What a bloody mess
My mother had prepared me for PERIODS. The first time it happened, l knew what was going on. I could have done without her excitedly phoning my great aunt about it while I was still on the loo, grappling with my first sanitary towel. But otherwise no big deal. She didn’t prepare me for the utter humiliation of being caught out without sanitary towels, with blood running into my socks, aged 12, between maths and science. My life was Carrie‘s life two years before I even knew who, or what Carrie was. By the time I actually read Carrie (it was handed around illicitly amongst the Forth Form) I was 100% on her side. This was not a horror story, this was my story. Except for telekinesis. I’m telling you, telekinesis would be my superpower. Why do I not have telekinesis?
My mother was of the opinion that there was nothing that couldn’t be cured by a brisk walk or some hard physical labour. I loved and admired my mother, but she was wrong. The way to deal with period pains, we all know, is with a cocktail of analgesics, whisky, a four-pack of stout, a hot water bottle, crap TV, and chocolate. My mother’s approach cemented that put-up-and-shut-up mentality we have when it comes to gynaecological matters. And maybe one of the most challenging things about this blog post is standing up to my long-dead mother and saying, actually no mum, you’re wrong, I’m right.
The years since that first period have been accompanied by the usual problems. Trying to figure out how to use tampons, aged 12, on my own, in a public loo. Getting such bad cramps that I failed half my mock O levels, aged 16. Fighting with my GP to get the pill to regulate them in time for my actual O Levels. Dealing with periods while on camping trips. Ruined knickers and skirts. Stained jeans. Leaving smears of blood on public transport. Having my first period after pregnancy before the episiotomy stitches were even out. Having to explain to boyfriends how to remove blood stains from their sheets. Just the usual stuff, nothing to write home about. Many women have it much much worse. I’ve got off lightly.
But none of this bloody stinking mess is for me, anything compared with that great joke, Pre- Menstrual Tension. I’m sorry but ‘tension’ doesn’t really do it justice does it? And that’s what I want to talk about. PMT. Because if we don’t talk about it, how it really is, not the comedy version, we’re just left to suffer in silence.
The Joke: Woman loses her rag (fnar fnar) about something that you think isn’t important. Oh she must be having her period.
Sod off. And I mean this from the bottom of my pre-menstrual and every other time of the month uterus. Just sod off.
I’m not saying PMT can’t be funny. But, well, erm, I’m not laughing.
This is my PMT: I wake up feeling despondent. With a strong sense of doom. I feel sick. I am pretty much paralysed by anxiety and irrational fear. Even though this has been happening on a regular basis for 40 years, my hormonally reduced capacity for thinking means I don’t immediately think “ahhh, my old friend PMT”. Plus my history of depression has always included Morning Doom (I’m making it a proper noun with capitals as it’s such a familiar companion), so it’s a bit confusing.
I manage to get out of bed eventually. I apply my mother’s remedy and attempt to soldier on. But soon, I can’t really think any more. I’m overtaken by nausea and grief and a deep overwhelming sadness. Soon I’m drowning in despair.
I haven’t quite twigged yet that it’s PMT, so I try to psychoanalyse myself. And usually I berate myself too, which makes me feel worse, a failure, lacking in moral fibre.
Eventually the weeping starts. Sometimes it’s just internal weeping. Sometimes it’s real salty splashes of tears. I give up pretending to work and curl up on the sofa.
If I’ve worked out that this is PMT by this stage, that really does help. The waves of despair feel just slightly less threatening when I know its going to be over in a day or three or four. Sometimes I don’t figure it out for days. Then I berate myself for being thick. But I’m not thick, this is just what hormones do. They play tricks on you. If I don’t figure it out, I might be starting to feel quite frightened by now. But either way, I’m in a deep dark hole.
You know that feeling you get when you are really scared, and really sad, and you feel like nothing will ever be right again? Say when you’ve just had your heart broken really badly, or someone you love and cherish has died. When you are feeling sick, and your body is in flight mode, and you are shaking with fear of the unknown, and you don’t know how you’ll carry on or indeed if you want to? Yeah, that’s the feeling. That’s how PMT is for me. That’s how I’m feeling right now. It’s how I feel for two or three or four days every month. That’s what I mean when I casually mention I have a touch of PMT.
Time of the Month
So, there’s times of the month when I get a little angry about things that you think don’t matter. I’m sorry about that. Perhaps they really matter to me. Perhaps they’re the things I’m clinging to when my world is imploding. Maybe this is how I always feel when you piss me off and right now I don’t have the energy or the will to pretend otherwise. But this isn’t what PMT is. PMT is the stuff I don’t talk about. The stuff that hurts so much, I’ve never really talked about it before. Even heart-on-sleeve, no-holds-barred, plain-talking me, I’ve never really said. Well, now I have. I feel really vulnerable and frightened and tearful. But it’s OK, that’s just the PMT …..
This has been my 40-year-long PMT reality. And then it got worse …. Next time I’ll tell you about peri menopause, and how PMT took over my life.