The gift that keeps on giving

By Mir
November 19, 2008

Dear Menopause,

I admire your persistence. I really do. You’re tenacious, and—generally speaking—I like that in a person. Or syndrome. Whatever. But the way you valiantly infiltrate one part of my life after another despite my attempts to tame you with artificial hormone regulation… well, it’s something to behold. I have to give you that.

The slow but steady weight gain as you methodically readjust my metabolism is insidious, true, but not unexpected. I don’t like it. All of this additional shopping for pants is annoying. But were you satisfied to stop there? Oh, no. Not you! You had grander plans for me than just THAT!

And so the broken-internal-thermostat issue has also been intensifying over time. Which is especially lovely when one barely has any pants that fit, let me tell you.

And it couldn’t just be that I’m always too hot or too cold, either. Nope! That would be TOO EASY! Instead I’ve become a thermostatic Goldilocks. In the evenings I shiver on the couch next to my husband until he asks me if I’m feeling okay or until—out of nowhere—a hot flash swoops in with immediate vengeance, and I have to all but strip naked to withstand the sudden onslaught. In the summer I become faint and dizzy in extreme heat despite my noticeable lack of too-tight corset strings or propensity to eat turnips during difficult times. A dip in the pool will rescue me for approximately thirty seconds, until I find myself shivering with the cold of it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least I can rest assured knowing that whatever temperature I’m suffering through at the moment, chances are it will swing the other way in a few minutes if I just wait.

The changes in my skin are likewise simply charming. I mean, really, WHO KNEW I could have BOTH wrinkles and acne at the same time? How was I to even dream of the day when the zits would nestle right up against my newly parched and puckering skin around my mouth? Well played, madam. Very dramatic.

But this latest move is truly the crown jewel to top all others, I am certain. I mean, other symptoms have come and gone while my hormone dosage was adjusted, it’s true. But by all accounts my current dosage is “stable” and “therapeutic” and yet here I am with that problem I remember most keenly from those early post-surgical hormone rollercoaster days:

I cannot sleep.

Maybe you’ll be so sly as to try to pin it on something else—stress, perhaps—but this baby has your fingerprints ALL OVER IT. I am (was) a champion sleeper. I can (could) outsleep anyone, any time. Until now. Now I lie awake at night with only my hot flashes to keep me company. And despite having endured this late-to-drop-off, early-to-pop-awake hell for nearly a week, now, I also cannot nap. Furthermore: I’m mean as a snake. We all know who brings THAT particular party to the table.

I’m looking at you, Menopause. I’m on to you. I get it—you won’t be ignored, and I have no pet rabbit to stew to make your point. Hormones or no, you’re here to stay. I GET IT. How about we call a truce? You let me get some rest and chill out, and my family and I will thank you. Heck, go ahead and sprout a couple more of those black hairs from my chin, instead, maybe. I’ve got tweezers handy.

But this “pondering the miracle of womanhood” thing at 3:00 a.m. is getting very, very old. Stop being such a bitch.

Yours (whether I want to be or not),


  1. Megan

    I can’t hear you. I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I remain in my happy world of menopause denial and will do so for ever and ever and ever because it will never no never happen to me. Never. Ever.

  2. Beth

    Where I work, there is a definite age gap between the 2 generations of employees. I am the oldest of the ‘younger generation’ at 31. Everyone else is at least 20 years older than me. So while I’m in the midst of heat flashes and cold flashes because of pregnancy…and the lovely (oh-so-lovely) hormones that come with it—-everyone else here is in the midst of heat flashes and cold flashes (and hormones) that come with menopause.

    For the one guy who works here full time, we are a true treat to work with. :) Lucky him, he also gets to go home to a pregnant wife.

  3. Beth

    ok, I meant to say that I feel your pain Mir. My hormone issues might come from being in the 11th week of pregnancy, but I feel your pain. :)

  4. Debbi

    OMG!!! I never thought of that (not sleeping) as a side effect. OH NO! I am having the same thing for the last 3 weeks and I am going out of my mind. I never have had sleep problems. Sigh….lovely. I fall asleep ok, but then wake around 3 and STAY AWAKE…this is insane. So I hear you! This sucks!!! And I hate the look I get from others my age (38)who are not going through this yet, NO..I do not have two heads, I am just having hot flashes (or heatwaves as my 8 year old calls them lol). Well, Mir, thanks for figuring out why I am having sleep issues. Let me know if you have a solution ;-)

  5. Half Assed Kitchen

    Oh…God. Lalalalalala.

    No one should have to go through this and have kids at home simultaneously.

  6. annette

    Well, I had just set up an MD appt for yesterday because of menopause symptoms. Then I cancelled yesteday morning because, HELLO, I found out I am pregnant.

  7. Dragon

    I feel your pain, Mir. But I must disagree with your thesis that your hormone dosage is stable and therapeutic. If it were, you would not be going through this hell. The hot flashes and insomnia are trying to tell you something – namely, get thy butt to thy doctor to adjust thy medication. :)

  8. Heidi

    Valerian works very well – my favorite is Vitamin Shoppe brand. And chamomile tea before bed is pretty handy stuff, too.

  9. Damsel

    Oh, good, your post is only about menopause. There for a minute, from reading your title, I thought maybe you were going to tell us you had herpes. (See? Could be worse! Not that I know personally! *awkward escape*)

  10. ~annie

    Since I’m right there in the thick of it myself I offer commiseration and hugs. Oh, and a small but tragic suggestion: I still don’t follow through all the time myself, but I’ve learned it helps me when I cut out caffeine and alcohol. *sigh*

  11. Burgh Baby

    There are days when my chattering teeth and ice-cold blue fingers long for a nice little hot flash to make the day better, but then I read things like this and figure hot flashes are best left to the professionals. You can keep them. ;-)

  12. Suzanne

    I agree with Dragon… your dosage is incorrect. I am getting to go through this a second time… first was a complete hysterectomy and now again as I am about to turn 50! Soooo not fair to get it twice. But I am no longer a candidate for hormone therapy with my second bout of cancer! So… I get to do hot flashes and no sleep also!

  13. hollygee

    Okay I’m 60, so it is a little different. But I entered into menopause and the joys of hourly hot flashes with the hysterectomy twelve years ago. The five years of HRT did nothing. The flashes did finally stretch to every two hours and just this week I realized I’m now at two and a half hours, but I wake with each one — which means I have to get up and pee AND get a drink of water (we all know where that leads). Sometimes the brain decides that one of these middle of the night breaks is time to get in gear. I gotta get up, clean up the kitchen or get online and go back to bed after the next cycle.

  14. Ann

    Wow! Can’t hardly wait to join your party – ahem… I think perhaps those hot flashes of which you speak have begun for me, too. I keep trying to tell myself that I am just working too hard and overheating myself, but, HELLO! I work at a desk in a bank…

  15. exile on mom street

    All I can say is that I was a teenage girl (read: horrible, selfish creature) when my Mother was menopausal and I lived to tell the tale.

    Also, I think I need to call her and apologize.

  16. Sheryl

    Man that sucks. Have you thought about taking a sleeping pill? I have one other suggestion. What I’m about to say may irritate the hell out of you, so please disregard if it does, I’m just saying what works for me. In the fall, winter and early spring I go through periods of nasty insomnia. I can fall asleep OK, but then I wake up about 1 or 2 am and cannot go back to sleep. Instead of becoming increasingly frustrated by trying to fight the insomnia, which we all know works about as well as trying to shove jello through a sieve, I get up and do something I really enjoy that I don’t get to do or can’t do during the day time. Read, knit, scrapbook, or whatever floats your boat. I can’t make my body sleep, so I try to just accept the way things are and make the best of them. Like I say, hopefully me as Pollyanna didn’t just make you want to stab me.

  17. MomCat

    Ambien is addictive, and expensive, but the sleep! The Sleeep! Blessed sanity!! I’ll probably only need to take it for another….oh….five years or so. Who’s counting?

  18. Leandra

    You know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some countries. You could have menopause brought before The Hague for crimes of treason against the body. Or we could have some good ol’ boys take menopause out behind the woodshed.

  19. Katie in MA

    I got nothin’. But I’d buy you a drink if I lived closer.

    Maybe if you made up your mind that you better get used to it, that it was here to stay, THEN maybe it would go away. Always happens to me.

  20. Tammy

    Try a drop or two of Lavendar Oil rubbed onto your wrists @ bedtime. I’m not quite at the same pre-menopausal level that you are, but it sure makes for a nice peaceful sleep. Bonus: not a chemical!

  21. StephLove

    Don’t tell me insomnia comes with menopause. I have been getting up in the night with my “what me sleep through the night?” kids for 7.5 years now and waiting patiently to be able to sleep again. I was counting on sleeping well once the youngest is 5 or so. (That’s when her older brother stopped getting up in the night.) I doubt I’ll hit menopause by then, but once I’m sleeping again I want it to last!

    I hope you find a solution soon. Valerian works for me when I have a bout of insomnia. Chamomile tea, too.

  22. Casey

    I went through the non-sleep thing due to menopause for a long time – until I seriously had a nervous breakdown at work sobbing hysterically and my boss sent me straight to the docs office. Doc prescribed Trazedone – a mild anti depressant (these work wonders for hot flashes!!) which also acts as a sleep aid. IT WORKS. My husband will NOT let me run out of them. I will never NOT take these again, as God is my witness!!

  23. Casey

    OH ps – Trazedone is non-addictive.

  24. Swistle

    Whew! I’m so glad this will never happen to me! …What?

  25. Jamie AZ

    Oh, fantastic, this is what I have to look forward to?!!!

  26. Jessica

    “At least I can rest assured knowing that whatever temperature I’m suffering through at the moment, chances are it will swing the other way in a few minutes if I just wait.”

    This is also true of the mid-section of Indiana, from what I recall. There’s a South Bend pun here waiting to happen, but I need more tea before I can figure out what it is.

    That being said, I’m also a terrible sleeper. A melatonin supplement before bed seems to help out. Or, there’s always roller derby.

  27. tj

    Oh dear, I’m hoping this will be a long way off for me – though, looking through my family line it’ll probably come a lot earlier than it should!

  28. Em

    Ha! Hot flushes! So entertaining! (Not) It’s the way I wake up just a few seconds *before* my hot flush that truly irritates me… nice of them to be neighbourly and not want me to miss the event. I’m also perfecting my insane woman persona where I stick my head out of the window at 4am and steam. Of course my whole cancer thing means noone’ll entertain hormones for me – no-way, no-how. So, lalalala, never getting better!
    Although – if you’re a homoeopathic remedy type person – 6c Belladonna pillules have gone a long way to cutting out the freezing cold part of my flushes and have improved the ‘hots’ somewhat….I never believed it would but have been pleasantly surprised. (OK, I’d got to the point where if someone had told me that turning round on the spot three times and saying ‘I believe in the menopause fairy’ would make them go away – I would have done it. Repeatedly.)
    I hope your nights cool down – sleep is good…..

  29. Scottsdale Girl

    Better living through chemistry Mir…

    That is all.

  30. The FringeGirl

    LOL! I think I’m already entering pre-pre-menapause. Sounds like it only gets better. It’s a terrible thing to be a woman sometimes.

  31. the planet of janet

    we just refer to hot flashes as “power surges.”

    so much more forceful in a i-am-woman-hear-me-bitch sort of way…

  32. Bikini

    The best advice I can give is to load up an MP3 player with podcasts from Meditation Oasis and keep that in your bedside table. When I can’t sleep I whip it out and listen to one (and there are many available on their website) and it always relaxes me enough to get back to sleep- even if I’m freezing or too hot.

  33. Michele

    I call them cold flashes! I had heard all about the hot flashes aspect, but the cold, the bone chilling cold was a new twist for me. All these great sweaters I own that I can now not wear…
    This is my second time around with menopause. Weeeee!
    GAH! I agree no woman should go thru any of this with children at home. They are scarred for life. Anywoo, my Doctor recommended a vitamin called Black Cohash. I was taking one in the morning and one at night, but have cut back to just the one in the morning. The insomnia? No help on that end. I finally break down and take 2 Tylenol PM’s (or my family slips me one when I’m not looking).

  34. carolyn

    I’ve jumped on the menopause express recently, too. it really sucks. And nothing can prepare you for it either. You hear the stories, you actually see women in the throes of a hot flash, and still NOTHING prepares you for when it happens to you./ So sad and unfair!

  35. Kristi

    Oh dear god. This sounds worse than pregnancy.

  36. Tami

    I hear ya sister!! Sleep issues were the final straw for me; sleeping but not really and never feeling rested. I read the Suzanne Sommers book “Breakthrough” and googled a Dr. who would do saliva testing (hormone) and bio-identical hormone replacement. Hello? Can you say heaven? For sleep I take 50-100 mg Progesterone each night before bed and sleep like a baby; fully rested and can actually function during the day. The doc put me on several other things as nothing was working (hysterectomy). My cortisol levels were actually flat-lined.
    There is hope out there and you are definitely not on the right dosage. I feel like a new woman!!

  37. Berni

    I’m perimenapausal at 39 because, Lucky me!, it runs early in our family. That means I truck along all normal and hunky dory for about 3 months then, whammo, it’s 50 days since my last period. I’ll have hot flashes. I’m mean and cranky. I can’t freaking sleep. And once I do finally get to sleep, I wake up with a stupid night sweat! Can you guess that I’m in one of those times right now, just a tad edgy. My friend sent me a really funny video from you-tube by Lisa Koch called “I’m a Middle Aged Woman”. Watch it while you’re not sleeping tonight. It will totally crack you up:) Good Luck!!

  38. Sheila

    A few years ago, at about age 37-ish, and having just stopped nursing my last child, I found I was unable to sleep through the night. I figured my brain had forgotten how to do it after the eight or so years of the Gestating/Nursing/Tending to Small Children in the Night(also known as GNTSCIN) pattern I had developed. I could fall asleep like a champion, but STAYING asleep was my problem. (I have since rectified that problem with a nightly dose of Benadryl. Works like a charm for me.) I never connected mt sleep problems with aging, or hormones.

    When the acne appeared with a vengeance and the super-fun NIGHT SWEATS started up, I knew I was screwed. However, there is a bright side for you, Mir. At least you don’t have to deal with the awesome symptom of having your period even MORE OFTEN than before! It’s like my body is on its last gasp of fertility and is desperately trying to get me pregnant again, resulting in More! Frequent! Ovulation!

    Pre-menopause ROCKS.

  39. Dawn

    4:00 a.m. is my magic hour to suddenly *PING!* WAKE UP! Sound asleep one minute, WIDE AWAKE the next. Some nights I just fall back to sleep but others… not so much.

    Some fun, huh Bambi?

  40. Flea

    Time to increase the cream dosage, huh?

  41. The Other Leanne

    Sleeep…sleeep…I miss it so. My nights consist of a series of two-hour naps interrupted by 90 minutes of perseveration. Cutting out the alcohol didn’t make one bit of difference, so you might as well drink and enjoy it.

    I’m hot; no I’m cold; wait, I’m hot. The hot flashes are now preceded by a nauseating “aura” of sorts so at least I know when they are coming.

    Let me know if you find something that works, because I am just. so. tired.
    (do get your thyroid levels checked)

  42. daring one

    Oh for the love, Mir. I hope I never get as old as you. That’s the medical breakthrough I’m working on, freezing myself at the age of 29 indefinitely. If I keep getting older at this rate, I’ll have acne, wrinkles, menopause and pregnancy breakdowns all at the same time.

    However I would like your wit and wisdom so I’m in a quandary.

  43. chris

    we sit in the balcony in church so yours truly (hotflash) can be near the drafty door. but looking down on the congregation, it’s not too tough to pick out the Hormonally Handicapped. they’re the ones that get there early to nail down a spot under the ceiling fans. hang in there.

  44. Joshilyn


    Scarlett yacked up a RADISH and said she would never be hungry again.

    PS The M Word ALSO messes up your memory…


  45. Aimee

    Thank you, Joshilyn, because although I got the corset reference somehow (even though it was right next to it) I couldn’t figure out that turnip = radish, so I had no idea what Mir was talking about.

    Speaking of memory mess-ups…..

  46. Stephanie

    OMG! Mir! I am ROTFLMAO!!! You ARE describing my life for the past several years! EVERYTHING is EXACTLY what menopause is doing to me, but I’m not taking anything to “help”. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like I’m missing much “help-wise”. :-(

    At first, when the hot flashes started, but the periods stopped I thought “Hey! I like this trade off…a few hot flashes and no more periods! I got the good end of THIS deal!” OHHHHHHH I was SOOOOOO wrong! Here I am, several years of hot flashes, sleepless nights and people asking me if I have Rosacea…and wondering…WHEN WILL IT END???

  47. juliness

    Right there with ya. Unfortunately. Sucks doesn’t it?

  48. sheila

    I can’t WAIT for it to begin! Bring it on!!!!!!!

  49. The End of Motherhood?

    Best advice I ever got? Sweat every day. No, the sweating you do when in the midst of a hot flash doesn’t count. Exercise every day until you break a sweat. Seriously, it works wonders. Good luck. It gets better.

  50. Donna in VA

    What a fabulous letter! I couldn’t have put it better myself. I had a complete hysterectomy at 42 and at 47 am now considered “post-menopausal”. Tests showed that I basically have NO hormones left. No estrogen and NO testerone. I’m not a man OR a woman apparently. But my trip down this road was a tough one. I grew up thinking that menopause was something that lasted a couple of months, you stopped your period, then you moved on. I had no idea that it controlled your life for years. Crap! I didn’t sign up for THAT!
    My body totally rearranged itself. The temperature controls in my body STILL don’t act right. And I STILL don’t sleep well anymore. That’s the one thing that makes me insane. I mean, I can live through the hot flashes and the weight shifting, but deprive me of my sleep and I can’t function properly.
    So I sign that letter with you to Mr. Menopause. (I say it’s Mr. because no woman would be this cruel)

  51. Braja

    Oh dear, did I write this??? lol…YEAH!! I coulda!!!

  52. Melodee

    I just happened upon this blog and HAD to read this post. My sister turned me on to Estroven a year or two ago and I swear by it. I’ve run out probably three times and each time, within a week, all the symptoms were back. I’d kind of scratch my head and wonder why. Duh. Once I’d get back on them, the internal thermostat would start working and I’d start sleeping again. I asked my doctor about it and she told me it’s the black cohosh, soy and other stuff in it . . . all herbal, by the way. This last time I ran out, I bought extra! Now if there was something that helped with the shifting weight.

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