Red hot exhaustion

By Mir
July 5, 2006

So the thing about yesterday (er, wait, I’m all screwed up now… technically it’s now Wednesday… but I’m talking about Monday) is that I have become one of “those women” of a “certain age.” And you know, I’m not even 35 yet. This is a sad, sad thing.

I fully expected to be well into the twilight years before my body started betraying me with diffuse and bizarre complaints that were more sort of interpretive than actual medical syndromes. While I have often thought it must be sort of entertaining to actually be able to say “I do declare, I believe I have the vapors,” I’m just not digging this new development.

And that, my friends, is this: I can’t take the heat.

I know. I know. And yes, yes—don’t even say it. I got out of the kitchen. BA DUM BUM.

And yet, here I am, a DELICATE FLOWER, stuck in summer and having all kinds of epiphanies spurred on by heat exhaustion. Lucky me.

So, hey, do you remember last year, about this time, when I was Having Issues, and, um, I was certifiably insane? No? Me either. The meds have wiped out most of that timeframe.

Hahahaha! Stop looking at me!

No, seriously. Remember how I was having panic attacks? All of these awful stressful things were happening, and I was pretty much responding by freaking right the hell out, and I started having panic attacks. And at the time, you know, life pretty much sucked, so I didn’t think too much about it. I mean, yes, I thought “this sucks,” but I didn’t think much MORE about it.

Well, now, life is going pretty well. But darned if I’m not having some of those old anxiety issues again. And I couldn’t figure out WHY. Until yesterday, when I made myself completely miserable.

After my triumphant morning training walk, I came home cruising the adrenaline high and had a nice shower and felt great. For about an hour. I went to my friends’ party and stood out on the porch for a few minutes and realized that I was either
A) having a panic attack
B) sick
C) dying.

I couldn’t think of any reason why I would be panicking, as it was a beautiful day and I was feeling relaxed up until the imminent death feeling took over.

I could be sick, I supposed, although that would be… weird. It came on pretty quickly. But I certainly didn’t feel WELL, so sick was a possibility.

But for the most part, dying seemed like the best bet. I just felt dizzy and nauseous and headachey and discombobulated and horrible. Which is so not how you want to feel at a party unless you’ve been drinking a lot and there was some dancing on tables preceding this feeling, I think.

Anyway, I went back inside the nice cool house for a while, and then later I actually went upstairs and laid down for about half an hour (woo! invite me to your parties! I will take a nap!), and I got through the afternoon in spite of feeling crappy. But last night I pretty much collapsed and even for most of today I just didn’t feel like myself.

And all of that was the final confirmation of what I’ve been suspecting for a couple of months, now: Ever since my hysterectomy, I am extremely prone to heat exhaustion. Weather that used to make me happy now makes me ill. Instead of soaking up the sun and bitching about how much I hate the endless winter (which has been my schtick for years), a few hours in the heat renders me sick and cranky.

I went back over my training walk, mentally, with a fine-toothed comb. Had I had enough to drink? Were my electrolytes replenished? I couldn’t find fault with anything I’d done, other than that maybe I should’ve drunk a bit more before heading out. But I’d had plenty of water and plenty of sports drink. So that wasn’t it.

Nope, the more I thought about it, the more I started piecing together times of “anxiety” coinciding with being outside in the sun and heat, or on the heels of such an exposure.

Just to illustrate: I spent, what, a MONTH, dealing with a flooded basement? Did I have any anxiety attacks during that time? No. Not a one. (Did I cry about it a lot? Yes. Did my pulse race? No.) But that all happened while it was cold and rainy outside. My point is simply that no one on God’s green earth would’ve FAULTED me for having a panic attack during that time. Everyone would’ve UNDERSTOOD if I had stood up and completely LOST IT once or twice during that process. It was very stressful. But that didn’t happen.

When I feel light-headed and my pulse is racing, I assume I’m freaking out MENTALLY. But it’s entirely possible—heck, I’m going to say LIKELY—that I’m having a physiological response and then misinterpreting it as resulting from an emotional state.

(This is what happens after a lifetime of mental problems. You rush to assume that you’re crazy, rather than otherwise afflicted.)

Having figured this out, I now realize that this is probably just heat intolerance and/or heat exhaustion. I’m curious to see if I’m able to keep it from happening. I can limit my heat exposure, I suppose. Except for that whole walk three days in the blazing sun thing. Whoops. Or I can take greater steps to stay cool while I’m out and about. Like, um… I could carry my own pool around with me…? Not sure, really.

God, I’m old.

Now here’s the part I don’t get: I’m on hormone replacement therapy. Nothing I’ve learned about human anatomy teaches that there is something intrinsic about the uterus necessary for regulating body temperature. So… ummm… what the hell? Do I worry about this? Do I assume it’s just how things are now and deal with it? I’m so confused.

I do declare, I believe I have the vapors. Mercy me.


  1. shannon

    Just an idea, ask your doctor? I know, it’s kind of a far out idea. I’m like that. Glad that you have realized what triggers these attacks though. Sometimes it’s not knowing that makes you even crazier. Not that I’m implying you ARE crazy. Crapdammit, I didn’t learn when leaving a comment at PlazaJen’s to not do so with slightly wet fingernails…manicure be damned!

  2. Contrary

    Actually, and I speak from a place of no actual medical knowledge here, so, you know, grain of salt and all that, but don’t women have hot flahes when they go through menopause?

    What if your HRP isn’t doing it’s job and your hormones are a bit wonky and you are more susceptible to the heat as a result? Not so much that you have hot flashes, necessarily, just enough to make the heat hotter.

    Oh, and don’t they have little misting fans that you can strap to your forehead or something, for your walk?

  3. Sheryl

    Eek, I’m kinda worried about your 3 day walk, now. That sure sounds like heat stroke to me. Better go see your doc.

  4. Dragon

    One of the first questions the nurse asked me at the menopause clinic was whether I am sensitive to heat. Oh YEAH, I sure am. It helps to have my hormones in balance, but I think I would have to be taking much more estrogen than I am to be able to take a long walk in the heat without suffering afterward.

    I think you need to start looking into heat-management now in preparation for that little walk you’ll be doing. Have you seen those bandana thingies with the cooling gel inside? Wrap one of those around your neck and not only will you look like a Labrador Retriever, but you’ll be very comfortable as the cool travels through the major arteries lining your neck, and throughout your body. And of course you know to drink lots of water, right? Lots. More than you already drink. Don’t ask me how I know you’re not drinking enough water. Just drink more water.

  5. chris

    I have no idea, being retarded and all… but do you have one of those mister fans for your long walk? Maybe get a few and hand them out to everyone walking around you so they can keep you all comfortably misted and cool.

  6. Monica

    I’ll put in a second vote for the gel packs around your neck. The best part about them is that to “start” them, all you do is soak them in water, so you could keep it working while on your entire 3 day walk.

    A few years ago we chose to vacation in Nevada in late July. Apparently we are not so bright. However the gel packs made it possible for me to spend several hours in a row walking through and taking beautiful pictures of, the valley of fire. They are salvation in tacky fabrics.

    My recommendation would be to buy 2, wear one and keep one recharging in a ziploc with some water. Swap as needed.

    Oh also, see your doctor. Worth seeing if there is something he can do to help out.

  7. cristin in NJ

    As a woman with MS, which has also subjected me to an intolerance of heat, I have learned a few tricks overthe past few years.
    DO NOT WAIT until you get hot. Carry thse ‘instant’cold packs on you, and occasionally apply a cold one to the back of your neck, your wrists, etc. I get increased fatigue with the heat (common for MS’ers) and these things are suggested, along with cooling vests, lots and lots of cold water, shade, and a good wide-brimmed hat.
    I know you don’t have MS, but keeping yourself from getting to that ‘overheated’ point might really help.

  8. Liz

    I’ve found that the anniversary of a bad time in your life can also be a bad time. On what should have been my first wedding anniversary (married three months – he started pushing me around as soon as the wedding was over), I started slipping into a depression from the failed marriage. Could you also be having flashbacks to the original panic attacks? Good luck, no matter what it is! Also…like everyone else said…ask your doctor.

  9. Randi

    I’ve always been really sensitive to heat, and I’ve always had messed up hormones too. Reading your post I’m starting to wonder if the two go together somehow. That, and I do not sweat! My husband thinks that’s why I get so hot. Have you been sweating well lately? (God, if I were male that could sound like a come on!)

  10. kirala

    Lots of relationship between hormones and body temperature regulation, as any menopausal woman will tell you. If you only had your uterus and not your ovaries removed, then there must be some other reason why you’re on HRT. If your ovaries are still functioning you shouldn’t need it.

    At any rate, if it is hormones, you probably just need your dosages readjusted. Or maybe after being so brave and resourceful during the basement debacle, you finally allowed yourself the collapse you have so deserved all these months!

    Everybody needs a little collapse now and then.

  11. Patricia

    You know — I read all these awesome and helpful comments and all I think of is “Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Florida?”
    Big help here!

  12. Laura

    I’m so sorry. I second (whatever) the cool-pack and LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER. But I also wanted to point you in the direction of a study that recently came out that suggests CHOCOLATE MILK (even lo-fat) helps people recover more quickly after exercise than sports drinks. Apparently, it has more of what our bodies really need. And it tastes SO much better than sports drinks!

  13. Elleoz

    Please see your doctor. If nothing else he will tell you that everything is fine. I am a strong supporter of better safe than sorry.

    I hope that you cool off and figure out what is going on soon. Please take care of yourself.

  14. tori

    After I had my thyroid taken out last year, I was freezing all the time even though my TSH was within the normal range for people who have had thyroid cancer. Now this year, I had a hysterectomy, and I have the same sorts of problems as you seem to be having. My doctor can’t sem to figure it out. I still have one ovary, and my hormone levels are “normal” so there is no medical explanation. I’m only 31! I wasn’t quite ready to be “old” yet either! I hope you are able to figure this out and that it doesn’t interfere with your walk!

  15. Daisy

    Mir, you have all kinds of friends offering you good advice. Ask your doctor which pieces to follow — and then keep us informed. We’ll be cheering for you all through the Walk!

  16. Cele

    Mir, I second Daisy – Elloze – Monica – Shannon. I also add this little bit. You are in induced menopause so all the wonderful little gifts of that phase of life most likely apply. Plus you are at an age where anxiety problems could kick in. Remember Anxiety has no rhyme or reason for affecting us, we just try to rationalize the reasons why it couldn’t be. Please see your doctor, and get all those lovely little cool down dohickies for your walk. You worked so hard to get this far, enjoy it. :)

  17. Dianne

    Hi, Mir. I’m new here; just found your blog a few weeks ago. Wanted to say: be careful with the “drink more water!” advice. Over-hydration is now recognized as a greater danger to athletes than dehydration. Here’s one article on it:;jsessionid=MP5ZHLSMSLZ2OCQPCAOWU3YKB2IIWTT1 I mean, dehydration is still dangerous, but it hardly ever actually happens, whereas athletes turn up with hyponatremia (diluted sodium levels) with some regularity, because they erroneously think they need to drink more and more and they overdo it. And it’s very dangerous. It’s worth reading up on it a bit, if you haven’t already, so you know how best to manage your fluid intake during the 3-Day. And about the 3-Day, as a breast cancer survivor, I want to say, You go, girl! That’s a Mighty Deed!

  18. InterstellarLass

    Yeesh! I know what you mean though. I did a 6.5 mile run on Sunday and a 5 mile run yesterday. And after it was over, and I came down off the adrenaline hight, I felt like CRAP. But I still have all my girl parts.

    It could have been a combination of heat, blood sugar, dehydration…any number of things. I would definitely get checked over, just to be on the safe side. But in addition to being properly hydrated, you also have to be properly nourished. Eating before and after your workouts is important to keep those glucose levels balanced.

  19. DebR

    I have no words of wisdom but just want to say I hope you get it figured out and feel beter because it sounds like it sucks rocks.

    (I’m having trouble keeping track of when you have a new entry posted these days because I normally keep track with Bloglines and so far Bloglines doesn’t like your new and improved site as much as I do. Sigh.)

  20. Kira

    Sweetie…didn’t you have this epiphany something like two months ago? Did you forget? Is it a epiphanic re-run?

  21. Amy-Go

    Ummmm, walk naked?

    Bet you wish everyone was as helpful as me! ;)

  22. I.O.P.

    Stumbled across your blog from BlogHer.

    I have the same problem. Well, I’ve always had panic attacks, and they come on any time of year… but I’m so much worse when I get hot. I add staying hydrated and not just with water – you need to replentish sodium and potassium and magnesium as well. Sports drinks are okay, but not perfect – and Gatorade is better than PowerAde because PowerAde has a huge amount of high fructose corn syrup which can mess even more with your blood chemistry (which is probably why I like PowerAde more).

    All that said, make sure you’re eating properly as well. I found that when my fluids are off, my eating is off too, and when my blood sugar gets too low, I get all panic-stricken. Keep some peanut butter with you, or for a quicker fix, a sugar packet (but only use if you’re about to eat real food with protein, or you’ll crash harder than you started).

    Good luck. And I agree with Amy-Go – walking naked sounds great; just run through the sprinkler first, and wear lots of sunblock!

  23. JGS

    I totally understand that feeling of something not being right and automatically assuming it is something wrong with your brain/mind. I am the same way. One of the things I have tried to learn (emphasis on “tried”) is that this is a good reason to see a doctor – otherwise the anxiety will only make things harder and more complicated to feel better. It’s great that you were even able to think beyond your own anxiety and determine that this could be something related to the heat. That’s a big deal, Mir.

  24. chris

    whatever you do, don’t blame yourself for any of your body’s wonkiness. i’ve also had a hysterectomy that plays havoc with my heating and cooling. you could ask the doctor about upping your estrogen for the week of the walk, doesn’t it make sense that you’ll be burning through things much faster during that time? and whatever works for you when it comes to that free-floating anxiety stuff- a dark room, a soft bed, a smooth pillow, a happy movie- if it helps, go with it! blessings on your upcoming walk, what an awesome experience that will be!

  25. Jorge Gajardo Rojas

    Why the american people are allways so worry about sikness and age?
    Is part of USA culture?

  26. cactus jelly

    From one anxiety sufferer to another, hang in there. I thought I had this thing beat until yesterday when life threw a rotten tomato in my face and the panic reared its ugly head. This time I was better prepared and was able to counter with a bag of ‘back the fuck off’…worked like a charm:)

    Running in the heat does it to me every time.

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