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BIS LIVES Blog

PMS: Spiritually Weathering the Storm

faith and hormones

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?

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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.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Jessie
    July 17, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Thank you for sharing! For years, I accepted the lies that my former OBGYN told me about birth control being the only solution for PMS…heavy cycles, mood swings, acne…I experience it all! Since I decided to no longer take birth control, I have felt so alone in these struggles each month! I just started charting so that I can warn my husband (and sister and mother…) when the storm is coming!!

  • Reply
    Christy
    July 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

    This is so incredibly timely for me! I have been charting my cycles for years and am going through a severe drop in progesterone (I believe due to perimenopause) — and it’s definitely very, very challenging. This was so spot-on. and encouraging. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Reply
      Valerie
      July 18, 2018 at 7:16 am

      Oh Christy! Me too…I have an appointment later this week with my OB-GYN to disucss my severe PMS symptoms. It has gotten so bad, now, in my latter years. I’m praying for menopause…and yet, I don’t think I’m even close, although closer than a decade ago! My mood swings are so severe during this 7-10 day window that I can barely stand it. One minute I am seething with anger (over something as inncoent as spilled milk) and the next I am curled up in a ball in my shower thinking that the world might be better off without me. Of course, I know this to not be true…but what frightens me is that I only feel this despondent and out of control during those day leading up to my period. Then, like a light switch being flipped, I get my period and all is right with the world. After months of this (not like this even a few years ago), I do think I need medicinal intervention. At almost 50, birth control is not even an option, but perhaps a low-dose anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med to help me cope. I don’t know….but I do know how blessed I am to have this community and to have read Sarah’s post!

  • Reply
    Courtney
    July 19, 2018 at 10:41 am

    I have been supplementing with progesterone since I was 17 years old and dealing with dysmenorrhea and PMS since 13. I was diagnosed with low thyroid at 25 and endometriosis at 27. I suffered a miscarriage at 28. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at 29. I’m turning 30 this year and still dealing with unresolved hormone problems. The struggle feels never ending. I can wholeheartedly relate to the toll that hormone problems cause every single month and dealing with the pain of an invisible illness. I have never stopped being pro-active in regards to my health and I am so appreciative to Sarah for sharing this vulnerable post. I believe that Christians can find a balance between uniting our suffering with Christ and caring for our needs through medical intervention and this post is a beautiful reminder of that!

  • Reply
    CK
    July 25, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I too suffered from extremely low progesterone and was diagnosed with PMDD. For many women, myself included, cutting out soy can make a big difference. I don’t just mean soy sauce and edamame, but the soy that’s in so many processed foods. After two and a half years of trying to conceived, our daughter was conceived after I had cut out soy for a few months. Every woman is different and this might not help you at all, but I just wanted to mention it in case it does.

    • Reply
      Sarah Coffey
      July 26, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      CK, thank you so much for your comment! I’ve actually been trying to cut way back on the amount of processed food I consume and I’ve noticed a VERY small, positive difference so far. Still a roller coaster ride of emotions but maybe it’s helping a little. Regardless, it’s probably healthier to eat fewer processed things anyway 😛

  • Reply
    Hilary
    August 3, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Sounds like my life! Chasteberry (vitex) and Young Living’s Progessence Plus and Dragon Time have helped me out A LOT! I almost feel normal again.

  • Reply
    Desarae
    August 14, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    As this article incorporates the truth that we are body, spirit and soul, and are to approach everything from this truth,
    I share what was shared with me, and encourage you to pray:
    + “I consecrate to You God, and bring under Your Precious Blood, and invite You into, every aspect and entirety of my physical being, my reproductive system, hormones, chemicals, my mental being, my spiritual being, every emotion and every mood, that You may sanctify me through and through.” +

  • Reply
    Abby
    August 15, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Thanks so much for being open and sharing! For years I dealt with severe PMS and was also told the only solution was birth control. Then my son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy so we cut out most conventional dairy from our diet and the symptoms greatly lessened. Recently, though, I’ve started to experience some of the cramping and body aches of the past. I appreciate everyone sharing what’s helped so I can research and discuss with my physician.

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