Oh, the dreaded PMT week has worked its way around again and I am trying to keep a lid on my symptoms, this month, rather than barking rabidly at members of my family and occasionally frothing at the mouth.
Last month’s PMT, at its peak intensity, saw me pacing up and down the driveway in the rain, inexplicably grasping a garden trowel and devising ways I could get revenge on my husband for something he had done but that I couldn’t quite remember. It could have been anything – the world is my disgruntlement oyster when I’m on the hormone highway to the Red Roof Inn.
At the moment he’s hiding from me, maybe watching Pointless, which in itself incenses me to an almost vessel-bursting degree. Because when I have PMT and I have to work I don’t like anyone to be a) having fun or b) relaxing. I prefer it if everyone sits in absolute silence, staring morosely into thin air and telepathically beaming me sympathy vibes.
Except that my three and four year-old couldn’t care less about my PMT or brain-strike (MUMMY LISTEN TO ME! MY (note: imaginary) FISH HAS A SLICE MISSING FROM HER TAIL! CALL THE DOCTOR!”
“It would be a vet,” I say, “and I don’t think vets do home visits for fish that they can’t see.”
Oh, all of my energies have to be ploughed into being civil. My head pounds, the blood races around my arms and legs and sends them at once buzzy and at the same time desperately fatigued, as though I have flu. I feel panicked, at this time of the month – out of control. It’s the same sensation I get as when I’m dreaming that I’m falling through space, free-falling, the feeling of weightlessness tainted with pure dread that happens just before I startle myself awake. I wouldn’t be great even without responsibilities, in PMT week, but now that I’m in a giant pressure cooker of continuous domestic duties and unceasing child-borne demands and –
“MUMMY! YOU HAVE TO GET THE VET FOR LAYLA THE FISH AND ALSO I NEED A POO. GET THE VET NOW, MUMMY, HERE’S YOUR PHONE.”
My nerves are jangled. My iPhone almost slips to the floor but is caught, ham-fisted, and passed to me covered in Nutella. All of my senses are heightened. I feel as though my skin has been thinned and that all of my nerve endings are more exposed. A door slam makes me jump, the sound of someone starting a hedge strimmer two fields away makes me want to pull on my wellies and march over and demand silence.
I’m surprised that the family haven’t crafted some sort of giant snake-holding stick, to keep me at arm’s length. With a loop at the end of a long pole so that that they could snare me and I could sit collared at the kitchen table, angrily sipping my camomile tea and darting my forked tongue at them.
I always thought that the standard “brain fog, excruciating 24 hour headache and water retention” variety of PMT was bad enough, but lockdown PMT is like experiencing all of the aforementioned things whilst being chased by a swarm of angry bees around a shop selling expensive crockery. Wearing an itchy woollen suit that’s too tight around the torso.
Have you experienced Lockdown PMT yet? How was that for you? I am busy sketching out an Escape Cupboard for next time, seeing as though it’s quite likely we could still be in the same socio-domestic situation. I’m going to line it with all the empty egg boxes I’ve been collecting, but not filling because my chickens have decided they don’t like laying eggs this year, so that the walls are soundproofed. And then I’m going to put in one of those shitty little mini fridges that make more noise than a Boeing 747 jet engine and fill the mini fridge with cans of Coca Cola and bars of Dairy Milk. I’m then going to steal the family iPad, download every single episode of Friends and lock myself in the cupboard for six days.
When they open the door to retrieve me I shall be a spotty mess, gurning from the sugar overloads and subsequent lows, but at least nobody will have heard me scream…
PMT has now become a major event in my life every month; for the entire week before my period I really struggle to get anything done at all. I’m confused, fuzzy and I just want to sleep. In PMT week I don’t want to speak at all, I want everyone to go away and leave me alone in a semi-darkened room so that I can variously scroll through The Outnet for things I’ll never buy, Whatsapp my insecurities to people who don’t want to listen and quietly and internally hate on anyone who is posting holiday pictures on Instagram. (Although only if they’re on a beach holiday. I couldn’t care less if they’re “travelling” or snorkelling or doing anything that involves effort, because to me that’s not a holiday.)
My PMT week has become so disruptive that I have downloaded an app to track my periods so that I can be forewarned as to when I’ll be completely useless and potentially dangerous to society; a raging, insecure mess of a woman with a bloated torso that feels like a bargain-basement water bed and a brain that can only function if it is given one simple task at a time.
Writing this is painful, quite frankly. It’s not that I can’t string sentences together, it’s that I have absolutely no motivation to. I just think what’s the point? and this is my default setting for about six or seven days. That’s a quarter of the month! Twenty five percent of my life!
Twenty five per cent of my life spent trying to find my glasses when they are on my head, a quarter of the month spent walking into door handles, dropping heavy books on my feet and writing long mental lists of wrongs that have been done unto me. (Almost all of them entirely fictional.)
The period itself is a walk in the park; I used to get cramps, pre-kids. Cramps no more – barely a twinge. I used to get spots, pre-kids. Now I hardly get any, though that is almost definitely thanks in part to my superb pre-period skincare routine.
No, folks, it’s now the pre-period week that hits me full on in the face; headaches, mood swings and a general feeling of intense pessimism. I’d use the word depression, but I don’t feel as though I know enough about what depression might feel like, and I would hate to reduce or trivialise other people’s experiences, so I prefer “intense pessimism”.
I’ve always had a slightly morbid and overactive imagination, but this kicks into a whole new level when I have PMT. Going to London the next day? I visualise myself being pushed off the edge of the tube platform by an unhinged passerby. Then follows the shocked faces of the people on the platform – a tear runs down the cheek of the kind old gentleman who had tried to help me up using the hook of his umbrella handle, alas too late, and then there’s the mourning scene that always takes place graveside, a la the USA, with (inexplicably) six uniformed military personnel giving an emotional three-volley salute.
(Note to people reading this (hopefully) far in the future – give me another forty years at least if you don’t mind – if my funeral is any less than the above then I shall be frowning down upon you all. I demand lots of tears and full black mourning attire, I also require a lengthy slideshow of my best life moments set to a moving song. Tiny Dancer by Elton John will do it.)
Anyway, see what I mean about morbid? My imagination runs riot. You see a friendly giraffe’s head sticking out over the fence at London Zoo, I imagine myself being mauled by it. Giraffes don’t even maul people! You see a bus, but in PMT week I just see a big red killing machine. I see danger at every corner – in PMT week it’s amazing to me that anyone manages to stay alive.
So yeah, that’s what I’m dealing with. Excuse me if I just want to lock myself in the wardrobe and sleep.
Does anyone else have these particular PMT symptoms? Are there any effective remedies that you’ve tried?
Oh! Good God, I almost forgot the most important and life-disrupting thing that I’ve recently noticed during PMT week: I’m about ten times more likely to get a bout of cystitis. True fact! It has taken me years to realise this, but I started to write down the dates and I almost always get cystitis about three days before my period. The good thing about this revelation is that I can now watch out for it – like a hawk – and do whatever I can to fend it off. I actually have some antibiotics that are specific to treating that type of infection and they are intended to be taken as a precautionary measure (eg after sex, if that’s your usual trigger) and they’ve worked incredibly well so far. In fact the one time I knew I should have taken a tablet, and didn’t, I got a full-blown water infection.
That was a bit of sudden sidenote and perhaps “too much information” – hi Auntie Margaret! – but so many of you commented on my original cystitis post that I thought it was a sidenote worth sharing. Anyway, proceed with your PMT anecdotes and tips, please…
As I write this, I am officially in PMT Skin Week, which is the one week in each and every month that my skin is in danger of going completely haywire. If anything is going to go wrong with my skin then it goes wrong now. Angry, bumpy jawline, weird forehead dryness, little sore patches around my eyes, an oil slick down the centre of my face – you name it, it’s on the list of potential problems.
There are a few different things that I tweak in my skincare routine during PMT week, including upping my cleansing game (a thorough balm cleanse night and morning, if I can bear it) and choosing slightly lighter day creams, but the key change (and arguably the most important one) is the addition of a BHA exfoliant.
A beta hydroxy acid exfoliant (salicylic acid) has the power to unclog, clarify and pore-refine but at the same time it’s calming and soothing and helps to reduce that horrible angry redness that often appears along with your hormonal spots.
So if your skin is angsty, bumpy and sore but also feels highly sensitive (quite literally a representation of your entire physical state when you have PMT, come to think of it!) then a BHA liquid is what you need. Swipe it on and leave, it’s a quick and simple step that’ll make a huge difference, especially if you usually just try and “ride it out” when it comes to your PMT skin.
My most frequent BHA-of-choice is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I’ve written a full review post on this brilliant skin-clearing liquid here, but to recap, it’s a wipe-on-and-leave BHA exfoliant that will soothe as it effectively cleans out your pores. Blackheads, pustules, acne bumps, all will benefit from a swipe-over with this salicylic acid toner.
You apply the Skin Perfecting Liquid after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser – just pat on with fingertips or wipe with cotton wool and then leave. Here are four great little product combos that I use when I have PMT and my skin is on the spot-prone-but-sensitive side. The product list isn’t exhaustive – I could go on all day with good suggestions! – but they give you a good idea of what I’m looking for in a PMT skincare routine. A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave skin stripped or tight, a BHA exfoliant and then a light-but-powerful moisturiser.
Sensitive Oily Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide, £14 here* – to moisturise and soothe without leaving a greasy residue.
Dry, Angsty PMT Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – as before, to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £70 here* – to effectively brighten and intensely moisturise overnight.
Oily Dehydrated Skin Routine
Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 here* – a lightweight gel but a thorough cleansing option.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Intense Moisture Lotion (full review here) – to hydrate without any heaviness or grease.
Spot-Prone SPF Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, you know the drill!
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here*.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, £28 here* – ultra-lightweight hydration to slip on before…
Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50, £21 here* – barely detectable and feels beautiful on the skin.
As I said before, I could swap in hundreds of different products here – maybe every time I do a skincare product review I should show how it fits into a routine, like the above? Let me know if that would be helpful!
You can find Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid online at Amazon* (£12 for 30ml here), Lookfantastic (from £10 for 30ml here*) and Cult Beauty here*. It’s unbelievably great on teen skin as well as PMT skin and an easy daily add-on to your routine if you suffer with adult acne.
Whilst we’re on the subject of PMT: since having babies I now get pre-menstrual symptoms of absolutely epic proportions. I mean I’m almost dangerous in terms of mood and I feel drastically, genuinely quite ill. No cramps at all, ever, which used to be crippling pre-kids, so it’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation but boy the moods. Do we need a separate post on this?