At any given moment, 50 million or more women in the U.S. are experiencing menopause – that is a massive percentage of the population. Unfortunately, just at the time when women need help the most, many stay silent. In fact, research shows that women typically wait five months before letting their partner know about their symptoms. And a whopping 16% never discuss it with anyone at all.
So even though perimenopause and menopause are natural and universal transitions, it can be an isolating experience. In the words of Alanis Morissette – whose 2020 comeback we’re 100% here for:
It doesn’t help that conversations about hormones, hot flashes, vaginal dryness (!) and the like can feel awkward. But “self-silencing” — bottling up your emotions — puts your health at risk.
That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to open the door to help and get these talks started with the important people in your life. Network isn’t capable of giving you support? We’ll be your support team. If you need help or just a sympathetic ear, text us at 646-760-6669.
So let’s start talking!
Step 1: Write down your needs.
Writing out a list of your symptoms and what works best to handle them will ensure that you’re clear about your needs—and that in turn will help you make them clear to your support system. Once they’re down on paper, try ranking them in order of most disruptive –> least.
Step: 2: Name your network.
Next, write down a list of 2-3 important people in your life who either 1) impact your daily experience or 2) could be a source of strength. Maybe you want someone to confide in occasionally. Maybe you need more concrete help: a housemate who is at the ready if, say, a sudden hot flash makes you want to throw your computer – and work Zoom call – across the room and stick your head in the freezer. Maximize your network by selecting from multiple areas of your life: your partner, a trusted colleague, friends, maybe your children.
Step 3: Map out what you want to say.
Some key topics to consider in advance of the conversation:
- What exactly are your symptoms and how severe are they? Include both physical and emotional sensations. Don’t forget to talk about how frequently you experience them, how long they last, and how bad they are on a scale of 1 to 5. The more concrete you can be about what you’re experiencing, the easier for others who lack personal experience to understand.
- How do you feel about menopause overall? It’s important to be honest (with yourself and with your support network) about the emotions this transition brings up for you.
- How specifically can they be helpful? Of course it’s good to say “I need your support,” but it’s far more helpful to say “When I have a hot flash, I’d love it if you would get me a cold drink—and I’d love it if you didn’t make a joke about it.”
HAVING “THE TALK”
Step 1: Give plenty of notice.
Put a date to talk on your calendars and set aside at least 30 minutes to make sure there’s time for you to give your support person the full picture. A helpful tip: At the time you schedule the talk, ask how much the person already knows about menopause. If the answer is “not much,” give them a little prep work to do. For starters, try sharing Elektra’s Perimenopause 101 or Menopause 101 as homework, depending on where you are in your journey.
Step 2: Create a calm space.
Make sure you’re rested and feeling comfortable the day of the conversation. Don’t go into it hungry or cranky or pressed for time.
Step 3: Make it a two-way street.
Yes, this is about you, but make sure you allow plenty of time and emotional space for your supporters to ask questions and present their own feelings and fears.
KEEPING THE DIALOGUE GOING
Step 1: Agree on a regular check-in (weekly?).
It doesn’t need to be a lengthy talk every time—a simple text may do—but ensuring a consistent opportunity to ask for help, get feedback and simply share what’s going on is key.
Step 2: Provide feedback in real time.
Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. If someone does something to help you, thank them! And if they let you down, let them know that, too—along with clear, concrete suggestions for how they can strengthen their support moving forward.
Be intentional about creating and nurturing your own personal “Meno Support Team.” And be ready to be a strong, present member of someone else’s when you’re asked!