We all carry some of the values, beliefs, and opinions that we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives. There was no narrative around periods and PMS when I was growing up in Karachi — zero education, zero discussion with my friends and family. This is a pretty common experience. As a result, many of us end up suffering in silence, not knowing what normal is for menstrual cycles, and not seeking out support either.
Combine this hush-hush culture with the normalization of menstrual pain and debilitating menstrual symptoms, media portrayal of PMS and periods, the pursuit of peak productivity at all times thanks to capitalism and the patriarchy, and it has led to us dissociating from our natural rhythms.
We all know that the narratives we’re exposed to, the language we use, and the thoughts we think impact our experiences in our bodies. PMS and periods are no different. When we go into our premenstrual phase and periods fighting against them and the changes they might bring, we tend to have worse premenstrual experiences. And obviously you may have pathological reasons to go into that time feeling dread and fear… this isn’t meant to negate any of that!
However, many of my patients, friends, and family dread their premenstrual time and periods because of a change in productivity, energy, and other symptoms despite not having significant pathology. And this is reflected in the language they use and the thoughts they think.
Changing that narrative can be helpful. It doesn’t mean you have to be rah-rah about periods (although feel free to be!), but perhaps changing the narrative and thoughts from negative to neutral or observational ones can be helpful. This is where counselling or therapy for PMS can be particularly helpful.
Sharing our menstrual and premenstrual experiences can actually improve PMS and period experiences too. It helps the people around us be more compassionate as well (and perhaps offer more support). There’s actual research on this (done in women in heterosexual relationships). This goes to show the power of connection and shedding light on our experiences.
So, a good place to start perhaps is by cultivating an awareness of your thoughts and language. Once that’s done, mindset and language shifts can be implemented (along with other strategies, of course) for a more peaceful premenstrual experience.