Warning for all the squeamish boys about to read this: grow up. Women bleed out their hoo-has. It is a perfectly natural thing that makes us incredibly bitchy.
Me more than most. Like approximately 8% of women, I suffer from PMDD: premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This is basically PMS times 10. Since the first onset of puberty, I suffered multiple days of debilitating abdominal cramps (I could eat Midol like candy and still barely function), severe mood swings, intense irritability, muscle aches, fatigue, and long bouts of depression on a monthly basis. On top of all that, I’d often bleed very heavily. And as I’ve gotten older, menstrual migraines have made their way onto the list. “Blessed miracle of womanhood” my ass.
However it wasn’t until college that I realized it was a real problem. I’d always just thought I was a wimp or something. Every girl complains about being “on the rag.” PMS is a terrible, terrible thing. It’s like your uterus is purposefully and viciously ripping itself apart; it would make anyone cranky. And in my ultra-conservative upbringing, we never really discussed such things. My sister suffered as much as I did; so did my mom. And while I was informed at an early age that I’d be going through this “miracle”, we didn’t discuss the ins-and-outs of it much.
So I never really considered the fact that it might not be normal—until I admitted to a concerned male professor (who is still one of my favorite people in this world) that most of the class days I’d missed that semester were due to menstrual cramps. He was the first person ever to encourage me to talk to a doctor about the severity of my symptoms, to suggest that it might not be ordinary PMS.
That’s right, friends. The first person to notice and show real concern for my womanly suffering was not a woman. He was a dude, with absolutely no first-hand understanding of what I was going through. But he was the first person to evaluate my situation and think, “That just doesn’t sound right…” It makes me wonder if, in all our commiseration, we women just don’t notice the differences in our feminine suffering. Perhaps we assume that every lady has it as bad as we do, when in fact you may be one of the lucky ones not included in that 8%…but I digress.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just PMS. Regular PMS shouldn’t leave you in excruciating pain for an entire week. It shouldn’t make your mood roller-coaster out of control even after the bleeding stops. It shouldn’t send you into a rage and make you bite your brother’s head off just for existing in the same space as you. It shouldn’t leave you with an anxious sense of hopelessness and despair that ebbs on into the rest of your life. That, ladies, is not PMS.
After trying several treatments, I ended up on Yaz and couldn’t have been happier. The drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol even out my crazy hormones through the entire month, letting me be the mostly rational, relatively emotionally balanced person I always knew was hiding somewhere beneath the mess. It limits the cramping to one or two days of moderate discomfort. I am a little extra irritable for a few days, but nothing that would threaten the stability of my relationships. It turned my monthly dread into an annoying but acceptable part of being a woman.
Now I’m not saying Yaz is for everyone. I know there are the lawsuits and angry people and the FDA and stuff; just Google it and you’ll know what I’m talking about. But for me, it’s the only thing I’ve ever tried that actually works.
But apparently, this cycle I have done something to anger the lady gods. I woke up on Sunday morning and almost thought I wouldn’t make it to yoga—it took me about half an hour to realize that it wasn’t a return of the evil tummy bug from hell. It was just cramps. (Because of the menstrual migraines, my doctor has me only do a period every couple of pill packs, so Saturday was the first white pill I’d taken in quite a while. I’d temporarily forgotten about my impending abdominal discomfort.) So I got my butt up, took some Advil, and went on with my day. I get up yesterday morning, and I’m still cramping. It’s a little worse than usual, but nothing to write home about.
And then I woke up this morning shaking my fist in the air and cursing my second X chromosome. I can’t remember the last time I cramped this badly. It is a marked effort for me to remain vertical; all I really want to do is go home and curl up with a heating pad in the fetal position on my couch and eat Tostitos and smashed-up avocados and ice cream. I am reminded of my long years of suffering under the PMDD fairy (who is an evil fairy; not NEARLY as nice as the PMS fairy or Aunt Flow), and the long year a few years ago when all the mess with lawsuits started and my gyno had me try something else that was completely ineffective. And as I traipsed into work fifteen minutes late (because it literally took me that long to pull my happy ass out of bed this morning) and expressed my dismay at the severity of my symptoms to my female officemate, she looked up at me thoughtfully and said:
“You think maybe it’s the steroids? I had a friend who said they made hers worse.”
Damn you, prednisone! You may be making it easier for me to breathe, but I do NOT consider this a fair exchange.
Now if you need me, I’ll be digging through my desk looking for loose change so I can go to the vending machine and get a candy bar…