Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘hot flash’

Most. Expensive. Hot Flash. Ever.

I should have known I was in trouble last Thursday when that pop-up zit appeared on the edge of my lip out of nowhere. Up at 5AM to catch a flight north for work, I stared in disbelief at the mirror. Just when I thought the menopausal acne was behind me… But the road to menopause is full of surprises.

Acne. Mood swings. Bloating. Hot flashes. Mood swings. Exhaustion. Hot flashes.  

Yes, hot flashes can be surprising, as they come and go and change and morph throughout the years leading up to “official” menopause, defined as twelve consecutive months with no “monthly friend” (I’m on a six month roll right now – woo-hoo!!). Not only do hot flashes arrive unexpectedly, but they vary widely in intensity. I’ve had some big ones – rolling heat waves that start in my chest and roll upwards until my scalp was tingling.  I’m talking about strip-off-your-clothes-in-mid-winter major hot flashes (indoors and at home, of course). We’ll be watching television quietly at home, and suddenly I’m flinging off my sweater or sweatshirt in a panic. Poor Hubby barely raises an eyebrow anymore when I start peeling off my clothes. Then the hot flashes will subside for a while, with just the occasional night sweat. Mild night sweats have become fairly routine, but they’ve never been debilitating for me. 

I know I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve heard stories of horrendous night sweats, where women wake up so drenched they have to change the sheets. Women who had to keep spare outfits in their offices to change into because a hot flash would ruin their clothes. But not me. My hot flashes are just the nuisance type. Annoying, but manageable. Kinda like me. And it was all under control.

After Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore…

It happened at the Charlotte, NC airport Thursday morning. I caught the 6AM puddle-jumper from home to Charlotte (a 50-minute flight) to connect with another flight north to my office, where I was due to attend an important meeting shortly after landing. I was wearing comfortable dress pants and a colorfully patterned, lightweight polyester knit top. I had a 3-hour layover, so there was no hurry as I strolled from one end of the airport to the other. I felt the hot flash begin, and I knew it was a strong one. I was not only hot, I was also very light-headed, felt faint, and my hands were shaking. I stopped, and I started to feel better. Wow. That was a good one. I figured I’d get something cold to drink and I’d be fine, as usual. I stopped by a little tourist shop along the way, mainly because it was extra cool in there. I strolled around a bit, not to buy anything, but just to enjoy the coolness for a minute.

An employee in the shop looked at me rather oddly, and instead of saying “good morning!” or “Can I help you?” he said “Is everything okay this morning, ma’am?” That struck me as an odd thing to say, and then I thought my mega hot flash must have made my face red. I told him I was fine, and decided I’d better go get that cold drink and sit down somewhere.

As I walked out of the shop, I felt something on the side of my face. I put my fingers up to my left temple, and discovered water was running down my face near my scalp. I was covered in sweat. I’m not talking about a soft dewy glow here. I am talking about big drops of water. Dripping down the side of my face. Good lord, the guy must have thought I was crying, or just…well…a crazy lady drenched in sweat at 8:00 AM. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face. My scalp was sweating. My hair felt damp and limp. Whoa. This was no normal hot flash.

I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a cold drink, and got settled into a seat at a quiet gate. As I sat back against the chair, my back felt cold and clammy. I sat forward and my shirt was clinging to my back. Good grief – I was soaked! I put my hand back there, and sure enough, my shirt was not just damp – it was wet with sweat. The chair was wet. From me. Gross.

I analyzed my options, and wearing this shirt for the rest of the day was not one of them. I had to buy something. I was heading into a meeting less than an hour after landing, and I couldn’t go in wearing a bright t-shirt that said “North Carolina Rocks!” A golf shirt was not dress code compliant. Maybe I could get away with that some other time, but not now – not when I’m trying to convince my employer that I can be away from the home office and still maintain a high level of professionalism.

That left me with two stores: Lacoste (expensive) and Brooks Brothers (more expensive). Lacoste had a sale rack, but nothing on it would work – too clingy, too sheer, too heavy (being warm triggers hot flashes). Why spend $50 on a sale shirt that I know I’ll never wear?

So I went back to Brooks Brothers and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very nice cotton pinstripe shirt with ¾ sleeves. Beautiful fabric. Lovely tailoring. Very professional. Looks great. It is easily the most expensive shirt I’ve ever purchased. The sales tax brought the total over 3 figures. For a shirt.

All because of a monster hot flash at a really bad time and place.

And that’s the story of my first sweat-through-my-clothes hot flash. I don’t need to have another one. Truly, I don’t. Once is enough.

But just in case, I’ll start keeping an extra dress shirt in my office (and in my carry-on when I’m traveling).  

Because I simply can’t afford any more hot flashes like that one.

She’s Havin’ a Heat Wave….

You know, I used to think those t-shirts were so cute that said “It’s not a hot flash, it’s a power surge!”  Yay for women!  That’s what I thought.  What a healthy, charming, and sharp-witted way to look at one of life’s major changes.  “I’m going to get myself one of those shirts when the time comes”, I thought. 

That was then.  This is now.  And now I’ve decided that telling women that hot flashes are empowering and fun is a lot like when parents used to tell their children they were going to an ice cream party when they were really headed into surgery to have their tonsils removed.  Why do we insist on lying to each other?   There is nothing empowering about a hot flash.  Yes, it’s a marker on the way to a new stage of our life as women, and that’s a transition that should be honored and acknowledged, blah, blah, blah.  But a power surge?  Hardly. 

There is nothing powerful about standing in front of a group of 50 business people as I did two weeks ago, about to make an important hour-long presentation, when suddenly I felt the telltale mini-wave of heat (I usually get a warning shot like that before the big one hits).  Uh-oh.  I braced myself for the next tide of warmth, and tried to ignore it with a happy smile and ice-breaking banter with the group.  But how was I supposed to handle the water dripping down the side of my face?  I’d brush it away quickly, and another would appear.  I’d brush that away, and another would be soon be there.  I shed my jacket, knowing I probably looked nervous to the group, which wasn’t exactly the impression I wanted to leave them with.  How could they know that my body temperature felt like it was hitting 110˚?  As I wiped away the fourth or fifth drop of sweat from near my left eye, I realized I had to say something, so I mumbled a few words about having “something in my eye – sorry!” as I tried to continue with some semblance of dignity. 

For several years now, I’ve been relieved that hot flashes didn’t seem to be a big issue for me in perimenopause (that stretch of years just before the real thing).  Yes, I had the very occasional hot flash, usually brought on by nerves or being in warm temperatures.  But they were quick little things, and just a minor inconvenience.  What was everyone complaining about?  The worst one I had until very recently was after a shopping trip on a raw winter day.  The store had been warm, and I was wearing a heavy winter coat and scarf.  By the time Hubby and I got home, I was boiling from the inside out.  He went out to get the rest of the grocery bags from the car, and by the time he came back in from the garage, I had shed coat, scarf, sweatshirt and turtleneck, and I was unpacking groceries in my bra as the snow swirled outside the window.  I just put up my hand and said “hot flash”, and he walked away chuckling.

But now that I’m in the midst of the real deal “Big M”, I’m learning exactly how difficult hot flashes can be.  I have days now when I cycle in and out of hot flashes twenty times or more.  Jacket off, ice water, grab a book to fan myself with.  Then I become totally chilled, and put the jacket back on and grab a cup of coffee.  Which then sets off another hot flash, and jacket off again…  Well, you get the picture.   It’s irritating, distracting, and exhausting. 

While some women describe becoming completely drenched in sweat during their hot flashes, I (so far and usually) just develop a sheen of sweat on my skin.  Normally, my skin just feels like I’ve been outside for a while on a really hot, humid summer day. 

Sometimes I am caught off guard by a full hot rush of heat that will cause me to start shedding clothing desperately (which is interesting when I’m in public…) and send me on a wild search for ice, ice water, a cool breeze, anything!  But normally I get a little warning shot first that lets me know what’s coming.  It’s a little spurt of warmth that just washes over my body in a flash.  I now know that it’s a signal for a “big one”.  Sometimes the real hot flash starts in my chest, and radiates up and out across my upper body.  Sometimes it starts at the top of my scalp and flows downward.  It feels like my thermostat has gone completely out of control.  If you’ve never had one, you really can’t believe how fast your body can heat up.  It’s like having my own little personal furnace, with the knob turned up to “high”.  It’s actually pretty impressive.  So for a minute or two, I’ll be boiling.  And then, just like that, it’s gone.

On a not-so-good day, those hot flashes just roll over me all day long.  On a good day, it will only happen 2 or 3 times.  Usually right after I’ve taken my beloved scalding hot morning shower.  And again after a cup of hot coffee (especially in the afternoons), and again in the evening while I’m relaxing.  One neat trick I’ve learned in the morning is that my hair dryer has a “cold” setting, so I can cool my body down with my hair dryer before getting dressed – it works – honest!

And at night?  Oh my Lord.  I have a small throw blanket folded on top of the blanket on my side of the bed, because I’m usually cold, and Hubby never is.  Over the past few months, that throw routinely goes flying in the middle of the night, as I wake up drenched in sweat.  I fling off the regular blanket and sheets, and just lay there, waiting for it to pass.  If I fall back to sleep right away, I’m sure to wake up 30 minutes later because now I’m cold from not having any covers on.  Then I pick up the throw blanket from the floor and start all over again.

Scientific studies have indicated that the primary reason that menopause can cause irritability and forgetfulness is not because of a particular hormone, but because of these night sweats that wake us up over and over at night.  Don’t believe it?  You try sleeping night after night in a room where someone turns the heat up to 95 and then down to 55 every other hour.   And stop laughing – it’s not funny.

Power surge?  Really?!?  A co-worker told me this week that she had hot flashes for a period of ten years.  I almost wept.  If mine keep up that long, I’ll be locked away in a padded cell somewhere, babbling incoherently from exhaustion.  I just hope it’s air-conditioned.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: