Dysphoria

‘m good-humoured, until I’m in a homicidal rage. I’m easy-going until I spend a day with tears and snot running down my face. I’m reasonable until I become convinced that the world is a cruel place and I’m going to die destitute and unloved and it’s all YOUR fault.

If you are sitting with a roomful of friends, chatting about the joys and sorrows of the menstrual cycle, chances are that about 80 percent of your cohorts will describe some experience with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD, known to the world as premenstrual syndrome or PMS). If you continue this conversation with you friends’ partners, husbands, or lovers, you’ll find that about 50 to 80 percent acknowledge that they know what PMDD feels like–but from the other side of the room, or perhaps from the vantage point of the sofa to which they have been relegated for the night!”

–Deborah Sichel, _Women’s Moods_

“I feel like my nerves are exposed, on the surface,” says the woman on the radio, “and the least little thing will set them jangling.”

She is talking about menopause, but I know how she feels. I’m good-humoured, until I’m in a homicidal rage. I’m easy-going until I spend a day with tears and snot running down my face. I’m reasonable until I become convinced that the world is a cruel place and I’m going to die destitute and unloved and it’s all YOUR fault.

When I am PMSing I can’t stand being in my own skin. Literally. I have to get away from this place (wherever it is) and from these people (whoever they are). I would get away from myself if I could. Nothing can please me, and the attempt to please me, if undisguised, makes me feel murderous loathing towards the perpetrator. I am unbearably sad.

I’m not exaggerating, for once.

An alien takes the wheel. Cleverly, she makes me believe finally I see clearly, that the calm contentment I feel ordinarily is pathetically misguided. Cleverly, she throws in a few real-world setbacks for a hungry brain to gnaw on like a bone. Under her influence I bounce with pent-up aggression, then I’m too listless to move. I feel destructive. I can’t concentrate on anything but misery. It seems perfectly reasonable, now that the blinkers have been removed, to respond this way to such a horrible world.

I get by. Strangers are easier to deal with than close friends. Co-workers jangle me less than beloveds–though a small suggestion or the wrong kind of look can send me sniffling in the supply closet. I remember that I really probably should do a yoga class. I want chocolate.

Then I get my period. And feel stupid, every time, for not realizing my own body had declared war again. The outside world ticks on as it always had, and I try to get back into it. I apologize to the man I hurt, and we are both sad. I finish the work project I tossed aside in hopelessness or rage.

It doesn’t happen every month. Then it would be easy to track and fix, I suppose. My cycle is irregular anyway, and sometimes I just feel mild misery rather than raging sadness. But when I surface from a bad dose, I wonder how many marriages PMS wrecks, how many children are puzzled and upset when Mum turns into a crazy harpy. PMS has many sufferers, and not all of them are women. But what are you supposed to do?

One thought on “Dysphoria”

  1. “And feel stupid, every time, for not realizing my own body had declared war again.”

    Yes, yes, yes! Every month–and unlike yours, my cycle’s very reliable–I’m taken by surprise. What? This shit _again_?! And then I have to think back and determine which terrible events of the preceding week weren’t really signs that I should quit my job, tell all my friends off, change my name, and move to New Zealand.

    Over the years I’ve gotten a _little_ better at recognizing the symptoms as I’m suffering them, but still it’s a struggle to remember not to smash my life into bits once a month. I can’t believe I’ve got another couple of decades of this.

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