Contrary to what I was taught as a child, monsters exist. I know this for a fact because we happen to have one living in our house.
While I’ve never actually met her, I’ve heard she’s pretty scary. Irritable and moody, she snaps at everyone in her path. She’s short-tempered and easily frustrated, cries at the drop of a hat, never has anything to wear, and eats constantly (mostly chocolate, or anything salty, or sweet . . . or fattening).
The weirdest thing about this monster? She looks a lot like me.
Thankfully, she doesn’t come out too often. She tends to disappear for days, even weeks at a time without a single sighting. And then, out of the blue, every 28 days or so, she rudely barges into our home without even bothering to knock. This is just about the time I run for the hills, leaving my poor, defenseless family to fend for themselves.
And our monster doesn’t stay locked in the house when she comes for a visit either. She often goes out into the world doing errands, frightening innocent people along the way. My kids tell me she drives too fast, glares at strangers in line at the grocery store, and rolls her eyes a lot. Apparently she is cranky with her coworkers too. It’s hard for her to focus, and she just can’t seem to concentrate or get anything accomplished. She’s quite the impatient, crabby little fiend.
Back at home, our monster spends most of her time sighing at unfolded mounds of laundry, shaking her head at dirty dishes in the sink, and stomping up and down the stairs in her oversized T-shirt and elastic-waist sweatpants. After a few days of this ghastly behavior, she vanishes. Poof. As instantly as she popped in, she’s gone again, and I get to come back home (for another 28 days, give or take).
Taking Back My House
To be perfectly honest, up until recently, our little monster situation seemed like a hoax. In fact, for years (despite my husband’s insistence) I denied her existence altogether. I would even get angry at the suggestion that she was real. But that kind of denial can make a person feel a little irrational. Nutty even.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that she does exist and will continue to rage as long as I (or my wild hormones) do. I’ve also discovered that our monster (let’s just call her “PMS” for fun) doesn’t have to rule over my home, my behavior, or my heart. And she isn’t destined to kick me out of the house every month. I don’t have to be defeated by her.
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have a monster living in your house too? If so, take heart. She doesn’t have to win.
Here are a few tips on how to take back your house when your hormones have taken over:
1. Be Prepared
It’s so much easier to tame the monster when you know her habits. Writing down the date of your next expected PMS onslaught (or using an app like Clue) and alerting family members of these dates is a great way to calm the waters. Bad company is always easier to accommodate when you know when she’s arriving . . . and when she’s leaving.
After 30 years, I’ve finally discovered that just because she rears her ugly head, it doesn’t mean she will be taking up permanent residence. Once I started preparing, putting dates on calendars, and reminding myself (and those around me) that she would only be staying for a few short days, everyone was better off.
2. Recognize It as Normal
We can blame Eve for our girly issues, but it won’t change the way we’re made. The hormonal fluctuations and drop in serotonin that take place within our bodies on a regular basis are completely normal (says the girl who feels like she’s gone off her rocker every month). The chemical changes in our brains that contribute to mood swings, depression, fatigue, sleep issues, and food cravings happen like clockwork, and yet I still find myself wondering, What’s wrong with me?
Anticipating that our hormones, along with our self-esteem, body image, and ability to cope, will be out of whack for a few days eases the challenge of handling it when it comes. More importantly, remembering that this isn’t going to last forever and that you’ll be back to feeling like yourself in a few days helps even more. This suffering is temporary.
3. Remember, You're Not Alone
According to WomensHealth.gov, roughly 85 percent of women suffer from symptoms of PMS from young teen years until menopause. Other studies site the number closer to 90 percent. It’s important to remember those statistics next time a girlfriend seems a little distant or a female colleague seems on edge.
PMS causes us to get testy with others, but we tend to take it personally when we find ourselves on the receiving end of the grumpiness. As much as we all try to hide our monsters, we are most likely running into other people’s monsters every day. Just as I am desperate for grace each time my hormones act up (or down), I must extend grace to others when it’s their turn. This is an act of love, and it’s one we’re commanded to do: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (Colossians 3:13).
4. Give Yourself a Break
As much as crabby behavior disappoints us and we feel guilty for snapping at the people we love most in the world, we must resist the temptation to continually beat ourselves up. Just like every other sin that trips us up, the Devil would love nothing more than for us to hold onto it, be trapped by it, and carry it with us long after our monsters flee. But if we confess our wrongs, apologize for our behavior, and make strides in the right direction, God promises that we can leave it behind. Tomorrow is a new day, and his mercy and forgiveness is as dependable as the rising sun (Lamentations 3:22–23).
To be frank, the monster in my house hasn’t left for good. She still stomps around at times, still eats all the cookies in the house, and still can’t find any shirts she wants to wear. But I know her pretty well by now, and I’m thankful to report, she’s not as scary as she used to be.
Kathryn O’Brien is a mother of three, wife of 23 years, and author of several children’s books. She regularly blogs about issues that touch moms’ hearts on her website KathOBrien.com.