Sarah Vine was feeling constantly ill, but realised she was entering the menopause. This is part one of her story...

The menopause, I discover, is a bit like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition: no one expects it. I certainly didn’t. It came upon me like a thief in the night, quietly and almost imperceptibly robbing me of my energies. It wasn’t until most of my faculties had deserted me that I finally woke up one morning and realised something was going on.

The symptoms are no secret: irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hot sweats and flushes, exhaustion, dry skin, muscles aches, joint pain, headaches. Naturally, I had the lot (I never do things by halves). I was also dogged by an almost imperceptible yet very definite feeling of anxiety: a kind of nagging sadness - not quite depression, but a sense of apathetic indifference to most things.

I wanted to sleep a lot, especially in the afternoons. Suddenly the world would all seem far too exhausting, and sleep, my body was telling me, was the answer. I would make some excuse at work, go home, walk straight upstairs and curl up in bed, falling unconscious in seconds, like a child.

It was my husband, bless him, who first wondered whether I shouldn’t see the doctor. He’s always been a far better observer of my state of mind than I am, and he broached the subject with characteristic delicacy. I was taking regular exercise, eating well, looking after myself generally - but it wasn’t right to be this tired. Maybe my thyroid medication (I have a very s-l-o-w one) needed adjusting?

In my heart of hearts, though, I knew it wasn’t that. I’ve managed my thyroid condition for almost two decades: the symptoms are not the same. The thyroid always affects my concentration, and I also crave carbohydrates; this was different. If anything, my appetite was low. Food, always one of my greatest pleasures, left me utterly cold.

The diagnosis, following a blood tests, was conclusive: there was not a jot of oestrogen left in my system. I had, quite simply, run out of gas.

This, I must confess, made me feel a little bit sad and sorrowful. I was also a little shocked. I’m only 48; the average age for entering the menopause in the UK is between 51 and 58. Why the hurry?

Emotionally, too, it felt rather complicated. I rang my husband to tell him and found myself apologising. Don’t be silly, he said, you’ve nothing to apologise for, he said. Later, he sent me a sweet text message saying I love you, with lots of little emojis, like a teenager. It made me feel immeasurably better.

Come back next week for the next part of Sarah's menopause story as she makes a decision on HRT or  subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to read it here 

Are you going through the menopause? Share your experiences in the comments below!