I’d be afraid to look at the calendar. I’d wonder, “Will it be bad this month?” I’d plan lunchdates around it… I’d try to cook days in advance… I’d even plan going to bed around 6:00 pm in hopes of being alive again by the time I needed to go to my 8:00am class. When PMDD week hit, I would start contemplating why I was alive. Emotionally, I was a mess. Physically, I was exhausted, but not in any type of pain.
One of my best friend would start getting cramps a week in advance. She’d cry over everything, want to break up with her boyfriend, would wear sweatpants to class. And through it all she’d tell me, “I just can’t wait to get my period!” Emotionally, she was weepy. Physically, she had uncomfortable cramps.
Yet another friend of mine had endometriosis. At this point in my life she was living in the suite across from me, and I swear, once a month it sounded like someone was performing Civil War era amputations in the room next door. The poor woman was in PAIN. Emotionally, she was fine. Physically, she was in excrutiating pain.
Where do you lie on the spectrum? Would you say you struggle more physically or emotionally when it’s time for Aunt Flo’s visit?
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?
How do you hold a job when you have PMDD?
I ask myself that question retrospectively. You see, taking Yaz, then Yasmine, then Ocella, has drastically removed my symptoms and changed my life. Am I being too dramatic? No. Whenever there was a switch from one pill to another (details to come in another post), I remember just how bad living with PMDD really was. One of these switches occurred while I was at a job that I had only been at for three months. I knew that once I switched to a new pill, the next month I would be facing a week where I would be exhausted (aka late for work), anxious (aka less able to deal with my abusive boss than usual), and downright weepy. Sure enough, it turned out that I had three sick days that month, days that were spent in my bed, curled up in the fetal position, whimpering. My roommate would knock on my door and ask how I was, but I was afraid, even of her. I made brief sprints to the kitchen to eat, and only on one of those three days did I have the courage to pick up the phone and call in sick.
I came back to work with the wrath of my boss waiting for me. I still wasn’t strong (it had taken a wake-up call from my boyfriend and breakfast in bed from my roommate to wake me from my 14 hours of sleep). He pulled me into his office and berated me for not calling in, for being gone for three days, for being unprofessional. I cried, and he took my tears for attrition. I returned to my desk, where I wiped off the poop of the mouse that lived in our office and hunched my shoulders, waiting for the next blow. None came.
A few days later, I was a different person. I did not feel anxious or weepy, exhausted or insecure. I was furious. I asked my boss for a meeting and met with him, telling how unkindly he had handled my sick days. I had told him a month before about PMDD, but apparently the acronym meant nothing to him.
“I know how you’ve said you struggle sometimes with… emotional issues.” he was uncomfortable even thinking the word ‘period’ in his mind.
I thought about an employee who worked in the downstairs of our office, one who had been to a mental hospital for weeks on end for some dramatic mental illness. Schizophrenia? Paranoia? Hallucinations? I had a feeling that whatever he had suffered from, it had a name that was more recognizable, and symptoms that were more firmly masculine, than PMDD. Had said employee been called into this office, berated for ’emotional issues?’
It is unfortunate that the first job I held after knowing I had PMDD was with a very insensitive and sexist boss. This showed in many other areas and with many other employees besides myself. But the thing is that even when I am healthy, the part of me that remembers PMDD and has been judged for it is always somewhere in the corner of my mind. This means that even now, when I am healthy and smart and only as lazy as the average American, there is a part of me that is still crouching in the corner of my bed, afraid of bosses and professors and roommates who might judge me for my periods of– for lack of a better word– insanity.
And now I am about to take another job. Throughout the interview process I have paid close attention to my new boss. And I find myself nervous to take the job. I will be good at it. I will work my hardest. But what if it turns into the nightmare of my last job? What if I have to switch pills again? Will I explain my “emotional issues” to my boss, or simply feign the flu three months in a row?
I would love to hear from other PMDD sufferers, or anyone whose life interrupted by the effects of Aunt Flo. How do you hold a job? How much do you share? How often do you find your symptoms re-occuring?