PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome): An acronym standing for so much, three little letters so loaded in our culture, and open to interpretation in so many (in fact, too many!) ways.
There aren’t many ‘disorders’ that are thrown around as much as this one, or used this often to stigmatise women,especially in the West. As women, we can relate to what the American news reporter who challenged Donald Trump experienced- when he belittled what she said by blaming it on her period. PMS often becomes the stamp on women’s consciousnesses, a sort of branding of the darker side of being female, in conflict with the otherwise more acceptable ‘good girl’ persona.
Am I going too far?
By no means am I saying that PMS is merely a psychological problem created by the collective un-conscious of our society. But this is certainly part of it. Just check out this fantastic Ted Talk by Robyn Stein DeLuca for some wonderful insight into this matter. DeLuca states that “…after 5 decades of research there is no consensus on the definition, the cause, the treatment, or even the existence of PMS. As most commonly defined by psychologists, PMS involves negative behavioural, cognitive and physical symptoms from the time of ovulation to menstruation… Over 150 different symptoms have been used to diagnose PMS.” Furthermore, DeLuca continues, it is said that somewhere between 5 and 97% of women experience PMS. In other words, almost none and everyone.
How were these irrational assumptions around PMS able to survive and influence people for decades despite updated and improved knowledge being available?
A Chinese Medicine Approach
How would you feel about your period if it was called “Heavenly Water”? Yes, this is true in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Unfortunately for us, there is more shame than celebration associated with the different rites of passage we as women go through in our lives (all the way through menopause). And whichever came first, cultural ignorance or our own resistance to our menstrual cycles, we need to address both holistically and individually, to balance and soothe our spiritual, mental, emotional and physical experience of it.
In TCM we couldn’t get away with diagnosing someone with PMS. We also do not have one pill for all PMS aches. First of all, we need to ask a lot more questions: “Do you feel cold, do you feel hot? Do you get irritated easily…do you get tired? Is the pain sharp and stabbing, or a dull ache alleviated by warmth?” And much more. Every question relates to another picture, another pathology, a different “syndrome” altogether. According to TCM, during this time of the month and leading up to it, our period mirrors and magnifies that which is unresolved in a woman’s wellbeing. Since we do not separate the physical with the emotional self, pre-menstrual symptoms can be caused by a woman internalising her anger (leading to a what we call Liver Qi constraint) just as much as they can be caused by eating a predominately raw and cold diet (potentially causing what we call Cold in the Uterus). Likewise the healing approach (acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet and life style changes) will differ according to one’s internal and external changing needs. Lots of us would benefit immensely from exploring this more deeply, with a health care provider we trust.
What you can do for now:
- Generally speaking, it is important to not dismiss whichever ‘messages’ your period may have for you.
- Whether it’s a sadness that keeps re-occurring during that time, or certain cravings.
- A sense of being overwhelmed or stressed.
- Pain or exhaustion.
- Strange, random pain.
None of these things are to be ignored! They are the truth of what really goes on and they are in need of attention, not just numbing. Loving attention. If we tend to them like that we can feel empowered by the mirror they show us of our true experiences. We can heal. We can make positive changes in our lives (some of which may at first feel inconvenient i.e. changing one’s diet, resting more, etc.) that will be very rewarding for us in the long term. And most importantly, by reclaiming our true nature – the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ -, no silly person (all the Donald Trumps in the world) can hold it over us anymore. We cease to be afraid of being “found out” – of having our period, of having an opinion, being angry. Listen to yourself intimately, so you can be authentic and truthful with yourself and in your relationships, releasing and dispersing the built up of energy which may otherwise magnify into uncomfortable symptoms during that time of the month.
Instead of joining an uncontrollable roller-coaster into the unknown, finding ourselves amongst the 5-97% of women with “PMS”, we can take back our power and channel our truth.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below!
PS: I am now available in Surry Hills and Manly. To book a consult, please contact me here.