"Upon reflection, I’ve been a smug little bitch. While my friends have been asking, “Is it hot in here, or is it me?” for the past few years, I’ve maintained a stable internal thermostat. I sat by, amused, while they stripped off sweaters and cracked open windows. That was until this spring, a few months before my 53rd birthday, when my luck (and my egg reserve) started to run out; on a day when I was expecting my period, hot flashes showed up in its place.
The average age of menopause — defined as the point in time one year after a woman’s last menstrual period — is 51 years old in the U.S. But the party really starts about five years earlier during perimenopause. That’s when estrogen levels begin their unsteady descent, both plummeting and spiking and causing some of the classic symptoms: irregular periods, mood swings, brain fog, vaginal dryness, and, most infamous of all, hot flashes and their overnight equivalent, night sweats.
Now it’s a crapshoot as to whether I’ll be gushing or flushing any given moment. But what has become predictable is what happens to me during a hot flash: My whole head starts to feel hot — my scalp starts to sweat, and my cheeks get pink. My chest is next, and the sweat starts to pool between and under my boobs. Then it comes up the back of my neck, depositing droplets. I’ll sit and shvitz for a few minutes, wipe away my sweat mustache, and we’re done. When the next one will hit is anyone’s guess, but I’d ballpark it at about once or twice an hour, all day and night.
It’s a weird time to be going through perimenopause: A hot flash feels like a fever, and I’ve wasted many a rapid test. But in other ways, it’s the best time in our history to be dealing with hot flashes: Menopause awareness is at an all-time high with initiatives like Menopause Awareness Month (October) and World Menopause Day (October 18) helping to normalize the conversation around menopause and its symptoms. And my fellow Gen-Xers, not ones to suffer in silence, have been hard at work developing beauty and wellness products that offer symptom-relieving solutions. Here are my menopause must-haves for thwarting a meltdown."