Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried The Lady of Shalott.
– Lord Tennyson
She sat there damned in the tiny corner of her room , staring listless at the ceiling fan, mustering strength to organise and deal with the overtly disturbing chain of thoughts that weighed her down, for those five days, every single month, that she had now come to dread. While her grey cells were bursting inside her head to ease the constricting feeling, a part of her heart was imploding too, sinking and succumbing to the terrifying rollercoaster ride of emotions all in one single hour; from feeling numb to feeling angry and crying till she could cry no more… wondering why did she even cry in the first place?
The world was as normal as it was an hour back. But was she?
Alia took a trip down the memory lane, to the time when she was in her teens. The first time when she stained her white school dress in her 7th class, it did not bother her at all. She came back home riding her bicycle and showed her mom that vermilion stain. Her mom, the pillar of strength and care that she was, soothed Alia’s nerves and explained her Whys & What’s, and gave her a solution in a ‘Whisper’.
All the girls seemed to be talking about it at school during the breaks in hushed tones, stopping themselves the moment any boy would pass by them. At home, her dad would insist that she eat more wholesome food like all fruits and vegetables now since she would need strength. The whispers had increased, literally and figuratively. A visit to a chemist would mean coming home with a packet of sanitary pads wrapped in black polythene paper, a strip of Cyclopam and keeping an electric heating pad close by – life saving essentials for a menstruating woman of any age.
She would be amused by her friends’ stories on how painful the cramps were, how much they bled, how they had splitting headaches and so on. But no, she never experienced the much hyped cramps nor did she bleed much. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) was only something she read about in her biology classes. In fact, if she was brutally honest to herself, she had ridiculed many women around her for faking the cramps only so that they could seek attention during those days.
Now, here she was, in her early thirties, fighting the bouts of anxiety and depression that accompanied her periods. She tried finding the pattern, she set out to seek all possible reasons for her behaviour and she could find none. Instead of revelling in the warm fuzzy moments that life offered her, she delved in the persistent mental agony, month after month.
It was as if the entire universe was conspiring against her. Everyone was trying to pull her down and find fault with her. No one seemed to love her and support her. It seemed like a persistent nagging feeling, recurrently returning back like those powder-post beetles damaging the tough wood, slowly gnawing away at her joyous existence.
She couldn’t explain it to anyone either. She was successful in portraying an affable image all through the day, but by the end of the day, in the comfort of her own space, she couldn’t fake it.
Perpetually irritable and a big laden bag of emotions, Alia was sinking into a feeling of depression. She was known in her family as a hypochondriac, someone who believed that she had some disease, but never had one. Since no one bought into her feeling blues story, she started shutting herself out from the world.
Was this Pre menstrual Syndrome or was this pure mental agony attributed to the events in the day? That line was always blurred… no wonder her arguments were not taken seriously during those days. She herself had lost confidence in what she spoke during those days – whether she genuinely felt those emotions or were they just aggravated by some spikes of estrogen in her system.
There was no longer just black & white, there were shadows looming large in her life owing to the blighted streak of vermilion, robbing her away of her sanguinity.
This is not just the story of Alia, sitting there in her room, fighting her bouts of depression.
This is the truth of atleast 85 percent of menstruating women across the globe, as told by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. They say majority of women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle.
So, what are the symptoms of PMS?
PMS often includes both physical and emotional symptoms, such as:
Swollen or tender breasts
Upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea
Headache or backache
Appetite changes or food cravings
Joint or muscle pain
Trouble with concentration or memory
Tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells
Anxiety or depression
Symptoms vary from woman to woman.
What is the treatment for PMS?
Many things have been tried to ease the symptoms of PMS.
Some treatment options include:
Medications can be sought for in extreme conditions.
- Lifestyle changes
If your PMS isn’t so bad that you need to see a doctor, some lifestyle changes may help you feel better.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol, especially when you’re having PMS symptoms.
- Get enough sleep. Try to get about 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Talk to your friends, exercise, or write in a journal. Some women also find yoga, massage, or relaxation therapy helpful.
- Don’t smoke.
- Alternative therapy
Certain vitamins and minerals have been found to help relieve some PMS symptoms. These include:
- Folic acid
- Calcium with vitamin D
- Vitamin B-6
- Vitamin E
While Alia and 85% of women in the world are grappling to accept this reality of life that has consumed them completely, it would only be fair to expect the other half of the world to try and understand this so-called ‘crazy’, ‘permanently PMSing’ behaviour of the female of our species. Compassion & understanding can go a long way in easing the suffering of women undergoing PMS.It’s hard to come to terms with the condition in its most severe form, but it’s harder to explain to the loved ones for the fear of being judged. There is no answer to the Whys and What’s of PMS behaviour.
Alia is still sitting there in her room, beating herself up for losing herself each day, in the shadows of ‘vermilion’.
( Image Credit – By Artist Rachana Saurabh.You can check more of her work here https://www.facebook.com/pages/CreationS-The-Essence-of-Arts/157035214354074 )