A few years ago, I was waiting in line at the bank. Suddenly, I started having paranoid thoughts about a bank robbery… and that was when I had my epiphany about PMS.
Let me give you a little back story… a few months prior to this happening, I had been hanging out with my brother and he offered me a “nug” of marijuana. I rarely have ever used pot, however, this time I took it and thought I would try using it to relieve my period symptoms.
Generally, my period is pretty predictable. It starts every 23.5 days from the start of the last one. I have 2 days of light to medium bleeding (going by the product descriptions that I am able to use), and usually fairly bad cramps on the first day, sometimes cramping on the second day. Then I have a day of almost no bleeding, but often get a horrible headache that day, and then a final day of just “spotting”, in other words, not enough blood to wear more than a panty liner for protection.
I had done some mental reprogramming (which I’ll share with you later) and had overcome most of my symptoms, but still sometimes had cramps so bad that I’ve been on the verge of fainting or puking from the pain, and those damn headaches still happened most months. So I decided to see if using “the marijuana” would help.
The first and second month it worked beautifully! But then the third month I was out of town, and hadn’t checked my handy little menstruation calendar beforehand, and was caught in a strange city without my miracle cure. Which brings me to this moment in the bank and my epiphany…
I was standing there, waiting somewhat patiently in line, having run to the store and picked up the necessary supplies and ibuprofen earlier. The pain from the cramps was dulled from the ibuprofen. Yet, suddenly, there I was, actively imagining a bank robbery taking place and what I would do to protect myself!
“What is going on with me?” I wondered. I am in the habit of mind mastery, so this disturbing daydream was really a surprise. That’s when I had my epiphany.
I realized that, even though the ibuprofen had significantly diminished the pain that I felt from the cramps, I could still feel a gripping, squeezing sensation in my midsection, and it was a very similar physical sensation to what our bodies do when we’re feeling stressed out. So, even though I had no reason to be stressed, my brain was still interpreting this squeezing feeling as a stress signal, and that prompted it to search for the reasons why I might be stressed, and voila, it concocted this neat little bank robbery scenario!
Once I realized this, a whole bunch of information about PMS suddenly made sense to me! So listen up, ladies and gents, here’s the real deal on PMS symptoms and how you can help make the world a better place by helping yourself (or your loved ones) feel better during this special “time of the month”.
The PMS Mood-Swing Myth – Here’s what is REALLY Happening
PMS mood swings are largely a western world phenomenon, and recent research reveals no real link between psychological outbursts and hormone fluctuations, at least, not in the way we’ve been programmed to think about them*. Here’s what’s really going on.
1. We’re in pain.
For some, a little, for others, a lot, of — PAIN! Usually we can handle the daily bullshit, but when we’re in this much pain, We. Just. Can’t. If men had to experience this kind of pain (for some, it’s akin to birth labor pains for several days at a stretch) they wouldn’t be able to deal with the kind of b.s. women deal with. Heck, they don’t have to deal with that kind of shit on a daily basis anyway!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to minimized men’s struggles, by any means. We each are saddled with the societal crap that hurts both genders, and I’ll talk more about that in a minute, but if you’re a guy reading this, take a moment and imagine someone punching you in the nuts every few minutes, for DAYS. Ok, that’s the kind of pain I’m talking about. If your uterus was basically turning itself inside out to squeeze a few ounces of tissue and blood out, you’d probably be in pain too. If you had a uterus.
2. We’re hornier than usual
Yep, those hormones are at it again, making us crave… stuff. Like chocolate. And orgasms. And, turns out, a good orgasm goes a loooong way towards alleviating the pain from cramping! Orgasms actually help the uterus to contract, so they may even help make the period finish up faster – however I haven’t yet personally tested this theory, because…
3. We feel icky
Yep, blood coming out of our vaginas just doesn’t make us feel sexy. Sad but true. There’s the whole “OMG there’s blood coming out of my vagina!” factor, plus, we’re wearing a pad, tampon, cup or something to catch that blood, and that has to be dealt with for any sexy time to happen… except oral sex… but then what happens if we orgasm and that tampon or cup is inside us? Getting squeezed by our vagina muscles while we cum? Ugh. Sigh.
4. We’re physically tired out
Yeah, it’s just one muscle of our body, getting its monthly workout, but if you had a muscle clenching constantly and repeatedly over the course of a few days, even if it’s just that one muscle, I’m willing to bet you’d be tuckered out pretty fast.
In one of my classes the teacher held a glass of water out in one hand and asked the same old question: “Is the glass half full, or half empty?” Of course, we all responded enthusiastically as positivists, “Half full!” She then said, “the truth is, it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full, or half empty, if I have to hold it like this for longer than a few minutes, it’s going to start putting a strain on my hand and arm, then my shoulder, then my back, until eventually my whole body will be aching and stressed out.”
The same holds true for this particular muscle working it’s hardest for a few days. We need more rest during this time. Period. Yep, pun intended.
5. We are feeling stressed for no apparent reason
This brings me back to my bank robbery daydream epiphany.
Our mind-body connection goes both ways. Let me give you an example. Think about your body posture for a second. If you’re feeling “down”, or depressed, your body naturally assumes a certain type of posture; down-tilted head, slumped shoulders, a frown… If you’re feeling “up” or happy, your body also naturally assumes a different type of posture; head held high, shoulders back and proud, a smile… now try out those two different postures for a few minutes each and pay attention as your mood will shift accordingly.
How does that apply? Well, we feel similar sensations when we’re stressed. Our shoulders tense up, and often we feel a clenching in our gut as well. This is our body’s way of gearing up for a fight or flight response. Yet, when we’re on our period, that tenseness in the gut is happening, and so, just as with the change of body posture, that internal muscle change feels remarkably similar to the stress reaction, and so sends a message to the brain that something is happening. What? We don’t know, but due to this body tenseness, our mood is automatically affected. We’re getting a random stress signal and we don’t know why, so our mind tries to compensate and figure it out.
Our mind is a useful tool. It goes to work for us to answer any question. The challenge is, our body is apparently asking the wrong question. While ibuprofen was able to eliminate the pain, it didn’t get rid of the clenching sensation, while marijuana did.
Thanks to my weed experiment, and following epiphany, I was able to consciously differentiate the gut clenching feeling from the similar stress sensation, and now I don’t generally need to use pot to blur the feeling.
6. We’re expected to be bitches, and treated accordingly
“Are you on your period?” we’re asked, whenever we don’t respond with the appropriate expected amount of sweetness and light. “Watch out for Mary, she’s on the rag” is catcalled around the office if we’re more assertive or ‘bossy’ than us “lil women” should be. And if we’re actually honest about what’s going on with our bodies and tell people we are “having a visit from Aunt Flo” we’re looked down on, sometimes made fun of, often told that’s “TMI” (too much information) or otherwise treated in a disparaging manner.
Why shouldn’t we be able to be honest? If a man got punched in the nuts and told people about it, would he be treated the same way? Or if he had some other debilitating illness or injury? Eh, maybe so. I’ve observed that men are often crudely insensitive to each other and they are taught to minimize pain, so maybe. But that’s not a healthy way for men or women to deal with these types of situations.
That being said, all those expectations, piled on top of the pain, the wanting sex but feeling icky, the general fatigue, random stress feelings, and then we’re treated like crap on top of it because we might be “bitchy”? That’s a great recipe for provoking madness, so don’t be surprised when we rise to it and act bitchy or crazy!
What Can WE do to Feel Better?
1. Thou shalt pamper thyself (or thy loved one)
Really, this alone is a major cure. We’re in pain. Take some “me” time (or if your loved one is the sufferer, show her you care by providing the “me time” she needs). What that means may be different for each person. Here are a few ideas:
- Take a long hot bath – this helps alleviate cramps.
- Spend some lazy time in bed – laying on your stomach with a pillow positioned under your stomach helps put pressure on the uterus and reduces cramps.
- Use a heating pad or chemical heated pads on your stomach.
- Eat chocolate, which helps your body release oxytocin – again to alleviate cramps and promote a better mood.
- Have food prepared ahead of time (or cook for her). The last thing you want is to be on your feet cooking while you’re in pain and tired out.
- Snuggle or Cuddle – this also helps the body to release oxytocin. And let’s face it, we’re a touch-deprived society, we need more snuggle time anyway!
- Nap. Again, your body is working extra hard. Plus, often napping is a way to ignore the pain.
- Ask for help. You’re in pain, ask for the resources you need to carry your usual burdens. Or, if you’re supporting a loved one, ask how you can help her.
- Have more orgasms! With your partner, or with a helper, whether a vibrator or the shower head, give yourself more orgasms, they really do help!
2. Change your mindset
I’ve always been interested in and learning about mind mastery, yet until 2010 I had never thought about applying it to my period symptoms. I just assumed they were a fact of life, and I had to endure them. Then a conversation with a friend changed my life. He was telling me about a seminar that he’d heard about from another female friend. “The workshop” he said, “was all about how when you’re bleeding you’re closer to your earth power and can channel your inner goddess to access more creativity.” during that time.
He promised to dig up and send me the flyer, but he never found it. However, just what he said got me thinking about my period in a new way. And then I also remembered my ex boyfriend saying that one of his exes actually was hyper when she was on her period. So I started applying these new choices to my lexicon. Yes, I do take a couple days off a month and pamper myself more. But, I found my creativity during this time exploded! And yes, I even started getting hyper sometimes, instead of lethargic. Matter of fact, I’m on my period right now, while I’m writing this. Take that, you old monkey on my back! I’ve also greatly eliminated even the pain aspect, and it has been reduced from a (almost fainting or puking) loud roar down to a dull murmur most months.
The control room exercise works really great for pain management, however I will still take ibuprofen if I’m feeling lazy. What is the control room exercise, you ask? Simply imagine a control room in your mind. Now, walk over to the lever for cramps (or toothache, or whatever hurts), and see where the dial is at currently. Now, slowly move the lever down to zero. Walla! No more pain! Woot!
Hold Space For the Men in Our Lives
Men also have hormonal cycles, however, they’re less fortunate than women, in that they don’t have the accompanying physical evidence to chart by. Men actually have an approximately two-week cycle of testosterone levels. These hormone changes can also lead to them feeling different, and of course, they may express it in some of the same ways that women do; feeling fatigued, horny, irritable, etc. I encourage men to chart their cycles and moods, and use some of the same techniques given above to help balance themselves out.
Additionally, other things may trigger the same stress feelings. My ex used to get cranky when he had to poop. Once we knew that, if he was acting irritable, I could ask him, “do you need to poop?” and he would do a quick self-check, and be able to take care of the cause, instead of proceeding with being cranky. I used to get “hangry”, in other words, irritable when I was hungry, but I was also able to overcome that tendency and stay in a good mood regardless of my bodily condition.
Live Free and Have More Orgasms!
Regardless of the causes of our woes, we’re so societally conditioned that we often don’t even realize that we have other choices, both in reacting and even changing our ongoing experiences. I hope I’ve given you the tools necessary to access more freedom today.
*** Excerpt from my upcoming book ***
*Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.
Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (Impact Factor: 9.37). 11/2012; 82(1):53-60. DOI: 10.1159/000339370
Source: PubMed http://www.researchgate.net/publication/233404666_Mood_and_the_Menstrual_Cycle