Though faces may go blank when you say PMRO (Program Managers Representative Office- of course!) or PMTC (Pacific Missile Test Center - silly!) - there's one acronym we women know very well.
I'm talking of course, about PMS.
PreMenstrual Syndrome, is a condition that includes any number of symptoms, including depression, fatigue and weight gain. It afflicts women of childbearing age and usually peaks during the late 20s and early 30s.
The PMS Monster
I have been suffering from extreme PMS for more than a decade.
In my younger years, symptoms often included painful cramps and bloating. Now, in my early 30s, the symptoms have become infinitely less tolerable. I eat like mad for two weeks before, feeling like I can never get filled up no matter how much food I eat. I gain weight and cannot fit into my pants for several days before my period. Moreover, my breasts are tender for about 16 days, sometimes making it difficult to shower because the ache is so intense. Besides, I’m so tired I don’t want to shower.
Equal to the physical symptoms are those that ravage my thoughts and emotions. Usually 11 days before my period, I’m so irritable that I struggle to remain civil in even the most innocent situations. If my mom calls during this time and asks a question, she should expect me to bite back a sarcastic answer that has nothing to do with her call. She might just ask me to find a recipe for her online, but I have to restrain myself from screaming, "MOM! Buy a computer and connect to the Internet yourself!"
Every single month, without fail, I also concoct a list of reasons why I should leave my husband. In the past, this has gone to such extremes that I once contacted a real estate agent to find a house to rent, by myself. I was thoroughly convinced that I needed to end my marriage, citing such husbandly faults as he never buys me flowers, doesn’t like to shop and always leaves his wet towel on the bathroom floor for me to pick up.
After these bouts of rage, and once my period has actually started, I experience an intense depression that persists for two or three days. During this time, it’s hard for me to do anything except wallow in pity. My thoughts bounce from, “I never should have passed up that job at the credit union,” to “I may as well quit working altogether, because I can’t even afford new bed sheets!”
This type of thinking is very hard to overcome - especially when hormones are raging.
I feel like my world is spinning out of control.
Coupled with the physical symptoms, I don’t have the energy to be rational.
And then..... I emerge from the grips of PMS, like the sun after a hard rain.
My usual optimism returns, I feel friendly toward the world again and am ready to juggle laundry with vacuuming and the dishes, all at once.
Learning to Live with PMS
One might ask - "Why don’t you seek help for such severe, yo-yo symptoms?!"
The simple truth?
I’m not convinced a cocktail of pills – which would likely include a mild antidepressant and oral contraceptive – is right for me.
I’ve never been comfortable with putting chemicals into my body, especially those that further disrupt my hormones. The side effects of some pills intended to control PMS actually mimic the disorder!
So, I've looked into the natural route.
Many researchers suggest that diet and exercise can help fight PMS. Limiting salt, avoiding caffeine and eating smaller meals, for instance, may battle bloating and weight gain. Regular exercise might alleviate fatigue and depression, while nutritional supplements that contain vitamins E and B-6 may reduce cramps and breast tenderness. Steps to reduce stress, such as deep breathing exercises and yoga, may also be beneficial.
In reality, I feel like PMS may simply be something that I must learn to live with.
It’s not fun, and I bounce recklessly from one emotion to the next for a continuum of 14 days. Even while it’s happening, though, I recognize the cause as PMS. Maybe this acknowledgement is part of the process that will help me manage PMS even on the bleakest of days.