i try listening to taylor swift’s new album but it makes me cry, so i switch to billy joel instead. the first song to come on is ‘vienna’, which has a line that goes take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while and that’s what i’m trying to do. disappear for a while. this is my eighteenth day without social media – a big deal for someone who used to obsessively scroll through facebook and post intimate stories on her private instagram account – but i’m not sure what i really mean to get out of it.
i decide to track my menstruation cycles on a phone app and count the bad days. rank my mood swings, headaches, lack of focus, depression, fatigue, teariness, irritability, hopelessness, quiet thoughts of death. i read about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, pmdd, which is a more serious form of pms and supposedly affects 3-8% of women.
“women with pmdd find their symptoms debilitating, and they often interfere with their daily lives, including work, school, social life, and relationships.”
is that why i cried all the time at school and sometimes think of dying at work and isolate from my friends and had a panic attack at my ex girlfriend’s birthday party?
it all seems so obvious, so simple, i’m slightly annoyed i never thought of it before. maybe because menstruation isn’t taken so seriously, is dismissed so regularly. maybe because i just figured i was sad about other things.
in this time of isolation i’ve learned to bake bread from scratch and play popular paul kelly and bruce sprinsteen songs. i’m not good at finger picking but know yesterday by the beatles through muscle memory, learning the chords at sixteen before i knew what heartache felt like. i’ve written a chapter outline for a novel and tens of thousands of words. embroidered flowers for my friends and sent them in white envelopes. taught myself to roller skate, walked my dogs regularly, read books that have been waiting on my shelf for years.
it sounds romantic but those things only happen on the good days. there have been more of them in the past month and i suspect it’s because of my social media absence.
the other day i watched a 1980s live performance of my life by billy joel maybe five times. one time i watch it to stop myself crying, cocooned in bed, teary eyes squinting against the harsh light of my phone. people think he sucks but i adore him, gaze at his fingers running across the piano keys and wish that i could do that. there’s a bunch of articles online by random men who probably know shit all about music (or maybe play bass in a shit band themselves?), telling me exactly what makes billy joel so god damned awful. none of them really give me any clear answers, except one who blames billy’s ‘unearned contempt’ and cliché lyrics. and, really? fuck off. is there anything more time-wasting than writing a blog post about how much you hate one of the best-selling musicians of all time?
my dad has four billy joel cds in his collection and i take them all, put three in my car and one in my room. i forget that the radio exists when i drive along the highway at five in the morning, listening to uptown girl full blast and not knowing if i’d rather be the uptown girl or backstreet guy.
(there is no gender. there are only uptown girls and backstreet guys.)
i had a dream last night that i logged into facebook for the first time in weeks and was overwhelmed by messages, the ones that come up on your phone in little chat bubbles, so you see the faces of the people who want to talk to you. in the dream i was anxious and thought this is why i deleted the apps in the first place. when i do finally install messenger again, i don’t know whether i’m more afraid of an overwhelming number of messages or none at all.
my google search history is full of random questions like do i cry too much? i click on an american website that abbreviates ‘highly sensitive person’ and refers to hsp’s throughout the entire article. do you cry easily? you may be a hsp. my australian brain automatically reads the abbreviation as ‘halal snack pack’ and i giggle to myself, clutching a damp tissue to my nose and craving doner kebab meat.
each day on my period tracking app i rank my overall mood. there are eight days ranked at six, which i consider to be in that grey average category. not awful, not below five (no days have been ranked below five, yet), but also not great. yesterday was a five. today is perhaps an eight. it’s the second day of a new cycle and i’ve now successfully listened to all of taylor swift’s folklore without crying.
when the tears and bad days come back you’ll know where to find me – eyes glued to my phone screen with the opening chords of a billy joel song ringing out to dull my senses and make the world feel a little less overwhelming.