A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women.
Chloe Caldwell’s period has often felt inconvenient or uncomfortable or even painful, but it’s only once she’s in her thirties, as she’s falling in love with Tony, a musician and single dad, that its effects on her mood start to dominate her life. Spurred by the intensity and seriousness of her new relationship, she soon realizes that her outbursts of anxiety and rage match her hormonal cycle.
Compelled to understand the truth of what’s happening to her every month, Chloe documents attitudes toward menstruation among her peers and family, reads Reddit threads about PMS, goes on antidepressants, goes off antidepressants, goes on antidepressants again, attends a conference called Break the Cycle, and learns about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, which helps her name what she’s been going through. For Chloe, healing isn’t just about finding the right diagnosis or a single cure. It means reflecting on other underlying patterns in her life: her feelings about her queer identity and writing persona in the context of a heterosexual relationship; how her parents’ divorce contributed to her issues with trust; and what it means to blend a family.
The Red Zone is a funny, intimate, and revelatory memoir for anyone grappling with controversial medical diagnoses and labels of all kinds. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that, along with proper treatment, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and transcending shame are the ultimate keys to relief. It’s also about love: how challenging it can be, how it reveals your weaknesses and wounds, and how, if you allow it, it will push you to grow and change.