Illustration: Clayton Junior

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Making Friends with PMS

Laura Kiniry on living with monstrous menses.

Every month for one week, an alien invades my body. This is no cute E.T.—it's a pissed-off beast that pounds its fists on my skull, punches outward against my breasts and kicks at my uterus in an attempt to break free.

I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. (My mother did, too, but since the term didn't exist then, she was just "insane.") Some days my uterus feels like such a lead weight, I want to rip it out. Other times it cramps up so viciously that all I can do is cocoon myself in a blanket and mumble that it will be over soon. Losing my keys can, depending on the moment, make me scream obscenities or sob in desperation.

For a while I self-medicated. The wine I drank on my kitchen floor (the cool linoleum soothed me) calmed my nerves and curbed my pain. And since it worked so well, it seemed logical that I'd pour another glass, and another. Hours later, having blacked out, I'd awake in a panic: Why am I on the floor? What's happening to me?

I began to fear that I'd developed a problem, so with the help of a therapist I sought better ways to address the symptoms of PMDD, for which there is no guaranteed cure. These days, I opt to care for, rather than poison, myself when the alien touches down. Antidepressants help with the irritation and depression. I've also found it helpful to track my menstrual cycle with an app called Life and keep a journal of my symptoms. Knowing when to expect the fury and sadness helps me plan. On certain days of my cycle, I take a bath, watch The Mindy Project and nap. On others I avoid big decisions and personal interactions. (I don't want to be rash, and I really don't want to curse at my loved ones.)

And when the beast departs and I'm three weeks away from its return, I breathe easier—and take comfort in the knowledge that however brutal the next round may be, I can stand up to it.