I am in the throes of what is accurately called night sweats. This phenomenon is very funny and terribly disruptive. I try to stay amused as my mental skills deteriorate from the lack of sleep but it’s not easy. I say funny because I hardly generated sweat my entire life despite many marathons and 15 years of martial arts training and now I am sodden as soon as the lights go out. Disruptive because endless cycles of hot and cold do not make for an easy rest. This morning I crawled out of bed with a no-sleep hangover and asked if I could have a cot on the roof. Last night Burt a tender hand on me and quickly withdrew it when he felt the heat and moisture. He knew to stay back. Way back.
I find hot flashes during the day cute and almost entertaining. The sudden spikes in body temperature came and went quickly. Here, during winter, at the temperate Tropic of Cancer it is easy to manage. A shawl on or off or a quick step into or out of the shade and I can find comfort. I’m also awake and it’s easy to solve the problem in daylight and on my feet. Hot flashes have been happening for about two years in the phase of feminine maturity called perimenopause. They did not bother me. I can’t remember my first night sweat. They were intermittent and I’d just throw of the covers and go back to sleep. I wondered why they were called night sweats instead of hot flashes. Seemed the same to me. About a month ago I entered a new phase of the gentle decline towards death. It is 252 days since my last period and I have started having three to five night sweats a night. Each week I am damper. I wonder about dehydration. Here’s how it feels: Wake and wonder why I’m awake. Recognize the weird anxious churning in my gut as Satan stoking the internal furnace, throw the covers off hoping to lessen the intensity, get really hot and a little stressed, start sweating, soak the sheets, lie there and wonder (again) how many calories are in a flash of heat like this (thermodynamics demands an answer), and then I’m cold. Wet and cold. This is the trickiest moment. If I cover myself too soon I’ll re-enter the hot phase. If I wait too long I’ll get so cold that I’ll cover myself too much and re-enter the hot phase. If I don’t do anything I lie awake feeling cold and clammy. Usually I play Bridge and fuss with the covers for twenty minutes. Eventually I fall asleep. And hour to two hours later it starts over. Sometimes I fall asleep just as the next one starts. Two days ago I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself tangled in a wreck of sheets, face plastered directly to the mattress and thought, “Time for a change.”
I’ve Googled advice and I can say DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY to this list of bullshit. Get more exercise, eat properly, cut back on caffeine and alcohol, sleep naked. Get a cooling mattress and bedding! The only violation of personal habits is my taste in spicy food. They want to make us behave and be miserable with this list of habits. Surely if we can solve erectile dysfunction we can come up with a better list of to-dos. I want smart PJs that anticipate the change in climate before I wake and increase or decrease temperature accordingly. How about my fitbit adjusts the fan in the trailer? The technology is out there. I know it is.
So there I was wrapped up in some horrible blend sheets on this massive California queen mattress we accidentally bought three years ago. Remember that? Burt and I went mattress shopping and wound up with a mattress too big for the trailer. There are no easily found sheets or mattress pads for a California Queen. The salesman tried to warn us. It was a low intelligence day. Mimi loved our massive mistake. The 6″ longer mattress shortened her jump commute between the litter box and bed. Burt and I suffered. There were no mattress pads the right size. There were only hideous sheets in awful colors and sticky blends. We spent a lot of money chasing bedding. Most recently I found a set of sheets that were supposedly the right size but they would not stay in place for more than a night. So sleeping on synthetics sucked but waking up with our faces directly on the disgustingly unprotected mattress itself sucked even more. I finally realized 400 count cotton sheets and a natural fiber mattress pad were in the guest room and Mimi was dead. Yesterday I woke up and said, “We must switch mattresses.” This was a classic marital moment. Burt has been agitating for the switch for three years. Mimi always won. He did not say, “I told you so.” He was so happy to switch he just helped me make it happen the same day. I’ll spare you the description of us moving mattresses in and out of the gNash. The workers chuckled. (We’re surrounded by bricklayers for the next 2 months.)
I wish I could report that I slept better, that the ‘cooling’ mattress and bedding was the answer. I cannot. I can say I suffered less. I was disgustingly sodden and awake but in a cocoon of cotton. And the trailer is so much more spacious that I can’t believe Mimi got away with it all these years. Today I insisted we install the new vent fan I bought this summer. The high efficiency fan is whirring this very moment. Air is moving. That might help, too. Meanwhile I will keep trying to eat right and exercise. They say some one get through this phase in a short run of time. Others are tormented for years. I’m considering new hobbies for the evening hours.
Yesterday I visited the chiropractor. My mid-back was feeling stuck and a yoga wasn’t helping. Too much fiddle, too much yoga, or too much life, I’ll never know which. There are a number of practicing chiropractors in our area and just like in the the U.S. they have a range of styles and sensibilities. Burt finds real relief from getting an adjustment and so he suggested I give it a try. Things were pretty much okay at first. Dr. Back (his name is changed) didn’t make any crazy healing claims and he was clean and tidy. His price was reasonable and his office was nearby. He did the usual shaking and twisting and a lot of crackling came out of my spine and neck. Dr. Back even did a nice release of my diaphragm, which I have to admit was a big relief. I’d been finding it difficult to breathe freely ever since my heart procedure. But while this was going on the Doc made inquiries about my bowels and claimed that I should be pooping 3x a day. Hmmm. Even if that is true it sounds damn inconvenient. I started to wonder what else he would tell me is wrong with me. In stead he handed me a health questionnaire to take home and fill out. He said it would help him access what needed to be done to help me with my passage through menopause and, I presume, get me pooping after every meal.
Now Burt did not get this list of questions and both he and I came to the same conclusion independently. This guy saw me as a mark. Not that he doesn’t believe in what he is doing but ask any 49 year old woman if she feels tired, eats too much and has gained weight and 98% are going to say yes. The questions were of this nature. It was not a family or medical history. The questions were: do you pee too often? Do you pee infrequently? Do you stare? are you hot? There were a lot of questions for which on any given day I could say yes or no. I filled it out for fun to see if I could make my own diagnosis. Then I came to this question: Do you have any masculine tendencies? Pardon the implied cuss word but, WTF does that mean? WTF s a masculine tendency? If this question makes me mad is that a masculine or feminine tendency? I have well beyond average math skills. I can wield a hammer and I can kick someone’s ass. I am big. I also have an ample backside and mammary glands and am lacking a penis. I do not self identify as a man. I am not gay. This despite the fact that a dermatologist once suggested I might as well be gay since I didn’t want children. What the F@#k is a masculine tendency? What is wrong with people? Gender(like sexuality) is a continuum. Many of us are lucky to be clearly one or the other. But I personally know people that are neither. Their DNA confirms this. To attribute any kind of skill or tendency or inclination to one sex or the other is stupid and limits the bounds of what is possible for all of us. Pisses me off.
In celebration of my own personhood here are flower and bug pictures for your enjoyment. This rush milkweed is a gorgeous succulent with a complicated and attractive flower bundle. The flowers are a favorite of the scarier than science fiction Tarantula Hawk. In case you’ve not been keeping up with my blog here’s a refresher. The Tarantula Hawk is a wasp with a potent sting used to paralyze tarantulas. If the wasp manages to sting a tarantula the victim tarantula is paralyzed and becomes a living food source for the wasp’s larvae. The larvae slowly eat the still living tarantula bit by bit saving the vital organs for last. I can’t get the picture of a half eaten but still alive tarantula out of my head. Burt gave me a tarantula hawk for my birthday this past year. Talk about masculine tendencies. Who’s more masculine in that scenario? Burt for the odd gift or me for appreciating the odd, poisonous present?
A reasonable night’s sleep and I am feeling better. Now that everyone knows its fuzzy in my head it feels lighter. Becky’s story in the comments below really, really helped. Me and my car seem destined for some similar loopiness. The other day I parked it awkwardly (I knew I did and I just didn’t care. That’s a new sensation: not giving a hoot). I was sitting nearby and could see if the car caused trouble. Right away the police came by (I happened to be blocking their exit from the police station. That I forgot.) and they honked until I showed up. They must have dealt with middle aged women before. They just smiled and let me move it out of the way with no hassle. Anyway, thanks for the kind words and reality check.
After a life of facts and figures and being wicked smart it’s tough to find the brain wobbly. I’ll get used to it.
There’s been a low haze of confusion or lack of focus around here that reached a peak today. The family history of early on-set Alzheimers anxiety and perimenopause are a toxic emotional cocktail some days. Blog posts are harder to write because I’m tired and can’t seem to focus. I can’t remember to recharge my phone with minutes. I feel fuzzy. Today I did something stupid and inconsiderate that hurt Burt’s feelings. I had no excuse. I couldn’t even figure out why I did what I did. I loaned a precious belonging to a friend a day after I wouldn’t lend a spoon without consulting Burt. I have a let’s consult with the spouse kind of attitude about most things so why I would loan out a sentimental object that was only his makes no sense to me. The details are inconsequential. The fact was I was confused from the get go and when Burt found out what I had done he was mad. Really mad and hurt. I freaked out. I had no explanation for why. I got a sudden glimpse into the early stages of my mother’s erratic behavior and how hard it was on my father. I plunged into despair for my father and Burt. Burt and I worked it all out and I confided to him as I am to all of you my creeping fear that something is taking hold of my brain. I pray it’s mainly a deficiency of estrogen and a lack of sleep. Sleep has been harder this week. Exhaustion, teary outbursts, mood swings, confusion, forgetfulness: symptoms of perimenopause and Alzheimers. What a fun few years this is going to be. Do you think the traveling hypnotist could help? Me or Burt?