When we go through anything difficult in our lives, it can so often feel like we’re going it alone, that we’re the only people who have ever experienced divorce, illness, loss, whatever it may be.
This is certainly true of the menopause. For many years the menopause has gone under the radar, relegated to jokes about hot flushes, and so many of the physical and emotional symptoms associated with these massive hormonal changes have remained unspoken.
Fortunately this is beginning to change, and as more and more women feel able to talk about their experiences of menopause and perimenopause, it’s becoming easier to build connections and find a supportive community to help you through your journey.
That’s not to say it’s easy, but creating that support network is a must if you want to overcome the feelings of loneliness and isolation that so many women go through in their forties and fifties. To get you started, let’s take a look at some simple steps you can take to start building your own menopause community.
Let go of any shame
This is so easy to write and so much harder to do, but it’s vital if you want to form authentic and meaningful connections with people. It’s hard to be honest about something as personal as the menopause, of course it is, but as humans we really value vulnerability – it’s when people are vulnerable and open with us that we can truly connect with them.
If it helps to get a different perspective, imagine a woman you know opens up to you about a difficult and upsetting experience – do you judge her? Do you think she’s stupid for sharing? Or actually do you feel closer to her as a result, and privileged that she has chosen you to share with? Try using this mindset when you next feel anxious about opening up.
Reach out to those closest to you
If the idea of reaching out to strangers or joining a group feels too daunting at this stage, start slowly by talking to the people you know the best. This could be family – perhaps an older female relative who has already been through the menopause and can offer a listening ear – or friends who are a similar age.
Start the conversation somewhere that you both feel comfortable and relaxed, such as over a coffee when you’re not rushed for time. A busy playground at school pick up may not be the best environment to encourage sharing. Share your experiences, but also give your confidant the chance to share their own feelings. You may find that they too were craving the space to talk about their own menopause, and are grateful to you for being brave and making the first move.
As you feel more confident, it could be that you have other friends who you decide to bring into the conversation. This might be informally over a casual lunch or glass of wine, or you may decide that you’d all benefit from some dedicated time and space to chat. It could be something ad hoc like a WhatsApp group for sharing daily ups and downs, or more structured, like a regular monthly meetup. Knowing that you have a date in the diary can be hugely comforting – a bit like knowing you have a massage coming up, where you’ll be able to undo all the stress that’s accumulated!
Knowledge is power
You’ll probably find that once you start talking about menopause with other people, all kinds of questions will come up for you. Should you give HRT a try? How can you improve your sleep? Are there any changes you can make to your diet? Depending on who you ask, there are literally dozens of common symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause, so no wonder you might feel overwhelmed or confused about everything that’s happening to you.
It might be a good time to take stock and gather some practical information to strengthen your understanding. This could be through experts like Dr Louise Newson, founder of Newson Health and the Balance app, or through finding other women who inspire you on platforms like Instagram. Just be cautious of taking any medical advice online – it’s great to be inspired by people’s stories and to share tips, but it’s best to consult your GP if you need specific medical advice.
If you’re interested in the campaigning and healthcare support side of things, Menopause Mandate on Instagram is a great source of information. Podcasts are a great way to find community, and can be easier to fit in around life than reading. Dr Louise Newson hosts a very informative podcast or if you want something more like eavesdropping on two drunk women in the pub discussing their menopause experiences, try my podcast It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.
Widen your net
Hopefully by this point you’ll be feeling more comfortable about your menopause and have a better understanding of your symptoms and how to manage them. You might feel brave enough now to take things a bit further and widen your net to include new people within your menopause community. This could be online through forums or Facebook groups, or it could be face to face through a local menopause group.
If there isn’t a group locally, how about starting one yourself? This might feel like a daunting prospect, but if you have the time then it’s definitely worth considering. Think about the benefits of this kind of support to other women who are struggling to find their own community – you could be the person that makes a difference in someone else’s life, and that’s always a fantastic feeling.
However you do it, finding your menopause community is a fantastic way to ease the process, deepen existing relationships and hopefully make some new friends too. You are definitely not the only person going through this, so don’t settle for feeling alone.
For more stories, advice and interviews, head to the Menopause Your Way Stories hub. To browse and shop a curated edit of menopause products, visit the Menopause Your Way page on QVC.
The content of the QVC website is for information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the QVC website.
We understand there’s a lot of information out there on the menopause. You can read through the NICE guidance on menopause management, as well as the NHS overview on the menopause.