How To Start Speaking Up About Menopause
Women have been taking huge strides in the past couple of decades. In the workplace, at home, and everywhere in between, we’ve been smashing stereotypes and breaking taboos, and we’re still going.
But somehow, there’s still something that we find really hard to talk about it, a dirty word that many women can’t even bring themselves to say out loud: menopause.
Menopause doesn’t come up a lot in many conversations, but staying quiet about “the big change” is contributing to stigmas around it and holds you back from thriving under the circumstances.
Here’s why we should be having frank conversations about menopause, and how we can go about bringing it up with our friends, family, and colleagues.
The Menopause Taboo
Menopause is a biological process that we’ve come to understand a little more over the years, but there’s still such a negative stigma around it that makes it hard to talk about.
Reaching menopause is a milestone that signals that your reproductive cycle is no longer releasing eggs so that you can get pregnant. On the one hand, this means that you no longer have a menstrual cycle, which can come as a great relief to many women. But it can also be a dreaded harbinger of doom, signaling the end of an era and presenting a sign that you’re getting older.
In a society where we normally avoid talking about female bodies and sexuality, this makes it that much harder for many of us to discuss the changes that come with perimenopause. It also means that some of the normal symptoms we can experience, from mood swings to thinning hair and a loss of sexual appetite, can be too embarrassing to even acknowledge.
At the end of the day, too many women equate talking about menopause with showing vulnerability in sensitive matters like reproduction and aging. But the more we talk about it, the more progress we can make with destroying the stigmas and normalizing the changes that are so normal for so many women.
Why You Should Be Talking About Menopause
The first step towards normalizing menopause and creating a better support system for you is to have frank, open, and honest discussions about it with those around you.
- You should talk about menopause with your family and friends since the changes that happen in your body during menopause can come with undesirable, uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing symptoms that can affect not only you but those around you. Talking about them helps your circle understand what you’re going through and allows them to figure out ways to be supportive, not bewildered, as you’re going through your changes.
- It’s also about time we start talking about menopause in the workplace. Opening up the conversation with your superiors and colleagues can help overcome stigmas and stereotypes surrounding age in your work environment and can foster a support system in the place where you spend significant amounts of time.
- You should talk about menopause with a like-minded community as well. Menopause can feel isolating, especially when no one else you know is going through it (or experiencing symptoms to a lesser degree). Finding other women who are also experiencing the highs and lows of menopause opens up the conversation in a safe space so you can find help and a sense of belonging in an otherwise-lonely situation.
But most importantly, opening up and talking about menopause is good for you. Because menopause is still such a taboo topic, there’s also a lack of education around the subject, and that can lead to denial and shame. Educating others on the subject and normalizing it in conversations can help you (and future generations) deal with this change a little more effectively.
Plus, speaking with others, especially a community of other menopausal women, can help you find tips and tricks to cope with your symptoms beyond the info that your doctor gives you.
At the end of the day, talking about menopause can help you accept what’s happening and verbalize a means to approach it so that it doesn’t take over your life. It can even help you figure out if something is seriously amiss with your own menopause journey that could require medical attention.
How To Talk To Your Family And Friends About Menopause
Starting the conversation might be the hardest part about talking about menopause.
The best way to approach the conversation is simply by putting it out there and addressing that menopause is happening and giving them the relevant information.
Relevant things to address as you talk about menopause:
- Address that it’s a natural, medical change that happens to every woman as they reach a certain age. It can be helpful to have a basic understanding of the science behind menopause and how and why it happens in the first place.
- Draw comparisons. If you have kids, for example, it might be helpful to approach this discussion the same way you would have talked to them about their own hormonal changes during puberty. You could also liken it to pregnancy, another major change that affects your body and requires some support from those around you.
- Acknowledge how the changes can affect your personal life. For example, if you’re prone to dramatic mood swings, letting those closest to you know that it’s your hormones causing you to snap can help them recognize the signs and support you through it, rather than taking it personally and making the situation worse.
- It also doesn’t have to be one long, formal discussion. Simply bringing up menopause when it’s a relevant part of the conversation - when talking about your workday, acknowledging a hot flash, etc. - normalizes the topic and lets them in on how it affects your day-to-day.
Don’t be discouraged if you feel as though they don’t fully understand how menopause is affecting you. Even if your partner and/or kids can’t exactly empathize with your situation, talking to them about what you’re going through still lets them in on how you’re not quite yourself and find out ways to support you.
Menopause In The Workplace
We should also start talking about menopause in the place where many of us spend a ton of time - the workplace.
Perimenopause generally comes around the same time that many women reach their career peaks, which on average is about age 44 for women. Unfortunately, menopause can come with symptoms that can directly affect your performance at work, like brain fog, anxiety, self-doubt.
And what’s worse, agism hardly ever gets directly addressed in the workplace, but can absolutely lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes about what you as an older woman can accomplish in the workplace.
Once again, acknowledging that the changes are happening is key to starting the conversation. Here’s how to bring menopause up at work:
- It might be awkward at first, but simply bringing up that you are going through menopause is the first step. Come prepared to acknowledge what changes are happening, and how they could potentially affect your workday and productivity if they go unaddressed.
- Know what you need. If there’s anything that could be changed in your work environment in order to let you thrive despite the symptoms, let your superiors know.
- Even in lieu of a formal conversation with your boss, it’s worth bringing up the role that menopause can play in your workday, especially around other women who may either be going through it or will go through it one day. Addressing menopause when it’s appropriate is a good way to normalize the subject and empower women to speak up more often.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with your direct manager or peers, or if you feel that your company doesn’t provide enough support for women in all life stages, it’s worth talking to your HR department instead. They have the power to change not only the work environment but the culture, in order to make it a more supportive place for you and any other women working with you. After all, it’s more than time that women begin to feel supported in the workplace.
Bringing it up at work can be a scary situation, but it can ultimately make our lives easier and generate more understanding for all the women to come.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: talking about menopause, our bodies, and all the changes that come with getting older is not always an easy discussion. But if we don’t talk about it, we’re doing ourselves a disservice and holding ourselves back from being able to fully enjoy all the things to come. Bringing it up with others is a relief for both you and them - you just need to take the first step.