Personal Perspectives on PMS
By National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome
I first became aware of PMS during a discussion at work in which the illness
was described as a syndrome: A group of symptoms. Before I met my wife Rosemary, I understood the mechanics of menstruation and the mood swings that women can experience. However, I did not understand the emotional turmoil it can bring. On occasions, I find it quite easy not to be emotional in life. It was only by watching Rosemary that I began to understand how serious a problem PMS can be for the women who experience it.
In the early days of our relationship, we did not discuss PMS. Rosemary
had the occasional bad month which could involve her lying in bed all day. In those days, I am sure that extra stress from work, home or our relationship
caused the severe symptoms she suffered, but Rosemary just coped with it or
kept it under wraps.
Someone who is neither a sufferer, nor the partner of a sufferer may find
it easy to dismiss the symptoms. In some respects, the sufferer herself is
dismissed when her symptoms are not acknowledged. I encountered such a situation recently when I responded to a call on the helpline. A young woman's
wide range of symptoms had collectively been interpreted as a representation of
her character; it was considered her normal way of being.
A great deal of tolerance and understanding is required in family life if
we are to avoid misinterpreting situations or losing a sense of proportion. When
PMS becomes out of control in a relationship, partners can easily become entrapped in the situation. It is difficult to maintain a balanced relationship, with give and take on both sides, when it is not possible to reason with a sufferer. I have now heard the following comment several times on the helpline, when partners go through the process of believing they are somehow at fault: "It's me, there's something wrong with me", only to be advised that they are quite normal. It is quite easy for PMS to affect work and the rest of the family as well.
I think PMS emerges in different guises as I have seen with Rosemary. It appears to evolve throughout the course of a woman's life. New difficulties arise for partners when the tried-and-tested tender loving care no longer works and a new approach must be found. In my own case, I became more aware of this when I attended local NAPS self-help groups in Canterbury and Thanet. At the time, I did not realise the insight I was gaining; we attended regularly and I listened as an astonishingly wide range of situations was described. Most important of all, PMS was being talked about by sufferers and partners together. Partners are usually the people who spot PMS when it emerges in
a new guise. They, more than the sufferer, know when help is needed.
The main thing that has come from my experience of PMS, through the Helpline
and my involvement in self-help groups, has been to witness the recovery of these women from the depths of serious illness and the joy felt by everyone when life goes back to normal. It is important to have faith that complete recovery is possible. I am not saying that PMS will never recur. However, there are things other than PMS to worry about in life. My experiences as the husband of sufferer and working on the Helpline have also given me confidence to discuss PMS with a wide range of people.