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Gillian Anderson on Dealing with Early Menopause: ‘I Felt Like Somebody Else Had Taken Over My Brain’

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Gillian Anderson
Dave Benett/Getty

Along with battling severe depression for decades, Gillian Anderson found herself with perimenopause, the hormonal transition prior to menopause, at age 46.

The X-Files actress recalls a moment two years ago when she threw down her coat in front of her kids at 8 a.m. and yelled, “This day sucks!”

“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,” Anderson, 48, recalls in an interview for Lenny Letter, ahead of the release of her new book, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere.

She went to several different doctors, but received very different opinions on what was happening with her body.

“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,” Anderson says.

“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!’ And that’s completely right. I felt like somebody else had taken over my brain.”

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Anderson says the lack of clear information is one of the biggest problems surrounding perimenopause and the mental health symptoms — “like anxiety, depression, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue” — that follow.

“How wonderful would it be if we could get to a place where we are able to have these conversations openly and without shame,” she says. “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.”

Anderson credits Angelina Jolie for working to change the stigma when she spoke openly about her menopause.

“When Angelina Jolie made the very, very courageous decision to have both her breasts and her ovaries removed because of genetically being at risk for breast and ovarian cancer, many of the comments (aside from admiration for her decision to go public with a very private matter) were around the concern that it might throw her into early menopause,” Anderson recalls.

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“Then she became vocal about being in menopause and pushed back against the narrative that aging is bad. It’s a step that more of us in the public eye need to take in order to shake the shame around it.”

“Perimenopause and menopause should be treated as the rites of passage that they are. If not celebrated, then at least accepted and acknowledged and honored.”