Here we go again.
It’s the time I often refer to as “The Dark Week.”
It’s the time when my nerves feel exposed and afire, when everything irritates me. When all the self-care I do—the walking and yoga and the long, steamy baths drenched in lavender oil—only seem to provide relief for mere moments.
It’s the time when my already overactive mind darts around like a squirrel on crack, I can’t focus on anything, and even mundane work tasks seem impossible.
It’s also the time that I’ve banned myself from having any type of “relationship conversations” with my husband, and I tell my kids that, “Mommy is having her grouchy time again.”
During this time, I often wonder why no one has yet invented PMS isolation pods, where we sufferers could shrug off our responsibilities and just hang out wearing sweatpants and watching Netflix and munching on bricks of chocolate for a week or 10 days.
I’ve been wanting to write about my horrendous PMS for a while now, but I’ve worried about contributing to the stereotypical crap surrounding women, our menstruation, and our moods. But here’s the thing: PMS, and its evil cousin, PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) are quite real. It’s a physiological phenomenon, and for some of us, it gets worse and lasts longer the older we get—at least until the sweet release of menopause.
Earlier in my reproductive life, I’d have two or three very cranky days. Now, each month, I’m taunted by 7-10 days of hormone hell.
More than a week of feeling raw-nerved and edgy. Of snapping at the people closest to me, but mostly, of just feeling miserable inside—like wanting to crawl out of my own skin. As my hormonal shifts have gotten worse and lengthier, I’ve become willing to try anything that might help, whether it’s changing antidepressants or sucking on the roots of exotic plants.
While I’ve yet to discover a cure for my PMS, I have found some tools that take the edge off:
- Clean eating. I’ve noticed that when I make sure to get plenty of veggies into my diet, and avoid sugar and dairy, I feel more even-keeled.
- Acupuncture. So far, acupuncture has offered the most relief from my monthly symptoms. It hasn’t erased them completely, but instead of having day after day of misery, when I get acupuncture each month, I’ve found more periods of solace in between the extreme moodiness. I don’t really understand exactly how it works, and I don’t need to—just stick those needles in.
- Neurologically-based chiropractic care. I hadn’t heard of it either, until my husband introduced me to his chiropractor. Like acupuncture, I don’t understand exactly how it works. My chiropractor uses essential oils, brain mapping, and nutritional supplements, in addition to chiropractic adjustments to help soothe my overactive nervous system. Along with the acupuncture, I’ve gotten more respite from my PMS since starting neurologically-based chiropractic care.
- Exercise. When that inexplicable PMS rage bubbles up, exercise provides another form of relief. A long, brisk walk or a heated yoga class are essentials for me during “The Dark Week.”
- Hemp chocolates. On a desperate PMS day a few months ago, I splurged on an order of hemp chocolates. These little dark chocolates use CBD, a cannabinoid which is thought to be helpful for anxiety and PMS. The chocolates don’t contain THC, the part of the cannabis plant that induces a high. These little niblets do seem to help take the edge off, and I like that they’re sweetened with coconut sugar. I keep them in my closet and duck in for one when I’m feeling extra ragey.
- Commiseration. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for me, several of my close friends also experience the severe monthly struggle. Anecdotally, it seems like those of us who endured postpartum depression are more apt to have terrible PMS, which makes sense when considering sensitivity to hormonal shifts. While I hate that these friends have to slog through a week or so of rage and weepiness each month, knowing I’m not alone provides comfort.
Using all of these tools to deal with my PMS is like a part-time job—except instead of earning money, it costs me!
I’d love to hear from other women struggling with severe PMS or PMDD. Have you found anything that works for you?
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Asdrubal luna/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton