How Bad is Your PMS?

Last year, seemingly out of the blue, my periods went from a few inconvenient, mildly cramp-y days, to a week of total mayhem. Not only was I weepy and constantly on the verge of tears, I was angry — actually sometimes furious — and so, so confused. I’d try to break up with Kevin, I’d contemplate quitting my job or finding a new job, and I’d inevitably get in my car and drive; I was literally trying to run away from myself. “A woman’s period is like once a month her body accidentally hits caps lock on her emotions,” tweeted Aparna Nancherla. Well, I felt like mine was on caps lock, plus one million exclamation points, bold, italicized, and size 72.

Here was the tricky part: even when I knew I must be PMSing (I even had an app that sent me alerts!) I couldn’t bring myself to let go of the thoughts that raced through my mind. “This must be true,” I’d reason, “because this is how I’m truly feeling, and a feeling is a feeling — it isn’t made up, it’s real.” All the emotions; the anger, the confusion, the certainty that my life wasn’t going as planned, were so concrete, palpable even, that they overrode the tiny voice inside my head that would say, maybe this isn’t how you actually feel? Every month without fail came the hurricane, followed by a cautious Kevin suggesting, as carefully and lovingly as he could, that maybe it could be PMS? IT’S NOT THAT, I’d wail. Fast forward a few days later, and with a clear head, I’d ask, “What happened?” (followed by one million apologies). It sometimes felt like a total blackout.

It seems kind of crazy now, when I look back, but it was debilitating, and it was taking a toll on our relationship. So, I started doing research. And then one day, I was listening to a podcast about birth control. I had switched from the pill to a non-hormone IUD, and even though my actual periods had become heavier and longer, I didn’t think it would affect my PMS, or emotional state. A doctor’s appointment confirmed I was suffering from PMDD, which I’d never heard of before. PMS on crack, basically. PMS so bad it becomes you, and drives you to feel and act in ways you wouldn’t otherwise.

I was put back on the pill, this time in an effort to stabilize my moods. While I’m not thrilled to have to take hormones, it feels like a small price to pay. These days, my PMS is much, much more manageable. But something has also shifted: I’ve started to understand the natural ebb and flow of my emotional state. I can feel one way, and it doesn’t mean I am that way. Feelings, even the worst ones, are fleeting. Short meditations, even just five minutes, have also been immensely helpful.

If you feel comfortable, I’d love to know your own stories. Do you get PMS? How do you cope with your own mood swings? I have some friends who barely notice a change, while others become bedridden.

Thank you guys for reading 3 Chairs and always being such supportive readers!

Photo via Grace & Guts

10 thoughts on “How Bad is Your PMS?

  1. Thank you for writing about this! So sorry to hear you had such a tough time. When you wrote about Clue before, I downloaded it too and that’s when I realized my *moods* were related to PMS, too! I tried to switch from the ring to the pill last month, and it became even worse, so now I’m back on the ring. Terrible dilemma, I wish we both had better options! 🙁

    • I think it’s common for people to have drastic mood swings while ON the pill (and did you see those recent articles linking it to depression?), whereas for me it was the complete opposite. Just proves to show how different and unique it is for everyone (which sometimes makes it harder to get to the root of the issue, unfortunately)!! Good luck figuring it out, Rachael! Thanks for your sweet comments 🙂 XO

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! I can relate. Whenever I was on my period, I felt like I was always on the verge of crying. It felt terrible and I thought something was wrong with me. Things have changed a lot since I changed my diet, and started eating more plant-based foods.

    While my PMS hasn’t completely vanished (is that possible?), I have noticed a significant change.


    • That’s really interesting, Sarah — I’ve thought about making an effort to cut out meat (and alcohol, for that matter) for health reasons but didn’t think it could make PMS better. Definitely considering it more now! xo

  3. My PMS and periods were horrible, and many different versions of the pill and ring wrecked havoc on my emotions. In June, I got the mirena iud, which releases a small bit of progesterone into my uterus everyday. I was super nervous to try this seemingly more permanent type of hormone but have been THRILLED. my periods are reduced to the tiniest spotting, no cramps, and no monthly emotional upheaval (been where you describe and it’s not pretty). I have heard not great stories about the copper iud, but maybe ask your doctor about Mirena? I’m sorry if you’ve already considered this and don’t intend to push what works for me on you. Myself and more than seven of my girlfriends all have mirena with very positive results and I can’t help but tout how much it has improved my quality of life:)

  4. I had my uterus removed but still have my ovaries so I produce the normal levels of female hormones. Since I stopped menstruating, I do not notice my PMS although I am capable of getting it. Makes me wonder if there is either a psychological component related to the the stress of menstruating or a nutritional link to the loss of blood??

  5. I was on the pill for about 10 years before I got pregnant, and had 2-3 days super light periods, practically no PMS. THEN I was pregnant and/or nursing for the next 5 years so stuff was crazy. But after my third child was born and my husband got a vasectomy, I went back to my “normal” cycle with no birth control, and I feel like I am losing my MIND!! my period is about 7 days long, DRENCHING pads and tampons, and I am a total and complete emotional mess for a solid week. I have finally gotten used to recognizing the few days before my period starts because I feel like I’m 13 and want to run away from home, but DAMN, it always shakes me to the sore. Makes me want to go back on birth control (just to manage the symptoms), but also makes me think, is that really what’s best for my body? More hormones? BEING A WOMAN IS SO HARD.

  6. Usually I feel bloated, like a whale and just want to lay in bed (preferably with something warm on my tummy) and with lots of cuddles.

  7. I use a menstrual ring and I do observe mood swings during PMS. While I haven’t found a way to reduce them, I feel that simply being aware I have them is helpful. I’m thinking mindfulness meditation could help with PMS, both for mood swings and menstrual pain.

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