Before I had them I didn’t ask other women “Hey, what do hot flashes feel like?” ever. It never occurred to me to ask. I knew women who were around menopause age and even lived with one who was going through menopause, but still I blocked that out of my awareness. Things changed considerably once I began to have what I suspected were hot flashes. I became very curious about what they feel like and began investigating my own personal experience and reactions. Early in my menopause sensual research I had a defining moment that transformed my relationship to hot flashes forever.
What do hot flashes feel like from a sensualist’s point of view?
Instantly I’m awake, aware that I was deeply asleep moments before. I don’t know why I’m awake now – is it morning or night? I’m not entirely sure.
It’s dark. I can barely discern the difference between having my eyes open and closed. I open up my senses, scanning to identify the cause for my waking. I hear the soft hum of faraway kitchen appliances. Only white noise, no one else is stirring. I snuggle in against the plush down of my bed, bundled against the cold of mid-winter reassured that all is well about to fall asleep again.
Then I feel that telltale sensation within my core. Something I have only noticed a few times before and only when I’ve been still and quiet. It’s a vague foreshadowing, yet undeniable in its meaning. Time slows down. I realize what is coming and my brain races. “Oh NOOOoooooo!” that first reaction despondently echoes within me. I brace for what I know is next. The first rumblings make themselves known. I don’t like this. I feel myself going down, slumber erased from my world in a snap. I don’t have much time. My heart is already racing.
Quelling my sudden compulsion to make a preemptive strike and throw off all the covers, I decide to do something different. I remember that I have new goals to go towards fun in menopause. I lay still. The silence outside my body remains unbroken, but inside there is an outcry, “Arrrrgggghhhhhh.” For whatever reason, that thinking, judging part of me does not handle this recurring event very well.
I switch my attention away from those struggling thoughts. I decide to feel my body, pay attention to it. Gain information to help answer the question “What do hot flashes feel like?” I’m naked, lying on my right side, hips and knees curled. My body is tense. One hand grips the corner of my pillow. I relax, letting my fingers unfurl. The cotton pillowcase and feathers plump up giving them a buoyant lift. I relax even more and Lub-WHUMP a single robust heartbeat reverberates loudly in my chest. Seemingly in answer, a new thought pops into my consciousness. “Count the seconds” and so I do.
“One one thousand, two one thousand…” time slows even more. I feel thick fingers of building heat push outward from deep inside. The dense force of heat expands, moving between my shoulder blades to spread up my back and envelop my neck. Moisture springs from my pores. I notice it at the nape of my neck first, then up the hairline. Drops emerge and multiply across my shoulders and throughout the center of my back. There I feel a single rivulet fall from the dip of my spine and roll around the curve to my waist where it meets the bed.
The blaze spreads further filling my body. Just under my skin the hotness exerts its pressure most insistently. If I could see it now, I’m sure my face would be brightly colored in the flush of this wave. I am so very, very hot now. But I stay put and with the least movement possible lift the covers away from my body. I am still counting. I’ve only reached nine.
I am in awe at the capabilities of the human body, at my body!
The movement and release of energy continues and I am like a kid looking forward to what will happen next in a new action flick. I want to feel and experience the entire ride. I am radiating heat and my brain feels keenly aware. Sensations are amplified as I hone in on each. Eleven seconds have passed and I note that my ankles break out in a sweat; the bottoms of my feet dotted with tingling vibrations. I hear a ringing, a sustained note bringing to mind chimes resonating in a great hall.
The temperature peaks and I feel the beginning of its rapid fall. At fifteen seconds there is so much perspiration happening all at once that the surface of my skin feels dewy, glowing as if I just stepped out of a steamy shower. Vapor rises, a layer of tropical atmosphere hovers around me. The pressure from the inside subsides. I am aware of the rhythm of my heart, slower with each beat. Inside my body the roaring heat has dissipated. I breathe in deeply. Calmly I bring the covers back over me. Suddenly goose bumps materialize and chills blanket me all at once. I feel the last remaining threads of heat waft from the top of my head as I whisper the count to myself – “Twenty.”
In the dark, motionless and silent, I reflect on what happened during that hot flash.
I experienced so much. Whew! This was an intense one. Only twenty seconds had passed, plus a few seconds dedicated to rearranging my prejudices prior to the count yet there was a never ending timelessness to the experience. It was fun to find out just how fast this tremendous shift in energy can be. Moreover, once I let go of disapproving and felt what was occurring in my body in such detail during those twenty seconds, the hot flash itself was fun.
“The hot flash itself was fun.” It echos in my consciousness and felt it alter my perception of what is possible for women.
As that sinks in, my critical self attacks conjuring up a dramatic scene. Legions of menopausal women, who weirdly all happen to look like some version of me, call out “What do you mean your hot flash was fun??! Those are fightin’ words!” I cower realizing that this unsettling mob would love to go a few rounds with me in the ring for stating something so outlandish, so ludicrous and contrary.
Whoa there! I stop myself and give no more attention to that fabrication of negative self-judgement.
During those twenty seconds, I’d crossed the line. That hot flash was fun. Pleased, I turn over, fluff up my pillows and drift back to sleep.