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Radio DJ Jo Whiley says she felt ‘lonely and isolated’ during menopause

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Radio Two DJ Jo Whiley has explained how she was left feeling “lonely and isolated” after going through the menopause and is glad her own daughters will be more prepared for it when the time comes around

Radio Two DJ Jo Whiley has explained how she was left feeling “lonely and isolated” after going through the menopause and is glad her own daughters will be more prepared for it when the time comes around

Radio Two DJ Jo Whiley is listing the things that took her by surprise when she first began experiencing symptoms of the menopause.

“At about 49 I began to not feel very comfortable in my own skin,” says the 56-year-old presenter. “Up until that point I’d been feeling absolutely fine, then suddenly I just didn’t feel myself.

“I was waking in the morning feeling quite gloomy. While I didn’t ever get terribly depressed, I had days when I felt very bleak and found it difficult to shake off.

“I remember thinking, ‘oh God, I’m really struggling today’ and wondering why I was feeling like that because nothing had happened to put me in that mood, but not knowing where to turn for answers.



Jo Whiley has admitted to feeling isolated and lonely through the menopause
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Jo Whiley is speaking up about her own experience of the menopause




“I was miserable, but for a long time I just went on thinking ‘I just need to get my act together.'”

Her mood changes weren’t just restricted to ‘the blues’. She says: “I remember being incredibly irritable about so many things and having a very short fuse – physically feeling irritated by the clothes I was wearing, by people brushing past me or saying something and feeling this horrible rage that would surge through my body. It was really out of character.”

It didn’t occur to Jo that these were early signs of menopause. “I think that conversation has only really begun in the last couple of years,” she says.

“When I was feeling particularly rough, there was nobody speaking out about what happens to women as they get to midlife. I felt quite lonely and isolated.”

It wasn’t until former Radio Two alumni mentioned the M word that everything began to fall into place. “I think Mariella Frostrup was the first person I heard talking about menopause, when she made that brilliant documentary, The Truth About Menopause, for BBC One back in 2018,” says Jo.

“Hearing her talking on that show just made me go, ‘Oh… okay… so that’s probably what I’m going through at the moment’. Before that, there had been such a lack of awareness.”

Slowly, mother-of-four Jo began piecing everything together.



Jo Whiley is hoping her daughters will now be better prepared to cope with the menopause when the time comes
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“Looking back now, I had become quite achy in my joints and just didn’t feel as fighting fit as I used to,” she says. “When it comes to perimenopause and menopause, the list of symptoms is endless. Our hormones do more than just driving our periods. You don’t realise how many functions are controlled by oestrogen until you have less of it, I guess.

“There was a point, a while after Mariella kick-started the conversation, when I remember visiting my optician and saying, ‘My eyes are burning, they’re really burning’ and he replied, ‘Well, sometimes when women get to your age and go through the menopause that does happen’. I just thought ‘oh my God, this as well?’

“It was not something that I had anticipated at all,” says Jo, who is working with Vision Express on a new campaign to promote the importance of eye health during menopause.

“Having dry eyes sounds so unsexy, but it was awful because I’m always reading and my eyes were super-sore,” she says. “I ended up with one of those heated pads that you put on at night, using drops. Ultimately, getting the right glasses was key to making my eyes more comfortable.”

Despite its all-pervading impact, it wasn’t until the symptoms began affecting her career that Jo decided enough was enough.

“It was the brain fog – I’d forgotten that was a really big thing for me,” she says, laughing at the irony. “Suddenly when I was about 52 I just couldn’t find the words. It was a horrible feeling – when I was having a conversation or doing a radio show, I’d suddenly be grasping for a word. I found that quite shocking.”



Jo Whiley struggled with brain fog whilst going through the menopause
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Jo knew it was important to ’embrace’ the menopause




Although she had previously spoken to doctors about hormone replacement therapy, Jo had been unsure about taking it. “I was quite scared of HRT and didn’t want to go there, but once the brain fog kicked in I knew I couldn’t risk being on air if I wasn’t firing on all cylinders,” she says.

Jo hasn’t regretted her decision. “Once I embraced it, it changed everything. I’ve got friends who I know are brilliant, amazing, capable women who are just going through a very, very tough time and really struggling. I keep saying, ‘maybe give HRT a try’ because I’ve seen it work. I know it’s not something that suits everyone, but I feel quite evangelical now.”

Jo is keen to ensure that her own daughters are better clued up than she was when it is their turn.

She says: “To be informed is so powerful and helps you cope with whatever you have to deal with. I really feel passionate about Coco, who is 13, and my older daughter India, who’s 29, knowing what’s going to happen to them at different stages of their lives.

“In the last couple of years we’ve had some really good conversations about hormones and understanding them.

“When I first had symptoms, there were just a couple of books – now there are apps and everyone from Davina McCall to Meg Matthews are sharing tips on how to cope.

“I’m so glad my girls’ generations will be better informed than my own. It will make everything so much easier.”

* The Vision Express See Yourself Differently campaign is encouraging women to get their eyes tested and embrace midlife. For information, go to visionexpress.com/eye-health. Today – October 18 – is World Menopause Day




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