Let’s talk about Pre-menstrual Syndrome for a moment shall we?
What’s that sound? Oh, that was the mass exodus of any dudes that read this blog. Not all men are dudes though, so I betcha there are a few caring souls who will still read along out of interest to their lady companions. You are most certainly welcome here.
Picture unrelated. A bejeweled friend we saw on our Father’s Day hike on the San Bruno Bog Trail. The pictures will be like another post in itself. A twofer.
So ladies, tell me, when I say Who here has PMS (or PMDD…Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) do you raise your hand? I’m willing to be that you have experienced some gradation, at some point, in your History of Moons. I think that giving you a short descriptive paragraph of what it is would be redundant. And if you don’t know what it is, well…you lucky duck. I encourage you to Google it, particularly adding in the phrase feminist. You’ll get some awesome results. Like this gem:
My real gripe, however, is the general presumption, which is widely held, even by some of the most feminist people I know, that women who suffer cyclical irritability with their menstrual cycles get “irrational” and/or express anger about things that don’t really bother them; it’s just that they’re being “sensitive” because of the whole period thing. The problem is that I’ve seen people using that erroneous presumption as an excuse to not deal with the issue about which anger is being expressed, including women themselves, who have been told over and over that their periods do make them irrational and sensitive and thusly feel inclined to exhort partners to “just ignore” them—a request often obliged with no small amount of self-congratulation.
Let’s put this shit to bed right now: Women don’t lose their minds when they have period-related irritability. It doesn’t lower their ability to reason; it lowers their patience and, hence, tolerance for bullshit. If an issue comes up a lot during “that time of the month,” that doesn’t mean she only cares about it once a month; it means she’s bothered by it all the time and lacks the capacity, once a month, to shove it down and bury it beneath six gulps of willful silence. Those are the things most worth paying attention to. (By both people involved.)
Y’all are wise women. I just heard some Mmmmm Hmmmmms out there.
PMS and PMDD doesn’t just show up as irritability. In myself (and also in many of my clients) it shows up as brutal and recurring negative self talk. Years ago I was sitting in my car one afternoon, crying my eyes out. I was crying because the inner narrative going through my head was particularly cruel. You’re crazy it said. There’s something wrong with you. Look at this historical list of everything you’ve ever done wrong. Let me read it to you. With feeling.
As I was crumpling in on myself, another voice, softer and kinder whispered, Remember where you are in your cycle.
It was an important moment. That whisper was a sword that cut the cruelty off at the knees.
I have tried many things for dealing with PMDD. Dietary changes helped the physical severity of my periods (taking out meat, dairy and sugar shortened the length of the bleeding and made what used to be debilitating cramps disappear entirely). Red Raspberry Leaf infusion strengthened my uterus and made it a champ. Exercise helped and so did yoga. Perhaps most of all, mindfulness has been the key to not falling prey to the voices of annihilating self shame.
However, and this is why I’ve brought you all here today…none of these things have made the symptoms go away.
Since having Fern, my cycle has been wonky. Even though I was breastfeeding, by post-partum month three, it was baaaack. And it really seemed to have missed me, because it started returning every three weeks (21 days) as opposed to the regularly scheduled programming of every 28 days. During our year apart (pregnancy and post-partum), it also must have started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Because upon return, it brought a very nasty attitude. Then last year, Fern quit breastfeeding, and all hell broke loose. The negative voices have become smarter and better dressed, with qualifications in the mastery of torture. My mental tapes get stuck on loops, and while I can recognize them for what they are…just those negative voices that come up with the lack of progesterone…it’s the painful emotional states that I am finding harder to bear.
Now I am trying a different litany of cures. Acupuncture. Chaste Berry tincture (which I may be quitting because it might be a culprit in my cycle being so short). A friend gave me a hormone balancing cream from this amazing lady. Most of all, I am writing a prescription for Sacred Time Out. Time out of time, climbing onto the ladder of the mundane and following it down…down past the dismissal, down past the cognition, down past the barrier between heart and mind and straight into the soul of the matter.
Each month, I am given the opportunity for closet cleaning. If you’ve ever done psychedelics, you know of which I speak. That moment in the journey when the door springs open, and all the skeletons come tumbling out. Otherwise known as shadow work, trauma recovery, working with wounds…healing. Sometimes it’s different each month, sometimes there is a theme, like beads on a string. For June, it’s been all about feeling trapped. Trapped financially, trapped in a home, in a place I have outgrown, trapped in my childhood experience of being bullied, of year upon year of unchanging social ostracization. Of spending so much time in my life trying to leap over and away, of chasing good moments, of chasing the good life, as if it can somehow make up for what was experienced by a little girl.
There is only one thing that can make up for it. And that is to bring in the love and compassion of my adult self, to bring in the understanding witnessing of my fiance, and to take that little girl in our arms. We talk and I cry and Little Me finally feels seen and known. She quiets down. The emotional pain ebbs away. I am able to feel more present, more objective, with gratitude.
It’s a beautiful and wondrous phenomena, this sacred opportunity every month.
Although truth be told, I’d give it up in a snap if I could find hormonal regulation.
What is your experience with your cycle? Anything you’ve learned on your own path? Do share.
p.s. You get a cupcake and a quarter if you understood the reference in my title. But just in case you didn’t.