'I was the crazy chicken woman': Penny Lancaster used to hide away when in the grip of menopause symptoms

Penny Lancaster went through a tough time during early menopause credit:Bang Showbiz
Penny Lancaster went through a tough time during early menopause credit:Bang Showbiz

Lady Penny Lancaster used to "hide" with the chickens when she started going through menopause.

The 54-year-old model and presenter recalled experiencing "a few mental breakdowns" when she and her husband Sir Rod Stewart, 79, and their two sons Alistair, 18, and Aiden, 13, returned to Britain in the early days of the Covid pandemic in 2020, and she used to retreat into the garden to cope with the debilitating anxiety she was battling as a result of the changes to her body, which were undiagnosed at that point.

She told The Times newspaper: “I had a few… what I could classify as ‘mental breakdowns’. We got chickens at that time and I remember I hung a hammock in the chicken area. I was the crazy chicken woman. If the kids wanted to know where I was, they’d find me wrapped up in this hammock.

"I was just, like, ‘Curl up and hide.’

"I couldn’t cope with anything. Every time I woke up, the build-up of anxiety and fear!

"I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been like, ‘It’s OK!’

"People will come to me and say, ‘I’ve got this sticky situation and I don’t know what to do. There’s this problem, Penny, solve it.’

"[But then] I didn’t have answers for myself, let alone anyone else.”

Penny - who was eventually misdiagnosed with depression - first experienced signs of menopause in early March 2020 but assumed she had contracted COVID-19, of which very little was known about at the time.

She recalled: “I found that one night after another, I was waking up, sweating head to toe.

“It wasn’t just a little discomfort in the night. I was on top of the covers, feeling like this inferno was rising, as if I was standing in a pit of fire.

“The heat started in my feet and rose up my legs. It was as if I could feel it going through my blood vessels, my blood was boiling. I could feel it rising, closer and closer to my heart and into my head..."

Explaining how she and Rod had TV news playing “24/7, just to get updates”, she added: “Those horrific images: people in the hospital wards, down corridors, saying they didn’t have enough ventilators….

"And of course one of the main symptoms was a cough and ridiculously high temperatures. But at the time, there were no tests. I was keeping my distance from the kids. I was scared.”

But a Zoom call with her fellow 'Loose Women' stars alerted Penny to the possibility she may be going through menopause.

She recalled: "We were all discussing how we were coping through Covid.

"And this was one of the things I was mentioning. They said it could be menopause. I was like, ‘I’m not old enough for that.’ ”

“Well, of course I was! In my head I was like, ‘That’s when you’ve been round the block a hundred times and it’s time for retirement. But surely not in my late forties! That’s too young. People are still working!’ It didn’t make sense to me.”

After being diagnosed with depression, Penny continued to struggle until her 'Loose Women' friends staged an intervention.

She said: “They literally wanted to grab me and shake me! We’d started going back in the studio — no audience, we were doing the two-metre thing, the desk was bigger.

"But it was more face-to-face and they were able to really see and hear and recognise what was happening. Thank God for them.”