The Monthly Visitor

Why I'm grateful for the intense sadness that accompanies my menstrual cycles.

I'm grateful for my period. And not just because it proves the possibility of new life and distinguishes me as a woman. I've actually become thankful for the emotional instability that sensitizes the handful of days surrounding my menstrual cycles.

For the first years of my period, I noticed few symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. But I remember sitting alone in my dorm room my freshman year of college and crying about—literally—starving children in Africa. Even I was caught off-guard by the experience. My period started three days later.

I've continued to grow more emotionally fraught around the time of my period. Much of my emotional instability during this time feels pathetic and can quickly become embarrassing. It's hilarious, actually, as I like to think of myself as laid back, secure, self-actualized. I suppose there's benefit to having that mirror shattered on such a regular basis.

But present within my spectrum of extreme emotions is sadness. Just sadness. And sometimes this sadness isn't disembodied or irrational. It's appropriate sadness: sadness for things and situations that deserve to be grieved.

As much as I wish I weren't this way, my MO is generally out-of-site-out-of-mind. I'm present where I physically am; I think about the people I see and physically interact with; my mind is on my most immediate surroundings. I forget people and situations with which I don't closely or regularly engage. But there's this reliable time when I feel sad, and my sadness has a way of drawing my mind to places where sadness fits—and usually places outside of myself. It's not always as abstract as Starving Children in Africa. I find myself reflecting on difficult family situations back home and weeping over them, or I'll remember friends or even friends of friends who are suffering illness and fear, and I sit and feel sadness for them, imagining being in their shoes.

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