Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has lots of symptoms: mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, and of course irritability and depression.
My period started when I was twelve years old.
It was at the airport. My mum and I had gone to pick up my dad who was returning from a trip.
I still remember gasping as I took off my panties, about to pee. I completely forgot what had taken me to the toilet and in a panic stuffed my panties with toilet paper and shuffled out, trying my hardest to look like my whole life hadn’t just changed. I’d finally joined the ranks of all my female classmates and my younger sister.
I could finally hang my ‘late bloomer’ title.
Holy cramp: pains, pimples, and mood swings
What followed in the next year or so was the confusing experience of trying to understand my period cycle and managing what I would later learn was premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
At that early teen stage, most of my friends broke out into extreme pimples that scarred the skin on their faces and their self-esteem.
I was lucky enough to be saved from that experience. My main symptom was intense lower back pain that had me walking around grabbing my waist like a heavily pregnant woman. This would last two or three days, the last of which would be on the first day of my period.
I was a very sensitive teenager, and my PMS made this worse. My melancholic mood would deepen and I would be sulking for a week at a time.
I actually never linked this change to my period until way later in my life. I had assumed this as another part of my adolescent angst.
Fast-forward to my high school years and my mood swings had mostly stabilized, leaving room for the other symptoms of my PMS to rage forward.
Someone please say, ‘holy cramps’! The first time I skipped school in my first year happened after I woke up in the dead of the night with horrible abdominal cramps and paced around the house. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking for hours. I thought I was going to die that day, but clearly, intense abdominal pains aren’t a death sentence.
The rest of my high school life was interspersed with bouts of the same cramp ‘attacks’. And each time I was sure my appendix or spleen had raptured. But a few hours later, my period would start.
There was once I had to be carried out of the classroom by some of my friends to the school clinic since I couldn’t stand up straight.
The experience made me so glad that my mother had exercised her veto power and insisted I attend an all-girls’ high school. My teenage sensitivities would not have handled that kind of embarrassment in front of boys.
To my horror, upon turning eighteen and having graduated high school, I started to break out into pimples whenever my period rolled around. Adult acne is so much worse than pubescent acne for your self-esteem. Sigh.
The period monster
After the pimples came the raging anger. The past five years have seen me turn me into a monster for three days every month. It catches me by surprise each time.
You would think 16 years of menstruation would have made me master my cycle, but alas.
I always catch myself shouting at someone over a trivial misunderstanding. Ready to jump out of my car and start a fight with an incompetent driver. Threatening to break up with boyfriends over issues I can never recall a couple of hours later.
Now I notice my ears getting unnecessarily hot and my temper bubbling underneath the surface. I’ve learnt to force myself to stay quiet during these times because I can’t seem to be able to control my words during conversation.
I try and keep to myself. I postpone important conversations with loved ones to avoid burning bridges. And each time I wonder: after all these years of evolution, how has the female body not figured out how to naturally conquer this bloody period?
What’s your experience with PMS? Share your story below or on Facebook.