It’s that time again. You can feel it rolling in like a dark tide.
Whereas the day before, your life was full of brightness and energy,
today you begin to feel that brightness receding and the energy slipping
away. Within another forty-eight hours brightness and energy will be
completely gone, and in their place, darkness and lethargy.
“It’s just PMS,” some try to tell you, but this seems to go beyond
the usual PMS that is the basis for comedy routines and women’s magazine
articles. This is more than chocolate cravings and not feeling your
usual self. This, frankly put, is hell on earth, every month of your
life. You wonder, once again, how you are going to get through it this
month. It hasn’t even hit you in full force yet, and it’s already too
much. Just the knowledge that it is coming quickly is overwhelming and,
to be truthful, downright scary.
This “black tide,” “dark hole,” “heavy cloud” – whatever you name it –
almost consumes you with its intensity. The hopelessness taints every
aspect of your life. You are so depressed all you can do is lie in bed
and cry while your children stand around and wonder what’s wrong with
Mama. You look in their eyes and think that they would actually be
better off if you died and you let your mind wander down that path. Your
entire body aches to the point of feeling nauseous, you have spots in
your eyes because the headache is so intense, and you feel like you
could start screaming at the top of your lungs and never stop. To get a
load of laundry done or fix a meal takes super human strength, and if
you have to talk to someone, you feel as if you are watching yourself
through a tunnel, hearing both of your voices from far, far away. Things
that would normally only cause you to roll your eyes, instead send you
into a rage where your husband just stares at you and asks in disbelief,
“Dear, what is wrong with you?”
Every month this repeat nightmare wipes you out emotionally,
mentally, and physically. Even worse is the sense of utter shame and
isolation that accompanies it. Who do you dare tell that this is going
on? You fear they will take your children away or have you committed.
Besides, it only lasts for five to ten days, and as soon as it
disappears you have the hope that maybe the next cycle will be easier.
With the hope comes the belief that you are going to make it and it’s
going to be fine – until it starts all over again the following month.
Some women get PMS – others get P.M.S. There are active steps that a
woman who experiences such extreme PMS can take every month to make
getting through it much easier. These steps won’t keep the PMS from
coming, but it will help a woman survive without crumbling apart.
First, be aware of the cycle. One of the most tormenting things about
this issue is for a woman to not realize this is hormonal in nature and
instead think something is horribly wrong with her mental state. To be
aware of when and why this takes place can go a long way in alleviating
guilt and shame. It can also help with proactive planning for how to
deal with it each month that it comes up.
One you have established that this is related to your period (and if
it is, symptoms usually recede rather quickly within a day or two of the
start of bleeding), it helps to acknowledge and accept that this time
will come each month. Create and write down an action plan before the
time comes. It is one thing to have a plan in your head; it’s another
thing to remember that plan once you are consumed by the darkness.
Having it on paper gives you something to refer back to during the
period of time when your brain can hardly work.
As soon as you begin to feel the darkness slip over you, get out the
action plan that you drew up and place it where you can quickly and
easily access it. Refer to it often.
The following are some things you will want to include on this action plan:
Allow yourself a chance to rest. This does not necessarily mean
letting yourself sleep the entire time until it is over, but it does
mean giving yourself a break from those things that you normally push
yourself to do. If you are a woman who needs to work out intensely six
days a week, give yourself permission to take time off from your
workouts during the worst of this time. You are not going to get out of
shape by taking a break. In fact, you may even give your muscles a
much-needed chance at rest and recovery, helping them get in even better
shape when you resume your daily workouts.
Give yourself permission to not have your house in perfect order
during this time. Keep up with the basics such as daily dishes and
laundry, but don’t worry about the cobwebs or the dusting or scrubbing
the floors on your hands and knees. Look at the time as sort of a
mini-vacation from perfectionism.
If possible, let yourself get more sleep than usual during this time.
Cut out that last TV program of the evening and turn in an hour
earlier. If possible, sleep in and let your husband get the kids ready
for school. If it’s the weekend, allow yourself to take a nap. If there
are young children at home and they don’t let you sleep, at least plan a
time where they can sit and watch their favorite movies while you lie
down on the couch and snuggle with them.
Eat as healthy as you can during this time. As tempting as it is to
consume products full of caffeine and sugar, this tends to complicate
the problem. Caffeine and sugar can, and will, give you a temporary
boost. But as soon as the spike in energy levels takes place, a crash
begins to happen, and you can find yourself even worse than before as it
all leaves your system. If the cravings are just so much you can hardly
stand it, eat what you are craving, but in moderation instead of
indulging in an all-out binge.
Several resources state that supplements during this time may help.
Extra magnesium, calcium, Vitamin E, and B complex can help the body
restore and maintain healthy levels that will help with hormonal and
chemical fluctuations. Talk this over with your family doctor or
gynecologist to see if they have any specific recommendations for
amounts of these supplements during this time.
Use this time to do something you don’t normally let yourself do. In
other words, treat yourself. If you love to read but are usually too
busy to do so, give yourself permission during this time to read a good
book. Are you an artist but just cannot find the time to draw or paint
because life is too busy? Let this be the time every month when you get
out your brushes, pens, and pastels and let yourself go. Do you love
crafts? Make this your time each month to lose yourself in creating
something new. Love old movies? Rent a couple to watch.
Get some sort of activity every day during this time. Don’t go for
intense workouts, but instead, have a goal to get in a time of walking
or gentle stretching. You can also try some relaxation yoga positions
(yoga advises against inverted positions during the menses so seek out
positions that are not inverted and are, instead, associated with
relaxation). As difficult as it is, some sort of physical activity every
day during this time will do wonders for you mentally, especially a
twenty to thirty minute walk. Physical activity releases certain
chemicals in our brain that can help fight pain and depression, so help
yourself get them flowing in an effort to combat the darkness.
Garner a support system. Tell your spouse, a girl friend, or even
seek out a counselor and share with them just how difficult this time is
for you each month. Share the plan of action you have come up with and
let them know what you may need from them during this time as it rolls
around every month. It may be a simple understanding of what you are
experiencing or it may be a gentle reminder that you need to stop and
rest. It may mean going for a walk with you or it may mean listening to
you as you verbally dump out all the negative emotions that come with
the darkness. Whatever it is you need, just make sure you don’t go
through this time in complete isolation.
Lastly, speak with your gynecologist or family doctor about what you
are experiencing each month, especially if you find yourself suicidal or
afraid that you are going to hurt someone. This may be indicative of
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. If it is PDD, your Doctor can give you
medication to help. PDD can be a real medical condition which affects
hormonal levels and chemical levels in the brain and there is no more
shame in taking medication for this than there is in a diabetic taking
PMS does not have to be something you lose your life to every month.
It can be something that is dealt with and overcome, and all it requires
to do so is a simple plan of action. Don’t be overcome by PMS – conquer