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by Linda Smyth May 12, 2021 7 min read

This post is dedicated to hot flushes. 

Rightly or wrongly they're the pin-up for menopause.  Maybe rightly. 

Like many other menopausal women, they're currently my main "symptom" - followed closely by irrationally pissed off feelings about stuff that didn't use to bother me. But that's for another day. 

Flushes are such a big part of this experience and, maybe rightly, they have a pretty bad reputation.  I'm no journalist, but to properly document this experience I feel they need a balanced representation.   

Let's examine them - mine, in a little more detail. 

1. Hot flushes are rude mutha fuckers

Background + Evidence

There appears to be no evidence of any female body actually inviting a hot flush in. i certainly didn't.

A quick survey of all menopausal women I know, with a combined total of a gazillion hot flushes confirmed that, yes in fact, not one of these flushes were invited in.

And furthermore, once in, they all stay waaaay too long. not just for afternoon tea, or a cheeky rosé. like years. uninvited.

rude. just rude. 

On balance 

Unfortunately the evidence appears overwhelmingly in the favour of 'hot flushes are rude mutha fuckers' and it's difficult to provide a balanced point of view here.

moving on...

2. Hot flushes are hot and intense and uncomfortable

Background + Evidence

It's a cool day in the middle of May yet I type wearing a tank.  In a crumpled pile to my left is a tee and a sweater.  To my right, the puffiest puffa known to man.   

Those who know me will know that I've generally got a singlet tucked into my undies and at least two long sleeve layers on at all times by this time of year. 

But I've just had a flush and I'm still hot.  

Mine start with a sudden heat in my face. it spreads, at varying speeds, through my body.  I have no control over it.  I don't know how long or how intense it will be.

It's so familiar now though it's almost intimate, friendly. I can't think of a better way to describe it, but it's kind of like when you're breastfeeding and your milk comes in, that tingling, familiar feeling which carries joy and relief.  It's not enjoyable (or life sustaining) like that but there's this weird, almost carnal - divinely feminine? emotion which accompanies the onset of flushes - like a menopausal version of the stockhom syndrome.  They take control of our bodies without permission but there's an element of familiar comfort in their unpredictable regularity. 

This earthly familiarity lasts about a nano-second before unpleasant, intense heat surges through my body.  

I feel kind of claustrophobic.  A little bit like I can't breathe and something is stuck in my throat.  It's not the worst feeling but it's most definitely unpleasant.  

I suddenly feel super pissed off. I am at the mercy of the flush. 

I'm not a maths-type person but if I had to chart a flush it would go from zero to 80% in an instant and then build to 100% within a matter of seconds.  there's a clear beginning and a peak but by the time it ends my brain is a bit foggy so I can't actually recall how it ends.  except that i've got less clothes on. 

Duration is also a mystery.  Time seems to stand still.  Research states the average flush lasts 4 minutes, varying from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Fark me, I honestly think I'd pass out with a 5 minute flush. 

On balance

a rather long piece of evidence, obviously representing for the most part a sample size of one, me, so not entirely statistically valid. 

Everyone experiences menopause differently, but I feel comfortable and supported enough here to conclude that all evidence points to flushes being immediate, intense, uncomfortably hot and disruptive. 

Again a relatively negative outcome, but here's where it gets good for flushes. Because it's here they become absolute stand up advocates for natural fibres. Can you imagine a hot flush whilst wearing polyester ?  One of two things will happen:

i/. your body heat will actually melt the polyester on to your body

ii/. rivers of sweat will begin running between your everything. The sweat will heat to a balmy 40 degrees and you'll pass out in a pool of it before you can peel your polyester top and pants off your body.

Basically, menopause is on a mission to reduce the prevalence of un-natural fibres in the world, and on bodies.  particularly that most sweat-encouraging, unbreathable of fabrics - polyester.  Hot flushes are in fact advocates for natural fibres, organic cotton, fair trade (obvs, we get the vertical), and reducing carbon emissions. what a guy!

Have a hot flush with anything but natural breathable fabrics on and it'll be 500 times worse.  Get natural from your knickers to your outerwear!  Message proudly brought to you by our friends at menopause inc.

And another upside, good for cold bods like me - a flush is actually kinda nice in a perverse way.  It warms you to your bones.  Not bad when it's 10 degrees out.  Probably won't be feeling the same appreciation for a flush mid Summer, but for now, i'll take the upside where I can. 

3. Hot flushes are for old women

Background + evidence

what is the picture you have in your mind of menopausal woman?   

On balance

Menopause was first coined in 1821.  Female life expectancy was around 50 years.  If the average age for menopause was then what it is now - 51, a lot of women didn't even live to experience it.  So historically, in terms of life expectancy, I guess you were kinda 'old' if you were going through menopause.

But it's goddamn 2021!  We're gonna live to we're 100.  This isn't the end.  And it's not middle age.  That sounds like something a hobbit would be. 

Life is a bell curve and the top is where it's at. Hot flushes are powering us to the top of the curve!  Fuck yeah.  Bring that flush on and turbo charge me to the top of my life game!

The 40's and 50's are awesome decades.  Vibrant and fun and full of life and with so much to give and live still. 

we've had enough years of experience to answer more of life's questions and throw off a lot of our baggage.  We often care less about what others think, and this freedom allows us to explore our real selves.  in my case this has allowed for deeper friendships and really really quality female connections.  and we're as well equipped as we'll ever be to roll with all that menopausal hot flushes bring.  

The 40's and 50's to me are women like Elle Macpherson, Carolyn Murphy, Amber VallettaPaulina Porizkova - my heroes growing up and to this day.  Yes, they're all ex super models but it's what these women represent now.  an attitude which is shaped by vibrancy and fun and friendship and doing good things for the world and the living of life.

and they're not immune to menopause. it's uniting and we all have hot flushes and it's good to talk about them, and not feel 'old' about them, and have fun with them, and re-shape our wardrobes because of them.  Winning.  In a not-old way.

So on balance, hot flushes are not for old women.  they're for women living life to their fullest.  heat is a by product of exertion and effort. if you're hot, you're killin' it. 

4. Hot flushes are sneaky

Background + evidence

No matter how many flushes you have they always catch you off guard.  They don't come on the hour every hour.  they can happen a lot one day and then not much at all the next.  I can have a few quite close together and then not another one til the end of the day.  

They're so familiar but they sneak up without warning and in the most erratic, impossible to predict fashion.  anywhere. anytime.  including at night. sometimes their favourite because you go from lovely deep relaxing sleep to get this farking doona off me immediately, cat get off the bed, husband, stay the fuck away. lovely. 

Hot flushes are not conducive to quality sleep.

they are the definition of sneak. 

 on balance

This one kind of sits with rudeness. it's hard to find an upside. 

the way a flush springs up in your face out of nowhere,  giving you no time to brace for the onslaught, compounds the physical discomfort.

in short, a flush is mostly disruptive, if only for a few minutes, and on balance, hot flushes are, and possibly always will be, sneaky mutha fuckers.  

5. Hot flushes sap brain power

background + evidence

When my hot flush comes on my brain goes super foggy.  I lose track of the conversation, the task at hand, my location.  thankfully, never my son. 

It's like the physical exertion of the flush requires all of the body's resources - including brain power. A flush has the power to stop a train of thought, an interesting conversation, a work flow, exercise. 

There are a weirdly high number of, mostly pink hued, infographics around menopause. most of them point to some sort of inability to concentrate and poor memory as a symptom. 

I'm not a fan of these infographics but they appear to be accurate.

my scientific and wholly conclusive summary - hot flushes and brain fog is definitely a thing.

on balance

Unsure how to handle this one as our previous strategy around hot flushes propelling us to the top of our game in the bell curve of life doesn't really take into account that we need to exist here, at the top of our game, with unpredictably frequent moments of total brain fog. 

I do find it quite empowering though to tell whoever I'm with what's going on. read more about that here.

perhaps we just need to take a seat. take 5. take deep breaths. and pick-up where we left off. wearing less, but ready for anything. 

In Summary

We live with these rude, disruptive, uncomfortable, brain dulling sneaks for a while.   If they were men, we'd be single in a flash... flush hahahaha. 

But they're not.  They're a part of growing and being a woman and experiencing this wonderful life we're given. 

So even though they're rude, disruptive, uncomfortable, brain dulling sneaks, they have do possess upsides.  Granted, these are tricky to uncover and potentially outweighed by downsides.  But really, if you're going through menopause you're alive.  And part of this fucking wonderful species called women, and this wonderful world.  And that my friend, is pretty darn good*.  

*This last bit written, obviously, NOT while flushing.   

What do you think/feel? Please comment below with your thoughts or experiences. I'll reply! x

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