admitted they had no evidence that it didn’t. I said no thank you.
“How’s your sex life?” She asked. I said it’s non existent but I don’t really care. I don’t fancy anyone and no one fancies me.
“That is probably all chemical,” she said.
Perhaps I would get my libido back if I met an interesting man? I suggested. She flashed me a line of straight pearly teeth and prescribed a course of testosterone saying “there might be some increase in body hair but it would be alright.”
I pictured myself, with beard and moustache out on the hunt for men, returning to those dingy speed-dating venues and trying to find someone honest on line. I pictured the depression that was sure to follow these adventures.
I questioned this too and she admitted it worked partly with oestrogen. I said no thanks again and realised she was one of those doctors who are clever but mad, or perhaps unashamedly working for the drug companies.
“I can see you are a bit sad,” she said. “Frustrated with the hand life has dealt you.”
There she was, young, full-health, brilliant job, ring on finger, what could she see when she looked at me, nothing she could really understand. She went on asking for my medical history. I said that I once had vaginal warts and saw the look of surprise register briefly in her eyes. She didn’t think I had ever been that kind of woman, but how could she tell. She thinks I’m sad, does she know anyone who isn’t at my age. As a matter of fact I am happier than I have ever been before.
I said I was sorry if I came across to her or anyone as sad and anxious.
“Well, you’ve got a lot to be anxious about” she replied.
There was the doctor’s killer line. I had felt it hanging in the air above me all through this interview, just waiting to descend and stick in my head.
She prescribed what she called a “mood enhancer,” and I certainly needed it by then.
I sat sadly in the pharmacy for an hour and a half waiting for the happy pills, and got home feeling glum and rather scared.
Perhaps she was right and I do have sad, bitter, regretful feelings, I am just repressing them. Even if you feel quite happy you might in fact be suicidal without knowing it until someone tells you.
When I took out the box of pills and read all their contra-indications, such as, be careful about taking them if you have ever been depressed, had negative thoughts, had conniptions or felt like kicking anyone, I decided to put them away in a drawer.When I was a child I was depressed. As a student I was on Librium, Valium etc and I do not intend ever to go down the path of pharmaceutical hopelessness again