Why do we have PMS? What is it that makes us have these symptoms, and how does each of us experience them? There was this theory that was circulating in the psychiatric circles back in the 60’s, and sadly made a comeback during the 90’s, that PMS only happens when we know we are close to menstruation.
When women don’t know when their next period is going to be, they won’t experience PMS, since the symptoms are only caused by the belief that you are going to have them. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that people play a lot of head games with themselves and can cause a lot of symptoms just by thinking of them, or by believing that they are actually experiencing them, but in my experience PMS is very real – and I have proof!
Remember your first period? I think it’s pretty accurate to say that almost everyone does, but how many of us actually remember the first time we had any PMS symptoms? I still remember my very first period because the few days before the actual event were so abnormal and outright weird that made a strong imprint in my memory. Also, it happened during the Christmas holidays, which was enough to ruin Christmas for me that year.
Why do I characterize the days before my first period weird? What you have to realize, is that at the time I was 10 years old. I knew little about periods, mainly that they were a “mom thing” that I wouldn’t have to deal with for at least another two or three years. Of course, I had never heard of PMS before either, but I was very much experiencing it nonetheless. I was so deeply moved by everything. It seemed that even the tiniest of things would make me cry. I distinctly remember crying because my mom made me breakfast – something she has been doing almost every single day of my life – but on that specific day, seeing her preparing breakfast for me filled me with such emotion that I just had to run out of the kitchen to the bathroom, only to come out later with red, puffy eyes and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love for my mother – and utter confusion for my behavior.
I wasn’t the only one who was perplexed by the way I was acting. My mother complained all week that I had become clumsy, that I kept breaking things, and that I was absent-minded. The reality was that I was honestly trying to pay attention, but my mind was somehow switched off. I would hear something, and then a minute later I would completely forget about it. I would manage to trip and fall by walking into a patch of grass that has always been there. In one fluid motion I vacuumed a plant and broke a ceiling lamp. The list goes on and on. My mother thought I must be sick. And my temperature was raised, so the verdict was that I was probably coming down with something. I was ordered to eat my chicken soup and spend my days resting.
Bed rest? Not likely! At that age you couldn’t keep me inside the house no matter what the weather was like. I went outside to play, but soon returned home with what I thought were stomach cramps. After a trip to the bathroom I found out that I just had my first period. My mother seemed relieved. I wasn’t going crazy, and I definitely wasn’t sick. It was just PMS. In her motherly wisdom and love she tried to protect me from any negative feelings about menstruating, and tried to reassure me by saying that PMS was a very rare occurrence and that sometimes I might get cramps, swollen breasts or a little “foggy” before my period, but nothing serious. Mom lied!
Ever since then, I have dealt with PMS almost every single time. Sometimes more severe and other time more mild, but it has always been an unmistakable sign that my menstruation was coming. And no matter what any psychiatrist believes, I know that these incidents before my first period are not psychosomatic symptoms created by my thoughts or by my anticipation of my period.
As for my family, they never let me live down the incident where I vacuumed my mom’s favorite plant and then broke the ceiling lamp. They think the whole story is hilarious, and still talk about it in family gatherings and with their friends.