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Debilitating hot flashes lead to near breakdown

I'd feel the flush and lift my arm from the meeting table, only to have to discreetly wipe away the pool of sweat left behind.... I wonder if I'm coping more now because I know that if it gets too bad, I have a kind and understanding manager to confide in. I've managed to avoid travelling for now - sometimes at a risk to my career - but without having to make excuses.

At age 47 my hot flushes started, and have come and gone, along with periods stopping for 2-3 months then starting again. Last September to November I had a terrible time. Not only was I travelling away from home during the week for business, but I was getting hot flushes more than once an hour. During important meetings I'd be up and down closing and opening the window (thank goodness it opened) but the worst time was trying to peel off my beautiful silk-lined suit jacket. It was glued to my sweating arms and I felt a fool struggling to get it off in front of a group of 5 men. On other occasions, I'd feel the flush and lift my arm from the meeting table, only to have to discreetly wipe away the pool of sweat left behind. Staying 4 nights a week in a hotel room with a window that opened less than a couple of inches (no air conditioning) was too much to take, even with the weather getting colder and colder.

With increasing feelings of embarrassment, exhaustion from a lack of sleep and an overwhelming feeling of despair (I'm sure my husband thought I was going to leave him) I cracked. With my suitcase packed, I called my manager and sobbed. I was a pathetic wreck. I couldn't speak except to say I wouldn't be travelling to work that week. We spoke later when I had calmed down and I told him the truth. My menopause symptoms had taken over. I needed time to get sorted. I had tried so hard to keep cool in a pressured situation and felt a fool and a weak woman.

I was so, so pleasantly surprised to hear my manager tell me that he understood. His wife had been having a terrible time too. He covered for me, and within a couple of days I started working again, but this time from home. I'm sure everyone in the office thought I had some dreadful medical problem, but the work continued and I completed my assignment. The flushes went away, the anxiety decreased and I felt great! Energised, full of life.

I had a couple more months like that and now the flushes have returned. Interestingly, they are far less severe this time—still too frequent—but apart from a colleague noticing how flushed I looked, I'm coping. I plan my time better so I can work more from home (although questions have been asked—not by my manager). But they can ask away. I am determined not to crack!

I wonder if I'm coping more because I know that if it gets too bad, I have a kind and understanding manager to confide in. I've managed to avoid travelling for now—sometimes at a risk to my career—but without having to make excuses. I think I needed the confidence that I could take control of my career if it really came down to it. And my manager will (I hope) support me again in future if I find it's all too much. In retrospect, I came pretty close to a real breakdown. Thank goodness for understanding men!

Barbara
London, England

 

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Updated  05/15/2010