Carolyn Harris spent 12 years on antidepressants.
For six months she sat at home in a pink anorak with the hood pulled up, signed off from work, unable to finish a round at the supermarket.
Convinced that the grief of the loss of her eight-year-old son, Martin, in a 1989 traffic accident would return, she began taking medication.
But the Labor MP now thinks she might never have needed it – if only she had recognized the signs of menopause.
In a moving and candid interview today, she says millions of menopausal women are in the same boat, and some take their own lives.
She vows to fight for better information for women and the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) they need – saying a government taskforce to boost supplies is not enough.
“Nobody puts those dots together and says, wait, maybe you’re not depressed, you’ve been through menopause,” she told the Mirror.
“So we have millions of women who are taking antidepressants when they are actually lacking estrogen or progesterone.”
The darker period of her life began in 2010 when she worked for Swansea East MP Sian James – who she replaced as MP in 2015.
“I had continuous bleeding for about six months, I passed out on my office floor,” she said.
“A friend of mine was in the office and she said to me, ‘I’m going on vacation for two weeks. And I’ll see you when I come back – when you’re here.
Convinced by friends to seek help, she was rushed to hospital where medics removed “massive” fibroids, benign growths around the uterus.
“When I walked into the hospital, the nurse on duty said, ‘Oh, you are the woman who is the walking dead,'” she said.
“I needed four liters of blood and half a liter of iron intravenously.”
When she left the hospital around the time of her 50th birthday, her periods finally stopped and she “slid into a deep depression.”
“I could literally feel my life pouring out of my body,” she told the Mirror.
“I had this pink anorak with a fur hood. And everywhere I went, including my living room, I sat in this pink hooded coat.
“I would go shopping and… walk halfway around the store. And then we would have to stop… I was an absolute wreck.
“I was paranoid. It was just an awful time…I felt the deepest I could feel.”
Ms Harris also experienced pain, trouble sleeping and hot flashes that were so intense she felt like she was “letting off steam”.
Still, she never “put the dots together” between her symptoms and menopause. She will “always be depressed” since Martin’s death. And she thought the other changes in her body might be related to her surgery.
South Wales evening mail)
Even when she became an MP and began working with menopause activists, she told them she “sailed through”.
But at one point she thought “my God, I’m going through menopause”. “All of a sudden, it was like someone put a lightbulb in my head,” she said.
TV presenter and menopause activist Davina McCall convinced her to try HRT last summer.
Although Ms Harris told the doctor she was “probably wasting your time,” she now takes progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.
She feels “much, much better”, has more energy and is now weaning off antidepressants.
She had never wanted to take antidepressants since lying in the bathtub in 1989 contemplating suicide. It only started in 2010.
Looking back now, does she think that with the right help through menopause, she wouldn’t have needed antidepressants at all? “Yes,” she says. “But I don’t want it to seem like I’m blaming the doctor for not telling him.
“I had made my decision that I was depressed – lost Martin, not on antidepressants, trying to come to terms with it all these years.
“If I had gone to my doctor and said I have A, B, C, D, I’m confident he would have given it to me.
“So it’s all my fault for diagnosing myself. But a lot of women do.”
On Monday, the Menopause Mandate Group will hold a campaign event in Parliament with Mrs Harris, Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup and Tory MP Caroline Nokes.
Tory ministers have pledged to cut the cost of HRT and improve the supply of medicines in need with a new taskforce.
But Ms Harris told a Commons debate that “the delicious taste of victory is quickly souring” as an annual prescription fee making HRT cheaper won’t start until next April.
And she called on the government to “get a grip” by requiring GPs to routinely ask questions that identify menopausal women – and stop the “terror” of young women.
Ms Harris said there is an epidemic of women who just don’t know enough about what is happening to their own bodies.
“The sooner you start talking to women about it, the sooner you get them on appropriate medication, the better the health of women in this country will be,” she said.
MP says defamation claims are “nonsense” and rules out a frontbench job
Campaigner Carolyn Harris’ Commons office is adorned with her victories.
Letters from then Prime Minister Theresa May approving a children’s funeral fund – which she championed after Martin’s death – are pinned to a bulletin board.
Next to them is a framed Mirror cartoon showing her shutting down fixed-odds betting machines. At the moment she is urging ministers not to levy a statutory levy on betting providers.
Next stop, the HRT campaign. “I need a framed cartoon. I’d like a cartoon!” she jokes.
But the path is not always smooth. She resigned as Keir Starmer’s assistant last year after an MP reportedly accused her of spreading rumors about shadow ministers’ private lives.
Has she? “It’s not true. It’s a lot of nonsense. But you can see what I’ve been doing with my time – campaigning.
“I really, really never wanted a frontbench role, and I certainly don’t want one now.”
She is still very close personally to the Labor leader and is very loyal. Would she ever take a frontbench job again? “No.
“I’m a bit of a free spirit. When I have an opinion, I find it very difficult to keep it to myself. And when you’re sitting in the front seat, you’re not allowed to have so many opinions.
“Where I am, no one can tell me what I can say…it gives me fantastic freedom to get some work done.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/carolyn-harris-mps-12-years-27212078 Carolyn Harris MP has been on antidepressants for 12 years - no one realized it was menopause