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The tears sit behind my eyes, waiting for the smallest thing to tip me over the edge. It could be anything, like the time I watched the Queer Eye scene in which a son and his Mum tell each other how much they appreciate one another, the time that my boyfriend impersonated my voice right after I’d woken up from a beer-infused nap, or the time that a bird shat on my hand right after I’d queued for a bathroom for 12 minutes (okay, maybe that one’s not so small).
On this particular occasion, I stood in the middle of a monsoon downpour in Vietnam with sodden hair, resembling the terrifying girl from The Grudge, mascara-stained tears streaming down my face, refusing to take one more step into the hotel. I was on holiday with my boyfriend, James, and what should have been a fairly innocuous argument had spiralled into rom-com level drama.
I decided that I was going to take myself and my passport, cut our holiday short, and book myself onto the next flight home. Without my luggage or any care for my bank balance. All because James had taken the piss out of something I’d said. I wasn’t a stranger to outbursts like this (I’ll refer you back to the traumatic memories of Queer Eye episodes past). In fact, they happen at least ten times a year. Had you asked me a couple of years ago I’d have said that I have no idea why they happen or when they happen, they just do. And when they do, you better watch out.
The penny started to drop when James started to hint that my ‘dramatic’ behaviour during these outbursts might be connected to my hormones and nearing the end of my cycle. Now, surely, any man with sense would not write off his girlfriend’s emotions as ‘PMS’ if he wanted her to continue speaking to him, so I flew off the handle and ignored him for the rest of the day.
Obviously, however, the poor guy was right. I began to notice that after one of these outbursts my period would show up two days later without fail. I’d bow my head, feeling pissed that he’d called it without me knowing, but also feeling pretty grateful that I had something to blame my bizarre behaviour on. The knowledge that I wasn’t going ‘totally crazy’ was a huge relief – even my cramps and heavy bleeding were a welcome sight. James started tracking my cycle. He somehow found the words prior to the two-days-of-fury to hint that I should try and find some ‘me’ time – take that long hot bath and avoid potentially emotionally-wrought situations, knowing my hormones might be ‘a little all over the place for a couple of days’.
Cycle tracking was a total game changer for both of us. It might seem obvious to some people, but when you’re in the midst of the emotions, it never occurs to you that what’s causing your feelings might not be the situation itself (although they are the trigger for the outbursts) but your hormones. That’s not to say the emotions are any less valid, because they’re not, but making ourselves aware of the cause – me coming to the end of my menstrual cycle and experiencing the mad hormone dips that come along with it – really helped with how I coped with them when they did happen.
I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty regular, five week cycle, meaning that I can predict my hormone shifts pretty well. Two days before my period, which is when oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are all dipping, negatively impacting my serotonin levels, I’m much more prone to tears, more likely to crack under pressure, or say something unfair to someone I love. Knowing the cause of these emotions has changed how I feel about them. I used to think were just random periods of misery unconnected to my cycle (spoiler alert: everything is connected to your cycle). Now I know they’re just the days when I have to be more gentle with myself. The two days which used to be a mess of angry outbursts and tears are now my two days to take time for myself. I embrace the emotions, up my CBD doses, and take that extra long bath. And hey, remember that it’s good to let the tears out every now and then – cause or no cause!
Yours hormonally, Leah