Gillian Anderson is getting real about menopause.
In a recent interview with her friend, journalist Jennifer Nadel, for Lenny Letter, "The Fall" star discussed the stigma surrounding menopause, in particular, perimenopause, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, means "around menopause" and "refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years."
In other words, you still have your period but you start displaying the signs of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety and abdominal weight gain as your estrogen levels rise and fall unevenly. Fun times!
Gillian Anderson attends Tribeca Talks in support of UN Women's HeforShe at SVA Theatre on March 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images)
"How wonderful would it be if we could get to a place where we are able to have these conversations openly and without shame," said Anderson, who revealed that she started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause in her late 20s or early 30s.
And because she didn't know a thing about this condition, Anderson said she ignored her symptoms for another 20 years, until one day she couldn't handle the discomfort in silence anymore.
"It was at the point that I felt like my life was falling apart around me that I started to ask what could be going on internally, and friends suggested it might be hormonal," the "X-Files" star said.
"I remember throwing my coat down on the floor in front of at least two of my children, and saying out loud, 'This day sucks!' The day hadn't even started, but there was something about my inability to handle anything that morning that alerted me to the fact that something was up. And as the day went on, I kept having to excuse myself from meetings and go into the bathroom to cry."
Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.
Anderson then decided to see some doctors to figure out how to treat her symptoms, something she acknowledged was a privilege to be able to do, but was still a frustrating experience.
"One of the challenges we've found is that different doctors run different tests and look at different aspects of how the hormones present. Look at how many specialists I have seen about this. I'm incredibly privileged to be able to do so. But finding answers shouldn't depend on having the means to consult numerous experts — it's something every woman has a right to have with an informed practitioner," she said.
When describing what she went through, Anderson said it "felt like somebody else had taken over my brain."
"I was used to being able to balance a lot of things, and all of a sudden I felt like I could handle nothing. I felt completely overwhelmed. When I talked to the menopause specialist, she said that she often gets phone calls from female CEOs screaming down the phone, 'I need help now! I am losing my mind!'"
"I felt like somebody else had taken over my brain."
When she discovered that many mothers she knew hadn't heard of perimenopause, she realized there was a sense of "shame" surrounding the condition, which caused women to be uninformed and unwilling to speak up about their symptoms.
"How wonderful would it be if we could get to a place where we are able to have these conversations openly and without shame," Anderson said. "Admit, freely, that this is what's going on. So we don't feel like we're going mad or insane or alone in any of the symptoms we are having. That our partners are informed and prepared so they don't participate in the cycle of shame and can support us when we need it. That our medical practitioners are better equipped to test properly and advise and refer if necessary. Perimenopause and menopause should be treated as the rites of passage that they are. If not celebrated, then at least accepted and acknowledged and honoured."
If you think you are displaying symptoms of perimenopause, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to help ease the symptoms including a healthy diet, regular exercise, taking dietary supplements, getting lots of sleep and managing your stress levels.
And, of course, talk to your doctor for more information or if you have any concerns.