It feels like some tiny impish being resides in the back of my head, at the base of my skull. He (it has to be a “he” because no “she” would be this callous) has control of a rheostat residing in my hypothalamus and he turns it up and down as he wishes. I’m sure if I listen carefully, I can hear him giggling all the while my internal body temperature feels like it’s going up, up, UP! Then, at some point, the imp seems to think I’ve had enough for the TIME BEING, and puts my body temperature back to normal; but, NOT until my chest, neck and face are royally flushed and beaded with sweat. Also, NOT until everyone nearby who sees me has that astonished look on their face. I had no idea what they were seeing until I actually looked in a mirror as I was experiencing one of these things they call HOT FLASHES. But wait! He doesn’t just do that when I’m around people, but also when I’m in a situation where I can’t adequately deal with it like driving my car, trying to sleep or working on art. During those times, he makes sure that the heat is really turned up so I just don’t ignore it, which is what I do when I have a “minor” hot flash. Oh no! I have to be in a full on sweat with the beads actually dripping down into my eyes! No running to the freezer to put my head in, or run outside when it’s freezing cold. No. It only gets better though. Sometimes they will occur about every half hour or so for about three weeks, while other times they are completely gone! Just when I begin to think I’m past the hot flashes, another twist is added. How about having a COLD FLASH prior to the HOT FLASH! What’s that, you may ask? Yes, that’s right folks, my temperature will seem to have equilibrium and all is normal when, during a very warm day, AND without warning, I have to pull on a sweater! I’ll have that sweater on for, oh….about fifteen or so minutes when the little imp turns that darned rheostat all the way up the opposite way. Then, I’ve broken out into a sweat and start peeling off layers of clothing with sweat beads rolling down my face. I must look like a CRAZY PERSON when that happens! How come my mother never told me about these things? Why hadn’t anyone prepared me for this?
It is difficult enough for me to sleep for other reasons, but having hot flashes certainly doesn’t help matters. I keep a stack of tea towels in my night stand just for these things. I have a “cooling” pillow that I will flip around to cool to help cool my head. My bedding is layered and for the most part, I sleep with just a sheet over me until the evil hot flashes occur. My spouse knows when the hot flashes are particularly bad because, A) I don’t get close. Heck, I’m afraid I’ll stick to him like tar paper!; B) I am grumpy! Normally, I’m a pretty easy going gal. My life is good. I have NO COMPLAINTS ~ not that anyone would listen, anyway, but my life is going very well. So, when I’m, well, GRUMPY, he knows I had a bad night with the hot flashes. There is also something else called “Night Sweats.” I’ve come to realize that THOSE are just the COLD FLASHES happening at night! Oh, another thing these nasty little things do to me…..Uhhhh…I forget. What was that I was going to write? <pause>………..Oh yeah! Memory! Because I don’t sleep well, my brain is sort of dull and I tend to be a little forgetful. It’s not early onset dementia; it’s lack of sleep from all of those HOT and COLD flashes happening all night long. Thinking about it, maybe I could use a nap.
I’m just trying to go through the physical changes of my life as naturally and gracefully as possible. I suppose I could go on hormone therapy but what happens when you stop???? Don’t they just come back with a vengeance???? How did women before me handle these things so discreetly? Or, is it why they were so bitchy and grumpy as they got older? I don’t know but I’ll tell you what: I’m going to handle these darned things like I handle all difficult situations in my life ~ have fun with them! MAKE fun of them! Let the world know that, yes, we do have to go through this process and we can do it with dignity and grace AND handle it with a light attitude! After all, they AREN’T painful like the monthly thing. Oh! I had TERRIBLE, debilitating ones. Just about every month, they would take me out of commission for at least a day or so. No doctor could understand why! They were bad though. I was even put on probation at work for abusing sick time, which I wasn’t. It was documented. I just didn’t have an official cause for it. It just was and my boss was a — yes — man. It figures.
So, yes, I guess I can handle these annoying, sleep-depriving things called HOT FLASHES and the cold ones, too. It’s gotta be about attitude and perspective. I’ll NOT complain in a serious way. Oh, by the way, I’m not crazy, either. Not dangerously, that is…..But, these things sure can make me LOOK like I am….
*This piece is dedicated to every woman who has endured or will endure this, whether it is chemically, surgically or naturally induced. It’s all about attitude and YOU AREN’T ALONE!