It’s hilarious how astute I am with my hormonal changes when leading up to my period. My PMS is so loyal it could teach us a thing or two about integrity. But what I have started to find more fascinating recently is how my best friend, boyfriend and family react when I’m going through this phase.
Firstly, for those that are already rolling your eyes and suggesting PMS is not really a thing (yes, there are people that still think this) I’ll quickly just shed some light on the syndrome for you. The NHS describes premenstrual syndrome/stress (PMS) as “the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman’s monthly period.” Nearly all women will experience PMS leading up to their periods and around 1 in every 20 women have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is often the result of a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). There are many different tell-tale signs and of course, they do vary with every individual, but the most common are: bloating, breast pain, mood swings, feeling irritable and lethargy.
I tend to bloat. I tend to eat nothing but potatoes and bread. I tend to bloat some more. I manage to sleep for 10-12 hours and still have the audacity to complain about how tired I am. I will eat chocolate like it’s expiring nationally. I bloat some more again… Oh yeah and my mood/behaviour in general is pretty, umm… “out of character”. I’m short, abrupt and snappy. I once sent my BF an agenda of points to discuss during our phone call, simply because he said he would call me three hours later than planned. One of those agenda points was asking if we needed to go on a break. I also didn’t speak to my best friend for three weeks. Don’t ask me why. I don’t remember. She probably does though, along with the date, time and what we were both wearing that day. Ooooo… I have also given my brother a nose bleed – not my proudest moment – and also left our siblings’ WhatsApp group chat at least eight times, requesting to be added back in not long after.
I also adopt a slight sense of insecurity with life and relationships. Finally, I will cry about any and everything but this usually happens two weeks prior to my period and a day before I am due to start. Like clockwork. The other day I cried about positive feedback I received from my line manager.
So every month, without fail, my conversations will go something like this:
Me: “So I went home and I cried, and yes, I know how stupid that is. I can’t even blame my period because I’m not due on f-… Ohhhhhhh… I’m two weeks out. That explains so much.”
Her: “Oh great. I’m suddenly very busy over the next two weeks. Goodbye.” *Ends call*
Me: “I’m sorry, do you have a death wish? I wouldn’t mess with me right now, bae. I’m currently PMS-ing and will be for about 10-14 days.”
Him: “I’ll speak to you in 14 days then.” *Ends call*
Me: “Heads up, all… I’m due on soon.”
All: *Heart skips a beat. Mild palpitations*
But after my declaration, I notice a change in all of them. They become more patient with me. My BF will suddenly become a fantastic communicator and tell me exactly what he’s doing and when. Why he might not be able to answer his phone, why message replies might be slower than usual, when he’ll be able to speak to me properly. Phrases like “You don’t mind, do you?” suddenly appear. It’s quite comical but, but at the same time my level of respect for him increases. He’s taken time out to learn changes in my hormones and behaviour. He’s indirectly trying to help me through the PMS. It’s his way of supporting me. More recently, I was extremely irritated about something very trivial – my best friend went to McDonalds without me (I kid you, not. I don’t think I can ever get over this betrayal). I spent 10 minutes ranting about it. He listened. He shared his thoughts and then told me that the reason I’m feeling more irritated than usual is because I was PMS-ing. And he was right. I couldn’t even get angry at that comment. Because he was aware of my behavioural changes and he was right. Instead, it made me take a deep breath in and out and helped me focus on ways to calm down. This support is so simple yet something everyone could and should be giving women.
My best friend is hilarious when she knows P-day is approaching. She will just keep feeding me! We’ll skip the gym a lot more or cut down how much time we spend there. We end up going to eat. I love her for the amount of chocolate, cake and ice cream that I comes my way during my PMS weeks. Usually, we find that one of us is a bit more ahead in the hormonal process than the other and well… this saves a lot of arguments and mood swing clashes. She’s a lot more patient too. I am known to be extra sassy and sarcastic when I PMS, and she usually gets the main chunk of that sass. But she’s patient with me, subtly putting me in my place with her own sarcasm. This kind of support helps too. She’ll crack more jokes and surprisingly gets a little bit funnier – don’t tell her I said that.
My brothers just start keeping their distance. The WhatsApp messages stop. They just go into hibernation for 14 days. You laugh, but this does help. I appreciate this too as I often tend to get extremely irritated by people 100x more than usual in the fortnight leading up to my period and the smallest of things will trigger a huge argument. My mother starts referring to me as “princess” and “queen” a lot more and her traditional ‘Sana insults’, which have resulted in her having a national fan-base, also stop.
No matter what you say, it’s hard for a woman to control her hormones any day but even harder to do so when she is PMS-in. And honestly – like why should we? We haven’t chosen to have periods. It’s out of our control. But comments like “PMS is not an excuse” or “PMS is not a thing” aren’t going to make things easier for you or us. It is real. Yes, we may unleash high levels of “cray-cray” but honestly, trust me when I say this: We have no control over it. I have literally been laughing one minute and crying two minutes later because someone ate the last chicken wing.
What helps is knowing that the people around me, know me and are just as astute to the changes I experience during this time, as I am. That support gets me through it. So next time you know your girlfriend, sister, friend or even your work colleague is suffering from PMS, think about how you might support them. Chocolate and patience works a treat!
Campaign of choice: Plan International UK – Menstruation & Female Hygiene