I can roughly categorize the stages of my life according to my level of hormonal dysfunction. Now, I know that some women believe any sort of mood disturbance attributed to hormone fluctuations somehow sets back the women’s movement or something, and/or that those claims are about on par with sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Those women are robots.
[Exhibit A: My mother-ex-law, who would cheerfully chirp at my endometriosis-riddled self curled up in agony during abdomen-rending cramps that she’d never had a cramp in her! entire! life! because she’s so active and if only I were to release my death-grip on the bottle of Aleve and go jogging I’d be just fine! (That was grounds for divorce from that family right there.)]
Other women–those who actually have a grip on reality–understand that, like it or not, some of us are profoundly affected by our body chemistry. What a world it would be if only our ovaries were susceptible to hormonal variations! No, the brain is influenced by the waxing and waning of the various female hormones perhaps even more than any other part of the body.
Listen: this madness evolved from a survival instinct gone wrong. The same mechanism that allows a mother to sacrifice her own life for her offspring’s (facing off with an angry bear, perhaps, in neanderthal times; intercepting a bullet or listening to endless hours of “easy listening” hold music with an HMO, in modern times) has somehow morphed into the irrational, emotional GOOD GOD THIS VERY MOMENT IN TIME HAS LIFE AND DEATH IMPORTANCE reaction that possesses even the most grounded of women, under the influence of hormonal surges.
Perhaps you find yourself, or a woman you love, subject to these attacks. Don’t panic. There is no cure, but with proper management, senseless murder does not have to be an integral part of learning to regulate one’s emotions in the face of hormonal adversity.
I offer some absolutely hypothetical examples, below, in the interest of elucidating salient points. Consider them teaching tools. The keyword here is hypothetical. I mean it. Stop looking at me.
Hormone Dysfunction Level 1: PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome)
Typical age of onset: Birth
Identifying characteristics: Irritability, weepiness, shortness of temper, acne, water retention.
Examples: Subject has a vague but pervasive sense of unease; everything surrounding people do is not quite right; subject may become teary over relatively inconsequential matters; nothing fits quite right.
Safe handling: Stay calm. Offer hugs and cookies.
Hormone Dysfunction Level 2: PMDD (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
Typical age of onset: Late teens
Identifying characteristics: Anger, depression, anxiety, scowling, crawling into bed and refusing to come out, acne, water retention.
Examples: Subject hates self; subject hates you; life sucks; subject feels ugly; hand over the chocolate and GET. OUT.
Safe handling: Say as little as possible. Make brownies. “What can I do to help?”
Hormone Dysfunction Level 3: HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Typical age of onset: Late 40s/early 50s, or post-hysterectomy
Identifying characteristics: Irritability, memory loss, anxious sense of urgency about everyday tasks, zits embedded in wrinkles, insecurity.
Examples: Subject experiences deja vu back to previous PMS or PMDD episodes; subject finds self in silent rages over perceived injustices; subject is sure you don’t really love her, because why would you; GOOD LORD IS THERE NOT ONE SINGLE ITEM OF WEARABLE CLOTHING IN THIS ENTIRE CLOSET??
Safe handling: Insist you can barely see any greys. Compliment her fortitude. Offer sexual favors or dishwashing only if you are absolutely certain which of these two options is most appropriate.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s February and OH MY GOD I have to figure out what I’m doing with the kids this SUMMER and WHERE they’re going and WHEN and how much it will COST and if I can afford it and I have to figure it out RIGHT NOW or I might lose my cool new job and then the kids would have to sell matchsticks on the CORNER or something and also I couldn’t get Chickadee in for this specialist appointment until next MONTH and I can’t get anyone to tell me when I’m getting my first PAYCHECK and I haven’t filed my TAXES or taken out the TRASH or done the DISHES and also I think that maybe I forgot to change my patch yesterday, yes, WHY DO YOU ASK??