PMT and PMS has long been the subject of debate amongst women, medical professionals and certain brave men. There has been a lot of research into PMT/PMS (the terms are interchangeable) with little solid evidence to provide an acceptable conclusion. What is clear is that many women, every month, are struggling seriously with their mental states in the lead up to their period.
It’s always been the office joke, right? Those too lazy to think of anything less misogynistic have blamed women’s periods every time we stick our head above the parapet and dare to voice an different opinion. “Jeez, you on your period?” or “PMT, much?” have both been said to myself (by men and women) when I’ve displayed leadership, confidence, or yes, annoyance. Because you know what? I can be annoyed at someone’s lazy approach to work, or a shitty team spirit without the root cause being my hormones. Shocking I know.
But is it real? Do women really suffer from hormonal changes that affect their entire mental state as well as their physical state. We know that hormones cause us physical symptoms such as bloating, cramps, headaches, tiredness so why is it such a leap to suggest that those same hormones affect the finely tunes chemical balances in our brain?
The research done to date has found it difficult to connect hormone changes with our negative moods surrounding our cycle. Sure, our hormone levels change in the run up to our period, but not every woman suffers from PMT so what is it about those women that do suffer? What makes them vulnerable to this? Some suggest that it’s linked to the levels or serotonin – if you have naturally lower levels then you’re more likely to suffer from PMT. Some simply say it’s all bollocks and we should all start behaving nicely, whatever time of the month it is.
I was on the pill regularly and constantly for 15 years. From the age of 16 until I was 31 and trying to conceive, my hormonal system was carefully managed by Micrgynon. While I questions with hindsight whether or not that was great for my system, what I do know is that it 100% protected me from my hormones. My periods were light, my PMT non-existent and I was able to function and give little thought to my inner hormone highway.
After coming off the pill my cycle never really recovered. It would range from 15 days to 64 days. It was impossible to know if or when I was ovulating and as a result conceiving my eldest was tricky to say the least. For the seven months following Billie’s birth, I was pill free; my cycle was still erratic, it was effected by breastfeeding and I was suffering from post-natal depression. With all that going on, PMT was the least of my problems. After seven months, I returned to the pill. I wasn’t delighted to be returning to synthetic hormone based treatments but I would have been even less delighted to fall pregnant again at that stage so it seemed like the most sensible choice.
After giving birth to my second child I decided absolutely that I wasn’t going to put any more hormones into my body that weren’t already supposed to be there. I was sick and tired of feeling like my body was out of sync, unstable, a bit fucking random. I had no idea when my period would come, I lost expensive bed sheets and underwear and clothes to unexpected deluges of life blood and wanted to do what I could to regulate my cycle and let it run it’s course, naturally.
When I finished breastfeeding Bo after 7 months, remarkably, my periods returned and they were, for the first time since I was 16 natural and on a regular 28 day cycle. I have no idea why they suddenly decided to get with the programme but I suspect it had a lot to do with an enjoyable birth, lack of PND, a healthy breastfeeding experience and a general calm state – something I was never able to achieve while trying to conceive or dealing with PND after the birth of my first.
But there was a dark side to my ‘natural’ cycle – PMT. I’ll hold my hands up – I’d be lying if I didn’t think at that point that PMT was a bit of a myth but here I was 2-3 days before the start of my period no recognising my own inner self. Every month now, I hate my husband with an antipathy so vital and strong that I genuinely tear myself in pieces wondering how I’m going to tell him that I just don’t love him any more and I want a divorce. Every time he opens his mouth, I feel a physical pain that makes me want to stop him saying what he’s going to say by any means necessary. He walks into a room and I want to walk out. I’m snappy and irritable with the children. I don’t sleep well. I feel dead, empty, numb and very very scared inside. I know that sounds dramatic but it’s true.
Listen, my marriage isn’t perfect. There are periods of true harmony and periods of real struggle but never, ever do I feel such raw hatred and anger towards the person I’m supposed to love the most unless I’m pre-menstrual. It’ genuinely terrifies me and I’m just about to tell him to pack his bags and leave when my period comes and, just like that, I’m normal again. Just as instantly as it came, the PMT leaves and it feels like whatever was possessing me sweeps out of my psyche and leaves me to pick up the pieces.
I know this sounds like an excuse, I really do. In some ways, I hate talking about it for fear that I’m fuelling the fires of those who say us women use it to justify cunty behaviour. I wish it wasn’t true; I wish I could stop it and I know my husband wishes I could stop it too. When I’m lucky, I can totally recognise what’s happening and I’ll say, “You know what babe? My period is due and I’m feeling like I want to kill you. I know it’s not fair and it’ll be over soon but best to just give me some space.” He tries to understand and, for the most part, is great but I know it takes its toll. I know it’s not great for us.
So I’m booking an appointment at the doctors today to see if there is anything I can do to manage this. I don’t want to go back on hormone-based treatment but frankly, it’s getting so bad that I may have to. Sometimes, you have to take a hit for the greater good and if that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do.
*I”d love to hear your experiences of PMT/PMS. Please feel free to comment below. I may use some of your comments (anonymously) on my Instagram stories.*