Tuesday, November 13, 2012

what the hell is pms anyway?

it's PMS WEEK here at silly = sane, but what exactly does that mean?

the acronym is for "pre-menstrual syndrome," as i'm sure you already know. but i'm going to re-define that as "pre-menstural symptoms." that word "syndrome" bugs me. it implies i'm somehow abnormal or have a disease. dude, my body is just getting ready to dump some unused eggs and give that fat ol' uterine lining a natural lipo, ok? that said, the effects of those working biological gears are pretty real... and pretty amazing, if you think about it.

that is, when i'm not scared out of my skinny jeans by what the hell my body is doing.

what you feel leading up to "that time of the month" may be different than for me. maybe for you it's just a craving for salt and an annoying whitehead, while for me it also brings real concern that my subcutaneous tissue is about to trade places with my epidermis. in fact, there are upwards of 150 symptoms associated with PMS, which basically renders the medical term useless as a medical term. a recent "controversial" research review took a critical look at the actual studies out there concerning PMS. it found there wasn't enough good research to definitively say PMS affects anyone with a uterus, and what good studies were out there (sample size and methodology and all that jazz) gave conflicting results. (find a Cliff's Notes version here.) it's a good reality check; we can't write off every bad mood as "oh, it's just PMS" (lame). i do think it reflects this inane and insane propensity to medicalize every nut and bolt of a woman's life, especially when it comes to the biology of poppin' out bay-bez. but, all that said, for me and most other moms i know, PMS is certainly not overblown. and while we shouldn't feel like we're inherently horrible for having estrogen, we also shouldn't let it be an excuse to spit obscenities at our loved ones.

so... here are some pointers for making a very real hurdle easier to clear:
  • planning   it's called a cycle for a reason. there's a measure of predictability here that can work in our favor. if you don't already, map your moods and mark the days so you can find your own pattern and have a better idea of what's coming down the road. which leads us to...
  • period   knowing what your body is doing, and why, makes it easier to handle the changes that come with that cycle – good (libido), bad (depression) or inconsequential (the zit will eventually go away). go back to sex ed if you need to with a Google search. which leads us to...
  • perspective   as with colic and potty training, "this too shall pass." knowing that the negative stuff is temporary makes it easier to work through the tough emotions. and maybe even laugh in the midst of the worst days... and maybe not.
if you have daughters, use these times as teaching moments too. it's still going to shock her when it all starts going down. but there are some foundational things we can do now for our girls. i've got quite a few years yet before my girls hit puberty (something i'm thankful for... and my husband even more so). so you moms and dads with girls who have "entered womanhood" need to chime in here. but here are some things i think we can help our young girls learn to do now that will help them later:
  • put words to their feelings
  • pay attention to what their body is telling them
  • be confident about who they are
as parents we need to get rid of this veil of shame that seems to surround lady parts. it's not "down there." it's a vagina. (come on, you can say it!) and yes, there was blood in the toilet after mommy went potty. but it's normal and shows my body is working as designed. (and, yes, it is yucky, too.)

what do you think? what does PMS mean to you? what are the toughest symptoms you deal with? what helps you get through that phase of the cycle? did things get worse after having children? what about you moms of boys? what do you tell your future men?

credit where credit is due: the red background for the title image comes courtesy Patrick Hoesly via Flickr.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting thought...it is like science is saying PMS is the equivalent of "there is no spoon"; yet, the cycle itself and the experience of metamorphosis some women endure during that time suggests it is real.