A group of women sit at a coffee shop together and chat. They all have a cup of coffee.
A social group can provide much-needed support and a sense of connectedness during menopause. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Menopause can often cause feelings of loneliness.

Women don’t always want to talk about their difficult moments and, sometimes, they may even think they’re somehow to blame for how they feel.

As a result, too many women suffer in silence.

Midlife and menopause can be a confusing time as women deal with common experiences such as night sweats, anxiety, weight gain and low sex drive.

About 80% of women have symptoms that lower their quality of life and affect their work and relationships with family and friends. It can disrupt a woman’s sense of normalcy.

As Laura, a nurse practitioner I work with, says: “Menopause is normal, but suffering is not.”

Happy and connected

One of the highlights of summer in West Michigan is the Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, Michigan.

This big event reminds me of the power of community.

I grew up in Grand Haven and I’ve always loved how the weeklong Coast Guard activities bring so many people home to experience the downtown streets, all bustling with families and friends out walking and enjoying the events.

It’s a time for reconnecting to people and place.

Being intentional about maintaining close ties with family and friends doesn’t just feel good—it’s a practice that helps us cope when times are hard.

Researchers have conducted studies to understand why some people cope with change and hardship better than others. One of the things they’ve found is that people who do three things in particular cope better than others:

  • They believe they deserve to be happy.
  • They keep a support network around them.
  • They ask for help when they need it.

Menopause is a time to reach out to others for help, just as you would with health issues like PMS or postpartum depression.

You must get the support you need.

Many women turn to the Midlife, Menopause & Sexual Health team to help them find solutions for the symptoms of menopause.

Our patients say they don’t feel embarrassed about their questions when they come to us. They know we will provide answers about why something is happening to them.

Most importantly, we give them options that will help them feel better.

We become a woman’s support network, which in itself starts a chain reaction in which we’re able to help others—one woman will come see us, then tell her friends and family about us. Soon, we’re seeing her whole group.

And that group becomes the support network for each other, too, as they discover they can understand and help each other.

A friend in need

One of our patients experiencing menopause—I’ll call her Janine—had felt like many women, in that she felt alone.

She felt embarrassed about her hot flashes and she did everything she could to keep people from noticing.

The anxiety about the possibility of having a hot flash, however, would only make a hot flash come on.

Night sweats kept her up at night. She grew more and more anxious and stressed. Out of the blue she experience some bleeding.

When her husband mentioned something about not having sex anymore, she felt really bad.

She’d been afraid that her pulling away would make her husband mad, or lead to something even worse.

But she just didn’t feel like herself. And she didn’t know what to do.

She felt alone, without answers.

Thankfully, Janine has a good friend—a friend who got frustrated at her for canceling dates to get together.

Her friend, Sue, showed up at her home one day and said, “I am not leaving without us talking.”

By the end of the conversation, Janine knew she was not alone in her symptoms of menopause.

There was hope.

As it turns out, Sue had been in to see us at the Midlife, Menopause & Sexual Health clinic. She chose to take hormones and she had been following our SEEDS program.

She was now drinking plenty of water, she’d given up sugar, she had quiet time each day and she walked every morning.

She had found a support group and got help when she needed it—and then she shared that info with her friend.

That connection could change Janine’s life.

Whether you’re in Grand Haven or in your own hometown this summer, take a minute to be grateful for beautiful communities. Be grateful for supportive family and friends.

When you have problems, reach out to them and ask for help.

Whatever group you turn to for help—a book club, a wine club, women at the hair salon, the church, the YMCA—recognize that it’s possible for other women to feel the same way you do. It’s OK to ask for help.