Thus Spake Zuska

Last winter it was not uncommon for me to go to bed wearing two flannel nightgowns. I would hunker down under our thickest comforter, pressed up against Mr. Zuska for warmth. Mr. Zuska, like many men, is an astonishing heat source, for which I have been grateful on many a chilly night.

This winter, things are different. I wear a short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of cotton shorts to bed. We haven’t broken out the heavy comforter. Sometimes I can’t tolerate being too close to Mr. Zuska’s blast furnace body.

What changed? It’s menopause!

The mid-forties seem a little young to me for menopause but apparently it’s not unheard of, and here I am in the middle of it. The hot flashes started in July, and I was truly miserable in the summer. From one minute to the next, it would feel as if someone had suddenly turned the heat up fifteen degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, and yes, rest of the world, we here in the U.S. are still stubbornly clinging to our Fahrenheit scale and feet and pounds and all the rest of it.) This would last anywhere from two to five minutes, then gradually subside. In the beginning this happened every half hour. It’s much less frequent now.

It’s a strange sensation, not exactly like just being yourself outside on a hot day. It’s more like the hot day has gotten inside your body and you just want to crawl out of your skin to get away from it. You know the heat is going to stop in a few moments, but for those few moments you feel you absolutely cannot tolerate it.

The key, as I have been told, is layers, so you can peel them off and put them back on as needed, though this is of limited utility in the summer. There’s only so much clothing you can wear at once in the summer and you can’t really peel down to your bra in public, no matter how desperately you feel you must. So summer was pretty miserable for me.

But then the weather cooled and ahhhhh….nothing like a hot flash to warm you up on a chilly day! It’s amazing. When they come, even my normally chilly fingers warm up.

I find two other “side effects” that go along with this hormonally-induced temperature roller coaster. One, on average, I do not feel as cold in general. And I don’t mind keeping the house at a cooler temperature because when I start flashing, the cooler temp is most welcome. These days we set the temperature to 58 at night and 64 for the daytime. Even when I’m not flashing, these cooler temps don’t seem as bothersome to me as they would have last year.

Two, and this would seem to contradict number one, but here it is: occasionally I have what I can only call a “cold flash”. I will suddenly start feeling very cold, then shivering, and I just cannot get myself warm. It’s the same sensation as with the hot flash – it feels like the cold is inside me. I wonder, have any of you other menopausal old crones experienced anything like this? It’s much, much rarer than the hot flashes but it does happen. Once it happened when we were at the movies. I was wearing a t-shirt and sweat jersey but had to put my coat on. I was still shivering and Mr. Zuska gave me his coat to drape over my legs. Finally the uncontrollable shivering settled down.

But the overall increased warmth thing is what really amazes me. I can’t stand wearing my flannel nightgown to bed – way too warm – and turtlenecks are pretty much ruled out. If possible, all clothing should be cotton. I do wonder if, when the hot flashes finally end, I’ll go back to being my usual chilly self, or will this increased tolerance of cold temperatures stay with me?

If you’re in menopause, or you’ve been through it, share your stories with me here. How do you experience hot flashes? Do you have “cold flashes”? Do you feel warmer overall? And don’t you just luv not havin’ teh periods anymore?!?!??!


  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 23, 2008

    When you have a hot flash, is your body actually retaining more heat and increasing your core temperature, or is it just a sensation of being hot?

    BTW, it’s fucking great that you’re blogging all prolific and shit, Z! w00t!!

  2. #2 Doug Alder
    December 23, 2008

    My wife was forced into menopause at 51 yrs due to surgery. Last winter I practically froze as no matter where we had the thermostat set it was too hot, what a difference a year makes – this year I found her resetting the thermostat 2 C higher 🙂 I’m much happier and more comfortable – so that should answer your question about will it stay with you 🙂

  3. #3 Wendy
    December 26, 2008

    Ah, power surges. There is a lot of variability in how women experience perimenopausal symptoms. I began having hot flushes, the ones that happen at night only, in my early 30’s and in my early 40’s started with heart palpitations and short-term memory challenges. ahaha Anyway, I am now 50 and still have hot flashes. They come and go as they have for years — I might have them for a week or two or so and then not again for months. I get ‘hot’ ears still — one ear or part of one ear — hot flushes along both cheekbones and across the bridge of my nose, sometimes down my neck — bright red and generating enough heat to warm a small town!I have not menstruated in almost 2 years, so I am passed that ‘official’ and magical menopausal mark. I know many women with more severe hot flashes, where they simply drip with perspiration and they fear having flashes during inconvenient times,like business meetings, wedding receptions, because they are so debilitating. And, then there are cultures which report no perimenopausal effects. Go figure we’d live crappy enough lifestyles to earn this consequence! Well, live clean and that seems to minimize the experiences and embrace this next stage of your beautiful womanly body!

    I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for your great thoughts and attitude!


  4. #4 Tree
    December 26, 2008

    I’ve been running cold since my mid-30’s when insulin resistance kicked in.

    I’ve been having hot flashes since late June, after the third dose of chemo for breast cancer. I’m lucky that the hot flashes are not as bad as some women (leaving aside that I’m lucky to be alive), but the ‘cold flashes’ make me miserable. Contrary to what people say about heat being worse than cold, you can cool down pretty quickly with a nice iced drink (or just by kicking off the covers), but it feels like it takes hours to warm up. Here’s a good source for more flash information:

    You may be fortunate to enter menopause early; the fewer menstrual cycles your body must endure, the fewer opportunities for milk duct cells and uterine cells to go astray while dividing and become cancerous.

    Oh me? 46 when diagnosed, 47 now. My ‘care team’ is very pleased, but I’m BRCA positive…which means I heal agressively, while generally not doing very well on tumor suppression. Just don’t get me started on Chemo Brain, though BTW, glutamine helps with all kinds of memory issues.

  5. #5 Zuska
    December 26, 2008

    Tree, thanks for the website and for sharing your story. I’m sending all my positive thoughts your way. And thanks for spending some of your time here reading my blog. Glutamine, eh? I may have to try that.

  6. #6
    December 27, 2008

    I have had hot flashes now for 5 years. They are much worse in the summer. I hate them because of the indignity of it and the constant reminder that I am not young and fresh, which is what our culture wants. I have to stick my face close in front of a fan at work, so my co workers know when I have one. Only in the last year has anything made any difference in it, namely that I now have acupuncture treatments and also take an herbal remedy prescribed by my acupuncturist which has wild yam extract. This makes me have far fewer hot flashes as long as the outside temperature is cool that is, less than about 40 or 50 degrees. As soon as the temperature rises outside, nothing will stop the indignity. I hope that maybe someday I’ll just grow out of it.

  7. #7 Jacqueline
    December 28, 2008

    I’ve been combing the web for weeks now looking for hot flash info and I had to leave a comment on your blog — you are the one and only woman I’ve come across who puts a positive spin on hot flashes (sometimes when it is really cold and chilly, a hot flash doesn’t really seem like a bad thing). Hmm… let’s see how much I could save on this year’s oil bill with hot flashes?

    @Tree, liked the link. Here’s some of the best info I’ve found (especially since the latest news on HRT and breast cancer has me scrambling for holistically based approaches to symptom control):

  8. #8 Quercki MoonSinger
    December 29, 2008

    Waking up generally triggers a hot flash. I’ve always been a light sleeper, and I frequently have insomnia, so I wake up and flash fairly often. The books say hot flashes wake women up, but for me, it’s the waking that causes the hot flash.

    Sometimes I have hot flashes during the day. I also get the rare cold flash.

    I like this meditation, although I haven’t quite figured out how to read it and do it both.
    Kundalini Meditation

  9. #9 PeggyL
    December 29, 2008

    Yes, layers are the key! I don’t seem to have the overall increase in warmth that you describe, Zuska. In between hot flashes I’m just as cold as I’ve always been, so can’t get away with lowering the thermostat. The flashes come and go in frequency, and I hope they will decrease now that my ob/gyn says my hormones are officially menopausal. It’s when they wake me up at night that it really bothers me. I don’t sweat as much as some women, so that has not been an issue.

  10. #10 Pat
    January 2, 2009

    A quick practical note– even when you’re not menstruating, it is recommend that you keep using birth control for at least 12 months after your last period.

  11. #11 Beth
    January 7, 2009

    Have had the flashes for 6 years or so now. Nothing quite as special as having one while teaching or in a meeting when you are supposed to be talking. Comrade PhysioProf, they are sometimes called “hot flushes” and this is accurate. The reason you get them is the blood all goes to your extremities and you sometimes flush in the face as well as feeling hot (and your skin is hot to the touch). Layers of clothing and a personal fan (manual or electric) help but there is no cure that I have found. I can corroborate the utility in helping cure cold feet or hands. Just wait for the next flash and you are warm. No more flannel nightgowns for me! And the cats get thrown off the bed with the covers sometimes! But gotta love the no longer cycling thing…

  12. #12 DNA Lady
    January 20, 2009

    Hot Flashes! No more cold feet.

  13. #13 Interrobang
    January 21, 2009

    I’m looking forward to menopause. My core body temperature sits about 36.3C normally and I’m always freezing, unless the temperature gets up to around 37C or above. Robert Service summed up my feelings as to why I’m looking forward to hot flashes: “Since I left Plumtree/Down in Tennessee/It’s the first time I’ve been warm!”

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