I got my period for the first time while taking the SAT. I was in the 7th grade and hoping to gain admission to an academic summer program that the Algebra teacher had recommended. A fellow 7th grader was taking the test with me, and I remember asking him whether his back hurt at the break, because my lower back was in extreme discomfort. When he said no, I chalked up the pain to the fact that I had been sitting in a desk, taking a test, for three hours straight.
What I didn’t realize was that I was about to become very well acquainted with that dull pain. It would force me to pace and contort myself into a variety of poses, seeking relief; wake me up and walk me into a hot shower in the middle of the night, encourage me to up a prescribed ibuprofen dosage to the point where I was advised to avoid operating heavy machinery. I’ve tried yoga, massage, raspberry leaf tea…but what seems to help most is popping a prophylactic advil – once my period starts, but before the pain sets in. Now the pain is (mostly) under control.
What has taken its place, however, is equally insidious. A doctor put forward a diagnosis when I was 22 and responded YES to the majority of questions from a self-rating scale in his “Women’s Health Care Handbook.” A selection of said questions follows:
1. Do you find yourself avoiding some of your social commitments?
2. Do you have an increased desire for specific kinds of food (e.g. cravings for candy, chocolate)?
3. Do you scream / yell at family members (friends, colleagues) more than usual? Are you “short-focused”?
4. Do you feel tense and restless?
5. Is your coordination so poor that you are unable to use garden tools or kitchen utensils?
He suggested I read up on PMS. Once considered a mythical phenomenon existing only in women’s heads, it is now recognized by the medical establishment, though the causes remain unclear. In the media, it is often the butt of a joke or an excuse. In my household, we call it “the dark zone,” and I enter it every month, 10 days before I get my period, like clockwork.
How about you? Have you had experiences with PMS? What helps?
As a side note, I am seriously considering kicking off a performance art piece with this stuffed uterus, reminiscent of Amélie’s garden gnome.
Categories: Health & Wellness