HORMONES. The word makes women nod their heads with grim understanding, and makes men run for cover. They’ve become synonymous with any kind of mood swings, anxiety, or rage that a women might experience–particularly during “that time of the month”, or if they’re incubating a bun in the oven. But what, exactly, ARE these hormones? What do they do to us, and can we really use them as an excuse for dramatic or bitchy behavior? We discuss our personal struggles, or lack thereof, with these biological chemicals, and how much weight to give them. Listen in!
Listen to this: Hormone Horrors
First of all, we women are complex creatures. Our bodies go through a LOT–not just through life, but every MONTH. Basically we’re designed to make babies (don’t get pissy at me ladies, I’m just Biology’s messenger girl) and so we’re basically just the site of a tidal ebb and flow of chemicals that are telling our bodies to get ready to make a baby, then to get rid of all that baby-prep stuff, recover, then release another egg and start the whole thing over again. Men have it much more simpler, hormone-wise. They’re mostly dealing with testosterone, and lots of it–and it runs on a 24-hour cycle, so in a way, it’s a little more routine, compared to our week-long sagas of rage or horniness, depending on what’s going on.
For women, the main ingredients in our chemical cocktail are: estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. These suckers take us on quite the ride throughout our lives. Just take a look at allll the fun different stages we women get to go through:
- We first deal with this fun mix of hormones most noticeably when we go through puberty, and are introduced to the joys of menstruation and, of course, PMS. This fun phenomenon, experienced by 1 in 4 women, can bring cramps, bloating, and other discomforts, but the its most noticeable symptom is moodiness. Scientists still aren’t sure why this occurs–apparently they’ve tested the blood of PMS-ing women and there is no wacky, out-of-control level of hormones going on, so the theory is, the way our brain metabolizes the hormones changes, making us extra-super-duper weepy or bitchy (or whatever you go through).
- Then, of course, there’s PREGNANCY. Which brings with it a whole new world of hormonal adventures, involving human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), progesterone, and estrogen. Many women feel highly sensitive, moody, or bitchy early on, and have it taper off as the pregnancy continues. Others (like Lauren) seem to experience a steady-state of on-edge emotions that are ready to unravel the entire 9 months. It’s different for every woman.
- Oh and there’s of course POST-PARTUM stuff. Think once you have the baby you’ll be free of all those feelings that make you crazy? Oh sweetie, pregnancy was the easy part. Get ready to be hit by a mood Mac Truck. The placenta, the huge organ that your INSANELY amazing body actually created just for your baby, gets expelled after birth, along with all the mood-boosting progesterone it was generating. Suddenly, mamma is plunged into a whole new world chemicals–progesterone levels plummet, and estrogen takes over–a term known as estrogen dominance. This causes the notorious ‘baby blues’, where new moms cry at everything and for no reason. It can also cause the more serious post-partum depression that many mothers struggle with.
- Having fun yet? Good. ‘Cause after all that, there’s PERIMENOPAUSE. According to WebMD, this little episode can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your late 40s, and is caused by your egg production dwindling–causing hormones can take on a life of their own. It can cause the iconic hot flashes, along with night sweats, memory problems, and of course…mood swings! Our constant companion through life!
- Finally, MENOPAUSE happens and the hormones chill the fuck out, finally. Maayan’s fifty-something friend Deb attests to the relative peace and serenity ‘The Change’ has brought her, compared to the crazed fluctuations of her fertile days.
Speaking of crazed fluctuations, Lauren discovered this rather cool site–the Hormone Horoscope–which, according to the site, allows you to predict what your day will be like based solely on where you are in your monthly menstrual cycle.
The site makes some pretty bold claims about being able to tell exactly what kind of energy levels or moods you may have depending on where you are at in your monthly cycle:
For instance, on Day 5 (which is 5 days from the onset of your period), you’ll notice a rise in pep and a desire to make social plans. On Day 10, you’ll be talkative and want to break out of old ruts and try something new. On Day 13, you’ll have romance on your mind and experience a boost in memory. On Day 22, you’ll be hit with food cravings and be a bit more cautious. And on Day 26, you’re spotting swerving cars and other dangers faster.
The site explains that those three key hormones—estrogen, testosterone and progesterone—affect your”mood, energy, memory, romantic life, chattiness, extroversion, shopping habits, food cravings and virtually every other part of your day.”
Lauren thinks this is pretty effing cool, and probably much more bounded in reality than an astrology chart–after all, the chemicals coursing in your blood are so much more likely to control how you feel compared to the positioning of stars and planets, right? Maayan begs to differ. We thus plant the seed of a future Pillowtok discussion, one that’s sure to be spiced with lots of debate…
Moving on. Lauren is very certain that hormones affect her mood and personality, and swears she has a specific feeling she gets when she’s in the grasp of them. Maayan is not so certain, citing the basic fact that there are SO many other inputs in our lives–exercise, hunger levels, if you’ve showered lately, etc. etc. etc. How on earth can one ever truly attribute a mood to hormones and ONLY hormones? Lauren’s rebuttal is–you’d know it if you felt it.
What about you guys? Do you KNOW when hormones are controlling you and your behavior, or is it not clear? We’d love to know.
Maayan has a vital tip for those of us who wear make-up, particularly around our eyes. Clean. That. Shit. Off. your skin.
Lauren is discovering the joys of video games through Diablo 3 with her husband. It’s almost as bonding as sex. Give it a try.