For more than 27 years, I lived undiagnosed with Pure O, a form of OCD that is associated with horrible intrusive thoughts.
Last Tuesday, I got a solid 7 hours of sleep and I woke up excited to get started on a mood-boosting, energy-raising workout. But a few seconds into my dynamic stretching routine, I suddenly thought, FUCK this.
My legs started feeling heavy as if some invisible force had dropped a wet blanket over my body. My mood turned gray as my mind spiraled down a dark rabbit hole of woe-is-me thoughts (general theme: YOU SUCK AT LIFE!) and my face stiffened into a scowl. The cloud would not lift even after my workout.
Not this SHIT again.
PMS consistently fills my heart with dread every month. My physical symptoms are fairly mild, but the havoc that hormones wreak on my emotional state is unparalleled. Reading xoJane readers’ comments on other PMS stories has reassured me that I do not suffer alone.
The PMS cycle can be a seriously grim time that can make completing the most routine tasks feel as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. Some of us are even imprisoned in our beds because our insides feel like they are engaged in a bare-knuckle, back alley throw-down. Others seethe with an inexplicable anger or paranoia and lash out at everyone around them.
Here’s how to not be a dick to us so we won’t be even bigger dicks to you.
Heed the Warnings
The week before my boyfriend and I were supposed to go on a trip, I had been complaining on a daily basis about my icky PMS feelings and expressing a general feeling of hopelessness about the existence of humankind. So I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea to 1) propose some amendments to the trip that would limit our already finite alone time and 2) tell me I didn’t have to go on the trip if I was going to be miserable.
Any other day, I wouldn't have taken his words literally –- they came via text, with no indication of his tone. Any other day, I would have recognized that he was merely telling me to not be a killjoy, and I would have presented him with a logical explanation of my concerns and accepted his apology for the offensive statement.
But my PMS-influenced thoughts went a little something like: How dare he?? He knows I’m going through a rough time. This guy doesn’t love me. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to spend time with me. Three years –- wasted. And so on. I just could not get past the idea that he didn't care about how much this trip meant to me. I thought about every single one of his misdeeds that I had previously forgiven him for and added them to my “Cons” list.
Then I sobbed all night, expressed all my dark thoughts about our relationship and told him I wasn’t going on the trip, heard his apology, sobbed again and came to a final decision that I had to end it.
PMS should not give you license to overreact, but it would be amazing if a simple warning would cause those around you to do their best to not provoke you. Pay attention if a person prone to experiencing negative PMS emotional symptoms complains about hypersensitivity and moodiness or pointedly shares, “Hey. Just to let you know, I am currently PMSing. Yay!” as I now do with my boyfriend.
Give Us a Reality Check
The day after I broke up with my boyfriend, my emotions yo-yoed in the opposite direction as they are wont to do during PMS, and I realized that my decision was premature and groundless. My mood changed to the point that I was able to laugh at my puffy eyes in the mirror.
I commend my boyfriend for his willingness to talk to me (and date me) after all of the vitriol I spewed at him.
It may sound counterintuitive given my oversensitivity when PMSing, but him calling me out on my shit really helped me face the terrible consequences of constantly caving in to emotions brought on by hormonal fluctuations.
There is a gentle way to do this. He didn't yell or attempt to argue with me. He maintained his usual calm tone and clearly stated the issues he had with my behavior. He was willing to talk to me about why I believed PMS caused such a rash and extreme reaction, without maligning me or making me feel as if I was imagining my feelings. And he encouraged me to communicate better with him before I jump to wild conclusions.
My eyes got a little salty when he told me, “Don’t ever think that I am not on your side.”
There is no reason to play the role of a “yes” man with a person who claims hormones are the cause of her absurd behavior. Don’t encourage her to act out -– listen to her grievances, offer solutions, and say or do anything to bring her back to Earth.
But, above all, DON’T call her crazy.
Do not yell at us and try to top our “crazy” because when that PMS rage hits, many of us can take “crazy” to new heights or lows, depending on how you look at it.
Don’t Take It Personal
I am a normally sweet, affable person, so it’s noticeable when I become a bit distant. If a friend or family member asks me what’s going on, I am usually not too embarrassed to share that it's PMS.
But addressing my PMS mood shifts with those I am not as familiar with is obviously more complicated.
If you are a colleague or any person who frequently interacts with me, but doesn’t know me, please do not assume that you did something to piss me off if I suddenly become reticent or look more dour than normal. If you pry for information about my change in attitude, it might annoy me even further.
I just want to be left alone. So a simple "I hope you're ok" or "Feel better" is much appreciated.
I was working at a new job for about a month when sullen, PMS-y Janday first appeared. I was short with my responses to questions because I did not want to be drawn into conversations, as even the sound of the copier made me want to shove pencils into my ear drums.
My boss clearly thought she had done something wrong. One afternoon she asked how everything was going and it took every bit of the vestiges of positive energy in my body to respond with a quick, “Pretty good.” Maybe I was too stone-faced when I said this, because she told me my “pretty good” response worried her.
Then in our weekly supervisory meeting she asked point blank if I liked the job, if I was bored, [insert a trillion probing questions here]. As the bile levels rose with each passing minute, all I wanted to do was shout: “JUST ONE OF THOSE DAYS. THAT A GIRL GOES THROUGH. WHEN I’M ANGRY INSIIIIIIDE. DON’T WANT TO TAKE IT OUT ON YOU.”
Word to Monica.
Do Nice Shit
I will always remember and appreciate my eighth-grade science teacher for letting me leave class immediately when I experienced world-halting cramps for the first time. Later that day, my mom brought me home from the nurse’s office and tucked me into my bed with my feet up, a heat pack on my stomach, and tea in my hand. That’s love.
If a woman you know suffers from physical PMS pain, show your support by doing whatever you can to make her feel comfortable and help ease her pain. If she always complains about PMS-induced back pain and you see her lying on a couch with a look of distress, bring her a pillow for support before she asks.
If she is spared physical pain but gets frequent cravings, surprise her with some of her favorite junk food. If she has PMS-related body dysmorphia, compliment her before she asks you how she looks. She’ll probably tell you that you’re lying. Ignore her and continue to pile on the compliments.
It’s the little things.
I don't claim to speak for all women, but for those of us who truly suffer when PMS hits, it is frightening to experience your hormones hijacking your soul, mind, and body. The last thing we need is added stress.