Going through the menopause can be a difficult and isolating experience for many women.
Not only are you likely to be going through a bewildering and sometimes distressing array of physical changes – weight gain, hair loss, pain, hot flushes, insomnia etc, but the psychological effects can be equally debilitating.
Sadly, even now, in a world where we are often bombarded by the minutiae of people’s lives on social media, something as commonplace as the menopause, is still a taboo subject. And if women can’t speak openly about it, how are they to get the support they need?
With the menopause, what is normal?
One of the most distressing parts of the menopause is how varied the severity of symptoms can be. Added to that is the fact that few women know what to expect when the menopause arrives.
Some have felt their GPs haven’t appreciated the severity of their symptoms and how badly they are affecting their daily lives.
For many other difficult life stages, women rely on the advice and support of their close friends, mothers or partners. But when it comes to the menopause, for many, these channels are suddenly closed. It can feel awkward to discuss lowered libido with friends who know your partner too, mothers may no longer be around, or may be embarrassed to talk about their experience. And, quite often, partners with no first-hand experience find themselves out of their depth and feel unable to understand or provide adequate support.
Without having a sounding board of people who are going through it to discuss symptoms and concerns with, it can be very difficult for women to assess whether or not their menopause symptoms are ‘normal’.
When professional support fails
And what about the professionals? For some women, talking to their GP is an enlightening and very necessary step in getting the right information and, when necessary, medication to treat their menopausal symptoms. But we’ve noticed many discussions on Gransnet where women have reported feeling at best misunderstood, and at worst, dismissed by some healthcare professionals.
Some have felt their GPs haven’t appreciated the severity of their symptoms and how badly they are affecting their daily lives. If you are someone who has tried to live with increasing anxiety, pain, progressive hair loss or any other symptom, and have finally summoned the courage to make an appointment with a healthcare professional, only to be told nothing can be done, this can really shake your confidence.
Can online communities help?
Talking to like-minded peers, on an anonymous forum like Gransnet, can be a lifeline for women who are looking for support from other people who are either going through, or have already gone through the menopause. Being able to log in at any time of day or night – as we know, sleeplessness is a common side effect of the menopause – and speak to people about weight gain, hair loss, anxiety, skin issues, pain or any of the other symptoms of menopause can be hugely comforting. Women who are in this position want people to reassure them, listen to their stories and share their own experiences.
Talking about symptoms or concerns, asking questions, venting about unsupportive other halves – all of this can help women feel less alone and less stressed about their own menopause experience.