Saturday, 25 August 2012

We pretend to be strong because we are weak.

“We pretend to be strong because we are weak.”
― Paulo Coelho
I'm waiting to bleed, it's day 28.
I find myself crying again, I can feel the rush of hormones. My man asks if I'm OK...
A year or so ago, I may have flown into a rage, angry over being asked. I may have just gone quiet and said, I'm fine, or leave me alone. Nowadays, I dive into his arms and cry into is chest. I accept his love, his concern and feel better for a hug and his understanding when I am feeling like my world is about to be upturned.

This got me thinking (especially as I am in pre-menstrual thinking overdrive).

Women with PMDD deal with an extreme amount of rage, anger, self loathing and fear. We feel weak and inadequate. We cannot deal with the same amount of stress that other people can.
Society tells us that as women, we should be able to handle everything life throws at us and cope with it all. There has been a big deal made out of women needing to be as strong as their male counterparts. Equal in every way.... except, we aren't.

Women may feel that they cannot possibly show weakness. They cannot let on to their partners, family, work colleagues that they are finding things hard. This happens to all women to some extent, but with PMDD, it's much more extreme, as the hormones seem to take over and control us. The false moods and irrational thoughts leave us feeling out of control, weak and unable to complete the simplest of tasks.

What happens when we feel inadequate? If we can't over compensate by becoming super woman to prove we are just as good as the men, or other more stable women, then we end up feeling frustrated at ourselves, and our situation. We end up angry and full of fight.. defensive. Even with the people we love. We don't want them to see our weaknesses. We don't want them to have to 'look after us' as that makes us far from the strong independent capable women that society says we should be.

I found this article. It's got nothing to do with PMDD, but tells the story of a high powered business woman who finally let down her defenses to save her relationship. As I read, I realised even more that showing weakness is hard for every woman, but to do so can actually help save floundering relationships and bring people closer together.

I look back over my own life and my own PMDD story and find the fight and defensiveness there at every turn. Right from a child, I knew that to cry in public was a sign of weakness, and that to get on in the world we have to be able to do what the men do. Work, earn, provide... I was always embarrassed by my mother's ability to sob in public, she would cry at the drop of a hat, especially to an emotional song or film, and quite often, I would feel the lump in my throat and the tears building, but I would not allow myself to cry. Cry baby. Soppy cow. Why are are you crying? I often had no explanation to explain why I felt like crying, and didn't want to answer that question. I have always avoided films and music that are liable to make me cry. 

In my youth, I turned to Heavy Metal music, especially the stuff sung (or screamed) by women. I wanted nothing more than to experience those strong emotions. The 'fuck you' of a woman screaming and roaring as good as any man. The lack of tears, the abundance of hate and anger. I related. I felt it made me strong and equal. Another mask to put on to the world. Men often became a target in the lyrics, with one of my favourite female bands (Otep) even writing a song called 'Menocide'. Yet now, that kinda turns my stomach, for there is nothing gained in the pendulum swinging all the way over to the other side. At the time it fed my need to be strong, to be like a man. When women act like men, what do the men do? When women are downing pints and shots at the pub alongside their male peers, fighting and brawling in the street, what do men see? Women? Or women who are more like their male friends? In which case, why should they treat us like women, when we don't act like one?

During PMDD days, I can sob at an advert, or a situation in a soap opera. I still feel that shame. I still feel embarrassed. Although, I am working on that. There IS no shame in feeling emotion. There is no shame in feeling so deep that a song, or lyrics send you into a tearful mess. There is no shame in admitting that you feel low, or for even crying when there appears to be no reason for it.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”
― Washington Irving 

During my PMDD weepiness, I may be crying for all the pain I've ever felt in my life, for all the pain my ancestors may have gone through. I may be crying for all the cruelty and poverty there is in the world. I may be crying just because I need to cry. Why should I feel shame for that?

Menstruation connects us to a deeper place. It connects us to our ancestors and can bring about great insight and learning. Women ARE more sensitive at this time. FACT.
The shame and embarrassment brings on a reaction of needing to cover it. I don't want people to think I am weak, over sensitive, over emotional or stupid. How can I explain the tears?
Men don't do this. I am highlighting our gender differences. Maybe I am letting the feminist side down. I am weak and giving men a reason to see me (women) as weak.

Women sometimes cry easier in the presence of another woman. A close friend or aunt may console us. We know that we sometimes need to 'let it all out', but to do that in front of a man? When most men feel uncomfortable with that amount of emotion pouring out from the soul? To do that in front of our partners and husbands? That seems alien to a lot of us, despite both parties claiming to love one another.

This need to remain strong and collected in front of our men is what brings about the complete opposite in emotions. We don't want them to see us a weak. We don't want to admit we need them to protect us and keep us safe. With equality and all the blurred lines between male and female roles, men just don't know what to do, and if we are pushing them away and denying them the chance to protect and show us compassion, we are then stealing away their opportunity to fulfil their role within the relationship.

Ladies with PMDD often end up directing all this anger and frustration at their partners as a smoke screen. We overcompensate and allow ourselves to become strong, so strong we are fierce and aggressive. We are like crazed warriors about to go into battle. Only there is no battle. There is someone we love who desperately wants to help, who wants to be able to 'do something' to make it all better. We fight them, because to allow them to help, to allow ourselves to fall into their arms and cry and say we can't cope right now is to show them we are weak, and with that brings about a whole manner of inadequacies that appear to no longer be socially acceptable.

'Other women cope' Other women manage to hold down a job, have kids, study, cook, clean and stay sane all month long so why not me/us? We feel that our PMDD makes us inferior.  It doesn't. It makes us different. It makes us super sensitive. If women with PMDD can embrace this aspect and shake off the stigma of showing signs of weakness the anger is calmed. As I type this, so many memories come to mind. I can feel the tickle in my nose, the tears building up. Have no reason to be crying right now, yet the tears want to come.

As a woman, I am an emotional being. I want to fully embrace what it is to be a woman. The past 2 years have seen me stop fighting. I accept, I surrender, I have learned to feel comfortable crying around my man. I go with the flow and allow safe passage to whatever needs to manifest. Who am I to censor myself? Who am I to curb, halt, or stop the feelings that need to flow?

It is no wonder we have come to be like this. In days gone by, women with PMDD would have been called Witches. Demonic. We would have been misunderstood as being possessed by the devil and locked up in asylums... another reason to want to stay secret, to hide away, to remain anonymous. Women have undergone so many terrible punishments for being female. Showing any sign of intuition became labelled as witchcraft or possession. Hundreds of thousands of women died during the witch trials, who were no more than healers, midwives, herbalists and quite possibly women with PMDD, women who were sensitive to their hormones, who felt the rages and let them out, who acted as if they were possessed by a demon. I know that some of my tears must be for them, and my ancestors, some of which must surely have been caught up in the terror. In the UK, it is a mere 61 years since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, yet to this day, in many other countries, women still face charges like this, often with the penalty of death.

So in many ways it is no wonder there is a such a stigma attached to women with mood disorders, whether they use their intuitive abilities or not, the outward signs of PMDD are frowned upon and still come with a hefty amount of shame, guilt and penalties for not being consistently able to live like everyone else.

Women need to reclaim what it is to be a women. We need to celebrate out difference, and not feel ashamed to embrace our feminine nature. Next time you fight with your partner, just stop for a second and ask yourself why you are fighting. Is there a legitimate reason to be fronting up to your partner? Or deep down, do you really just need a big hug and some reassurance that everything will be OK?

I can't being to describe how much this has helped my relationship. After swearing I would never marry again, I find myself a wife once more. My husband is not my enemy. My husband can provide me with protection, with love, with safety from everything else that is bad in the world. I am lucky to have such a man, who accepts his male role, however strange it may seem to others. But this is only possible because I allow him to take on that role. I trust him enough to let him see me during my weak moments. He doesn't expect me to be strong all the time. He doesn't value me any less because I have these moments. By blowing away the smoke screen, the façade, the pretence that I am 'fine' all the time, we have been able to develop a much closer relationship.

My hope is that more women, especially the ones who suffer with PMDD will begin to embrace what it really means to be female, and find strength in what other perceive to be weakness. It is not a weakness if you need to take time out, if you need a break, to cry, to sleep, or to dream. It is not a weakness if you are string enough to be honest.  Honesty is by far the strongest action, and to admit you need help, love, a hug, is to put out the raging fire and unite with someone in a warm glow of friendship, companionship, compassion and love.

“We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

“Hiding how you really feel and trying to make everyone happy doesn't make you nice, it just makes you a liar.”
― Jenny O'Connell

“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”
― Alan Moore, (V for Vendetta)

“Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

“I don't mind living in a man's world, as long as I can be a woman in it.”
― Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)
All quotes from

©Cat Hawkins 2012


Jenn said...

I loved your post. I suffer from PMDD too is a hard fight to always appear strong. If we can admit to feeling weak we can more fully accept what it means to be human. We who have PMDD are more sensitive women. I am an artist too and I feel like I am the most creative and expressive during the second half of my cycle. I also was involved with goddess spirituality many years ago and feel the pull once again to embrace this cycle fully and not turn away from the wisdom it can teach us. But I am also a Zen practitioner too! Thank you for your blog!!!

Cat said...

Thank you Jenn..
I would love to see your work! You should follow that pull, observe and submerge yourself in to it. It has helped me SO much, just understanding the symbolism held within the cycle... You might like my Natural Shaman blog too.. there are links from this blog xx

Jenn said...

Hi Cat,
You can see my portfolio at

I blog too at about my work, but it's been awhile since I've blogged.

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