how it is

I’m grumpy. Everything that everyone does is irritating. I want to take issue. I want to pick bones. I want to tell people how wrong they are. I want to fight.

The other evening my husband said, “What is going on. You’ve been mean to me ever since I got home.” Which was interesting because I thought I was being perfectly decent and civilized.

Though it was true that earlier in the day, I had a number of hollering fits at the kids, the kind where a simple, “No you may not slam the door on your brother’s foot,” came out more like a crazy woman-turned-wolf shriek. My sore throat indicated that perhaps I was going a smidge overboard.

So I checked the calendar. Sure enough, it was fourteen days until my period was due. Time to stock up on throat lozenges.

Is it socially acceptable to talk about premenstrual syndrome on the Internets? Is it TMI? Is it only something that we’re allowed to talk about in a coy, flippant, who-gives-a-damn and this-sure-sucks way? Is the truth like body odor: we all have it, we all cover it up, and we all don’t talk about it because it’s just not … nice?

When Rachel Held Evans came to town, my mom and I went to hear her speak. There was a slide show all set up and the cover photo was of Rachel sitting in a tent in her front yard. The title said something like: A year of Biblical Womanhood, or why I lived in a tent when I had my period.

Mom: “Do people talk about their periods like that?”

Me: “Well, if they don’t, they should. It’s perfectly normal.”

Mom: “Do you talk about it on your blog?”

Me: “I’ve mentioned it in passing, but, um, no. I guess I haven’t really talked about it.”

Which is kind of crazy considering it’s such a part of my life. It (the PMS, not the period) goes like this: exactly (to the day!) fourteen days before my period is due, I start yelling. Seriously, it’s just like that. Partway through the day, it dawns on me that I’ve been yelling an awful lot and, as I described in the beginning of this post, I check the calendar and bingo, whaddaya know, my period is two weeks out. The cloud has fallen. I am now in the throes of PMS.

And to think I used to believe that PMS was an annoying woman, pity-me-I-bleeeeeed cop out.



Thankfully, the worst part only lasts several days. Then either it lessens or I adapt, I’m not sure which. There’s a name for these two-weeks-of-PMS condition (though I can’t remember what it is). Some women actually take an antidepressant for it. I haven’t, not because I’m opposed to meds, but because I feel like my version is mostly manageable. Knowing there’s a name for erratic behavior is relief in itself. Also, recognizing the traceable patterns helps me prepare and brace myself for the onslaught. I slow down and breathe deep. I try to be sensitive to my tone of voice. I watch my tongue. I only make positive comments on other blogs. I’m careful about what I write about on my blog.

So what do you think? Is PMS a socially unacceptable topic? Would you write about it on your blog? What’s your experience with it?

(Note: if you’re rolling your eyes and scoffing at the screen right now, you better check the calendar. I bet your period’s coming.)

This same time, years previous: so far today, black bean and sweet potato chili, rhubarb cream pie, naked pita chips, and going to work.


  • The Domestic Fringe

    Have you ever read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant? Oh, you must!
    I think I should go live in a tent. My son bought me two giant-sized dark chocolate Hershey's bars and gave them to me this morning. I immediately opened one and broke a piece off. It was mamas medicine, just in the nick of time.

  • Mary Anne

    Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (A Canadian author, the book was published under the name The Book of Negros in Canada). I've never commented here before, but I do read and enjoy your blog. This book came to mind… I read it a while back, but I remember it was really good.

  • darlene

    LMAO!! Totally get that, and it's nice to be able to talk about it (or blog about it)! You are so funny, right on, and funny! Loved the title too…I also often find myself being mean only to figure out that it's "that time of the month" a 'comin! Lol! You made my day 🙂

  • Camille

    One thing I have noticed is that a little guidance is helpful. What works for some does not work for others. Sometimes it's the dosage that's off and sometimes it's the substance that is not the right *fix*. In my experience, the road is navigated a little more easily with the advice of a Naturopathic Physician…it is best to go with one who has had success in helping others with these things. Just my two cents worth. Hugs to you! Camille

  • JAG

    My PMS is definitely not that bad, although when it was less cranky and more crampy I once eliminated most extraneous sugar and caffeine. That certainly helped, but I decided I'd rather have the monthly cramps than have to give up tea and chocolates. At one point recently I did sort of note how PMS has changed for me so that I am less in physical pain, but more cranky in the (luckily) few days before my period, and only in the past few months did I notice I now have really wacky sleep cycles during PMS as well. However since then I have been taking notice of what I get frustrated and cranky about. 99% of the PMS crankiness was directed at things which ARE annoying, but in which I would normally just move on from. Since our family has a few people who NEVER just move on no matter little affected you might be in a situation, (complaining about drivers three lanes over and four cars back who have no impact on your actual journey…) I figure it's just time of the month that our personalities are more evenly matched.
    Also, I will admit that the feminist in me really dislikes the thought of leaving an opening for people to dismiss legitimate complaints just because I'm female and it could be "that time of the month". I may suffer mood swings, insomnia, exhaustion, cramps, and insatiable cravings for salt, water and sweets, but I won't place all the blame of my crankiness on PMS…my husband still should have remembered that the saucepan NEEDS to go on the first hook in the pot rack otherwise I can't reach it. Ahem.

  • mkoko1

    15 years ago, my PMS was beginning to affect my job performance, and so I took Zoloft for 10 days 14 days out from my period. Did it for about 3 years. Miraculous. Now that I am in menopause, and unable to take hormones, the same treatment works for hot flashes. But I've switched to black cohosh… just got tired of the anti-depressant dulls. The more we talk and write publicly about pms, our periods, menopause, and just the basic functioning of our bodies, the more informed and healthier we, and our daughters will be

  • Margo

    I pay close attention to my body and yes, I'm careful to do a lot of self-soothers and put off big decisions when PMS is upon me. If I'm cranky and it's not PMS time, I look for a full moon and blame that 🙂 I also wish my husband would understand that I'm doing my best to manage these fluctuating hormones and it's not a cop-out. My version of heaven is when my husband gets to walk in my shoes for a while and UNDERSTAND.

  • momma-lana

    I PROMISE you all that natural progesterone cream will change your life!!! Please read 'What Your Dr May Not Tell You About Pre-menopause by Dr John R Lee Jr. It will explain so much to you! I had given birth to 5 children and did not much about how my system really worked. I have been using the cream for 7 years and it took me through menopause with much less trouble than most and it is still a lifesaver at our house. Hubby calls it my happy cream. It will change yours and your family lives! I order Emerita Progest from Vitacost. It is the best cream and price that I have found.

  • Anonymous

    I'd write about it on my blog but lucky for me I'm menopausal now so I get to write about menopause instead, which by the way is awesome. Don't believe all the stuff they tell you cause it's the best.

  • Rosanna

    Yes. Hormonal fluctuations (premenstrual, ovulatory, early pregnancy, postpartum) always do nasty things to my mood. That's one reason I'm in no hurry to stop night-nursing my toddler. At least I recognize PMS now and know that it's neither made-up nor permanent, but a physiological condition. My tricks: exercise, chocolate, escapism.

    Kate Clancy is a bioanthropologist I super admire. She studies women's reproductive health, and wrote this really enlightening piece about PMS:

  • Second Sister

    I tend to feel indignation about my cycle with regard to how it flings me around (and sometimes rips me up). Its like it is some rogue beast outside me that oppresses me or infringes on the "way life would be without it" (as if that were possible). It seems by now I should realize it integrally part of me and I should be more friendly towards it and learn to channel it to my advantage… it sounds like a good idea anyway.

  • katie

    The more discussion the better, I think. We talk about our fevers and our toothaches and our surgerys in public. We talk about having kids and some of us even talk about sex in public. What is different about talking about menstruation, PMS and menopause in public? Are we stuck with books and anonymous internet forums to gather information about these things?

    I feel strongly our whole society would benefit greatly from more discussions about this stuff and many other topics — infertility for one. So many women suffer by themselves when they are not by themselves at all, we just don't talk about it.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I agree COMPLETELY. I just didn't know if I was out in left field in my thinking. So glad to know I'm not alone.

    • katie

      Well now, you might not want to judge where left-field is based on me. But hey, wherever we are, we are there together!

  • Becky

    I've never written about it, but I do feel I've gotten a handle on it in recent years. It was awful, just AWFUL in my twenties & thirties. The recommended 'therapy' of birth control pills made it worse in those days. I tried the antidepressant route, but that didn't quite cover the hormone surge I could feel pulsing in my veins. Finally, I was prescribed a birth control method that had a lower dosage of estrogen than the pill and hallelujah! It was the magic fix. Now in my mid-fourties, my hormones are taking a different turn (what with the perimenopause and becoming a woman of a certain age), it's not nearly as awful and bonus, I can ID it now. And yes, I watch what I say to everyone when I realize it's that time. A good, hard workout does wonders for that crankiness.
    TMI? Well, you did ask.
    And while I've never talked about it on my blog, I have written about TP a few times here lately.

Leave a Comment