Periods are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We must not only normalise the physical impact they have, but also the effect they have on mental health too. Instead of shaming others, we must focus on promoting love and support during this stressful time. Whether you are reading this and relate to menstruation affecting your mental health, or want to help those close to you, I hope I can offer some useful tips in tackling this monthly battle.
Over 90% of menstruating people suffer from at least one symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), including headaches, feeling upset, anxiety, irritability, tiredness and bloating. Linked to this, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a health problem similar to PMS but causes more serious symptoms, like severe irritability, depression and anxiety, and these can present themselves a week or two before the period actually starts and ease two or three days after it has begun. Yet, there is still the stigma that people on their periods are overreacting and seeking attention, even though they may be having an internal war with themselves, facing a formidable opponent to their personal growth and success.
While hormones are real chemicals that affect us, the destructive thoughts they bring do not in any way represent who we are, our intelligence, our talents and our overall mental health. It is natural to feel so emotionally distressed during menstruation that you may feel you can’t get out of bed. Hopelessness may cripple you, isolating you from the happiness you may have felt the day before and the happiness that may be found in the future. I assure you, the thoughts that are engendered during this time of the month can be soothed and there is always a way for you to prepare yourself mentally, before this self-deprecating version of yourself takes your place temporarily.
Before I began to question why I was feeling so despondent and angry during my period, I felt lonely and frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t control my emotions. This still happens now; sometimes I don’t even recognise who I am on my period. I find my thoughts being damaging towards my dreams, my regrets and my self courage. As someone who isn’t a stranger to ill-temper, I find that before, during and after my period, I react badly to those around me and I’ll admit, I say things I don’t mean and find no relief in slamming a door or two after an argument I caused to erupt. Feeling alone, I become restless, unable to sleep and losing passion for my interests. Finding control during menstruation isn’t a simple process and even after finding ways to cope, I sometimes find it impossible to counteract unhealthy thoughts.
Imagine training to become an Olympic athlete, being dedicated to wake up early every morning and train, only to be told by your biggest supporter, AKA yourself, that you don’t deserve to succeed/ you can’t succeed/ you don’t want to. Not everyone has a lifelong ambition to become an athlete, but as humans, we strive to become better versions of ourselves, in whatever makes us happiest. Personally, I love to write, but I’ve found that on my period, I tend to doubt my writing ability and words I’ve written before suddenly seem worthless and terrible. I also find my brain trying to convince me I hate my favourite book and it can be difficult to find enjoyment in anything. This is reality; this is life, for a lot of us. But don’t be deterred from trying a few coping mechanisms, because I assure you, you don’t have anything to lose and some of these have really alleviated the symptoms I experience when on my period.
How to care for yourself during menstruation:
How you can help others:
I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding mental health during menstruation, as if you’re not self-aware, you may not only hurt yourself but also hurt others. If you think you have severe symptoms, please don’t hesitate to see a doctor. There are many options out there and people who can help, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and fluoxetine- an antidepressant. If you already have a mental illness, your mental health can ameliorate during your period and you should never suffer alone. Talk to a loved one and explain how you’re feeling, as even if they don’t comprehend it now, they will once you have.
We’re here at TWE to help if you ever have any concerns or doubts and honestly, contact me or anyone from the team if you ever need someone to talk to.
It is not uncommon to gaze off into the distance when distracted or deep into thought. At times, our surroundings may seem blurry and noises may become quiet as we sink into our mind. However in some cases, if one feels themselves disconnecting frequently or for long periods of time, it may not be typical. The difference between simply daydreaming and dissociation is that dissociation is the lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, and one’s identity. This includes feeling detached from your environment and the people around you. This can include feeling emotionally numb and light-headed.
So why do some people dissociate? There are many reasons as to why one may disconnect. The majority of the time, it is a response to trauma, including memories of the trauma. However, it can also be a sign of mental exhaustion. Dissociation can last anywhere from hours to weeks, and can be a symptom of a mental disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, PTSD, etc. Dissociation might also occur more often if one is not getting enough sleep, food, or water. Another common time when one may dissociate can be during a breakdown. One may find themself crying and hurting emotionally one moment and then suddenly stop. It may appear as though they are doing better but in reality, they have become mentally exhausted and dissociate to subconsciously attempt to “leave” the breakdown.
I have experienced periods of dissociation on multiple occasions, struggling to bring myself out of it. Although these periods did not last more than a couple hours, they were challenging to deal with while trying to focus on school, or any other task I would have to complete. After dealing with short periods of dissociation, I then experienced longer periods of dissociation, that would last weeks or even months. Although I was still able to complete my daily tasks, it made simple tasks much more challenging. At times, it would feel as though I was in a dream rather than reality and I would have a difficult time feeling anything emotionally or critically thinking.
Although it is challenging to focus when one is dissociated, there are ways to aid in stopping it. First, it is important to make sure that you are sleeping and eating enough as lacking to do so may cause one to dissociate more frequently. If you or a loved one experiences dissociation that is a symptom of a mental disorder or a traumatic event, therapy could greatly aid in addressing the struggles and therefore stopping dissociation. Similar to when having a panic attack, it is also important to use your five senses. Naming three things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
https://batonrougebehavioral.com/5-tips-to-handle-a-dissociative-disorder/ (Gives tips on how to handle dissociation)
In the last few weeks, the UK lockdown measures have eased in ways that a lot of us did not think were ever going to happen. Pubs have opened back up, we can eat inside restaurants, and the queues to get inside a clothes shop are the longest that I have seen for a long time. Living in a small town means that it is nice to see local, small businesses opening up again and serving members of the public. However, the anxiety that some of us are feeling makes the idea of going out to casually eat a meal again difficult to deal with. As someone who has definitely felt this stress and anxiety, I thought I’d collate a short list of things that have helped me in return to normality and might help some of you.
A couple of ways to help ease the anxiety you might be feeling:
For more information about how to combat feelings of stress and anxiety about the easing of lockdown I thought I would provide some links to further reading that some of you might find helpful. These are websites that I’ve personally visited time and time again whilst looking for advice, therefore having no association or sponsorship with Teenagers with Experience. I think the Mind charity does a really good job of explaining a plethora of feelings that individuals may be experiencing, not only stress and anxiety. In addition to Mind, is Rethink Mental Illness. Their website takes you through a series of scenario-based questions about returning to work, the ever-changing rules and the fear of catching or transmitting to vulnerable friends or family members.
It’s easy to think that you are the only person struggling with lockdown easing, especially when scrolling through social media and every other photo is of a person in a bar or with their friends they haven’t seen for months. Remember that social media is not an accurate representation of people’s lives, it’s a highlight reel of their personal best bits. The person who went out the night before may have extreme anxiety about going out in three days time.
Here’s hoping that some of this advice helped, don’t forget to share your opinions or advice. Helping each other is how we’ve made it this far over the pandemic.
TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of self harm and substance abuse.
I know. Once you find a coping skill that works for you, it can be hard to move away from it. However, some of the coping skills you think are healthy might do more harm than good.
You might be wondering: What exactly makes a coping skill unhealthy? Well, a coping skill can be unhealthy in several ways. If the skill has one or more of these factors, it can be deemed maladaptive (or unhealthy):
The question still stands: If some coping mechanisms are so bad, why are we attracted to them? Once again, there are numerous reasons for this. In a simple explanation, people turn to defective ways to cope, rather than beneficial mechanisms, because it provides both instant results and short-term “help”. These coping skills only temporarily mask the difficult emotions, while adaptive coping skills take longer to learn and get used to through practice. Healthy coping skills will help tremendously in the long run while also equipping you with the ability to handle stress, whereas unhealthy coping skills will only postpone the problem for a later time.
Some common examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms are, but aren’t limited to substance abuse (ex. Excessive drug or alcohol usage), self mutilation/sabotage, and acts of violence (ex. Harming others).
If you struggle, or have struggled with bad coping mechanisms - similar to the ones listed or different - chances are you have been seeking out alternatives in an attempt to free yourself of them. Alternatives such as these include finding other ways to feel the ‘sensation’, such as snapping a rubber band against your wrist to resist the urge to cut yourself, trying different ways to feel ‘intoxicated’ without actually consuming drugs or alcohol, and taking your anger out on a pillow instead of a wall or another person.
While these alternatives don’t cause direct harm, that doesn’t mean they are healthy. Things such as these can be potentially helpful with the process of moving away from negative coping mechanisms, however they’re not something you should stick with for longer than necessary.
Why are these coping skills unhealthy, exactly? Well, even though you’re not actively harming yourself, that is still the implication of acts such as these, is it not?
Though it keeps you from enduring serious harm, what will you do if these sensations are not enough? Or if you can’t use these methods? These are rhetorical questions since the answers are quite obvious: you will more than likely fall back onto those original coping mechanisms; anything to feel those sensations.
That’s why it’s best to distance yourself from the concept of them entirely. Ideally, you shouldn’t be inflicting harm upon yourself, getting violent, or feeling high. Instead, you should be focused on practicing healthy ways to relieve those intense emotions.
If you have suffered from these maladaptive habits, you have probably found yourself saying: “I can’t stop.”
Though it may seem so, this is not a fact. You can stop, but it’s going to be a hard hill to climb. This doesn’t mean you should jump straight to the conclusion that you will never overcome what you’re going through.
The best way to start removing these addictions from your habits is by ridding yourself of those things that tempt you. Remove all sharp objects that can trigger your urges, like razor blades, knives and pencil sharpeners away from your presence. If you can’t hide certain things, avoid directing your attention onto them. If you can’t do that, either, there are additional resources to support you - crisis lines, rehabilitation centres, support groups - anything you can think of. If you have someone to help you, make sure to keep open communication with them about your urges and emotions. By doing this, they can help you to the best of their abilities.
There are additional steps you can take to shift your focus away from those sensations, rather than focusing on different ways to feel them. I know from experience that taking care of yourself can be difficult, and becoming clean isn’t so easy -especially when it feels like nothing or nobody can help you. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and recognizing your unhealthy habits is the starting point of your marathon towards it.
Some of the best coping mechanisms I’ve developed over time are writing and drawing. These help me express my emotions adequately. There are various healthy coping skills out there.
I wish you the best of luck on your recovery journey, and I hope you’ll take what I said to heart. Practice self-nurturing! There are plenty of sources to help you, even if you don't have access to a therapist or direct help from professionals. There are several websites to both encourage and assist with your well-being and recovery, including helplines, hotlines, therapy aids, and us - Teenagers With Experience.
There will always be people who care, something to get clean for. Even if it seems like you’re always stuck in the dark, there will always be some light.
TW: brief mentions of self harm
CW: very brief mentions of dissociation, hallucinations, and intrusive thoughts
You don’t need to involve your family in your mental health journey, there are many other options.
You must have heard it before, when adults say “if you are struggling, reach out to a trusted adult”. What they don’t actually address is how difficult that really is. Mental health struggles are super alienating experiences that most high school kids tend to feel embarrassed about. Whether that is rational or not, it stops most of us from actually taking that step to “reach out”.
There are two main issues we have with asking for help; we think it means telling our parents what is going on inside of our heads, and it is incredibly emotionally vulnerable to step forward and tell someone you are struggling internally (in any way). So telling us we have to ask for help when we need it and never really elaborating is rather ineffective. We never hear what our options actually are.
I have a bunch of serious mental health issues. They started when I was ten. The first time I “reached out” was when I was seventeen. It took me almost a decade to follow the advice of the adults in my life. That’s almost a decade of mental torment that I, being a child, had no idea how to cope with. Yet I decided I would rather internalize all of it than speak to a single other soul about anything. To let you in on how bad my mental health was, without me “reaching out”, I am going to list some of the most prominent struggles I’ve gone through on my own:
-major depressive episodes starting at a young age (so bad I never showered or brushed my hair, and I was self harming at the age of 10)
-extreme social anxiety
-generalized anxiety to the point where my resting heart rate was around 130 bpm every time I got checked
-panic attacks that somehow went unnoticed by others
A little later on (9th grade +)
-my depression became seasonal, still pretty severe
-social anxiety got the slightest bit better, generalized became worse
All that and I never “reached out” because no one told me how to. I come from a family that doesn’t understand mental health issues and believes in a lot of stigma around different disorders. I couldn’t go to any of them about my struggles, and I didn’t think I could go to anybody else without my family being told or eventually finding out. It wasn’t until I emailed my school's social worker a year ago and asked her about confidentiality that I discovered that there were options for people in my situation.
Do know that I am from Canada, and a few things about my experience may be different depending on where you live. Hopefully you discover those pieces by following some of my advice.
The first step is to change your way of thinking about asking for help. If you are unsure of an adults willingness to support you, or how they may respond, keep in mind that you don’t have to connect with them about your actual struggles right away.
You can reach out about reaching out.
Pick your trusted adult, preferably a social worker because they are professionally trained to support you without parent-involvement. When you choose and eventually approach them, just ask if you can talk to them about your mental health, and make sure to clarify that you want confidentiality. It sounds hard, but it really is that simple; just open the conversation up. Again, this is way easier if you have a social worker at your school, because you can simply say you want to know the boundaries of their confidentiality rules and they have to tell you, and then you’re set to actually tell them what you’re struggling with (as long as it doesn’t exceed said boundaries). I have spoken to both my social worker and a few of my favourite teachers, and my family has never once been contacted. Just so you’re aware, the boundaries for a social worker are normally only self-harm related, for safety reasons, and I don’t suggest pushing them. It’s better to call/text a crisis line if you need private support.
Remember that you are in complete control here. This is a situation where you actually do get to call the shots when speaking to an adult. You get to decide what you do and don’t tell them, depending on your needs. Take full advantage of your power in that moment. If they ask a question you don’t feel comfortable answering, it is in your power to say that. Something that encouraged me to finally ask for support was understanding that I can withhold all of the information I want to. After talking about confidentiality, it’s time to test the waters. Start as small as you want, and see how they respond. I was super wary and vague when I first started talking to my school’s social worker, and now I consider her a friend (I know, super embarrassing). Basically, you don’t owe any more information than you’re comfortable giving in order to receive support.
Also, if you have severe social anxiety like me, you can do all of this over email if that’s what you want. I connected that way with my school social worker for months. Once I got comfortable emailing back and forth with her for so long, I finally agreed to meet her in person. I even asked her to meet me outside of the guidance room (there are so many offices in there and I didn’t want to knock on the wrong door) and she did! Again, you are in charge, communicate in whatever way works best for you.
Another reason a school social worker is best if you have one is that they usually have other resources to offer you. I said no to any external resources because it was stepping out of my comfort zone at the time, but there are more free mental health resources for teens than they tell us! From my understanding, unless you need a ride there, you are set to go by yourself. My social worker even offered to call in advance to make me feel more comfortable with going. I still didn’t go because of my anxiety, so that is the extent of my knowledge there, but I do know that school social workers have great connections to many free, accessible, confidential resources.
If you have a family doctor and live somewhere where there is free healthcare (I don’t know if you guys have to pay for general visits), they keep confidentiality from other family members as well. My social worker told me about that because some of my anxiety issues are physical rather than mental, making them only treatable with medication. I tell you this because social workers offer CBT based support and for disorders like that, they can’t fully help. Whether or not you have a disorder that requires medication, doctors can also offer you mental health resources without your family knowing.
For my trans friends, my gender therapist (recommended by my family doctor, if you need one) also sent me a bunch of different mental health resources. Mine had a connection with a social worker that I am able to see for free, with confidentiality rules that actually allow me to discuss thoughts of self-harm privately (make sure to ask about that if you connect with one though). Research different gender clinics/centers in your general area and see what they offer!
As a mentally ill high school student, we are told too often to just ask for help, and not told enough what will happen once we do. I hope this article eased your mind a little. Opening up about your mental health is not a death sentence, although it tends to feel that way. If you don’t want your parents involved, they don’t have to be. If you don’t want to get completely vulnerable right away, start small. You just need to learn what supports and resources are available to you, and use them in the most beneficial way for you.
You don’t have to do this on your own, there are options.
Being alone is a bit hard and a bit sad. I have noticed that when you are alone every problem in your life is somehow causing more pain than ever. I have noticed that being alone, especially at school, is tiring. I thought being alone would be easy until being alone meant feeling lonely even when thousands of people are surrounding me. I want to say that it will get better. But I somehow have been alone for 5 years. I know of people and they know of me but when I am sad or happy I have no one to tell. When I want to rant, I see myself in the mirror as the only option. I see people getting called by friends, lovers, and family and yet I am the one calling others. I have heard that I am a person who loves risky. Loving risky means loving someone more than they would ever love you. I realised with time that being alone has clear consequences and benefits:
Consequences aka cons:
I put my attention into getting busy. I made playlists for every emotion I could possibly have. My life is eating, exercising, studying, sleeping, reading and working. I don’t have fun because it has never been an option for me. I realize again being alone for sometime meant becoming a boring person. I honestly think my situation is a bit ironic. I am a high school student who has never done high school things. I have an ability of carrying high expectations while being remarkably pessimistic and sarcastic.
I’m trying to tell you what and how you shouldn’t be. Live your life as if you would die the next day. I can’t tell you I remember a lot of my recent life that wasn’t overwhelmed by work. There were summers that I wished to be back in school. There were times even when school was my sanctuary because life is not that fun when you are a solo warrior. We are not all solo warriors. I believe there are many people with friends; having one or two good friends is all that matters.
Honestly I can say for myself that this article is a rant. A rant I can’t tell anyone because I don’t trust anyone enough for them to understand. This is my experience while growing up. I am hopeful that yours is completely different and happier. But you never know, 5 years from now I could be the happiest woman alive.
(717)394-2000 - Emotional listening support line
1-877-870-4673 -The Samaritans HelpLine
TW: Self-Harm, Body Image
I used to love swimming. It was a large part of my childhood- the early morning swims that my family would do on holiday, going to the beach with my friends and going to the local pool on weekends. I think my favourite part of it all was the silence, that unnatural calm that you get when you are underwater- the feeling that nothing and no one can touch you in that moment, away from all the noise above the surface.
I didn’t realise how much I yearned for it until it was gone.
My dad asked me today if I wanted to go to the pool with him tomorrow, just the two of us. He is rarely home and the thought of us sharing that moment, just like when I was a kid, filled me with hope and comfort. It was only until I was sitting in the shower hours later that I realised I had failed to consider two important factors.
Somehow I managed to lapse, just for a moment, back to three years ago. A time before I started to self-harm, before my body was the first thing on my mind in the morning. And yet, that reality of the things, the person that I had lost, swept me away in a tidal wave. It occurred to me how much I was missing, the empty hole I was trying to fill by turning on myself.
I really hope that in a couple of months time, I will look back on this article after my first trip back in the water. I hope things will be different. Because right now, I will be honest:
I am so tired.
It is not easy being this way, watching the things you love escape out of your reach. But the important thing that I try to keep reminding myself is that I’m trying. It might not mean much but I am, and I hope you will too.
I have been struggling with self harm for almost 4 years now, and that is not easy to come back from. But we must all find a way, in whatever steps we take, that are towards a brighter future for ourselves.
We must find something to fight for.
I fight for the silence. For the water. For the person I left behind beneath the surface.
Have faith in yourself, receive the love you deserve.
Fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO, is a perception that one might be having a much better life than you and the belief that there are important events being missed. It is closely tied to social anxiety, self doubts with self harm being one of the deadly end results.
Every teenager has said this at least once,”I wish I was a part of that group” or “I feel like my friends don’t really want to include me in their group”. That is where the trouble begins . That sentence. While it’s completely okay to be insecure, it can be deadly. It decreases self esteem and has a great impact on your mental health.
Grades 6-8 were a period in which I had a major Fear of missing out. I would constantly try to change myself to fit in with other girls in my class. I would cry myself to sleep at night. I was troubled. Soon, I started to read more about this condition and realised it was me who did this to myself.
After a couple of months of self love, a journal ,meditation, and new and true friends, I finally did not feel alone anymore. I felt like I was worthy of my friends. It did not stop there. 9th grade was worse too. But now, I knew what I had to do. I had to focus on myself and reach out to people whenever I needed help.
I realised that trying to fit in is never the solution. It is to be happy by yourself and surround people who will be happy for who you truly are. It is you yourself who can make you stronger than yesterday. You need to love yourself if you want others to love you. Everyone is amazing in their own way, they just have a hard time realizing it and you might be going through that phase right now.
Reach out to a therapist or anyone you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with. Meditate everyday, journal your emotions and do things that make you happy.
It’s never easy but you’ll get there. In the end, everything is going to be okay.
I toss and turn as my digestive system processes the two sleeping aid pills I swallowed. My bloodshot eyes fall upon the clock—two forty-five a.m. I have an early morning shift tomorrow! My eyes are heavy; my body is sore, the house is quiet, and yet I am still awake. Argh! Typical night.
Indeed, this is a typical night in the life of a student juggling school, work, and the day-to-day demands. This constant lack of sleep is referred to as insomnia. According to WebMD.com, insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. It also adds that insomnia is divided into two categories. The first one is referred to as primary insomnia and includes sleep problems that are not linked to health conditions. On the other hand, secondary insomnia is for the sleeping problems caused by health conditions, including mental health.
My insomnia started once I turned eighteen when duties and worries began to line up. And yet, I couldn't connect the dots. Therefore, I began to hunt for the specific cause of this condition in other areas. Was my room too hot? Did I get too much blue light and not enough sunlight? Did someone cast a spell on me? Of course not! (It's the 21st century, after all.)
Thinking that the cause of my sleeplessness fell into one of these categories, I came up with some minor life changes. I spent more time outside, I turned on the A.C. before bedtime, and I left my phone in the drawer for hours. Indeed, things would get better. Drumroll, please. No result! None. Nada. I was still tossing and turning and glaring at the clock.
Before falling into despair and resigning to a life of bloodshot eyes and cranky mood, I observed a specific pattern before bedtime. Every time I was going to bed, my mind started to wonder about upcoming deadlines, job searches, scholarship essays, pretty much everything that would bring me down. It didn’t take a Google search for me to realize that stress was the leading cause of my insomnia. Therefore, I threw all my sleeping aids away and started relaxation methods. Yoga, reading, listening to 80s songs, white noises; I tried them all and began to plan them after a while. And even when stressful thoughts tried to sneak their way into my mind, I sat and took a couple of deep breaths, and it’s all better.
I suffered from primary insomnia, which was more related to my habits than medical conditions. This experience, though painful, taught me that sometimes a single pattern could lead to severe consequences. Now that I took control of my sleep, my eyes haven’t looked better, and people can bear to be around me.
Some websites/blogs that help (they do not sponsor TWE):
Everyone feels lonely at some point, it’s a deep-rooted feeling that bubbles to the surface whenever you feel the teeny-tiniest bit down, which can be annoying however, there are explanations for this and ways to help manage.
There are a few reasons as to why people feel lonely and after doing some research, I found that there are 5 main reasons to people feeling lonely:
Here are my personal tips to feel better when I’m feeling lonely:
I hope my research and personal ways of tackling loneliness are of some use to you, loneliness can be one of the worst feelings and if push comes to shove, I'm your friend and you can always message me for a quick or long chat. You can find me on Instagram or twitter @em_taylorxox.