Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Survive PMS: Part Two

You feel fat.

You lash out often. 

You can't stop eating. 

Dogs whine and cower.

People move to the other side of the street when they see you coming. 

Children beat pots with sticks in order to warn the rest of the 
village of your approach. 

In short: You are PMS-ing. Great. 
Now what? What can you do to make PMS 
a little less terrible and confusing? Today I will share with you one major 
thing that helps me to survive the two weeks of terror.

Keep Track of your period. You need to know your enemy. If you do not, it will surprise you and cause you extreme embarrassment at school--most likely it will be in front of your male gym teacher. It took me several years to learn this. My mother would write a note in her journal that read "Lucy Rose: Day 1". Then when I started to feel down she would tally up the days and discover that I was about five days away from my period.

Sometimes we would forget to keep track and my period would arrive as a thief in the night. Otherwise known as a complete wardrobe disaster. I now use an app on my phone to keep track. The app alerts me a few days ahead of time. It also predicts the length of my period based on my own average cycle. Now I can predict the times I will be feeling badly by looking at the calendar on my app.

Another benefit to tracking your cycle is that you can plan your life better. I know about myself that the week before my period is when I am most tired. I also know that the week after is when I am most energetic and functional. Because I know this, the waves of emotion don't confuse me as much. Although I don't attribute every emotion to my hormone cycle, I can still anticipate them.

C.S. Lewis wrote about something he termed "The Law of Undulation" in his book The Screwtape Letters. In this book a junior devil is being coached by a senior devil  in the art of luring Christians away from their faith. The Wormwood, the senior devil, describes The Law of Undulation as one trap which humans are particularly prone to falling into. The word "undulation" derives from the Latin word for wave. Having ups and downs (waves!) is part of who we are as humans. It is non-existant for us to remain at a high-point or "mountain-top experience" forever. We always sink down again. It is also impossible for us to stay in one of the pits of sadness. We will never stay at the bottom forever.

Lewis, through the ironic voice of Wormwood, talks about how humans are often blind to this aspect of themselves. Because humans do not realise that they are creatures of undulation they begin to believe that whatever emotional state they are in will last forever. If they are at a high point they begin to believe the high will last forever. Then they come back into a more stable or "mediocre" place and are extremely disappointed. 

Same with the pits. People in the pits begin to believe that the misery is going to last forever. They have no hope of an eventual lessening of the pain.  Most things heal after a while. Even the worst hurts begin to lose their sting somewhat. But a person who is not aware of The Law of Undulation will think that things will never, ever get better.


Wormwood teaches Screwtape to use this law against the humans by hiding the reality of undulation from them. That is why I track my period. Otherwise I am like Wormwood and Screwtape's unwitting victims. By using the Period Calculator app on my phone I am able to look with a little more clarity at the way my emotions circulate.

Does that mean that I discount any feelings or frustrations that I had while on period? Do I attribute all highs to hormonal fluctuations? No. I take them all seriously. But it does mean that the feelings I feel during the peaks and valleys are always viewed through a more fine-grained lens of examination. I have to ask myself: "Would I feel this angry if it was day eight of my cycle as I do on day two of my period?"

Practically speaking this system of keeping track of my cycle helps me to not freak out about gaining five pounds. I let myself indulge in the carbs I crave during this time, but I only let myself load one single plate at the dining hall instead of piling up several plates onto a tray. I also know when I need to start stocking up on tampons at the store, instead of rummaging around like a crazed rabbit foraging for any sort of absorbent material on the day my period strikes.

I am also able to explain in rational terms to my boyfriend and close friends that some of my reactions and attitudes may be influenced by my state of PMS.

This is the schedule of my period during the month:

Week 1: PMS, Low energy
Week 2: Period, Low Energy
Week 3: Post-Period, High Energy
Week 4: Pre-PMS, Normal Energy
Then start all over!

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