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.