It happened again.
Most months, I stare at my pill pack every morning and try to calculate what week it is. Is it THE WEEK? I used to keep a monthly health journal of sorts, and sure enough, every 24 days or so, good old PMDD would return. But now that things are back to normal, the countdown really only results in a day of weeping, napping, and cramps, none of those activities appearing with any particular ferocity. So this is PMS. I think this almost wonderingly. This is what normal women experience during their normal cycle. Maybe I am in the women’s club, after all.
But despite the pill and my usual watchfulness, occasionally it sneaks up on me. It did last week. PMDD’s affects on me so terrible, so gut-renching, so existential, that it convinces me that it is normal. PMDD never once entered my mind last week. It is so interesting how that happens. Every time, it feels so real, so pervasive, that there is no part of me that thinks, “Oh, there go my crazy hormones again.” Instead, I somehow wake up with a dread in my stomach and a strong conviction that my life is meaningless and always has been.
It was literally a difference between night and day this time. One night, after days of feeling like a zombie and contemplating the fact that I wouldn’t mind being dead, I fought with my husband. He winced as I tried to describe how I felt.
“I’m bored. No, I’m not bored. I’m distraught. No, I’m alone. It’s like… I’m underwater.”
I almost slept on the couch because of this fight, but my husband realized halfway through it that he was arguing with a little lost girl. He convinced me to curl up with him in bed, and he rubbed my head until all the demons stopped tormenting me and thoughts of my failure and my horrible finally dissipated into sleep.
I woke up singing.
The biological bounce-back is almost as startling as the PMDD. My eyes were clear, my head was demon-free, and my husband looked and felt again like my partner, instead of my worst enemy. He was happy that I was back, but he did tell me (kindly) to go see a shrink.
Do you think a counselor can help with issues that are biological? Would it lessen the impact of the “bad weeks?” What do you think?
Often, curriculum in health classes is hotly debated because of how they approach sex. Do they teach safe sex? Do they teach abstinence? Do they hand out condoms? Will girls be scared forever because they think a penis looks like a banana?
However, I can’t help but wish that I could be part of a planning team writing curriculum for health classes across the country. And I wouldn’t really care about the sex part. I would want to talk to them about puberty. I think that there are a lot better ways to prepare girls for how they are about to change emotionally, physically, and even mentally. What is and is not a part of their identity. If health classes weren’t so awkward, and taught girls how to be comfortable with their bodies, maybe it would help.
If you were in charge of the curriculum that would teach young women about puberty, what would your approach be?
I’ll never forget the girl who was hanging out in my dorm room and started giving the party (yes, it was a PARTY) a lecture about how wonderful it is to menstruate. She was the type of girl with a shaved head and large earrings, who ran multiple miles every day while communing with nature, wrote essays on feminism, and who apparently also thought that menstruating was a beautiful part of womanhood. I remember getting a pang of guilt in that moment. And it’s never completely gone away.
You see, I take the pill continuously. The goal is for my hormones to stay as rock-steady as possible, without even a dip or a bump. Because in my world, dips and bumps turn into pits of despair. And so I never take the little white placebo pills, and I rarely get my period.
And I LOVE IT!
I haven’t missed it. Not even once.
I can’t help but feel sometimes that I was never really “in the club” as far as womanhood is concerned. So many women grow up excited to have children, revelling in their sexuality, comfortable with their cycle, referring to PMS simply as the day when they have a good cry. What is wrong with me? The whole womanhood thing has really only left me feeling kinda traumatized.
How about you? If you never got your period again, would you mind? Do you revel in your womanhood?
It was my senior year in college, and I had to make an emergency trip to the counseling center (not for the first time). I was panicked: “it” had happened again. I was missing weeks of classes because of the intense anxiety to leave my room. I couldn’t do my homework no matter how hard I tried. I had been training for a half marathon and running up to 8 miles daily, but suddenly I couldn’t make it one mile without my limbs quitting from exhaustion. Oh, and speaking of exhaustion- I was sleeping fourteen or more hours every night, and felt like I could sleep for fourteen more ( I know, I know, that’s more time than there is in a day. The day didn’t have enough hours for me to sleep- that’s bad people).
The dear sweet woman counselor was named Ashley. She was very young, and still uneducated enough that she had been given an internship with the overprivileged and underaged college students. I was shocked she wasn’t still in college. She wore flowery tops and brown flats that seemed to suggest she had a bit of hipster in her. But her short, shiny hair gave her away- I am pretty sure she was the type of girl who went home every night and cried for her patients. Her compassion seemed to ooze out of her as I told her how much I was struggling and how much I just wanted to quit everything and go home and sleep forever (which would only maybe be enough sleep).
This was when I first found out that I had PMDD.
Dear sweet Ashley opened a giant book the size of my thighs (the only proper analogy for large things) and began to list off a series of symptoms that I could only nod “yes” too.
Um, hi. Those are some terrible symptoms. I looked back over my life (well, at least my post-puberty life), and I could see the weeks that I suffered from PMDD like black spots in the middle of a happy life. Just about every month that I could remember, there had been a week where I had bailed on friends, started failing academically, slept 14+ hours a night, eaten embarrassing amounts of food, and found myself unable to read even the simplest book. It was overwhelming, thinking about all those A’s turned to C’s, all those friends turned to acquaintances, all that gym time wasted in a monthly carb-frenzy. There really wasn’t anything that I couldn’t pin on PMDD. But that just seems wrong… right?
I’m writing this blog because it is 2 years since my PMDD “diagnoses” (there really is no medical test to prove that you suffer from it), and I am still dealing with it in a very real way. I want to find a community of women– young, kinda young, and not young at all– who can talk about their PMS, their PMDD, their endometriosis or maybe just their bad cramps. We’ve got to start supporting each other and realizing- the impact that our hormones and our periods have on our lives in HUGE. But I think that the more we take that into account, the more was can learn to laugh at ourselves and at Aunt Flo and learn how to roll with the uterine punches.