In the Heat of Midlife

by Karen Batchelor of MidLife’s A Trip

Peri-menopause was the first stop on my midlife trip.  It rolled in when I was about 45.  I remember visiting my doctor because I was having night sweats.  I told him I was in menopause.

Knowing me as he does (I’m a doctor’s daughter), he took my astute “diagnosis” with a slight roll of the eyes and a smile.  Somewhat smug, he assured me that it was far too early for me to be in menopause.  To pacify me, though, he took some tests.  My estrogen was on the floor!

I take no pride in being right on this point.  Menopause for me was hell.  And it really felt that way.  I was hot all the time.  Day, night, it made no difference.  I was just hot–not as in “boy is she hot” but as in sweaty and uncomfortable.  If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about.

Let’s view the anatomy of a hot flash.  Haven’t had one yet?  Thank your lucky stars because they are the pits.  Just picture me as a match and somebody struck me.  I remember so many times where I was literally on fire from the waist up.  Never understood it but that’s the mystique of menopause.  Strange symptoms, weird feelings–anxiety as the adrenaline surged through me during each hot flash as if I had just run a marathon.

One day, being the quasi-analytical person that I am, I did a scientific experiment during a hot flash.  Beats just sitting there on fire.  The memory is so clear.  I was in my apartment looking out at the Detroit River with a thermometer in my mouth as the flash grew in intensity.  That’s menopause slang for “put the hose on me, please”.

As beads of sweat started to pop up out my forehead, arms and other places north of my waist–I kept the thermometer under my tongue sure that the heat in me would register on the little glass stick.  I waited minutes–which seemed like eternity–for the hot flash to pass and then slipped on my reading glasses to check the tiny little numbers sure to register the fire within.  Analytics to hell and back–my temp was normal.

Now being in the heat of menopause wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about night sweats.  A night sweat is basically a hot flash that hits while you’re sleeping.  Here’s the drill.  Wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.  Nothing’s wrong but your adrenaline tells you there is.

As you move up from deep sleep into consciousness you realize you’re cold.  Wake up a little more and you realize the reason you’re cold is that you are lying between 2 drenching wet sheets in sopping wet nightclothes.  I–who sweats very little unless extreme exercise is involved–was amazed at the amount of sweat I could produce during a single night sweat.  Buckets, I’m telling you.  Just buckets.

Part of the time I was in menopause I was married to my second husband, Charles.  The second.  I can only say that it must have been a during a menopausal fog–yet another symptom–that I married a second husband with the same name as my first.  I know–crazy isn’t it.  Not to worry though–my family won’t even let me talk to men whose names begin with “C” anymore–except my son.  Charles.

I digress though.  What I wanted to share is how to handle having night sweats while sleeping with someone.  There’s an art form to extricating yourself from the wet sheets, going to change, coming back and making a sandwich of dry towels in the bed so you can slip in and go to sleep again without changing the linens and waking the person on the other side of the bed.  I did it successfully.  Later though, the night sweats passed and so did the second Charles.

Now I proud to say I’m “post”.  Yes I’ve done the purge of the cabinet under the bathroom sink, gleefully throwing away boxes of Kotex and Tampons forever.  And now is it over, you ask?  Well I wish I could say that’s the case.  I mean didn’t you think that menopause had a beginning and an end.  I know I did.

But I can’t lie.  The hot flashes still come — infrequently though.  Over the more than 10 years since that first flash, I’ve tried everything from estrogen (natural and synthetic) to an exotic Peruvian herb.  And I’m here to tell you that there’s only one sure remedy I’ve found for flashing.  And you can take this to the bank:

  1. Go into the kitchen.
  2. Open your freezer door.
  3. Stick your head in (this works so much better when the freezer is on the top or side!)
  4. Let the cold air drift out–especially over your neck.
  5. Stand there until the flash passes–which is pretty quick.
  6. Close the freezer door and think “damn, that midlife blogger was right”.

If you’ve discovered another way to fight hot flashes, please share because a lot of our midlife sisterhood are still looking for ways to survive the heat of midlife.

Signed — One Hot Mama, still.


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