I have tried really hard to keep Megoracle from turning into a grumbly-mummy blog (not that there’s anything wrong with them, I get them, I read them and respect them, just that that was never my point) but by gum am I about to blow that old rule out of the water because I am cross and I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY. I am also going to get a bit personal so if you’d rather not glimpse the inner workings of my life then bail out now (although I will try not to get freaky or erky). I will say the important thing here upfront because I am afterward likely to tangent off into lunatic, meaningless rants. Here it is…
Like some of you blokes out there, I was skeptical of the impact a bunch of hormones could have on mood. For almost all my years of womanhood I have escaped relatively unscathed – the odd pimple, a bit of a tummy ache maybe – and I would listen with feigned sympathy to friend’s accounts of hormonal-induced outbursts; I even (because I thought my friends were doing it too) falsely blamed PMT for erratic behaviour which was really just me being a bit of a moody bitch. Then earlier this year I popped into surgery for a quick tubal ligation and BAM, Auntie Flo’s arrival was being loudly heralded by an interchangeable temper that could rival the love child of Anna Wintour, Naomi Campbell and Tiny Tim.
It starts with one of those underground pimples, on my forehead like a shiny red bindi. This marks (literally) the beginning of the scary self-loathing, catastrophising downward spiral. I peer scornfully at the wrinkles underneath my pimple and decide that life has ruined my face, that perhaps I’ve made the wrong life choices and brought such ruin upon myself. Extreme I know. Then one of the little choices might run in and interrupt my pore poring with, “Muu-uum, Lucie did a wee in my uggboot” and WHOOOSH, any previously wobbly patience, tolerance or appreciation goes down the plughole along with clearasil laced water and all my coping skills.
Suddenly I am a hag with bratty children clearly spoiled by my haphazard mothering and employment of telly as babysitter everyday between four thirty and dinner. I am likely to shout something about mushy brains and time to learn some initiative on your own while Mum gets something done FOR ONCE. A bit later on, when they’ve taken the initiative to throw the living room cushions all over the room, poke someone’s eye and eat a bit of playdough, I shout again about sitting quietly with a book and me not being A SLAVE TO EVERYONE WIPE YOU’RE OWN ARSE YOU’RE NOT A BABY. Then I storm about a bit and slam a few doors and feel horrified by the scared look on the face of my two year old. That’s when Tiny Tim takes the stage, and blubbers. A lot.
Through tears I apologise for shouting and saying arse and sob on about no one ever listening to me or wanting me unless they want something. I hug everyone and they pat me and say it’s ok and I cry more because they’re so nice and I’m so God-awful all the time what did I do to deserve them? When I stop blubbering and determine to be normal and nice again we all kiss each other and breathe and go about our business. Then I get a phone call saying I “auditioned really well but we’ve gone with someone smaller” and the whole damn cycle starts again.
Pre-menstrual Syndrom (PMS) carries about 200 symptoms but the most common are irritability, tension and dysphoria. It affects 85% of women to a mild degree and 2 to 10% severely. The severe form is called Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and can involve anything from panic attacks to suicidal thoughts and psychosis. PMS, even without the severity of PMDD is listed in the US Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is proven to be caused by the interaction of hormones, serotonin and external stresses like CHILDREN and NEVER GETTING TIME TO YOURSELF. Men evidently are a contributing factor, says a 2005 study that found symptoms of PMS were milder for women in lesbian relationships. Great, next time I’m in the throes of irrationality I’ll probably fiercely blame the whole mess on my poor husband and try to turn gay.
What I hate most about PMS is the way it makes me doubt many things, lament others and downright loathe the rest – but without consistent reason. For instance, I will suddenly see myself as a bad mother for not doing enough hands-on-crafty-wholesome-organised-fun-stuff with them; but the next minute I’m convinced I’ve ruined their imaginations but structuring their time too much and handing them ideas. In practice this results in me herding the children into the craft corner with a pile of feathers, pipe cleaners and glue and suggesting a collage. I’ll feel disappointed when they randomly shove feathers all over the page and don’t know what a peacock is, cross when they fight over the glue and furious when they use it to stick the baby’s shoes to the floor. Here comes the switch: I’ll tell them to go and find their own fun – without television, computers or me because in the olden days children were left to themselves with only a wooden truck and ended up speaking their own language and fiddling with the piano and composing SOME SORT OF SONATA. Then I sit down with the paper and a coffee, think about persecuted Afghan women, people with sick children and my husband getting up at four-thirty to milk the cows and yipee the fishwife is once again reduced to a sobby mess.
AND, this is just one part of my brain working. There are all sorts of negative feelings going on simultaneously – I’m getting old and unemployable, I’m a master of nothing, I’ll never have a good hair day before it turns grey, I can’t cure cancer, everyone has more exciting lives than me, the car is filthy, there’s no firewood, I’m an ungrateful bitch, the future is all about driving kids to extra curricular activities, I can’t finish anything, I can’t help Africa, I didn’t recycle the baked bean tin, it’s too early for vodka, I don’t want sex ever again, why won’t my husband ever pick up the bath mat, I’ll never be a mermaid and fuck the baby’s eaten the glue stick I threw at the wall now I’m a murderess…
Then whaddaya know – I feel a telltale cramping in my loins, have to spend a bit of alone time in the loo and lo! I’m me again. The release is huge, the cramps banished with panadol, the optimism and inspiration returns, the family stops sneaking about and the very walls seem to breathe a sigh of relief. And I think, oh, it was that again, silly old me, next time I’ll know. Later I’ll laugh when the baby’s poo-glue sticks her nappy to her bottom and think oh well, I’ve never had hardship and I probably could do with a bit, I mean Alannah Hill only had op-shop clothes as a child and look at her now. Then I apologise to my husband, explain the PMS thing and he raises his eyebrows with a skepticism he doesn’t try to hide. Which brings me back to the point of this post…
It’s unfair on you fellas, it’s irrational and irritating and unfathomable and unpredictable but please believe me when I tell you she doesn’t want to be like this, she isn’t banging things around the kitchen to get on your nerves or picking on you because she gets a thrill out of it. She’s not faking those tears even though they seem to come from nowhere for no reason and she’s not sulking to be manipulative. She’s at war with a heap of chemicals and you’re just going to have to be a bit patient, get to know the signs and give her a
hug now and then – really, hugs fix so many more things that they’re given credit for. Not a sexual one though ok, don’t get carried away and get all thrusty or bum grabby with it because that’ll send her off again. She just needs an understanding, supportive hug from
her best friend. And don’t tell her she’s hormonal because she’s likely to shout, “IT’S NOT HORMONES IT’S THAT NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME” because denial is all part of it too. I know, you can’t win. Stick to the hug, with a kiss on the top of the head. That and a drink maybe, and a show of initiative with the kids – like wash their hair or something, and maybe just quietly pick up the bath mat. Thanks.
Meantime, I’m getting stuck into the evening primrose oil and making an appointment with my gynae before I forget the pain of this month, cry over the orangutan ad and wonder why the HELL NO ONE LISTENS TO ME about this time next.
Oh and there is one other point to this post – sorry family, I am. Sorry and of course I’m not running away into the forest to live in an old growth tree. There might be some peace there but trees don’t hug back. xxxx