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Hot and bothered by the menopause

Written by Fiona

January 08 2019

I wake up several times most nights, sweat prickling and dripping down my skin, soaking my pyjamas. (I have to wear PJs these days otherwise I soak through the sheets.) Each time I wake, I throw away the covers in annoyance and try to cool off. Then I must attempt to get back to sleep.

As sleep alludes me, I will feel an urge to pee and so I shuffle from the bed to the bathroom, by now feeling chilled by the cold sweat drying into my clothing. I return to my (damp) side of the bed and try, again, to go back to sleep. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but it’s rarely quick.

It happens several times on some nights and just once on others. I have no idea why and no grasp of a pattern.

Every morning, I feel jaded and grumpy. I need more sleep and I have taken to having longer lie-ins recently but eventually I know I have to get up. I force myself to get on with life or work. I mask my exhaustion with strong coffee and try to forget the broken nights.

If I avoid looking in the mirror until the afternoon I will not see the puffy bags under my eyes that are far more likely to be there than not these days.

Strangely, I often suffer more hot sweats around mid-morning, too. They come out of nowhere. I will be working away, feeling perfectly comfortable and then, suddenly I am unbearably over-heated.

It starts around my upper arms, moves to my lower arms, then my hairline and forehead, my legs and across my torso. The sweat drips from my body and my skin feels prickly and hot.

It feels a bit like being too close, suddenly, to a blazing fire.

It is hard to describe what a hot flush is like because it is so different from anything I have experienced before. Perhaps, if you imagine, you are stood in front of a blazing fire wearing warm winter layers and suddenly the blaze flares up and you feel quickly hot. It’s sort of like that. Or, remember how it feels when you have a temperature when you are ill; suddenly hot and then suddenly chilled.

The hot sweats pass quite quickly but they can happen a few times in a row. Then they disappear for hours and I forget about them – and I carry on with my day.

Except, I feel annoyed and grumpy because I am tired and generally out of sorts.

The heated flashes will come again, too, most likely when I am feeling stressed, annoyed or perhaps embarrassed. They hit me in the car, while I am running, while walking with friends, while talking to people in the supermarket or on the phone.

I get annoyed by the heat and feel the urge to strip off layers. I can’t always do this (difficult while driving!) and so I wriggle around all hot and bothered. I feel a desperate need to be outside in the cool air.

Evenings seem to be another trigger time. It could be that I am getting ready to go out for a run or dog walk. I have extra layers on and the heating is on in the house. I am searching for the dog lead or a pair of trainers.

Out of nowhere, I feel horribly and suffocatingly hot and bothered. I need to take off layers, undo front zips, fan my face with my hand.

Then I add the layers back on as I go out of the house. But the base layers are cold and damp – and I shiver. There is no pleasing my menopausal body.

For a while, I thought the hot sweats of the menopause might be a small bonus. Perhaps they would keep me warm when usually I am so cold. I am well known for feeling the cold, especially when walking and cycling. But these kinds of hot sweats come and go too quickly and the after-affect is very uncomfortable.

I try to laugh off the hot sweats. I try not to dwell on them or count them. But I know I am having a lot more in recent months and that, perhaps, the effect of the HRT is wearing off, or the menopausal hormone depletion is speeding up.

When I started the HRT a couple of years ago the hot sweats almost disappeared. I should go to the doctor and see what can be done but I can’t face the trial and error of reassessing my hormones.

In any case, my hormones change on what seems to be a daily basis.

Someone mentioned to me that the hot sweats can be more frequent around the time when you might be due a period. Except that I don’t have a period every month any more and when they come, they come out of the blue. It’s all so difficult to predict or record.

I have these frequent hot sweats for a few months and then they go, only to return a few weeks later.

Many women I know who are in the same situation have a fan they carry about with them or place in important places, such as the bedroom and at the office. I see them mopping their forehead, looking flushed, taking off clothing layers, putting them back on again. I see them trying to smile, yet embarrassed. I see them exasperated and annoyed.

There is some consolation to know that I am not alone but when a sweat comes on it feels like it’s your nightmare alone.

Thankfully, there are a few of things about my style of life that I feel fortunate about. Being freelance allows me to get extra rest when I need it. If I had to go into an office on the days when I have had only a few hours of sleep at night I would be hopeless. At least, at home, I can give myself a break.

I can change my clothes after hot sweats whenever I need to and take a shower.

And when I am outdoors, the cooling wind as I unzip a jacket or remove an outer layer feels brilliant. Never before have I been so grateful for the Scottish wind as I suffer yet another bloody hot sweat.

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