Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't mess with my PMS, buddy.

Published May 31, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Being a college student, I find myself immersed in the world of research. Whether I’m reading studies in preparation for writing a paper or conducting research of my own as part of a class project, I’m often amazed at what I find. According to research, children don’t actually become hyperactive after ingesting sugar. According to research, the full moon does not cause more pregnant women to go into labor or more mental patients to stage riots in their hospital wards. According to research, premenstrual syndrome is a myth.

As a woman suffering from PMS at this very moment, I believe this research was performed by biased men who wouldn’t know a hormone imbalance if it caused their bodies to bloat, their energy to disappear, and their emotional state to fluctuate between weepy and hysterical. As a current sufferer of PMS, I’d like to dress those scientists in jumpsuits made of chocolate and lock them in a room full of other rabid PMS sufferers.

According to the “groundbreaking” research I read, only 5% of women actually experience the symptoms of PMS each month. Apparently, the rest are just imaging things or acting out the symptoms imposed upon them by the expectations of society. I’m sorry...I didn’t realize society’s expectations had that much of an impact on water retention. Who knew?

Even if 95% of women (and I don’t for one minute believe that statistic) don’t have any trouble with PMS, that number is meaningless to the 5% who DO. Just as the majority’s ability to walk does not change a quadriplegic person’s dependence on a wheelchair, women who sail through their months on a fluffy cloud of pleasant thoughts and cheerful feelings do not change the dizzying roller coaster ride the rest of us can’t seem to escape.

Case in point: Last night I cried over cheese. No, not cried...I sobbed over cheese. I was emotionally devastated by cheese.

Having waited impatiently for a package to arrive on my doorstep all week, a text from my husband telling me there was a surprise waiting when I got home surely meant only one thing. To my dismay, Federal Express (which should be called Federal Dilly Dally, Dawdle, and Stop For Every Scenic Overlook Along the Way) had not paid a visit to the house. Instead, the surprise turned out to be a small plastic bag of cubed cheese in my fridge, the leftovers from a “cheese party” my husband had attended at work.

On any other day of the month, I would have been a little disappointed, but ultimately happy he and his cheese-loving coworker, Carrie, had thought to send some of the imported treats my way. After all, good cheese is good cheese, and the gesture was very thoughtful. However, in the throes of a “mythical” hormone surge, I found myself confronting my husband with a surly, “I don’t understand what’s so surprising about cheese,” and then crumpling into a fit of gasping sobs, punctuated by frequent cries of, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m crying.”

It’s the last statement that I think is the most important. Women suffering from PMS aren’t doing it because they want to or think it’s expected. We’re often horrified at our own behavior. Three weeks of the month, we feel fine, normal, ourselves. PMS week comes, and it’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers time, only we’re there too, witness to our own crankiness and left to offer endless apologies over each surprise outburst. It’s a very real, very hard, and very, very annoying way to be.

I would end this column with a paragraph speaking to the fact that PMS is a reason for bad behavior but not an excuse, but I’m thinking again of chocolate covered scientists and feeling whatever happens to them at the hands of the women suffering an illness the scientists believe is all in their heads is right, just, and 100% deserved.

I’ll apologize for that last paragraph in next week’s column.