The trick is to keep breathing so they say. Or at least keep putting one foot in front of the other, when all else fails. Recently, it’s been one of those ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ kind of periods. Literally.
Over the last few months, I’ve discovered quite a disturbing phenomenon in my life. Some readers may want to look away now, as this post is about what is perceived by some as self-indulgent ‘women’s stories’ and therefore inconsequential. Although given that we are over half the world’s population, I would beg to differ.
I’ve posted about periods before, so this is not a gruesome, blood drenched post about chunky days. The only relevance of that, is that it adds fuel to the fire of how you already feel i.e. crap, about a third of the time. It’s surprising to find yourself longing for the days when PMT made you just a bit snarky. A little bit grouchy. Finding men slightly more annoying than usual, just because they don’t get it. Ah, those were the days…
Nowadays, it’s something more akin to a temporary depression. I don’t say that lightly, because I know how that feels. I can be jogging along, more or less happily until WHAM. A dark mood hits me like a punch in the gut. This is not grouchiness. It’s as though all your worst thoughts about yourself come bubbling to the surface. All those dark, late night fears are right there in front of you during the day. Everything that is wrong is your fault; a result of your own inadequacies and failings. Nothing is immune: you are a bad mother, crap at your job, hopeless at relationships…an all-round sucky human being.
While I am far from perfect, I know this is not true. Yes, I am deeply flawed as we all are, but I am generally okay. There are even moments of self-induced fabulosity. Overall verdict: I am not a horrible person, I’m a decent human being, relatively sorted a good deal of the time. Yet in these other times, it doesn’t feel like it.
Last week I was under a lot of pressure at work with the culmination of a project, and there were bad things happening for people that I love. I was waking up at 5am every day with lists in my head of things I needed to do, unable to get back to sleep. It was frickin’ exhausting. Stress and anxiety only made the depressing feelings worse. And I couldn’t think or write, and was too tired to go to the gym.
After 48 hours of relaxing and mellow loveliness in Paris, I went from hero to zero in one day, and by the middle of the week, I was all for running away to the foreign legion. Except they wouldn’t have had me. I’m sure they don’t have any women, except maybe as cooks or cleaners. Or prostitutes. Bastards.
The worst thing about it is the ninja-like stealth with which it creeps up on you. For me, the time in between of relative normality is getting shorter and shorter. The cycle has only been 24 days this time, which is a good deal shorter than the average of 28 days. It’s almost as though my body is chucking everything out before it changes forever. So even though I am aware of the days passing, I always think I have a longer time before the next punch hits me. And it always catches me by surprise.
Still, you learn to manage these things. Up to the point where these things become unmanageable and I am not quite there yet, horrible as it may be. I’ve learned to check the calendar as soon as I start to feel this way. Knowing that it’s a temporary feeling helps to stem the tide. It’s calming. It’s not me, it’s my hormones. There are therapeutic things to do, which are different for everyone. I may never be brilliant at meditation, but walking calms me in a similar way. I am finding learning the tango not only enjoyable but therapeutic; while you do have to think about what you are doing, it’s still a way of not being inside your head so much. Thinking about what your body is doing and enjoying the physical contact.
More than that, it does pass. Balance restores itself, and I stop hating myself. It could be a whole lot worse, like it is for the millions of women who suffer from the pain of endometriosis every month. Or women living in the mud and squalor of refugee camps, or in a shipping container, never sure where their next tampon is coming from.
This is not meant to be a woe is me post, or to garner sympathy for my situation. It’s because it’s still so difficult to talk about. Unless men live with women who suffer with their periods, they don’t really understand. They might not be unsympathetic, but because it happens to almost all women, then it’s normal. They don’t see the big deal. But sometimes it is a big fucking deal. It disables some women for a week every month, in the sense that they can’t carry on their normal life. They might be in pain, or depressed, or general emotional wrecks. They might need to go as far as locking down for a few days. That’s not ‘normal’.
No-one wants to talk about the carnage in their pants that much, apart from the fact that while this is happening, you feel grotty, weepy and vulnerable. It would be a lot better if it wasn’t so hard to admit that, to stop feeling shame about what is happening, or to imagine that’s it some kind of female weakness. In some ways it is, because we are physically weakened by it. But the rest of it applies to both genders; men understand depressive feelings too, and hide them for different reasons.
It’s a pretty bizarre thing when you think about it, and we’re all missing out on empathy. If we could all be a bit more honest about feeling low, we could be a bit kinder to one another, make it easier on ourselves. My hard time has almost lifted for now and I’m waiting for an appointment to find out more about what’s going on in there. I am lucky, and can probably do something to improve it.
In the meantime, I’ll keep walking, dancing, being kind to myself. I will tame the dog.
Until next time,