Can We Excuse Our PMS Behavior?
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
On a crisp, sunshine-and-laughter kind of day, I break up with my boyfriend.
PMS sneaks up on me this way. I wake up, and suddenly it’s there, an invisible hand guiding me to do things my non-PMSing self would never think to do. My PMS laughs at me in the mirror and pinches my love handles. It goads me to send a text that is too dramatic. It spoon-feeds me sugar and angst, pats my stomach when I feel like I’m about to throw up. It’s as if I’m under some emotion-swelling drug that my doctor didn’t write me a prescription for.
Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is defined by Women’s Health as “bloating, headaches, and moodiness,” but PMS is also associated with mood swings, emotional trauma, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression. It’s hell on wheels, essentially, and it’s driving 90 miles per hour on a highway with no brake.
When the road dust has settled and I am left with the consequences of my runaway emotions, I can’t help but wonder if I should blame myself for my actions. If not myself, then who is to blame? How can I disconnect myself from up to a week of my own self-destruction, of heartbreak and sobbing fits?
In the aftermath of my breakup, my body resists balance. It ebbs and flows with tears of guilt and confident strides to class. I find no stable ground. I send texts that I regret in the morning. I’m too emotional, too unstable, too everything. The guilt creeps up and whispers that it’s all my fault.
It’s difficult to resist blaming yourself in the aftermath of PMS. You may find yourself in a fight with your friend, a bad situation with your significant other, or a multitude of other complications. Yet I can’t help thinking that PMS might be the veil through which I see my own stability. I find myself saying “I’m PMSing. Sorry!” even during times when it’s not the week leading up to my period, because there’s no other way to write off my behavior.
Due to women being stereotyped as emotional, we feel the need to explain away random moments of hysteria. We may cite the cycle of the moon or the influence of a Mercury retrograde. If we’re astrological Cancers, we’ll say we were just born moody. Even Eve probably claimed some sort of hormonal imbalance when she ate the Forbidden Fruit.
Yet can’t we be angry or sad or upset without citing our raging hormones? Can’t we be emotional without fear of another claim that a female president would abuse the nuclear codes during her “time of the month”? I live in fear that my emotions will cause me to do something I’ll regret, and I’m sure many others do, too. But this can’t just be a “PMS” thing. Isn’t that just called “being human”?
Kehlani says it best in the intro to her album SexySweetSavage:
My condolences to anyone who has ever lost me
And, to anyone who got lost in me
Or, to anyone who ever felt they took a loss with me
my apologies for the misunderstanding or the lack thereof
The truth is, I'm a superwoman
And some days I'm an angry woman
And some days I'm a crazy woman
It’s true. We can be super women and angry women and crazy women, even if it’s only at a certain time of the month. We can be these things all year round, too, just like every human being of any gender.
As if in reply, my period arrives. It’s a celebration of my fertility, of my female-ism, of my body working the right way and my IUD working even better. Yet I still have the urge to cry for hours and remain locked in my room like Gollum clutching the One Ring in his cave. I still have the urge to tell my ex how sorry I am, even though we agreed to give each other space. I’m learning that it’s okay to have the urge. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay.