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?!?!??!