How to Calm your Inner Hulk
10:43 am on a Sunday, I was whacking at the white wall of my office room with a hand towel.
5 minutes before that I had put my head inside a wardrobe, buried my face in a big white pillow, took a deep breath, and screamed.
In my head, still inside the wardrobe, was a flashback of a scene in Thor: Ragnarok: the green Hulk sitting on the edge of his bed, saying to Thor in a frustrating and somewhat hopeless tone: “I’m just angry all the time!” I felt for the big beast.
However, I was sure that I was not going crazy. Deep down, I knew there was nothing wrong with me.
What happened was simple and innocent: my period was just a few days away.
During this time, like many women, a host of hormonal changes happens inside my body, which renders my mental faculty useless. Before I know it, I find myself forgetful, impulsive, aggressive, moody, negative, and depressed. In short, a perfect cast for the main character in Incredible Hulka.
As a coach who primarily works with women, I’ve built a career around helping them get over their emotional rut and get into their right life. When it comes to my own emotions, I luckily knew what I had to do.
Emotions are never the problems. If there is a problem, it's the way I handle them. I must not suppress my emotions. I need to surrender and wisely employ whatever means possible for my emotions to be felt, expressed, and dissolve - without throwing myself down a flight of stairs or biting people's heads off.
Most importantly, I must not feel bad for feeling bad.
Especially when you’re, like me, a creative introvert with a highly sensitive nervous system.
I announced to Rapha, who just woke up and was chilling on the bed: “I’m going out for a run.”
“A run?” He asked with a tone of surprise.
“Yes. I'm a bit restless. I was whacking at the wall with a hand towel. It was very satisfying.”
I dashed out of our bedroom, sat on a stool close to the door, and started to put on my sneakers.
Rapha walked out slowly, stood in front of me and gently said: “Are you sure you want to go for a run?” He has spotted the familiar signs. (In fact, he has a reminder on his calendar that goes off every month to announce: “Mili’s period”)
“I don’t know.” I looked down, tying my shoelaces.
He stayed silent, poured himself a glass of water. I knew he was still observing me, not with worry but with loving curiosity, the way someone watches his favorite cat.
I finished tying my shoelaces, looked up, and in that instance, my eyes caught his eyes.
The skin on my face squeezed together. "Let it go", a voice in my head said. I started to cry.
Well, cry is a big understatement. I bawled and wailed and produced through my nostrils a large quantity of nasal mucus.
I spoke in my ragged breaths “There’s... nothing wrong... with me... And it’s not... your fault... that... I’m... crying...o...okay?”
Rapha came to me, took my hand, lifted me up to stand, and pulled me into his arms. “Oh… baby… It’s okay. Cry… cry… cry everything out.”
Rapha seemed to pick up a thought that was swirling in my hormone-infused head. He said: “There’s nothing wrong with you. And I’ll never leave you because you’re emotional.”
I laughed. And continued to cry.
1 hour later, after crying and running it out, I was floating in the pool of our apartment, facing the sky. It was high and blue with big fluffy white clouds. I was feeling as content as a dolphin.
How insanely beautiful it is to have a body capable of feeling so much.
How blessed I am to be with someone who’s big enough to embrace that body as it contracts and expands in waves of emotions, caressing it with his breaths.
I like this real-life love story. To me, it's way more interesting than the ones Walt Disney made.
(The last time I checked, they didn’t show Sleeping Beauty goes nuts with her PMS while Prince Charming tries to figure out what to do with this unexpected dragon.)
While I’m grateful for my harmonious marriage, I want to tell you that our ability to navigate a situation like this doesn’t come by itself.
Most couples would witness another version of the story.
Take Ann, for example, tired, stressed, unaware of her body, overwhelmed by her emotions and don’t know how to calm herself, start to think thoughts like “There must be something wrong with me.” “There must be something wrong with my marriage.”
Suddenly, she sees her husband’s sock lying on the floor - just the excuse she needs to justify her anger. Ann storms into the bedroom where her husband is lying on the bed checking his phone. Holding out her socks, she says: “How many times do I have to pick up your socks?” The husband spends a second in surprise, then snaps back: “Who makes you do so? What about your mess in the bathroom?” The argument erupts, casts a heavy sky over their Sunday and strengthening the doubt they have about their marriage.
Unfortunately, this is the story most couples live.
In my coaching to help women move towards their dream life, the relationship topic often come up. What I know for sure is the issue they tell me about their relationship is almost always not the real issue.
Ann will come to tell me “My husband untidiness is driving me crazy. If he just put his socks away, I’d be at peace.” However, the problem is not the sock; the problem is her being unaware of her female body, ill-equipped to handle her emotions. She also has the sticky habit of feeling like shit and lacks open communication with her husband.
Rapha’s Zen response to my emotion that Sunday isn’t something he’s born with. Like most men, he is a born problem-solver. His knee-jerk reaction would “For God’s sake Milena. You’re overthinking. Can you just calm down?” (For the record: this had happened before. It worked as well as putting out the fire with kerosene.)
If you didn’t know, the male brain typically works differently than female. When a man sees his woman cries it makes him feel so powerless that it’s almost unbearable. So he hastens to fix the “problem” by offering a solution or avoiding to deal with it all together. But right at that moment, it’s not what the woman needs. She just needs to let it out.
The man needs to train himself to be comfortable in the discomfort of watching his partner cries.
I'm not saying that the woman has no responsibility for managing her emotions. However, at the moment when the volcano erupts, the best thing is to let it go. After the eruption, the woman can work on her emotional fitness, hormonal balance, and so on.
Knowing this, each can take 100% responsibility for the situation.
The woman takes 100% responsibility to take care of her emotional well being.
The man takes 100% responsibility to suspend his knee-jerk reaction of talking his woman out of crying and embrace the discomfort of holding his woman in his arms while she cries without trying to fix her.
Rapha and I had had many conversations when I explained to him how emotional I might get right before my period. I also explicitly told him how to handle me. “Don’t argue with my emotions. Don’t offer solutions. Don’t talk me out of it. Just let me be with how I feel. Especially during my period. Be patient with me. Most importantly, remember no matter how I feel, it’s never your fault.”
My ability to express openly what I need is honed by years of my training in emotional intelligence.
When I was able to understand my emotion, I started to know how to help other people deal with it, especially my partner.
I used to be afraid of emotions and think of my sensitivity as a curse. I was unable to handle my feelings, so it took over me, wrecked damage in my relationship, and pretty much every other thing in my life.
Now I’ve learned to embrace my emotions. And while I work to consistently raise my emotional vibration - I also allow low emotions to come and go, allow myself to understand them, and allow my husband the chance of loving them.
I still remember the time when he held my hands and told me: “You’re a beautiful, emotional woman.”
I don’t whack at the wall of my office with a towel every month. My landlord wouldn’t be so pleased.
I do my best to be mindful, take care of my needs, and improve my emotional state. Right now, I’m taking multivitamins and improving my diets to balance my hormone.
But this isn’t fairy tale, remember? This is real life. So while we hope for the best, there can be days when the moment you open your eyes, shit hits the fan.
When that day comes, because of the work we did in our relationship, I know Rapha is fully prepared to tell me “It’s okay… cry… cry everything out.” while I both laugh and cry on his shoulders.
P.S: If you want to get more tips on how to build a relationship that lasts, and read an extraordinary real-life love story, you'd LOVE what I write in my new book 10,000 Miles for Love.