Sunday, 10 February 2019

Alita, Battle Angel

Alita is a slick, glossy movie that is impressive until half-way through, when I think it looses sight of itself and becomes a little messy. Losing her heart to a crush (almost literally) becomes the undoing of what was up until then a nicely paced sci-fi-lite romp. Although it's great to have a female character whose power is beating the crap out of people, and not just turning invisible, or doing ninja knitting, or something.

Points deducted for the almost continuous nudity (in tasteful metal) and fantasy costumes-- though without the gigantic boobies of comic books. To be fair, although she's impossibly thin and "Kawaii', she's a decently written character even if she gets a little soppy at times.

But it all gets set up for a sequel, so that's ok then. Just don't expect an ending, you'll have to shell out more dough for that. Trilogy, anyone?

Rating: Three ass kickings out of five.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Menopause Myths

Making of the menopause: the framing of a woman’s body

Ok, so to begin with, let’s get this straight: the menopause is not the time when women get hot flushes and act oddly. The menopause is actually the time when women stop having periods to the end of their lives. What most people call the menopause is perhaps better defined as the Perimenopause, between having fertility, and not having fertility, with some overlap into the “menopause”. But almost no-one calls it that, so let's stick with menopause.

The menopause is, simply put, a huge upheaval of the hormones in a woman's body. All those rhythms she's been used to have been disrupted to the point where she can't understand her own body. I can't emphasize to you what a huge change this is. We get used to being grumpy/sad/hysterical before a period, we accept that we shouldn't pick a fight during these times, and maybe a hot bath and a big bar of chocolate is nice to sooth the feelings.

But the menopause makes us feel like that all the time. Every moment of the day is filled with lurching feelings that have nothing to do with the situation, added to the rest of the uncomfortable symptoms. And crying.

(Note for Americans and other people who don’t use the same terminology as us Brits— Hot Flush=Hot Flash. No idea why we use different language for it, but both fit well!)

So why does it happen?

Basically, when you run out of eggs, your body goes into menopause.

A woman’s body starts with an amazing 1-2 million potential eggs when they are born. Yep, 1-2 million. These are what are called ovarian follicles, and each month when a period is started, a number of the follicles are activated, but only one, two (or occasionally more) are actually matured into eggs, and released for fertilization.

So when you run out of ovarian follicles, the menopause is basically your body trying to rummage around for a few left at the bottom of your ovaries. Like looking for spare change at the bottom of your bag to pay for a coffee. And when it can’t find them, the hormone levels in the body drop, and cause chaos. Once it works out you don’t have more to give, it reaches for the credit card of life (ok, I’m taking this too far), and you sail into life without hot flushes. In theory.

Ok, but why???

Most animals tend to lose their place in their society when they get too old to reproduce, or die before they reach that stage. Man (uh, women), and killer wales, do not. They 'change' so that they can still be of use to the pack but are not a threat to the procreating animals or produce young that aren’t healthy. Many a young male killer whale has been brought up by a menopausal killer whale. But we're not really sure why it happens. But this is all theory. Unfortunately we actually know very little about the menopause, why it happens, or even how to control the symptoms.

Menopause myths examined

It’s the woman’s fault

I don’t care if you’ve taken drugs, drank, slept around, had sixteen kids, or are a virgin Nun living in isolation—the menopause will happen. Even if you’ve had cancer and had a mastectomy and hysterectomy, you’re going to go through the menopause, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Nor can you prevent it, though you can relieve symptoms – but with that comes risks and side-effects. The only way you’re to “blame” is if you have your ovaries removed (usually a life-saving procedure), then you go into full menopause immediately. Treatments for cancer can actually cause the menopause to start or even flare up—even if you thought you’d finished with it.

Medical science knows what it’s doing

Unfortunately for all us women “of a certain age”, medicine is still in it’s infancy as far as the menopause is concerned. Yes, we have HRT and other treatments, but if you’ve ever been to the doctors with this condition, you’ll know just what a guessing game it is. A lot of the medications you’re offered aren’t for the menopause at all, it’s just been found that they are beneficial for certain people. So anti-depressants, blood pressure medication and even seizure medication can be prescribed on the off chance they might help. See below for further details.

It's all a big marketing lie to sell vitamins

I’ll only say this once, the menopause exists. Just because your mother and grandmother went through "the change" without any symptoms does not mean that your wife\girlfriend\partner is going to be the same. My partner’s mother, and even my own paternal grandmother, were very scathing of the idea that the menopause existed, my grandmother even telling me "it was an excuse for being lazy". I know it's not.

My doctor told me that he saw it like this: 1/3 of women will have no symptoms, 1/3 will have minor symptoms, and the final 1/3 will have bad symptoms. Of that final 1/3, around 10% will need medical assistance as their symptoms are so bad.

But yes, the menopause has its fair share of people trying to convince you that you need to spend a fortune on various pills and potions that are guaranteed to make you feel better. See below.

The menopause lasts a year

I wish it did, I really do. However, there is no "set time" that a woman will go through the change, it can range from years to decades. This whole “it lasts a year” myth comes from a medical definition of when a woman is actually in the menopause. So a woman is born pre-puberty, goes through puberty and has periods, which lasts for a few decades. Then they start to have irregular and strange periods. This goes on for a while, and eventually they stop. Once they have been stopped for a year, this is the medical definition of the start of the menopause, and any periods after that are considered to be a problem.

But the actual symptoms of the menopause do not follow this pattern. The menopause symptoms can start years before you stop having periods, and go on after. You can have stopped periods for decades, and still be getting hot flushes and anxiety attacks well into your sixties (some people even have periods into their sixties too). Some people never get rid of the symptoms of the menopause.

The menopause has stages

Now for the difficult part. The menopause does not act in a predictable and sane way. There isn't a “hot flush” stage, or a “weepy” stage. It all happens at once, or comes and goes. For example, my mother and I have similar, but not the same, experiences.

However, I have experienced several changes in my menopause, from minor, to severe, to less debilitating symptoms. But I don't know if that happens with all woman, or if it's just me. The change in seasons, for example, creates a lot of issues for me, my body is trying to cope with cooler weather one day, and hot the next. It drives it (and me) crazy.

I have heard of women who have stopped having hot flushes, and a decade later, started with them again, so I guess the same is for all other symptoms. You might even have none, or just a few, it’s down to your specific body chemistry.

But you can't chart the menopause though symptoms, I'm afraid, and as I've already said, there's no set timescale for it either.

However, the menopause is said to last an average of seven years. The key word being average, here, folks. And I don’t know what that encompasses—I had very mild symptoms that kicked off into the full blown thing. So when did my menopause start? Which leads on to…

The menopause is always the same

You don’t start with the same intensity of symptoms or even the same symptoms as you end with. Nor are they constant. You can tolerate certain levels one day, then not the next. I went to a Slipknot gig in the worst of my symptoms and was fine crammed into a hot, sweaty standing area. But I’ve been forced out of gigs with less people and less heat. Go figure.

My (pre?) menopause started in 2011 with a runny nose when I ate (yes, honestly), feeling hot when I exercised (even just walking fast would trigger feeling hot—but not a hot flush), tiredness (due to a vitamin deficiency) weight gain (minor), anxiety, and hair loss. I have lovely, thick hair, so when it started to come out in large amounts when I brushed my hair, I didn’t really think much of it.

The menopause itself started in 2015, when I had ovary pain, and then the hot flushes and anxiety really kicked up to high gear. The other symptoms remained roughly the same, although I later got joint pain, and also apathy.

My current stage (started late 2017) is where it’s all gone down a tad. The hair loss in minimal—even normal. The hot flushes are reduced and controllable, although they get out of hand at time, but I have no energy to do anything. I don’t even think it’s an energy issue, I think it’s just that I have no enthusiasm for doing anything.

You stop having periods

Although you will eventually, as I said, there are cases of women going on to have periods into their sixties. Normally the periods will start to get unpredictable, and stop...then start, then stop, etc. Each time you have a period the "year clock" gets reset.

The periods will also vary horribly. I wear panty liners all the time, not because I’m incontinent, but because I have a lot of fluid leakage from my vagina, and also odd periods. I’ve set up a spreadsheet to monitor my periods, and see just how long they last, and how much time there between. The longest time between periods was four months and I thought that was it, but they came back.
Mine have been heavy all my life, meaning I used tampons and panty liners at the same time as I often overflowed even the largest variety of tampon. But recently it’s reduced down to such a light flow I don’t need the tampons, and also my period symptoms have reduced. I used to get very irritable before, with swollen, tender breasts. Now it’s more likely that I’ll be weepy beforehand, with not much else.

It's always old women

If you've started your periods, you can go through the menopause. It's as simple as that. I was 39 when I started symptoms.

You just end up feeling ancient… it’s often said that men age faster than women, but when women hit the menopause they catch up with them. Which is a bit of a bummer when your partner is in his forties, and you feel like you’re in your eighties…

Everything can stay the same

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You may have to sleep in another room from your partner, wear different clothes, and have massive personality changes.

I used to wear all black when I was depressed and fat. Then, I got nice and thin, and wore lots of colours, skirts, dresses, and had a huge wardrobe.

Now I wear a black (low curt) t-shirt and black trousers with optional cardigan (thin). The low cut isn’t to show off my amazing breasts (which have gone from amazing to out of control), but because my breasts get really hot, so low-cut means I can stay a little cooler.

I sleep on my own as I need a very cold room to be able to sleep. Even cuddles can be enough to trigger a hot flush, and it’s very alienating to my partner.

But I’ve also lost heart. I’ve pushed a lot of people away, including my partner. I no longer want to do anything, because to be honest it’s too much effort, and I’m exhausted all the time. At the moment, if left to my own devices, I just sit and watch DVDs or play games on the console if I’m feeling really perky (huh). It’s frustrating because there are things I would like to do, but I can’t make myself do them. I do the basics to keep my life ticking over, and that’s it. And I have a full time job as well, where a great many of my colleagues have been made redundant recently (no pressure then!), so I’m expected to do that, clean, do the ironing, the gardening…before this all started I ran a small business as a side-line to my job (making jewellery, you can see samples here). You can chart my condition though how that business went, I started with enthusiasm and joy, and ended up barely caring about it. I don’t make jewellery any more, I don’t’ do any of the craft things I used to love.

And again, this has all alienated my partner, who won’t believe how tired I am. Believe me, I’d rather be making jewellery and doing stuff with my partner than being a useless lump that doesn’t have the energy for any of it. I try to push myself into doing more, but all that happens is I exhaust myself further. My partner gets irritated if I try, because he can tell “when I’m faking it”. I don’t’ even get credit for trying, it seems.

Women know when it’s happening

The menopause starts gradually, before ramping up, so your partner may not be even aware they’re going into it. I had four years of feeling hot and exhausted before I was finally diagnosed.

If your partner changes, you need to talk to them about it. I realise it’s probably too late since you’re here so must be aware of what it is, but perhaps you don’t. However old your partner is, she may not understand that she’s changed, I didn’t. Talk to them, please, and encourage them to get help.

You're always getting hot flushes

Actually, cold flushes are a thing. I've been sat in a hot house, shivering with cold (usually followed by a hot flush when I bundle up). Otherwise I'm a lot hotter than my normal temperature all the time, especially around the upper chest and breasts, but many women are a normal temperature until they have a hot flush, then they go super-heated.

But I can also have times when hot flushes aren’t a thing. It needs a stable temperature (I live in the UK so little chance of that), and usually dry heat, but I can stabilise my menopause not to make me flush.

But normally it doesn’t take much to trigger one, and you’ll have your own trigger, too. Hot meals, coffee, a warm day, and even a plunge in temperature can trigger a painful hot flush (see the next section), but equally even nothing can cause one. I’ve been sat in a room with a stable temperature watching TV and had a hot flush (and no, it wasn’t because of something stimulating on the telly!).
The trick to surviving them is to wear layers (you’ll hear that a lot) and be ready to strip at a moment’s notice. Even if it’s embarrassing, you need to learn to read your body and not worry about walking around in a t-shirt even if it’s minus 10 (and yes, I’ve shovelled snow in a t-shirt before). I’m afraid that embarrassment is a huge part of the menopause, and you either end up making random excuses to people, or you do what I do, and tell them outright what’s wrong.

Exercise is a big trigger for me, my body goes nuts if I even try to walk fast. I have very long legs, and tend to go along at quite a pace—or used to. Unfortunately my partner also has long legs and I have to force him to slow down. Body contact is also a bad one, which isolates you very much from your lover, sex is simply not an option when it would cause you to become painfully hot.

I can also get them wearing headphones. I can spend hours wearing them without issue, then suddenly they affect me.

So…menopausal women want to be cold all the time?

Urrrghhh, no. The cold is just as bad as heat for hot flushes. As you get cold your body tries to compensate, and ends up over compensating in a big way. And when you have a hot flush when it’s cold, it’s only your internal body temperature that changes. Your skin temperature can be still freezing, causing a huge difference between the two—and pain. It’s not like I’m walking around nice and cosy all the time—my fingers and toes are freezing cold as well as my skin. And the hot flush isn’t nice and gently heating, see below for that.

I long to be warm, and snuggled up next to my love. But I can’t. I’m always walking a tightrope of being warm, but not too warm. I tend to seek out colder locations in the house, but only because it’s safer—that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be warm.

Hot flushes are like a warm day

They're actually more like a fever than "being too warm". If you think of being in the sun, your temperature tends to stabilise, or you get out of it. I suppose you could compare it to sun burn, except that it’s internal and not external.

A hot flush starts generally on the chest or face, and is hugely different from the rest of your body temperature. So a fever that only affects certain areas, but is just as hot. It also comes really sharply.
And getting away from whatever is causing the heat doesn’t cause the temperature to lesson. Once a flush starts, it goes on until you can either really cool down, or it runs its course. So standing in full sun might cause a hot flush, but getting out of the sun won't make you feel refreshed, and indeed your temperature might continue to rise until you can get to a source of cold that helps, or just wait it out. They often only last a short time.

But it’s very uncomfortable while it lasts. You can end up soaked in sweat (which is what happens if I try to exercise), but also it can be painful. Not burns painful, but it certainly tests your levels of pain tolerance as your skin and internal body temperature are so different. If it’s a cold day, for example, and you have a hot flush, then as I’ve said, your skin is freezing, but the rest of you is unbearably hot, so you can’t put a coat on, or a jumper. I’ve walked around in the rain and snow before in a hoodie simply because it’s the only thing that offered a little protection—a coat would be too thick, and 
plastic raincoats too sweaty.

Night sweats are just getting hot

Night sweats are weird. I’ve only had about three up to writing, and mostly they are caused by a too hot room. But not always.

Normally, when you get hot, you wake up, and throw the covers off. With night sweats, you go from an ok temperature to being boiling hot with no warning. Twice I woke up boiling hot and covered from heat to toe in a thick, smelly sweat. The kind of sweat that takes extensive exercise to achieve. Imagine  not showering for week, then working for hours in the garden on a hot day and then going on a long run in a padded coat—that kind of skanky, thick, all over sweat. Seriously, I’m sure if I scraped it off with a blade like the Romans used to in hot baths, it would stand upright. And it’s every part of you as well. Your hair and your clothes are all soaking wet. And of course, the bedding is wet too. Some women resort to sleeping on towels because it’s easier than trying to change the bed every day, me, I leave a nice human shape imprint on everything.

There’s something really distressing about waking up to find yourself “wetting the bed” with no warning. I don’t know if it’s just “oh god here’s another embarrassing symptom that won’t let me sleep” or if it’s even more fundamental, where your brain associates it with potty training. A stretch, I know, but it’s oddly upsetting. I cried for two hours last night (at 2am) because I felt so low. And this morning. When I had a bath and changed all the bedding. Urgh.  They actually make you afraid to go to bed because it’s so horrible waking up like that.

For me, I’m not sure what triggers them, but I managed through a summer of 24 degrees in the day, and 14 at night without having them. But the temperature dropped, and suddenly I was getting them. Some women have them nightly, even multiple times a night, and honestly, my heart goes out to them. It’s a horrible thing to go through, mostly because the psychological effect can be so devastating.

It’s just hot flushes

Actually, there are a lot more symptoms that just being hot. Pain is constant in the menopause. It's either your breasts, or your joints, or even your ovaries. Headaches are common, too.

The joint pain is often known as menopausal arthritis, and is actually muscular pain rather than bone problems (though osteoarthritis can also be an issue in the menopause). You can diagnose it simply, if you have pain in a joint but no heat, it’s probably muscle pain. The cure, exercise. Yes, I know. That’s the last thing you ever want to do when it’s painful, but something like Pilates can help. A few, basic moves before you get out of bed can get you set up and moving for the day.  And so on.

Be aware that you might also damage muscles easily as well, I ripped a calf muscle just turning to answer the door—and it took weeks to heal. I’ve also had trouble with my knees, but conditions needed physiotherapy to get better.

I also don’t heal as quickly as I used to. Which is very frustrating when it comes to trying to mend muscles! But cuts don’t close as quickly, colds last weeks.

One strange symptom is an increased sense of smell, especially your own scent. I was convinced I’d got thrush because something smelt odd, but it was probably just my enhanced nose.

For me, it’s been very prevalent, and I frequently get swollen hands and ankles, especially when I’m having a “period”.  I went from someone walking for pleasure, to someone who can hardly even walk around the supermarket. Very distressing and unpleasant.

You can also gain weight. Fat creates estrogen, so over-eating could be a way the body has to try to equalise the deficit.

I discuss other non-hot flush symptoms in the rest of the post.

You become incontinent

I haven’t, but I understand some women can. But I do have a weaker bladder than normal—lots of trips to the toilet, and the feeling I need to go far more than I would normally. It disturbs your sleep and can be awkward when you’re endlessly looking for the loo, but for me it was manageable. My problem is the, uh, solid end of the transaction. It tends to become urgent very quickly, and can be very unpleasant in texture and smell. Ah, the menopause is such a joy!

It's only about the body

The menopause is as much about the mind as the body. By that, I don't mean that it's in the mind, but that it also affects a woman's mental state. You may be used to the mood swings associated with periods, but this is far more intense and prolonged.

Also, life isn't as clear-cut as it used to be. The term “foggy brain” is often used, and it's accurate. It's hard to perceive anything through the mist you end up being lost in, anything I do has to be drawn up through this fog, and sometimes the brain just gives up. Like names, I have had a great deal of difficulty remembering the name of bands, for example. I can talk around the problem by describing something about them, but it's frustrating.

Your brain feels full to the brim, and focus is lost, it's possible to get into things, but the effort it takes is really high.

And because of the fog I can't enjoy things I used to. I used to make jewellery and do crafts (I have a degree in Fine Art Sculpture) but I can’t gather enough focus to do these things. I need constant distraction, yet find it had to watch a film, for example, unless it’s something I really want to see. I’m a gamer, and that gives me some relief, and well as reading and watching TV shows, but I gravitate to things I’ve watched or played before. I need that sense of familiarity and comfort, because it soothes me.

Learning new things is one symptom that isn’t talked about enough, the brain fails to learn new things during the menopause, meaning that women will generally fall back onto familiar things, things that bring them comfort. My partner loves music, and listens to a lot of new bands. I rarely connect to a band with one listening-- but no I can scarcely bear to even listen to a new band at all. I love music too, and always want new...but it's not going to happen. Instead of music I listen to podcasts, even if I don’t absorb the content it's quite comforting to me.

Right at the start I also had trouble simply doing any work. I was exhausted from Vitamin D and Iron deficiency, and it destroyed my focus and patience. I work from home, and each time I was sent something to do I would actually have a crying fit about it. Now my menopause has changed I'm better, but still can get ultra-upset over nothing. Even if I know it’s nothing.

I’ve also become a huge procrastinator. When I was in my teens I realised that procrastinating only ever hurt me, and I made the effort to get on with jobs as soon as they came up and not leave them, no matter how little I wanted to do them. But now, I put things off to a ridiculous degree, I’m always stressing to get things done last minute… I’m trying to do things in a timely manner as stress is really something you need to minimise in the menopause.

What I've come to realise is my mind is craving routine and comfort. It wants to feel safe, because I feel so vulnerable. And when I get it right I perhaps don't feel right, but I at least feel relief. And I can't emphasise enough how much a little relief means to someone going through this.

But there’s also the distress from the condition itself. We recently had a mini heatwave in October, and it was exhausting to me as my body hasn’t got used to the change in temperature from summer. The hot flushes, the exhaustion, the fog—there have been times when I have wished I was dead. Many times I’ve seriously considered it, in fact I think only the horror of failing and having people fuss over me is stopping me from overdosing. I’m about as low as I’ve ever been in my life, and barely functioning. Yet I have to try to maintain my life and relationship. It’s a living nightmare.
People have claimed that because of the time of life a woman is at when she reaches the menopause, this explains the low mood. So her children leave home, she realises she has no life skills and needs to return to work, has giant gaps in her life etc—a mid-life crisis. Great, so a man gets a sports car and a 20 year old girlfriend and we get apathy?

I'd say that was bull. I have no children, and am happy without them. I have a career that may not be so good right now, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be, my skills are in demand and I have had opportunities to progress in my career-- that I've been forced to turn down because of the menopause. My relationship was new when it started, although it has been destroyed because of the menopause. So although I can understand for some women this might be applicable, what's happening to me? I think it's the biggest myth of them all, that we find ourselves without purpose at a certain age. I don't even care about getting old (getting fat, not so good—thanks menopause!) I don't suffer from an obsession about youth that the rest of the world seems to. This idea that we reach the menopause and suddenly feel blue because we can’t have children is not only outdated (Brigitte Nielsen was 54 when she had her child, and other women have been post-menopause and still given birth), but insulting. It turns us into little more than vaginas on legs that don’t feel fulfilled unless we have three children hanging onto our breasts. And there are plenty of mothers out there with small children who feel these things even though they have a job and children. I’m not saying it isn’t a reason why women feel apathy and low, I’m just saying that it is a valid menopause symptom.

Fear and stress

Related to, but not the whole picture of the mind segment above, is the feeling of fear and stress you can get going through the menopause. The most scared I have ever been in my life was sat in a bath (it was nice and warm and had bubbles. Terrifying, right?). Nothing scary was happening, I knew I wasn't scared, but I was still utterly terrified. I even joked to my partner after, he asked if there was anything he could do, but there was nothing, because it wasn't a real feeling, yet I experienced it. I'm glad that never happened when I was driving, or walking in a dark alley at night. I think it might just have finished me off!

I have also had huge anxiety attacks over doing tasks like going to the supermarket. I was always able to break out of them by ignoring the hideous feelings I was experiencing, but at times they've been almost crippling.  

I realised that these feeling were hormone related, and would increase as my body tried to have a "period"-- whether or not I bled. Or just be random. But I've learnt to ignore them-- as far as you can ignore being terrified or stressed-- and push on with what I was going to do. But it means I come across as being unenthusiastic to do things, simply because I'm having to overcome a feeling I’m not feeling... I wake frequently in the night with terror attacks (not that kind!). Everything wrong in my life thunders down on me and tears me apart at 3am, so I can't sleep.

Stress is also a trigger and can exacerbate symptoms of the menopause, I usually have a hot flush if I get very stressed (even playing a game, if it’s a tight spot I’m trying to get out of I can have a hot flush!). Arguments with my partner always have me crying, even when I try to stop it. I can’t help it at at, and I always have a hot flush. You feel very out of control of your body.

I’m trying to control my stress now with meditation. Now I know some of you might just roll your eyes at this—I know I did! Meditation? How can that possibly help??? But I’ve found it can have benefits, if only to stop you and give you a moment in your day of calm. You don’t have to clear your mind of all thoughts, it might help if you have a chant in mind like “breathe in, breathe out” or “calm”. Whatever. But if thoughts come, let them, examine them dispassionately, and turn them aside. Certainly don’t panic that you’re having them!

I tried meditating before when I was going through a bad relationship, and it didn’t really work. I got too twitchy, wondering where I was in a session, and the timer was jarring. However times have moved on (10 years—and boy have things changed!) and now you can get apps to help you with that.
I recommend Insight Timer (for most phones). You can use guided meditations, or create your own timer, which is that I’ve done. I have bells to tell me where I am in a meditation, you can have birds singing or water rushing (I didn’t go for that one, I have enough trouble (with my water works, thanks!), or just silence. There is a choice of bells, you can set your own times, and I’ve even created a short, silent one that vibrates at start and end for public spaces when I don’t want to use headphones. I also have a long one for when I have a bath, not perhaps pure meditation, but t’s restful.

Don’t expect miracles, but if it makes you feel a little less stressed and frantic—well, all the better.

It’s all in the ovaries

I’ve been reading a great deal about the adrenal glands recently. It seems that when your bodies’ hormones drop, the adrenal glands take up the slack, and produce estrogen and progesterone to try to get you back in balance. Because of this, they work overtime, and the stress and anxiety you feel during the menopause is own to the adrenal glands working overtime. It makes sense, right?
Now this is where we dip our toes into murky waters. Something called “adrenal exhaustion” is banded around a lot by new age healer types. Normal medicine doesn’t recognise this condition, and I’m not sure quite how much of it is just hyperbole.

But as I’m suffering from stress and very tired, I’m willing to try to relieve the pressure on my adrenal glands to see if it helps my menopausal symptoms. So meditation and vitamin B1 and B5 for me!

I’d love it if someone could do some research into this area, just to see if the adrenal glands are getting overworked. If there was a way to stop some of the symptoms that would be great—but I suspect it’s an oversimplification of a complex condition—and a great way to make some cash for alternative medicine. So far none of the treatments I’ve tried have made any real difference to how I feel, so I’m not convinced that there is any real merit to the claims.

Just remember, you always have to be on guard against people wanting the contents of your wallet—this can be an expensive condition if you don’t.

It’s just about the women

One of the things about the menopause is that it messes with your interpersonal relationships.
I'm not talking about you being too hot to sleep next to your loved one, or that you're off sex, but that it might even make you unsociable and feel a desperate need to be alone. I know I've shut off from my partner, which has led to a great deal of trouble between us. But it's not under my control. Even women with children have expressed a desire to get away from them all, and there are times when I want to be alone, yet don't.

So put all those last three "brain" symptoms together, and you can start to see why menopausal woman can be complete mental-cases. Seriously, menopausal women are not sane. They're dealing with a lot, and the menopause will test any relationship to the limit and beyond if the partner you are with is not sympathetic, or thinks you’re faking… or is under stress themselves.

Pushing a woman will help her get over it

Stress is a huge trigger for me, and for any women going through the menopause. Simply telling them to “get over it” won’t work (does it ever?), as I’m sure that most, like me, are already trying to rebel against everything their body is doing to them.

I can push myself, but the menopause is so overwhelming, the effort exhausts me. And having someone behind me endlessly telling me why I’m doing things wrong, how I could improve, and how much I’ve failed, has not helped me push pas the pain and exhaustion.

But also, I will push myself beyond my limits if I know I have to do it. It is possible to ignore your symptoms and do things you wouldn’t think you were capable of, especially if it’s for my partner. Sometimes, it’s just too much, and I can get overwhelmed. But I’m working on that.

It’s curable

Regretfully, this isn’t the case. All you can do it treat the symptoms, and wait for it to end. I discuss some of the treatments later on.
But the treatments come with side-effects. For me, HRT caused my stress levels to become huge, so I had to give up on it. HRT patches caused muscle damage to my legs. The anti-depressants supposed to reduce hot flushes caused them to get worse, and masked the depression caused by the anti-seizure drug (prescribed to again reduce hot flushes).

You have to try the treatments for yourself, and find what works. HRT might be the answer for you, and might get rid of every symptom. Some women love it so much they take it well into their sixties—simply because the symptoms return if they don’t take it. But it’s not a cure, and it carries risks.

It’s permanent

One of the strangest myths of the menopause is that women become “dried up” – mostly that their vaginal juices dry up and sex is uncomfortable due to the lack of lubrication. That’s not always true—I didn’t for example. But that particular symptom will probably go away once the menopause is over and normal function resumes.

Osteoporosis can be a permanent side effect, and so can some of the other bits. But most women bounce back after the menopause and feel better.

It’s always the menopause

Just one last word—get checked out by a doctor. You might be pregnant, have a thyroid issue, or be lacking in Iron or vitamin D. It could even be a kidney or liver issue, or, you might even been pregnant! But GO TO A DOCTOR, especially if you’re really tired. You could give yourself a few extra years of bouncing around in good health before the menopause hits!

You can make yourself better

If you’re lucky, you can. The right treatment can be transformative. However, if you’re saddled with a metabolism like mine, that seems to delight in giving me side-effects, then chances are you might struggle to get relief. So I suggest that you give up trying to be happy, and try to make it all bearable. See Surviving the menopause, further down.

You’re not alone

There are plenty of groups, and websites to go for support, and your family and doctor can offer as much as you can take.

But in a real sense, you can be very alone in the menopause. Your mix of symptoms are unique to you, and can be alienating to family and friends. With everything that you have to go through, it can be too much, and you’ll find that some people drop out of your life simply because they don’t get it. And people won’t understand unless they’ve been through it, just how uncomfortable you are. You’ll get a lot of “oh, hot all the time, that must be great in winter!” and other such blather. Even women can’t understand if they sailed through the menopause, they don’t understand the helplessness of things you used to do being suddenly out of your reach, how even a simple walk can have you soaking wet and in tears.

But you have to simply grit your teeth, and plough through it. If you have a job that you need to keep to support yourself, you have to prioritise your energy into that, and focus on keeping yourself as well and stable as you can. Friends who can’t be bothered with you “because it isn’t real” aren’t worth bothering with. The menopause exists, and it can do strange things to you, and you know that. If you’re lucky enough not to have a job, then perhaps you can put more into your family.

I know how hard it is. I struggle endlessly trying to maintain a full-time job as well as a house, and a partner who has become disillusioned with me and my condition, and frustrated that I’m not well enough to do certain things. Because I don’t show enthusiasm for things, I’m bringing him down. But I don’t have the energy left to fight for him and everything else that I need to do to keep my life going, and I’m foreseeing that we will break up soon. As a consequence, I’ve stopped trying as hard. I know I shouldn’t, but without someone pushing me, it’s all too easy to give up.

But you’re also alone in that only you can say what’s happening to your body. Only you can identify when a medicine is working—or not working. In a real sense you have to do your own medical research about conditions you have, and make sure that medicines work, and don’t cause harm.
Listen to your body!


What not to do with a menopausal women

One thing I really hate about the menopause is the casual lack of support I tend to get. When I say, “I’ve had a lot of hot flushes” people seemed to be compelled to say “but it’s been really hot”.  Ok, so why aren’t you having hot flushes? It seems to be impossible for people to just simply say “oh dear” and not editorialise about their own lives and how they can’t sleep etc. I’m sympathetic, I really am, and perhaps it’s just the people I surround myself with, but it’d be really nice if people took it seriously, and understood that just because it’s hot, that doesn’t mean I’m having hot flushes because of that. I think it upsets me because I feel like you don’t care, that you’re dismissing my distress.
So I stop talking about it. It’s not because the symptoms have gone, it’s because I’m feeling isolated because I’m experiencing most people can’t grasp.

I’m lucky (?) that my partner doesn’t make jokes as he takes the condition a little too seriously. You think you're being funny. You're not. Remember, most menopausal woman are feeling vulnerable. They may laugh, but inside they're dying. Just make sure your partner is ok with jokes—especially if they draw more attention to their condition. The menopause is already a very public condition, and a lack of sympathy from you might just push a woman over the edge.

What can you do for a menopausal woman?

Support her. Accept that she can’t do everything she did before, and pushing is not the best thing for her. But gentle guidance is. Understanding that she has limits will help her so much—and accepting that perhaps your lives will either have to slow down for a little while, or you’ll have to find your own path while she rests. The menopause is re-writing her body and mind, and it may be she isn’t the same person afterwards.

And accept that it isn’t her fault, any more than it’s yours. It’s a “perfectly natural process” (note the sarcasm) that she has no control over, except perhaps in the luck that pills and potions will help.

What are the symptoms of the menopause?

These can vary from women to women, even in families.
Here's the standard list you'll find EVERYWHERE on the Internet:
    Changing or irregular periods
    Hot flushes and night sweats
    Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
    Loss of confidence, feelings of being invisible
    Changes in libido or sex drive
    Weight gain
    Dry skin
    Vaginal dryness
    Increased PMS
    Urinary leakage or urgency
    Aches and pains in muscles and joints (menopausal arthritis)

However, in my experience, it misses some other vital symptoms:

Muscle fragility: you can pull muscles with more regularity
Memory problems, especially around names of things ('m sure there's a word for that?)
Poor learning skills, the inability to learn new things.
An inability to connect to people, even people you love.
Need to be alone
Runny nose
Hair loss
Slow healing
Mix up words
Inability to concentrate
Breast pain
Fear\anxiety attacks
Enhanced sense of smell
Cold sweats
If you are getting odd symptoms, look it up. I've done some really strange Google searches since I was diagnosed, and eventually you can find answers out there. But be careful of Dr Goole, it’s not always right (again, look for the agenda, and ward your wallet).

Getting it diagnosed

It's actually really easy to diagnose the menopause, a doctor can test for Follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), or your estrogen levels. However, getting them to test for it is a problem if you're a bit younger.

I went to them with fatigue and feeling hot, and I had the feeling it was the menopause-- but they checked my thyroid. Three times. And my liver, kidneys, vitamin levels (that was low), but would not check my FSH levels. Finally had had huge ovary pains and I had to get them scanned, and after that the doctor agreed to test me for the menopause. It came back positive. Gosh, was I ever not surprised.
Another issue that isn't addressed is that you might be suffering from a huge vitamin deficiency going into the menopause. It's worth getting it checked out by a doctor, look for vitamin D and iron. If you feel tired, get it checked out.


Cures are a little bit like snake oil-- some people will instantly get better with them, others won't, or will struggle with side affects.

CAUTION try these all you want, but three rules:
               Try them one at a time.
               Try them for a minimum of a month
               Really listen to your body when you're trying them.

Do not try more than one at once! I made that mistake time and time again, and it doesn’t help you. All that happens id that side-effects from one cancel out or wreak the good from another-- or worse-- masks bad side effects. Be really careful, your body is already in flux.

Analyse what happens when you try the medications, not just after a day or even two weeks, but set a reminder for a month later. Takes notes on how you feel before you take the medication, and at various points throughout the month. Then go back and compare the first day to the last, have you improved really? The placebo effect can cause you to feel better at first, but only for a short time. Then your mind stops fooling your body, and reality sets in. It’s really important that you take notice of this, and stop any medication if it’s not helping, it may react in strange ways with other medication. But it’s also worth making the same notes when you come off them too.

Also-- consider coming off the pills once in a while. Make sure you get medical advice if it's prescribed, but if it's just vitamins, then stop them and see if anthing changes. I was recently sick (vomiting) so missed my usual handful of pills. I found I was cooler-' pills that had been helping (B6 and B12) were making me flush. They helped at first, but then became harmful. I might try them again later.

I would also be careful of these catch-all specific vitamin packages for the menopause. I realise this is not well known, but you can overdoes on a great many vitamins. Not only can you make yourself feel worse (Vitamin C makes me fell exhausted) but you can also cause organ damage. Make sure you are sticking to the recommended dose, and if you think a high dose would help, talk to a doctor. A doctor, not your alternative medicine practitioner. They may have experience in this matters, but they are not trained to cope when things go wrong. Take Black Cohosh, for example. One of my mother’s friends told to take a very high level of it everyday—an overdose level in fact, and had health issues after. 

I would not be in such a bad state if I had really paid attention to what was happening to me when I took the medication. You may be ok, you may have no problems. But each time you take something new, monitor yourself really carefully.

And take medical advice when coming off medications. I’m lucky, I’ve taken myself off all the prescription meds with the only side-effects being the return of my menopausal symptoms. And no, I didn’t get hooked on Prozac!

I describe below my experiences of the various medications, but to be honest most haven't worked, or made things worse. St John's Wort is managing my anxiety, and Wild Yam cream helps reduce the heat on my breasts. But you have to try them yourself, and be your own judge as to if they have worked. Tell your partner what you are using, and possible side-effects, and ask them to tell you if you have changes in personality. But always, always check your own reactions.

Remember, I am not a doctor, and am not making recommendations as to medications you should try. If in doubt, talk to a doctor and get medical advice before trying any of the below. The experiences below are mine, and may not happen to you.

Prescription medication

The Pill (for younger patients): not tried.

HRT: Worked to a small degree, but increased my stress and anxiety levels to intolerable amounts. Even using with St John’s Wort did not stop the anxiety at 2mg. I will try a lower dose to see if it works.
As an aside, I tried the patches which are supposed to give you a higher dose. I started to get huge pains in my knees, which I ignored because I was so depressed (see Dixarit). Once I got myself together I went back on the pill, and the pain faded. However, it did a lot of damage to the muscles in my knees (the patches go below your ovaries). Was it the patch or the lack of exercise? My doctor said he didn’t think it was the patches, but I know I noticed a difference when I went back to the pills. Again, watch yourself when you try something new! I also hated the patches because they would peel off if I got really sweaty, which felt very limiting. PRO TIP: I used 3M Tegaderm transparent film dressing (10cmx12cm) over the patch after a few days. It helped extend the life of the patch and didn’t irritate my skin. Go for the ones without a pad (just all film) as then you can see what the patch is doing. I tended to leave sweaty jobs like mowing the lawn until the day it was due to be replaced so it didn’t matter if it peeled off.

Dixarit \Clonidine (for treatment of high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, migraine, and hot flushes): Gave me headaches, and made me very, very depressed. Because I was taking Fluoxetine at the same time I had no idea I was depressed as I felt nothing. When I was depressed I spent literally four to five hours of my day in bed, and ate hugely. I gained a massive amount of weight and spent so much money I am tens of thousands in debt. Horrible, horrible time.

Fluoxetine: this is Prozac under a generic name. This made me feel hotter, and very numb. I can’t recommend it, but I have a history of not getting on with anti-depressants. It also didn’t stop my anxiety from the menopause.

Beta blockers: Not tried, I have asthma so can’t.

Alternative therapies

Black cohosh: did nothing.

Red clover: did nothing.

St John's Wort (do not use with the Pill if you use it as a contraceptive—it can stop it working): Stopped one of my core anxieties. Be careful, a high dose made me very weepy!

Wild Yam cream: helps a little with the heat on my breasts, but it’s a short-term relief, perhaps just from the coolness of the cream. You can also get the pill form, I’m trying that next.

Evening Primrose oil: did nothing.

B vitamins: I take B12, B5 and B6. I did take one pill containing them all, but it made me feel worse. Which is why I recommend you tailor your treatment with separate pills.

Vitamin C: Made me very tired. I know it was a C because I could track when it would kick in… You have to be careful with certain vitamins as if you take too high a does your body has to work to get rid of them.

Sage: did nothing.

Vitamin E: did nothing.

Acupuncture: not tried. I have a horror of this kind of treatment.

Yoga: Still not tried, though I tried pilates. Didn’t help.

Exercise: This works. Except I get really hot when I do it, and I have to really force myself to do any exercise. It doesn’t help I had a huge issue with my knees that makes walking painful (physiotherapy is helping me recover my ability to walk). But if I exercise, it helps my symptoms. It’s so frustrating that it’s so hard. I’ve just bought an exercise bike so I can wear skimpy clothes and have a fan on me without feeling horribly embarrassed. It works really well.

Eat well: Again, this works when I can force myself into having the discipline. It’s really difficult as ten years ago I was very overweight, and I lost it all. When I went through the depression I gained a great deal of weight, and now can’t find the strength to get back to my lower weight. I want it so badly, and I know it’s easy if you just ignore the call of chocolate, but I can’t get my body to stop craving the bad stuff.

Gluten free: I tried this as I thought it would give me energy, but it actually didn’t. My initial test of 2 weeks went well, I felt amazing! But this was before I had my tips for trying new things—and now I look back I realise I fell for the placebo effect that made me think it was doing me good. Many medicines have a good effect in the first two weeks, then they show their true colours. I’m back eating wheat, and I feel no different from when I was gluten free (though I had a few side-effects at first until my body got used to the gluten again). I only tried because my body was desperately craving something, and I figured it was wheat. I was right. I can’t say it gave me more energy to be on the wheat, but I don’t have less.

Vegan: I don’t believe the hype around veganism at all, but diet can help, so it may be that works. However, don’t throw away your pills, I don’t think that cutting out meat and dairy is the best thing to do, especially if you’re in danger of osteoporosis. Make sure if you take this route you consult a doctor or nutritionist on the best way to do it, and again, try it for a while. If you don’t feel better, consider if it’s worth the effort. It’s worth noting that my partner is dairy-free (he really does had an intolerance) and I often eat vegan, but it’s never really struck me as helping. But perhaps that’s just because I’m eating a whole load of other rubbish too!

Meditation: I have found a measure of control with meditation that I lacked before. But it might just be the St John’s Wort kicked in fully at the time? Who knows. I tend to have a bath with my meditation app running, just to increase the feeling of calm. If nothing else it’s a bit of time in your day for yourself, and can be done at work if you have a quiet space you can use.

Surviving the menopause

So here are my suggestions:
       Exercise. I know, you can’t. Neither can I. This horrible weight that sits on you during the menopause stops you from doing all sorts of things. But do it. If you hate going outside, try buying an exercise bike. I’ve just bought one, and don’t flush as badly with it when I exercise. Also, I can wear skimpy clothes and have a fan on me…

·        Listen to your body. This is very important, especially when taking medication. It also goes with:

·        Learn your triggers. What makes symptoms flare up? Coffee is not one for me, but hot rooms are. It’s all about identifying the worst, and avoiding, or having strategies to cope.

·        Create a safe space. I have my own room that is unheated and I can flee to at home. I’m also lucky in that I work from home a lot of the time, so I can control my work environment easily—I know many of you won’t be able to. You may have to talk to your manager about help if you have a work environment that’s particularly difficult for you.

·        Fans everywhere. I own multiple fans, and carry them with me.

·        Get used to embarrassment. You will end up telling complete strangers about this condition. There’s no doubt about that. I can guarantee that you’ll have to whip out a fan and fan yourself, or undress, or do something strange multiple times during the duration of this condition. Get used to it!
·        Ice on tap. I have mostly iced drinks, so make sure there’s always ice in the freezer. It can be useful to have ice packs in there too, but be careful about how long you apply them. Mine usually melt before they become harmful!

·        Minimise stress. Try meditation, and cut things out of your life that are causing you more stress than their worth. Otherwise—I know it’s very difficult to avoid stress. Simply being in the menopause is stressful enough. Don’t procrastinate, short deadlines will only make it worse.

·        Prioritise carefully. You have to work out what is most essential, and do that. For example, having to work to earn a living comes first, housework second, with whatever’s left for everything else like relationships and even fun. I know that’s not a great way to live, but the menopause is about survival, not living, above all you need to support yourself and pay the mortgage, unless you’re lucky enough to have a partner who can do that for you, and left you focus on other things.

·        Be a little bit selfish. Don’t try to help everyone, you should ask for help instead.

·        Watch what you eat. Coffee can be a trigger, hot food, chilli—if you have flushes after eating these you might want to consider alternatives. I usually have a flush after a hot meal, so try to make sure I’m cool beforehand. And eat less. Eating until you’re full can also be a trigger.

·        Consider your wardrobe carefully. Layers are a must, but you should examine everything you wear. I wear boots all winter—correction—I used to. Now I wear summer shoes all winter too. I wear t-shirts that are low-cut, and light trousers. And I wear all black because it doesn’t show the stains, though I accessorise in bright colours where I can. No tights or skirts—regretfully. Even my bag changes with the seasons, from always having a leather bag I now switch to cloth in summer simply because it doesn’t make me hot like leather.

Recommended products

None of these sponsor me, but I can recommend them highly. As you can see, I shop at Amazon a lot, but use these as references, you can pick up the same or similar products elsewhere.

Electric fan: this one is quietish, but also gives a good, strong blast of air. It also has a really shrill beep whenever you press a button that you can’t shut off, not ideal if you have to change it at 3am. Because it’s a vertical blade of air you can focus is a little better on just you, and it’s long enough to cover a larger area of your body (head to hip, for example). I use it at night on the lowest setting if it’s hot. PRO TIP: If you have to have a fan on at night, and the noise bothers you, try focussing on it. Really listen to it, and when your mind wanders, push it back to listening to it. It can help train your mind to ignore the noise because your brain gets bored of heading it, and tunes it out! (unfortunately this one is unavailable, but there are other tower fans available)

Hand fan: I cannot recommend the electric ones, they don’t have the grunt to get you cool. But these really work—just get used to strange looks and stranger comments! And one arm will get really strong J  

Ice pack: These ice packs are ok, you “break” the inside pocket and then mix the two chemicals inside to create the cold. But, they don’t last long, and it isn’t really cold, so it’s not terribly effective. They can help you get through a hot occasion when a fan isn’t enough. I take them to gigs to get me over the last half-hour or so.

Medical ice pack in freezer: Pretty much any icepack will do, be careful of usage though as you can burn yourself with them. You can also use a frozen bottle of water, which is good if you’re out and about as you can sip the water too (or pour it down yourself—as I have done!)

Ice spray: Another ok product, the cooling effect is ok, and better if you fan yourself. Again, it doesn’t last too long but it can be helpful if you’re in a hot situation.

Insulated flask: I love this flask. Fill it full of ice cubes and water, and you have a refreshing drink whenever you need it. I bought this one as it has a flip top—but obviously buy to your budget. I recommend getting an insulated flask as they stay cooler for longer. Even on a very hot day this one has had ice cubes left in it by the end of the day. Plus it’ll save you money on bottled water, and it’s better for the environment.
(tip: buy one of these to clean it out properly otherwise you end up with a nasty deposit in the bottom

3M Tegaderm transparent film dressing (10cmx12cm): This is if you use HRT patches, and helps to keep them attached.

Air conditioner: My brother actually gave me mine. It’s heavy, awkward, expensive to run, and sounds like an aircraft setting off, so it’s not for sleeping with. You also need a nearby open window to vet it, so it’s a pain. But in the really hot weather, it can help cool a room for sleeping, and dehumidify as well. I waited a long time to get one as I debated the use, but I’m glad I bought it in the end. Be wary of cheaper alternatives, some will only cool the area immediately in front of them, or only work when humidity is low. And as a tip: buy in the winter. The price will only go up as the weather gets hotter.
Yam cream: I love this stuff. I put it on my breasts, and it seems to soothe the heat in them. This does come from the US, so you will have to wait a while for them to arrive. I also suggest if you are in the UK you only order 3 at a time, ordering more can mean you pay import taxes, which is £8 + the actual charge, so it can be costly. And try not to order from the sources in the UK, they tend to charge a good 3x on the US price, it’s worth sending for it from Piping Rock direct.

And finally, lube. If you are struggling to have sex, try Astroglide Natural Lubricant. If that doesn't suit, try another. But you might find it really makes sex more comfortable.

Coming to the end?

I actually haven't reached this point yet, so I can't tell you. I have be assured by many websites that it does end-- and been told by my mother that she still has symptoms.

However, about a year ago I did suddenly start feeling cold, and very anxious. I came off the HRT and the cold and anxiety disappeared-- but the hot flushes returned. But I feel as though this is a new stage in the menopause, so hopefully it will start to cycle down now and leave me alone. But as the average length of the menopause is 7-10 years, I don’t have too much hope that that will happen very soon. But I’m picking up my mental attitude, and exercising, as well as meditating and cutting down on treat food (I don’t believe in diets— I think they’re doomed to failure). I feel stronger, and I’m hoping I have finally found the key to making my menopause go away.

I don’t mean to be overly negative about the menopause—if you want to get through it you need to have as positive attitude as you can. If you wallow in self-pity or become a “victim” of it, then the menopause will bite you back.

It’s hard, I know, to be motivated all the time, and it’s hard to find positivity when everything you do leaves you soaked in sweat and exhausted, and your loved ones complain about how distant you are or how you never want to do anything— but if you do stay positive, meditate, exercise and eat well, then you have the basis to get through it with a little more ease. You need to fight it without fighting it, if that makes sense. Don’t give in to the impulse to sit around or nap all day—I’ve done that, and it honestly doesn’t help. 

And if you want to be envious, I recently met a woman who had started the menopause at 39, and finished at 42. She was having awful hot flushes, and they just stopped dead. So it does happen, and best of luck to you if you are going through it, you're not alone!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mark Lanegan, Manchester Academy 2, 05/03/2012

Well, my continuing theme of 'let's write about gigs long after they occurred' is about to get worse as I'm on holiday next week, and have two gigs before I leave, and no time to post. Ah well.

So, Mark Lanegan. I've been listening to him since I heard 'Hit the City' on years ago, and he had got me though some of the roughest times of my life. But never seen him in concert, as no only didn't he tour, but when he did tour with SoulSavers (whom also also like, hell, 90% of the songs were covers of his material!), I bought a ticket to go, and it snowed. A lot. Masses. And as it was to a place I had never been to, a long distance from home, well, basically I decided to not go.

So when I heard he was touring (after seeing an ad on the walls on the Academy!) I had to go. Which made a change, as for once my boyfriend didn't know Mr. Lanegan's work, so I introduced him to it. (He loves it by the way).

So we get there, fashionably late as usual, and the place is packed. Not just slightly busy, packed to the rafters.  I had no idea what to expect, the stage was simple, with no set, just a microphone and instruments.

He came on stage, last, but there was little fanfare. He didn't introduce himself, just started to sing with that amazing voice. And that was it, just song after song, with a brief intro of the band (which my boyfriend said was incomprehensible) and when he returned from the false encore, a quick, faintly sarcastic 'thanks'.

But it didn't matter. The music was amazing, and although the sound quality occasionally let them down, the majority was crystal clear. It was all very emotional, and I loved it.

They also didn't change the lighting, so no flashing lights etc, but also no decent photos or film. But at least I finally got to see him!

Forget about visuals, I couldn't see myself! There are a couple of clips of him where I put my hand above the crowd, but I just won't do that for long periods as other's can't see.

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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Rammstein, Manchester Evening News Arena (MEN), 1/3/2012

Nothing like a good, industrial metal gig to get you set up for the year ahead... and Rammstein delivered in spades! In fact, there was so much going on in this gig...I'm not sure I'll remember it all!

To start with, we could see there was a stage in the middle of the arena. Mark told me that apparently they played a couple of songs there, but I couldn't see how they got accross. Then I noticed they were making a channel through the seated and standing fans with a wall of security. Then the lights went down, and they were walking down the steep seating into the center of the arena! The crowd naturally went wild, and being opposite we had quite a good view.

They didn't stop, however, as a large gantry was lowered down for them to walk from the mini stage across to the main stage. It was amazing, and as they got to the main stage, 'Sonne' started.

Although the quality of the video isn't very clear, we could hear every note. I noticed that Till Lindemann was stood very still, when suddenly flames came around him! Which is pretty typical for Rammstein, pyrotechnics the lot of them I think...

The gig certainly wasn't for the faint-hearted as there were plenty of very loud bangs as they continued to entertain us with hit after hit. The set was magnificent, very stark and industrial, but I loved the back-cloth that had a cellular look to it, in fact a lot of the set was very Giger-like. I loved the bunkers either side of the stage...I think they were needed for the support staff.

Other features included Till showering in sparks (which must have looked amazing from the floor) and roasting Christian Lorenz (in a fetching silver gimp suit) in a vat.

About half-way though there was a 'break' and Christian went crow-surfing in a very unsteady inflatable boat (I think the crowd wanted to give him a thrill), and then one of the crew went to the small stage. The rest of Rammstein were then led over the bridge that came down to the small stage, where they played a few songs, during which Till performed a sex act on Till, then rewarded the crowd by getting his Johnson out and, um, 'spraying' the crowd.

After they returned to the main stage, they played 'Engel', and Till came on stage as an angel, shooting flames from his wings.

Their last song, 'Pussy' was about as subtle as the song suggests, but notable as Till rode across the front of the stage on a giant penis, spewing foam (wink, wink) on the first few rows of the crowd.

All in all, they were magnificent, and if you can see them, it's worth the ticket piece. Just expect for there to be some no-very-suggestive suggestive bits.

For a metal band Rammstein can have some really tender songs, and are certainly worth a go. Just wear flame-retardant undies, and don't stand in the spunk zone...

Germans. Subtle to the end!

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