Does Your Menstrual Cycle Make You "Crazy"?
When I thought of writing this article, I was hesitant. First, there’s the weird fact of discussing your cycle on the internet. Then, I wondered if I’d be undoing all the efforts some women have made to counteract the idea that we’re either incapacitated or breathing fire at certain points in our menstrual cycles.
In truth though? My cycle controls so many aspects of my existence. While I’m fortunate not to experience much physical pain besides a migraine or two during my period, I struggle with other manifestations. Throughout my teens, I struggled to make sense of the irrational mood swings, aches, and brain fog I had at certain times of the month.
Now, I’ve come to accept that my month is split into three parts. During my golden days — the three to five days after my period — my mind is laser sharp. I work maniacally, feel like I’m bursting with energy, want to start new projects, and attack existing projects enthusiastically. Have I mentioned that I’m also the nicest version of myself? I feel more accommodating, less prone to irritation, and more confident about my choices and life in general.
But of course, nothing good lasts forever — it’s often not even a week before the golden days are over. The next phase of my cycle is the most difficult for me, and it’s not even my actual period. It’s the waiting game. Some months I’m so preoccupied with work and life that I miss the switch; I’m caught unawares. During those months, with all the funny things my body does, I’m sure I have some undiagnosed illness.
Thanks to the onslaught of progesterone, I’ve had everything from joint pain to dizziness and of course, the regular breast tenderness. While I’m waiting for my uterus to shed its lining, my brain feels noticeably slower; processing information is unusually tedious. I’m also tired all the time — seven hours of sleep doesn’t cut it, even though I’m typically good with six hours.
The physical symptoms can make you feel like a stranger in your body, but the mood symptoms are a different kind of challenge. There have been days when I’ve woken up just hating everyone and everything. Thankfully, I can remind myself that I’m not thinking rationally and no one is deliberately trying to annoy me. I’ve also noticed periods of higher anxiety and guilt for various reasons — not calling home enough, not working hard enough, not being good enough. Again, all thoughts I recognize as mostly irrational.
By the time my period arrives, I’m relieved to be past the torturous waiting. My mood is immediately better, my energy levels begin to rise, and I’m ready to return to the golden days when my period is done. I’ve wondered whether my symptoms are normal, but talking to friends reassures me that I’m not crazy. One of my friends says she’s literally had to make U-turns while driving — realising she’s going the wrong way — during her waiting period, because she’s easily confused and forgetful.
There are many other signs of impending periods — both strange and familiar — that it feels like my body is always preparing for something. Sometimes, I feel for it, this little body of mine that never gets a break. I try to make things easier on it by working hard when I’m up to it and taking days off when my mind just wants to watch YouTube videos. Exercising also helps and I’ve found that swimming really lifts my mood. I make a real effort to be positive and to reassure myself that I am doing my best, all day, every day.
If you’d like to see a two-minute representation of the average cycle, this popular video does it justice. Some women also have a debilitating form of what we know as PMS — PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder which significantly affects their quality of life and their relationships. If you think you have PMDD, get help from a qualified physician.
Now that I’ve bared my soul to the point of near-TMI, I’d like to know the ways your period makes you feel. Are you one of those fortunate souls who never notices any changes and just “oops” realises her period arrived? Or are you one of those whose body and mind never lets them forget? Please share!