Do you remember that Alice Cooper song 'Only Women Bleed' as covered by Julie Covington? It was in the UK charts in 1978 when I was just 15. This was long before tampax adverts appeared in all their discrete joi de vivre brightness. Although it's mainly about an abusive relationship, I remember cringing at what I took to be the double-meaning of the lyrics - as reference to menstruation.
I have a love-hate relationship with this monthly 'curse' Of course it's easier for us western women nowadays with all our nice neat sanitary products and better sex education for boys at school. I still recall my mum telling me how she used to have to get up really early in the morning, as a teenager, to burn the used rags on the sitting room fire before anyone was around. Seriously.
But it's not really that aspect I'm concerned about - it's the hormonal effects. I haven't been on the pill for over 20 years (really didn't suit me) so - apart from 2 nine month pregnancies and 2 extended breast-feeding stints when I had full-on hormonal drenchings ALL THE TIME (that's pretty much 4 years on the trot!) - I've had the natural rhythm of this monthly cycle dictating my emotions every fucking 28 or so days over that whole time.
I am very susceptible to this monthly hormonal effect. And the people closest to me can ususally tell - boy, can they tell! I am certainly prone to PMT (pre-menstrual tension - or more accurately in my case pre-menstrual tears): I get very touchy, am more likely to mind about stuff and to lose my temper - or burst into tears. I am also more likely to feel paranoid and to wallow in self-pity.
And the worst thing is that these reactions can so easily be dismissed as 'just' the hormones. But what if this phase every month is the release valve - allowing me to access genuine unfettered, uninhibited emotional reactions to things that really matter?
Well, I used to go for that story when I was in my 20s and early thirties (right on sisterhood!), but now I'm not so sure - don't tend to take it (or myself) quite so seriously these days.
Oh, and another REALLY annoying thing - my libido gets a lovely big temporary 'kick' just at the time each month when I really don't want to bother with actually having sex cos of the hassle and - let's face it - extra messiness.
On the plus-side I usually get one (but only one) incredibly productive happy and high-energy day just before my period starts.
But annoying as I may often find my periods and their effects on my emotional state, ahead of me there's an even more disturbing prospect which I'm dreading: the menopause! My mum had a really REALLY bad time when she went through 'the change'. Aside from the awful hot flushes and night sweats, she said that emotionally it was like going through adolescence all over again!! I just don't think I can face that much MORE of a rollercoaster on the way to the other side! I've therefore always ALWAYS been adamant that at the first sign of menopausal craziness I will scoot off to my GP for Hormone Replacement Therapy. With my propensity to dip into clinical depression, I just don't think I could cope with that intense a destabilisation for several years.
I know that HRT has been linked with increased risks of some kinds of cancer, plus decreased risks for some other kinds of cancers. On balance I'm figuring I'll take my chances on that score. Mind you, since I didn't like being on the pill, I'm not sure if this HRT stuff will suit me either.
But hey, I'm only 47 and so far no hint of the current rollercoaster tipping me off.
Scream if you wanna go faster, girls.....