I’m 46 years old. I’ve been menstruating for 33 of those years. And I know to the day when I’m going to get my next period. (Friday, February 24th. AKA tomorrow.)
I also know that some day, probably in the not too distant future, this will change. I’ll begin my journey in to menopause, with all of it’s funhouse heat flashes, night sweats and dry vaginal walls. (Hello, lube. My new best friend.)
But let’s just deal with the here and now.
Towards the end of each 28 day cycle, I get overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed with anxiety about the messiness of my house, the temperament of my children and the sarcastic lilt of my husband’s voice.
Those menorahs still on the windowsill even though Hannukah ended over two months ago? I haven’t noticed them for a while but now? They’re making my skin crawl. And I’m pissed no one has thought to put them away.
My kids arguing about who gets to sit in the front seat of the car? Or getting in to that back and forth bickering as siblings do? Grounds for being sent to their rooms until they have children of their own.
And my husband getting anywhere close to disagreeing with me, even if he is trying to be helpful? Cause for being on the receiving end of one word answers. Yep. Fine. Nothing. Sex? Forget. About. It.
For those 24 to 48 hours, I am teetering so close to the edge of losing it. That’s almost two whole days of feeling a tornado inside my brain, moving so fast that I can’t keep up.
I am PMSing.
Then the tornado passes, and not because my house miraculously becomes neat, or my children stop fighting or my husband becomes more empathetic. No, it’s just that I get my period and then I’m good for a few weeks.
You would think that after all of these years, knowing that this happens, month after month, would help me control my moods. That awareness would help slow the anxiety down. And maybe it does. Slightly. But so does eating chocolate and pasta. And being a bitch.
I’m not alone in this monthly mess. Not by a long shot. I know this because Ayelet Waldman told me. Well, she didn’t really tell me. But I did read All the Rage, her recent piece in the New York Times Style Magazine.
After years of being misdiagnosed with, and ineffectively treated for, bipolar II disorder, Waldman realized that her cyclical, and short-lived, mood swings and sleep pattern changes were a form of premenstrual syndrome. One that can be partially alleviated by taking S.S.R.I.s when needed. Coupled with some behavioral changes, Waldman has found some success in controlling the symptoms.
As I was reading the article, including Waldman’s description of her mid-cycle rage caused by the surge in hormones immediately before ovulation, I kept thinking, “This is me. This is me.” Minus the bestselling books, of course.
So thank you Ayelet, my menstrual cycle hero. For your succinct description of my cycle. And for putting science behind the messy craziness. My husband thanks you too.
Knowledge is power.
But even still, I can’t guarantee that’ll be enough. Don’t fear though. I’ll be menopausal soon enough.