Excerpt from Jump Off the Hormone Swing by Lorraine Pintus
Hot water streamed over my head, across my shoulders, along my body, and down the drain, swirling away a small measure of the tension that throbbed from every pore in my body. I nudged the chrome dial closer to “H,” begging the heat to untie the knots in the back of my neck.
I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
I’d just started my period. No surprise, really, but usually once it came I felt better, not worse. This shower will help, I reasoned.
I reached for the shampoo beside my feet. As I bent down I noticed narrow, circular indentations just below each of my knees—impressions left by my trouser socks. A similar indentation circled my left wrist where my watch had been. My body was swollen, blown up, as were my emotions. I squeezed shampoo into my palm, lathered up, and began the process of trying to scrub the angry thoughts from my mind: I hate myself when I lose it with the kids, but then, they deserved it! How many times have I told them not to throw that ball in the house? A million. But did they listen? No.
A voice in my head joined my private conversation. You are a mess. What is wrong with you?
The voice was familiar—I’d battled God’s enemy before. The devil spoke outside me—separate from me—yet inside my head. Normally I fought off his taunts, but today I didn’t have the strength. Besides, why was he bothering me now? This wasn’t a spiritual issue; I just had a bad case of PMS.
You are a terrible mother, the voice seethed. How could you yell at your children like that? They were only playing. They didn’t mean to break the vase. It was an accident. But you screamed at them. You made Amanda cry. And Megan? He’s afraid of you. What kind of mother are you?
I scrubbed vigorously, digging fingernails deep into my scalp, but try as I might to be free from it, the scum remained.
And what about Peter? Didn’t he ask you to drop some papers by the bank? Have you done that? No. It’s been three days. Why can’t you manage your schedule better? What are you going to tell him when he asks you if you took care of it? You do things for other people, but not for your own husband. How do you think that makes him feel?
I rinsed my hair and pulled a strand between my thumb and finger. The squeak proclaimed me clean, but I didn’t feel clean. I felt dirty. I reached for the shampoo and lathered up again.
When was the last time you did something nice for your husband? He works hard all day, and when he comes home in the evening you shove the kids on him and complain about how tired you are. What about him? What about his needs? Do you ever think of him?
“Shut up! Just shut up!” I ordered the voice. I balled up my soapy fists. I hated his accusations. They were cruel, hateful . . . and true!
“O God, I have been rude to Peter. Mean, even. I can’t remember the last time I cooked a special dinner just for him, or called him for no other reason than to say that I was thinking of him. Maybe that’s why he’s been so distant lately.”
The voice came again, faster, louder: You are a failure! You are a failure as a mother, as a wife . . . even as a Christian. You go to church and act “spiritual.” You sing songs and smile and nod when the pastor tells you to “love others.” But what about that woman in your Bible study? Do you love her? No. You judge her because she is different from you. You smile and act nice to her face, but all the while you are cutting her down inside your mind. Is that what a Christian is supposed to do?
“Leave me alone!” I sobbed.
You aren’t following God, you are embarrassing Him! You are nothing but a hypocrite.
“Oh God, it’s true, all true,” I cried. “No wonder I haven’t felt close to You lately. You must hate me and with good reason. I’m a horrible Christian, a terrible mother and wife. Why would a holy God like You want anything to do with someone as miserable as me?”
I slammed the chrome handle into the “off” position, toweled dry, and threw on a robe. As I shook water from my hair, I realized I’d forgotten to use conditioner.
Idiot! You can’t even wash your hair right. Tears of self-hatred burned a trail down my cheeks. I swore out loud at myself: “You pathetic, stupid idiot. You are good for nothing—nothing!”
A cloud of steam hung in the room. With the sleeve of my robe, I rubbed a circle in the mirror, creating a porthole in the condensation.
Blood-shot, vacant eyes peered back at me.
Was that my voice or my enemy’s? It didn’t matter. Right now they seemed one and the same.
I studied my face as it slowly vanished beneath gathering droplets. I stood, unmoving, staring into the mirror. No one stared back. I’d disappeared altogether.
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