Power surges and outtages

“Power surges” is the common joke phrase referring to having menopausal hot flashes.

Oh, yes. Because what’s life without something new to deal with? And naturally, it’s something inter-twined with everything else. Generally when women experience menopause, it’s because their hormones are going from the usual monthly oscillation to a damped oscillation, where the ups and downs get smaller and smaller. Mine aren’t — this is the thrill of quitting my HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that I’d been on after surgery five years ago. In a mere day’s time, I went from a low dose HRT to nothing. Klud.

First I had what my OB/GYN described as an ovarian cyst the size of an orange, which cyst+ovary she somehow managed to remove from a mere 1″ (2.5 cm) incision. (I suppose that pulling out large objects from narrow passages is the specialty of OB/GYNs.) Having been relieved of that painful annoyance, things went well for about a year, and then I started having the periods from hell again. They turned into the periods from hell with interperiods that were nearly as bad — now I had endometriosis.

That was bad enough, but the worse part wasn’t the surgical solution — it was the fact that I was in my second semester of a difficult graduate program. And having problems with my Advisor, because under the close academic scrutiny, and with my accompanying chronic and worsening medical problem, my undiagnosed learning difficulties were getting more and more problematic. I’d spent years figuring out how to compensate (sometimes brilliantly) for the ADHD and APD and whatnot, but those (often unconscious) coping strategies were growing less effective with the increasing stress and pain and nausea.

I needed that surgery. But it required a three to six-week post-op recovery period. And that semester I was taking four graduate-level classes along with working 20 hours a week in the lab (research graduate students normally take two classes per semester). My OB/GYN shook her head at me, and as a mercy, gave me prescriptions to go on birth control pills for three months solid, taking just the active pills so I would at least be spared the worst of those menstrual periods.

The surgery went well; it was a laproscopic-vaginal sort, meaning three little incisions in my abdomen to remove my uterus and remaining ovary. I had no more plans for having any more children, and I certainly wasn’t going to miss having my period! Really, the loss of those organs didn’t bother me at all; my self-image is not tied up in being a “breeder”. The children still make fun of how loopy I was from being doped up on morphine post-op. No matter, I was only on it for a couple of days. But the second day I had a preview of things to come with my first surgically-induced hot flashes. OMG. It was like an instant fever! Or stepping out of an air-conditioned vehicle to the blast furnace of Hays, Kansas in August.

Not to fear, she put me on HRT. I developed hypertension problems, so my GP put me on medication for that. Then I found out I was having side effects to those meds for my side-effects! Polysyllabic expletive! Meanwhile, despite getting all As and Bs in my classes, I was in dire straits academically. I made an appointment with the uni’s counselling department. I was stressed to the gills, and also wanted to figure out why everything was so darn difficult for me in ways that it wasn’t for others. I had begun to read about AD/HD and was recognising way too many familiar issues …

Meanwhile, the doc tweaked my HRT again, and the third time was the charm. Until a week ago. I’d had the familiar ADD glitch and forgotten to get my ‘script refilled for the little patches, and by the time I remembered on Sunday (the day I actually needed it), I couldn’t get them because I was out of refills on the prescription and the doctor’s office was closed.

Hot flashes suck. It’s not just the annoyance and discomfort of the “instant fever” that comes and goes (dressing in layers is imperative). It’s the fact that you wake up several times a night to throw off the covers. And then wake a while later to grope for the blankets because you’re cold. Waking up repeatedly during the night is lousy for good sleep. Worse, I rely on the comforting pressure of blankets and pillows to help me relax and get to sleep. That’s hard to do when the heavy bedding suddenly becomes suffocating. Oh, and did I mention that we also had a humdinger of a window-rattling thunderstorm that first night? And once that cold front left, we’ve been back to the hot, humid summer weather than just goes on and on in this part of the world, leaving the garden parched and me staring longingly at my tweeds and sweaters. (The guys are also lounging around dispiritedly like wet noodles — none of us like hot, sunny weather. Boy has taken to hugging his pumpkin as though it’s an autumn-weather talisman. “Fix it,” he jokes, imploring me to make the weather better, like the cats that expect me to magically make stormy weather go away when they want to go outside.)

Monday I was at my GP’s for what was becoming a chronic hypertension issue and dizzy spells. For most of my adult life I’ve had great blood pressure, the exceptions being when I’m in pain or am having drug reactions. I usually have just one or two cups of caffeine a day, and don’t consume a lot of salt. Under normal circumstances, I can even consciously reduce my blood pressure with a few minutes of quiet time.

Damn; the reason I’m on a prescription-level analgesic for my arthritis is because the over-the-counter stuff doesn’t help. But apparently what I’ve been taking lately can also cause hypertension. So can the HRT. So now we’re trying a lower (over the counter) dose of the analgesic, and since I’ve been on HRT for five years, it’s time to be getting off it anyway, so go ahead and don’t get that refill. Sorry, he can’t reduce the HRT dosage instead; I’m already on the lowest dose.

Meanwhile, the over-the-counter pain meds don’t really work — that’s why I went to the rheumatologist for evaluation and prescription meds. Plus, I’m having those “power surges” along with the inevitable “power outtages” (exhaustion) by mid-afternoon for lack of a good night’s sleep all week long. So the GP and I will see if this approach has any benefits, and re-evaluate in a week. There are several more different things we can try.

You know how when you have the flu, and you’re hot and cold and hot and cold, and your everything hurts, and you’re really tired, and kinda nauseous, so you stay home and sleep all day? It’s like that. Except I’m “not really sick” (at least, not with anything contagious), so I drag in to work anyway.

Crap. Sucks to be me some days.

1 Comment

  1. Casdok said,

    2 October 2007 at 15:11

    That sounds awful, hope you get it sorted.


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