There I sat, sandwiched between my sleeping BF and a sweet, sleeping elderly lady. Five hours into an 11-hour flight home from Tokyo, we were on the final leg home from vacation. It seemed as if everyone on the plane was asleep, except me. I sat watching a horrible episode of Friends. I was sober, Xanax-free and slightly content, close to drifting off. Then, out of nowhere, I felt intense sheets of heat radiating from my back, neck and butt. Soon, the heat moved through me, and settled in, happily creating a clammy stickiness of sweat throughout my entire upper body. Carefully, I got up and quietly went to the middle of the plane where I could fan myself and cool off. The flight attendant, who spoke minimal English, smiled at me and held her hands out, instructing me back to my seat. I smiled back with a ‘woman to woman’ grin and said, ‘menopause,’ thinking she’d understand. I stayed put and continued fanning myself with a smile. Again, she smiled and held her hands out directing me back to my seat, my forehead sparkling with sweat. I asked for a cup of ice and sat down. 10 minutes later, my hot flash was gone, my shirt was damp, and I was ready for a glass of wine.
At 41 I had a full hysterectomy for medical reasons, leaving me with one lone ovary. The thought of it reminded me of Charlie Browns Christmas tree that had only 1 ornament. At times I feel sorry for my lonely ovary. But like an empty nester, she is slowly but surely getting acclimated to the new environment that is now, all hers. Six month after my hysterectomy, it was confirmed by tests and my OB that I was definitely in Menopause; that was 2 1/2 years ago.
These are real. It has nothing to do with a momentary flash where you feel hot and sexy, that is NOT a hot flash. More often they present as a cookie sheet of heat radiating out from your body and over all areas of your back. Mine use to come in sets that would ebb and flow for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. First the massive sauna like back sweating, then the heat would roll up over my scalp and drop into my forehead in the form of a massive heatwave, creating a lovely, clammy, glistening appearance. The biggest downside of hot flashes, in my opinion, is going through all of this sweating and not losing a lb. If I sweat that much at the gym, I would definitely be walking out several pounds lighter. Hot flashes by no means, result in weight loss. I know, it’s a bit of a cruel joke. As of the last four months I’ve been getting them a lot more frequently, but, now that I know what to expect, they are easier to maneuver through. These aren’t as bad as you may think. I DO sleep with the windows open and a fan directly on my body, though (even when it’s only 28 degrees out).
These are like drinking an invisible bottle of ‘QuikBitch’ that lasts for 1 – to 3 hours straight. You’ll cry, you’ll whine, you might fantasize about punching things, you’ll pick an argument about stuff you don’t even care about, but suddenly makes you crazy. Example:
“Did you wear that shirt just to piss me off, cuz it seems like you did.”
“I thought you liked this shirt, you bought it for me?”
“So now you’re just wearing it because I bought it for you?”
*Partners of menopausal, these aren’t arguments you can solve, just walk away. Menopausals, you will feel like a defeated, pouty child. Menopause may cause massive overeating; moments of feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of when you hear simple things like, “Can you get that report for me?” You’ll discover you’re out of detergent right before you do a load of laundry, which may result in an empty red jug of Tide being launched, skipping across the laundry room floor at high speed like a bowling ball. Normal, cheesy jokes that come out of your partner or friends mouth that usually results in an eye roll and dry laughter will come will a viscous scowl, furrowed brow and the response, “Are you F*cking kidding me? Did you really just say that to me?” Most of us know PMS, the beast of menopause, which may vary in intensity, is one that is untamed.
Menopause Mood Swing Hangover
These mood swings will be followed up with what I refer to as menopause mood swing hangover. It usually lasts 5 minutes to 1 hour. It’s the period of time where you first look around at the devastation you just caused in awe, wondering how the hell you did all that destruction in such a short amount of time. It feels like in your mind’s eye, you’re looking at an emotional hotel room that looks like it’s been trashed by Johnny Depp. The mayhem is laid out before you and in somewhat of a fugue state, you apologize, saying, “I don’t know why I said/did that.”
Because I had a full hysterectomy, I haven’t gotten a period for 2 1/2 years and never will again. Prior to it though, I had more than my share of crazy periods. Periods that lasted a month, periods that ride around your uteral block, stopping in once a week or every several days just to say ‘Hi’ and piss you off. Then there are the ones that pop up at random like an ex-boyfriend calling for a bootie call, unpredictable and uninvited. My suggestion, iron supplements, if you have excessive periods talk to your OB, though probably normal, the blood loss will cause lethargy, fatigue, possibly irritable sleep, and brain fog. Always good to check with your OB when something changes drastically.
Your New, Schizophrenic Body
Your weight and body will make you feel like a buoy in the ocean, sometimes firm and steady, but more often wobbly, submerged and bloated. Some Natural Herbs and Supplements may work so look into what you’re comfortable with, but the best thing for weight, I’ve found, is simply smaller portioned, well-balanced meals.
This brings me to the moment when my OB filled me in on what may go on with my vagina during the ‘menopause’ phase. She gave me the Menopause 411, but then she said, “If things get to the point where you want to do hormone replacement call me.” I was intrigued by this. I mean, how bad could it be? I figured it was just like turning the lights out and closing up a room you didn’t use anymore and that was that. But then my OB said, “And if things get dry, just call and I can recommend something.” Caught off guard I said, “What do you mean dry?” Without hesitation she said, “If sex starts to feel like razors.” Well, my vagina ran up into my body and hid behind my rib cage like a scared hiker in the Rockies after I heard that. I wanted to close my eyes, shake my head and cover my ears, screaming NO, NO, NO!! It was weird enough when I was 9 and didn’t know anything about periods only to have my mother tell me and my older sister that soon, we would bleed from our vagina. After that I hid in my room for hours and cried. Now I was being told a place that has allowed me quite a bit of pleasure, may at times feel like I am being screwed by the dick of a Mad Max character? Seriously?!?! I love my OB, but I stopped her and said, “Don’t ever say anything like that to me, again.” I wanted to add, “You’ve offended me and you’ve offended my vagina. We’re leaving.” But I didn’t, I stayed. I need her.
The most important thing, give those you are close to, close friends and lovers, a heads up on what’s going on. Secrets suck and it will make it so much easier for all involved when the gifts of menopause DO strike, and they will.
Menopause Preparedness Kit:
*Handkerchief for random daytime bouts of sweating (HF)
*Get earplugs for your mate during mood swings.
*Dress in layers – so you can repeatedly remove clothes and put them back on again.
*Bags of snickers for your mate to give… or throw at you, when you are acting insane.
*Keep having sex, it’s healthy, just buy a water based KY if you encounter problems.
*Time your outbursts, it will help you to know when they’re on their way and what to expect.
*Naps are good, because sound sleep is never promised
*Wine is delicious, but drink modestly because it may exacerbate your hot flashes
*Same with Coffee, drink modestly because it may exacerbate your hot flashes
~With Sweat & Tears,