So I came across an article by Rose George where she talks about the forbidden thing, a woman’s period or menstrual cycle. She discusses how hard it is having her period as a female professional athlete. She highlighted coaches who are now taking a women’s menstrual cycle into account when determining training.
As I read this article, I remember my history with “getting my period.” I was nine years old when I got my first cycle. It happened during the summer while I was at camp. I jokingly blame my mother because she had “the talk” with me before I left and made sure I had sanitary pads packed. Thanks Mom, good looking out!
I was the first girl to get my period in my elementary school and as it continued I started having severe symptoms. First off there were times when I was on my period for up to 14 days and I started having horrible cramps. I remember wishing I was a boy so I did not have to deal with it. In high school the pains got worse. School was important to me, so missing was not an option. Instead I trained my friends and teachers to know when I was on my period. The code for my friends was me singing Monica’s song “It’s just one of those days.” That was code for leave me alone for the week or you are subject to get your feelings hurt. I spoke to my teachers about allowing me to be in the back of the room where I could stand or lay on the floor during class. I remember at one point my doctor’s placing me on a medication that cost $10 a pill to help with my symptoms. That only lasted one month because insurance did not cover it and we could not afford it. My period was so heavy that I wore two pads at one time and had to change every two to three hours. When Always came out with their Ultra Thin line I was the happiest woman ever! And now their Infinity line is even better! I would do a commercial for free! LOL
Most of all I remember feeling alone with what I was experiencing. My mother was always there to talk, but she did not experience what I did so it was hard for her to relate. She was also dealing with her own issues going through…(another forbidden word) menopause. In the work that I do I have come across several cases of girls going through severe measures to hide that they have started their period. And who can blame them when we have movies like “Carrie.”
As I prepared for teaching my Introduction to Interviewing class this week, I was typing up questions to ask clients to assess for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD. I realized that this is the accurate diagnosis for me and what I experienced every month. The symptoms of PMDD must be present the week before to the week after a woman’s menstrual cycle. This diagnosis is characterized by having at least one of the first four symptoms and at least five or more of the eleven symptoms listed below:
- Have mood swings where you suddenly feel sad or tearful or more sensitive to comments or criticisms of others?
- Feel more irritable or angry or get into more arguments?
- Feel depressed, hopeless, or self-critical?
- Feel anxious, tense, keyed up, or on edge?
- Feel less interested in your usual activities?
- Have problems concentrating?
- Feel very tired?
- Overeat or have food cravings?
- Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much?
- Feel overwhelmed or out of control emotionally?
- Have breast tenderness or swelling?
- Have joint or muscle pain?
- Feel bloated?
- Gain weight?
In addition, there has to be significant interference with multiple areas of your life, not be caused by another diagnosis, medical condition or medicine, and have occurred during at least two symptomatic cycles.
Now understand that PMDD is more severe than the normal PMS that everyone talks about. For me I was not able to function. As a young adult, my doctor finally placed me on birth control pills which helped a lot. I was upset because it had not been done before. She stated that she did not want to make the suggestion because of my age. My question was “But why make me suffer for so many years when there was a simple answer?” Taking birth control for a medical reason does not equal a desire to go out and start having sex. This worked for a few years, but when I was in my late twenties (No trying to figure out my age! LOL) I started having problems again. I started missing work. My doctor said she doesn’t see why I need to have a period every month and placed me on Seasonale where I only have a period every three months. This has been life changing for me to only deal with symptoms four times a year. And even when I do, my symptoms have decreased, but I still have some months that are hard.
There are other treatments besides taking birth control pills. There are supplements and herbal remedies that your doctor can suggest, and there are also diet and lifestyle changes you can make. If you feel like this is you, consult with your medical team to devise a plan. No one should have to suffer through this. And remember that you are responsible for the emotional fall out that occurs when experiencing symptoms. I purposefully stay to myself during this time because of my mood irritability. I would never want to hurt anyone around me. It is ok to talk about this and let others support you. Thank you Rose George for being a trail blazer!
Click here to read Rose George’s article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/22/period-menstruation-heather-watson-taboo.