In 1978, aged 18, I faced a life sentence at The Old Bailey. My trial made legal history when my barrister used Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as a mitigating factor, and I was freed. Although I have mentioned bits of my story to various people over the years, I have been ‘selective’ with what really happened. Early this year, I was approached by the BBC World Service to share my story. Tom Harding, the producer, gave me the courage to relive my traumatic teenage years and share the story of what happened.
PMS may be defined as the recurrence of symptoms (of which there are over 150 as diverse as asthma, epilepsy, sinusitis and the most frequent, mood swings, anxiety, lethargy and sugar cravings) that always occur up to 7 days before menstruation starts, followed by normality once bleeding has ceased.
Last night, on the eve of the interview released, I had a panic attack. I felt scared that I would be judged. Fearful that people’s perceptions of what I had done would wreck my career. I phoned my daughter, Rosie, who said: “Mum, whatever you say or do, you’ll always be judged! The people that love you, know you and have worked with you don’t care – I’m proud of you.”
I’m choosing to share the full story because I want to release myself from the final shackles of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that I’ve struggled with throughout much of my adult life.
Today there are millions of women around the world that experience PMS to a greater or lesser extent. Yet thousands of women are languishing in prisons and mental hospital wards whose lives could be restored to normality if they were given the appropriate treatment.
Even after 43 years, PMS is still regarded as taboo in many sectors of society. Because of the struggle for gender equality, most women feel unable to share what happens to them once a month for fear of being judged as less capable or even ‘crazy’.
What happened to me has defined the woman I am today and the career path I’ve subsequently taken. My obsession with sorting myself out emotionally and physically has led me to discover extraordinary techniques that I’ve successfully with thousands of people over 3 decades. My work isn’t just a ‘job’. It’s the reason I get up every morning because helping others to transform their lives drives me.
Having faced the terror of a lengthy prison term in my teens, I feel equipped to share the tools that helped me get my life back. I want to ensure that, in my own small way, PMS sufferers have access to soothing self-help resources, free resources that makes their ‘time of the month’ a little bit easier to cope with.
If I hadn’t experienced this trauma, it is unlikely that I would have helped so many other people. This sense of inner redemption has allowed me to hold my head high and make my second chance at life meaningful and full of purpose.
The National Association of Premenstrual Syndrome is a registered charity specifically set up for PMS sufferers and their families. Their site contains expert advice and real-life stories, along with guidance around what you can do. It’s reassuring to realise that you’re not crazy or depressed, you have PMS, and this is treatable.
Your stress levels can intensify your PMS symptoms, so releasing cortisol and adrenaline with be helpful. I’ve created an app, The Healing Hub, designed to reduce stress and increase feelings of calm. Within my app, you’ll find a dedicated section for PMS. The resources here are entirely free and are a helpful self-help tool that you can use in the run-up to your monthly period.
Take a deep breath in and relax as you breathe out. You’ve got this.