If you know me, you know that I am full of opinions and strong feelings. Some of them are about “important things” like atonement theories, HPV vaccination, standing up for victims of abuse. Most of them are about the “not important” things like what crust you should get on your pizza, naming your baby something that you know how to spell, wearing appropriate shoes for your outfit. I buy clothes fairly swiftly because I know exactly what I like. If you ask me to pick something for dinner I might not know what I want, but I will certainly tell you what I absolutely don’t want to eat. When I picked out furniture for my home a few years ago I told the guy what he had picked that was atrocious and what was fine and he went from there. I’ve been this way since I was small; my mother spent her mornings struggling to get me into a dress that was “too itchy” “too tight in the neck” or “just didn’t feel right.” I would eat rice for dinner because nothing else was acceptable. When my youngest tells me she knows best and I should stop helping her or telling her what to do my mother just smiles and I know that this is exactly what she went through. I think many of us have stuff we feel strongly about. One of my practice partners hates all white condiments, grammar errors, giant baby hair bows and spray tans. (love me some spray tan for my ultra-whiteness).
When does my “stop helping me, I know best” voice come through the strongest? When I’m tired, when I’m stressed, when I’m hungry. Oh, and when I was pregnant. Ask any of my work friends about the day prior and the day I went into labor with each of my daughters. I was full of opinions and strong feelings. Most of them involved making a plan to fatally injure who I felt were the most annoying among my co-workers. Yes, that’s right. My friends knew I was going into labor because I threatened to kill people. For one of my besties, it’s when she’s about to start her period. Yes, that’s right. PMS. Three letters that strike fear in the hearts of husbands everywhere. It’s what teenage boys use to blame girls for having any strong opinions. “She told me I was out of line. She must have PMS.” Premenstrual Syndrome is like the government. Everyone thinks they know how the country should be run but they have no idea how government works. So with PMS. They think they know what it is and what we should “do to fix it” but in reality for most it is a mystery.
Does PMS exist? Why of course. You see, your brain is a wonderfully strange organ. Besides keeping you alive everyday by making sure you can breathe and swallow and move in an organized fashion, your brain is your regulatory system for your emotions, your thoughts and even your hormones. Oh we’d like to blame our ovaries for everything, but it’s the brain that drives your body to work in the way it does. For women, our brain is constantly “talking” to our reproductive organs, sending pulses of hormones trying to get them to spit out hormones in the hopes of getting us pregnant (no thank you). That results in a lot of peaks and valleys throughout the menstrual cycle. I like to tell my patients that for some women it’s like a horrible roller coaster and no one will let those bars up so you can get off the ride! Some women have such bad symptoms that they are classified with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) based on what poor quality of life they have during this time in their cycle. Ouch!
So what is my response when usually well meaning spouses and significant others ask me to “fix” my patients PMS? Usually I start with (surprise) my strong feelings about understanding what it means to be the sex that was created to carry and deliver another human being. Give us a break. They also give us the ability to bond with tiny humans that scream at us the moment they are born, they give us the ability to feed that tiny screaming human from our own body if we choose to do so. Those same hormones are probably a big reason my bestie tolerates her husband who inspired this blog post with his eye rolling PMS commentary! The truth is there aren’t a lot of options for treatment of PMS, especially if symptoms are severe. While there is a lot of money to be made fixing erectile dysfunction, curing premenstrual syndrome just isn’t a sexy sell. Fortunately for many women starting on a birth control pill, taking scheduled NSAID medications or even using medications to treat other disorders like depression and anxiety can help with PMS.
In the mean time, get over it. period. Stop using PMS as an excuse for anybody like me who has lots of opinions and strong feelings. I would never accuse Pastor Jason of having something like PMS if KD leaves OKC and he spends hours sobbing uncontrollably. I choose not to buy into the belief that opinions and strong feelings are all bad. Strong feelings get things done. I hope my passion for the “important things” will be the reason we eliminate cervical cancer or domestic violence or sexual assault. I’m sure my passion for the “not important” things keeps the church girls entertained on a daily basis.
So ladies, keep your strong feelings. Make time for self care, even if you don’t have PMS. Husbands, boyfriends, friends, significant others, partners, give grace to those around you. It might be PMS. It might be lack of food, lack of sleep, a looming deadline or some other stressor. If you have terrible PMS talk to a physician you trust. Hopefully you can find relief. But most of all, give yourself some grace. I won’t say that I have never regretted sharing my opinions or having strong feelings about something. I am certain that a lot of my opinions are probably not correct or based on anything sound. My opinions on lots of things have changed over time and are probably just as strong in the opposite direction of what I once thought. And I probably won’t ever stop with the “don’t help me, I know best, here are my strong feelings” during those times of mental fatigue. And maybe neither will you. No apology needed. I’m over it. Period.