When I was in the hospital recovering from my aortic dissection (yes, I will tell that story soon, just not today), my 54 year old body decided to play a dirty trick on me. Laying in a hospital bed, with a scar running down my chest, and swallowing dilaudid like it was candy, I started having hot flashes.
Understand that I had been complaining for quite a long time about the fact that the average age for menopause is 51 and my body seemed to have no interest in slowing down. Granted, the previous few years were not the smooth sailing that my 20’s-40’s were, but still… (and btw, who would have thought I’d miss my period?). Anyway, I digress, bottom line, regardless of the circumstances, at 54 it was certainly “time” for me to start menopause.
I had had hot flashes and night sweats on and off for the past few years, but this time was and remains different. They come on relentlessly, anytime, anywhere and stop me in my tracks. I am compelled to announce to anyone standing near me that I am having one. Like a catch-all explanation for why I have suddenly derailed and desperately start looking for ways to cool down. I even offer to have people touch the back of my neck, as if watching the sweat bead up on my forehead isn’t enough of a clue. Here are some of my favorite cooling off methods:
- sticking my face as close as possible to my desk fan
- holding my hair off of the back of my neck
- flinging clothes to the four corners of the earth
- kicking off blankets like a banshee; or
- kicking them carefully if I’m with my partner and don’t want to wake him
- laying naked on the cold, tiled bathroom floor
I really shouldn’t complain, my mother started getting hot flashes at 42 years old and still gets them to this day (she’s 77). I always felt bad for her, it’s been awful for her and I sympathized – or so I thought.
I assumed that this ascension into the queendom of crone would last about a year. Hell, I can do anything for a year. But then I read this – the average length of time for a woman to experience hot flashes is 7 years and they may go on for 11 years, or even longer, like my mom.
So, if you see me out and about, and I suddenly look glazed and start pulling at my hair or my clothes, stand back. You’ve been warned.