Sitting across from each other in her large, disordered office and wearing almost matching sleeveless dresses, the library director and I ignore the fact that my dress is clinging to my chest and my skin is glazed with perspiration. It’s a breezeless August day, and the air conditioning is on the fritz.
Moisture emerges from my hairline and meanders across my upper lip. The skin on my face is prickly, as if covered by a strange damp stubble. But I continue asking questions and the director answers them, for an article I’m writing for the local newspaper. We both act as if nothing untoward is happening. Actually, for me, this is not remarkable. By my calculations, I’m experiencing my fifteen thousandth hot flash.
Years earlier, when I first reported these steamy soakings to my doctor, she had peered over her glasses at me, then squinted at her computer.
“I promise they won’t remain beyond a few months,” she said in her slightly Slavic accent.
But my almost hourly drenchings persisted for four years, as I became increasingly frustrated by my body’s refusal to conform to the medical timetable.
Should I Take Drugs?
I held off requesting the medication that had freed so many women from this awful upper body heat because it seemed absurd to need drugs to regulate something as ordinary as body temperature.
But, my hot flashes had no intention of leaving without a fight. Eventually, sick of removing and donning my clothes a dozen times a day to cool off, I began hormone replacement therapy—“HRT” to those in the know.
Then medical researchers with nothing better to do than dash the hopes of middle-aged women discovered that the miracle drug could have dangerous effects. So, I stopped taking the meds two and a half years ago. My hot flashes returned, as frequent and intense as they were before I went on HRT.
“Dress in layers,” my husband said.
The difference between the perceived ambient temperature when I’m having a hot flash can feel like 40 or 50 degrees. I have stood hatless in blizzards, snow stinging my face, my down coat wide open, reveling in relief. I have lingered on my back porch in a thin tank top, when the thermostat beside me read 26 degrees. I’d probably be famous by now had I not had to interrupt my writing to strip off my clothes a dozen times a day.
If you’re a hot flash sufferer (or the husband of one), see What Keeps Me From Writing? The Fire Within, Part 2. Feel free to complain about your hot flashes.
Kathryn Craft says
Your title “The Fire Within” reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on writing, from Virginia Woolf: “Each sentence must have, at its heart, a little spark of fire, and this, whatever the risk, the novelist must pluck with his own hands from the blaze.” It’s a beauty, isn’t it?
Lynette Benton says
Kathryn, that is lovely! Thank you.
Hmmmm…..this is a topic I keep very secret, except from my husband and sisters and a few close friends. But this is all I’ll say. “I HATE them” and indeed, they have sometimes kept me from thinking, at all!
Lynette Benton says
So glad you came clean here, Terry! 😉 And, you know I sympathize, bigtime.
Thank you so much for mentioning the unmentionables. No one told me. I never did get the hot flashes, but watched colleagues suffer. I have always been cold blooded, so daytime was fine. Night sweats, drenching, soaking everything, that was the fun part. It is different for everyone. It is a rite of passage.
Nobody tells you. Why are we so silent? We should give honour to our changes and have showers, (no pun intended, well maybe), to celebrate our sisters entering the time of change. We are now elders and have earned our place in the community. Our daughters should be at these gatherings so that they will have knowledge when their time comes and this will give them strength.
I have learned that as we age we grow through our experiences we remain are the same inside, barring any mental illness.
Let us write about it, own it and move forward to our destiny. Thank you for helping us become older, wiser, better.
Lynette Benton says
Thanks for your (wise) comment, Judith. Yes, we must talk about our experiences. I’m sick of secrets!