I’m a songwriter, not a doctor. I’m a performer, not a medical expert. But I have one huge credential in writing this post that no male doctor can put on his resume:
I used to get PMS. Now, I don’t.
Here are the five simple (and surprising) things I did…
1 – Stop calling it the curse
In fact, stop any and all menstrual-berating period. (Uh, no pun intended.) I read and hear all kinds of period-trashing in supposedly feminist humor – jokes about bleeding and tampons and how men are somehow either lucky or less-than because they don’t have to deal with this kind of suffering. (In fact, you probably have one of these in your email in-box as you read this.) This level of thought is so not a service to women. It just continues the idea of the menstrual cycle as something bad.
I was embarrassed to write this article at first. “Uh-oh,” said I to myself. “This is too, uh, feminine. Everyone will laugh.” That attitude is the very basis of why we get things like PMS. It’s shame. Plain and simple.
Now, that’s not to suggest that we start tossing tampons at men and throwing our self-righteous hear-me-roar crap at everyone. That’s just inflammatory and annoying. It serves no one to get angry or self-righteous about a very natural normal cycle. Do you get angry and self-righteous when you notice that the moon is full?
2 – Have Red Tent Days
I loved Anita Diamant’s novel The Red Tent. I read it on the beach a few summers ago, and I found myself wishing I lived in a culture where women could just go away when they got their periods. I was envious and a little sad. Then, I took my own advice about jealousy. I created my very own Red Tent Days.
Now the first day of my period is officially called a “Red Tent Day.” I don’t go to the Y. I don’t leave the house if I don’t feel like it. I hunker down. Of course, there are times when I can’t do this. For instance, if I’m on the road performing at The American Theatre, for instance, I can’t very well call them and say, “Yea, I know you’ve sold all those tickets. But it’s a Red Tent Day!” Sometimes Red Tent Days don’t happen. But since I’ve created Red Tent Days, I feel happy on that day. “Oh Boy! A day off!”
Even if you have a job, can you go in late, or make some kind of ritual for a Red Tent Day? Any gesture can do wonders for changing your attitude towards your period. I’d like to see women take that day off. You don’t have to announce it. But try it once. See how it feels.
3 – Minimize Tampon Use
I know. I know. I’ll get all kinds of hate email about this one. But hear me out…
Much of what creates poor health is our addiction to the notion of “convenience.” It’s not convenient to make dinner, so we toss something pre-made, over-salted and processed into the microwave. (Then years later, we wonder why we have health issues.) It’s not convenient to sit with a child and listen to her cry about something that happened to school, so we plop her down in front of the television. (Then we wonder why so many girls get eating disorders.) It’s not convenient to get our period – so we all use tampons and continue the frenetic pace of our daily rounds.
The only problem here is that your body is actually cleansing itself when you bleed. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s not an inconvenience. There’s a huge difference in mindset when you wear a tampon versus when you wear a pad. The latter forces you to acknowledge that this cleanse is happening. And that it’s supposed to happen. And that there’s no real need to fight it, except for this odd mental illness called “convenience.” It actually reminds you of this blessedly important gift you have called your body.
Years ago, I was on tour in Colorado, and I was sick. Through various connections, I got to visit a prominent Japanese acupuncturist/acupressurist. The author of several books, he talked with me for quite a while about my approach to my periods. He told me that tampons actually keep toxins trapped in the system. He said that when those toxins aren’t allowed to flow out, problems develop. Some people would call that a bunch of crap. I took it to heart because I sensed this man’s wisdom. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything. And his advice may have saved my life.
4 – Do Some kind of Energetic Exercise
Take lots of hikes throughout the month. Go on vigorous walks. Even if it’s cold in the morning. Visit the gym for a 20-minute romp on the ArcTrainer. (Oh how I love the Arc Trainer.) Exercise because it helps your mood. That might motivate you more than weight loss or some other magazine-induced goal. Exercising every day – even for 20 minutes – can do wonders for PMS.
5 – Eliminate Dairy from Your Diet
Going vegan was the last step for me to healing PMS. I’ve had no symptoms at all since giving up dairy. And this is not some granola-crunching-Birkenstock-wearing-Asheville-residing hippie advice here. The first time I learned about doing this was from Dr. Christiane Northrup, in her book Women’s Bodies. Women’s Wisdom.. She makes a case about all the hormones and chemicals being added to dairy products today – and how deeply those things affect women’s bodies. She suggests eliminating dairy, or at the very least going totally organic. I was totally organic for years. Then I eliminated dairy altogether. The difference is huge. Try it for two months. You’ll be amazed.
Final note: When I read this post aloud to my husband, he said, “You didn’t mention the part about your husband rubbing your back and how much that helps.” And I will add that it does help to have a compassionate and loving partner who takes time to be extra sweet throughout the month. You absolutely deserve that.