It was when I was crying at my work desk, covering my whole face with my hair so that no one could see my tears and swollen face while Googling “How to stop crying” that it dawned on me that I was never going to be a CEO. Do Anna Wintour or Malala have to skip presentations, sob during meetings or stare into the abyss of their hopeless existence once a month because their hormones raise their mental heads? I think not.
Since I first got my period in my early teens, my PMS has been a real downer; a party-pooper of a disorder that gave me crippling back pain and made me unreasonable and snappy. But as I entered into my twenties the nature of the beast changed. I wasn’t just angry and sore (although these symptoms have carried on), but sad. Terribly, terribly sad, not for just an hour or a day, but for days at a time, every single month.
Waking up in tears, trying to keep my shit together to get to work, trying to keep it together at work, make it home, not fight with anyone and get to bed with a tranquiliser and a hot water bottle became the monthly routine. But the crazy part about it was I didn’t notice a pattern, even when I’d be looking in the mirror wondering who the fuck I was after I’d shrieked at the dog for leaving the door open, and then boom: another pair of ruined M&S knickers.
It has been a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend, as it’s something that doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s frustrating for both of us when he’s asking, “What’s wrong? Why are you crying this time?” And I reply, “I don’t know! I just don’t know!”, when he finds me lying on the floor at the foot of the stairs with the lights off, my eyes squinty and ghoulish and something plastic stuck on my cheek.
One of the things I find so upsetting about my PMS is how weak it makes me feel, like a defective woman. We rightly take offence when men suggest that women can’t handle high-powered jobs – scientist or prime minister, let’s say – because their hormones mean they can’t cope with the pressure. But for me, that’s true. I really can’t handle any pressure when I have PMS – sometimes I can barely leave the house as I’ll have been crying over breakfast and don’t want to face the world with a blotchy face and eyes glazed from ill-gotten tranquilisers.
So does that mean that women who reach high positions in their professions just manage to handle their shit? Or do they not suffer from these kind of hormonal typhoons? Do I need to just suck it up?
Whatever the answer is, the new publicity that PMS and PMDD are receiving is definitely helping people like me. When my boyfriend read an article about a girl who had a hysterectomy at 28 because her PMDD made her suicidal, he showed it to me and we talked about how truly fucked up hormones can make women feel. I showed him Moody Girl, making him see that that it really is a “thing” and that I’m not a pre-axe psycho. After it finally hit home what was going on I began to take responsibility for my moods and track my periods with the Flo app, which at least gives me a heads up each month for when ‘the hole’ is due.
Reading the experiences of other Moody Girls I am relieved to see that there are things that can alleviate these desperate symptoms, something I didn’t think was possible. Maybe even Malala has her own PMS secrets. Maybe she’s a Moody Girl too.