For years, I have battled severe pre-menstural syndrome (PMS). I don’t mean just some moodiness here and irritability there. I mean ball-of-anger-in-the-pit-of-my stomach one minute, and curled-up-in-the-corner bawling for no reason the next.
I’ve tried everything. Herbal tea. Exercise. Extra sleep. Low dose naltrexone. Progesterone supplementation. While some of these things helped a little, none completely took the edge off and removed this precarious cross from my back every single month. Without fail, when my progesterone levels tank around week three of my cycle, the emotional tumult of PMS and the anger, sadness, tears, obsessive thoughts, and self-deprecation hit unpredictably. And they hit hard.
Spiritually Weathering PMS
PMS throws me off balance spiritually, too. For a week or so, prayer feels impossible. My scrupulosity is worse. God feels very, very far away. I feel like I have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and regain my balance when it’s over—until next month. It’s not just an exhausting physical battle, but a spiritual one, too.
Through my PMS-induced tears over something silly and inconsequential just a few weeks ago, I thought, “Surely I’m not the only woman who feels the heavy weight of this cross month after month, who suffers in silence while faking a smile, though wanting to cry.”
To all the women who suffer severe PMS symptoms: you’re not alone.
My (very patient) husband recently said to me, “You’re like a little ship with your sails unfurled, and PMS is the storm. The waves and wind are hitting you hard, and the best you can do is weather it.”
PMS is a storm; but there are ways to weather it spiritually.
You Aren’t In Control.
Feeling emotional when our hormones are fluctuating isn’t something we can control entirely. So often women are expected to go about their day normally while this invisible struggle causes immense physical, mental, and emotional stress. And if you’re like me, you often blame yourself for not being able to better control it. But you shouldn’t.
Like my husband said to me, PMS is a storm. The best thing you can do is figure out ways to make your heart as peaceful as possible in the midst of the storm as you wait for it to pass.
Let the 7-10 days you experience heightened emotions be a time that helps you reorient your heart. Allow Jesus to be in control of everything in your life. I have a tendency of trying to handle things on my own. But there’s nothing like a few PMS symptoms to remind me that I am wholly incapable of managing anything in my day-to-day life without leaning on Jesus.
The Emotions and Feelings Aren’t Lasting. Cling to What Is.
The hormonal rollercoaster that I and so many other women endure every month includes often-debilitating emotions, ranging from depression and sadness to irritabiltiy and anger.
PMS can make even the smallest inconveniences or rough patches throughout day seem much larger than they actually are. It can also magnify things we struggle with the rest of the month, like self-deprecation, scrupulosity, or habitual sins.
Recognize that these feelings—the anger, the sadness, the obsessive thoughts, the irritability, and everything else—are not you. If your hormones weren’t playing games with you, you’d respond to everything with a more level head.
The feelings aren’t lasting (even though they feel like it), so cling to what does last.
Remind yourself often (say it out loud if you have to!) that you are loved by the God of the universe. You’re beautiful and made in His image. These feelings and emotions don’t define you or change who you are in the eyes of God and your loved ones. You don’t have to fight this struggle alone because Jesus is right next to you.
Pray, Even When It’s Hard.
For some women, feelings of sadness and irritability automatically cue them to turn to prayer. For the rest of us, we need a reminder and perhaps a little encouragement to raise our eyes to Heaven in the midst of our suffering.
When I’m at my lowest, God feels so very far away no matter what I do. This is, firstly, a great reminder that even when I don’t feel the presence of God, He is still there. It also reminds me to pray despite my lack of spiritual consolation.
I find that the Jesus Prayer is a great one to repeat over and over in times like this:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Choose a prayer that is particularly comforting and reassuring to you that you can recall when you’re feeling really upset or out of control, like the Memorare or the Hail Mary.
Start Charting Your Cycles.
This isn’t exactly spiritual advice, but there is so much value in charting your cycles. You deserve to know how your body works and what’s going on with your cycle, and charting will help you grow in this understanding.
Natural family planning methods can even help you diagnose health issues. As soon as I started charting, my NaPro doctor and NFP instructor recognized that I had symptoms of not only incredibly low progesterone, but also endometriosis, which we could then begin treating.
Accept the Cross.
It took me a long time to accept that this is a cross I’ve been given to carry. I hated having to deal with PMS every month. I resented the fact that this haunted me every few weeks and that nothing seemed to make me feel better. I kept asking God why I had to suffer like this.
I was (and still am) seeing my doctor and NFP instructor regularly. I’m still trying a number of different treatments to ease my symptoms. But this process itself becomes as tiring as the symptoms themselves.
During the process of trying to find a treatment that works—and one that doesn’t include birth control—I experienced a beautiful moment of grace and came to understand the meaning of suffering a bit more. God permits us to suffer for the betterment of our souls. I decided to accept the cross. I will bear it, I prayed. With Your help, I will bear it.
You’re Not Alone
For the girls who have tried everything, or the ones still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, this cross can be seriously heavy.
You’re not alone. This struggle doesn’t define you. Jesus is there for you through this, even when you don’t feel Him near. And when the fog of PMS lifts and you can breathe again, He will be there, as He was all along.
Do you struggle with severe PMS or other hormonal issues? How does your Faith aid you in the difficulty?PMS: Spiritually Weathering the Storm #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Sarah Coffey is a freelance writer and also works for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She and her husband, Jesse, both converted to Catholicism in college. They reside in the St. Louis area with their cat, Stella. You can find out more about her here.