#mentalhealthmonday – periods and depression

I think many people who menstruate will back me up when I say that periods can be hell. However, there is a very particular hell for those who are on their periods, and also mentally ill. (There are trigger warnings for suicidal thoughts in this post).

I think that this is a pretty important thing to talk about for a number of reasons:

  1. We don’t talk enough about periods anyway
  2. This is a specific issue that cis male health practitioners have never understood when I went to them for help
  3. Realising that I experienced periods differently from most menstruating people also made me realise that I was mentally ill.

For me, menstruation can turn a bad day into a horrific one. I struggle with lethargy, sometimes to the point that I cannot go to work, attend university, or leave the house. My anxiety can also lead to physical symptoms of stomach cramps and shaking, and combined with period cramps? HELL. Moodiness is also (usually) part and parcel of periods. As someone whose moods are not stable at the best of times, being on my period makes them fluctuate even more. Before I was diagnosed with depression, I thought that everyone experienced the same level of mood fluctuation as me. When I’m on my period, they can change in mere seconds. I can be crying uncontrollably to feeling euphoric at the drop of a hat. I also thought that when people said they were feeling moody, that meant that they were feeling suicidal, because that’s what I felt. I think this is yet another example of the fact that you should never assume that your life experiences are normal, because, funnily enough, this is not the case! (Who knew?!) It was when I was exchanging period anecdotes with my first girlfriend that I realised that something was seriously wrong with my mental health.

For the past few years I’ve managed this by using birth control (the pill, specifically) – instead of having 12 suicidal episodes, I had about 5 or 6. I realise that this isn’t great, but it is better. Right now I’m thinking about getting the implant, which may stop my periods altogether. HUZZAH! (Also, this is yet another reason why I’m so passionate about birth control. It is not just used to stop pregnancy!!) However, I am very lucky that this avenue is available to me. Birth control is very affordable in the UK, and I quickly found one that works for me. This is not always the case, as birth control changes hormones too. The first birth control I tried made me very depressed – and if I had been in a serious depression at the time? I honestly don’t know what might have happened.

Have any of you had these experiences? Do you have any tips for managing depression whilst on my period? This is an area that I’ve never seen discussed before, so any advice would be much appreciated. x

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15 thoughts on “#mentalhealthmonday – periods and depression

  1. Sarah says:

    This is perfectly timed because I started my period during the middle of last week and I was a MESS. It was more manageable for me back when I was on the pill and when I had the implanon, but I have a hormonal IUD currently and my periods are basically back to how they used to be–which means I get wicked bad PMS and other period symptoms that I haven’t gotten in years (I think I’m an outlier with this, though? Most people I know see lots of improvements with an IUD). I’ve spent most of the last week having awful mood swings and suicidal episodes.

    For me, it helps to indulge myself! I’ll get some ice cream or whatever, and that boosts my mood a bit. Watching some goofy TV helps too, I binged a little Rick & Morty. I hope your new BC helps and that it gets easier! Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out what works best. I’ll probably consult my doctor soon to see what they think I should do about where I’m at now.

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    • whatthelog says:

      Oh, all my sympathies to you!! It is so annoying when something that you think will help actually makes things worse. I hope that you can figure out things with your doctor soon. I personally dread my period because I know I’m going to be like that too.

      And yes! Self care! I think I’m still in the mode of telling myself to get over it when I’m on my period (THANKS SOCIETY) so I really need to take this advice to heart 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shouni says:

    This was very informative, thank you for sharing! I didn’t know being on your period can take that much of a toll for people mental health problems so this post taught me a lot. My period doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people and that sometimes makes me forget that periods are a big deal to a lot of people. I don’t have any tips but I’m sending good wishes your way!

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    • whatthelog says:

      Thanks! You’re very lucky 🙂 I think people talk a lot about cramps and pain during periods but mental health seems to take a bit of a back seat. I’m glad this post is raising a bit of awareness!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Vijayalakshmi Harish says:

    I feel you! I must clarify that I’m not clinically depressed, but I have horrible mood swings for a week before and during my periods. Everything looks bleak and feels pointless. So I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the hormones and that this too shall pass.
    I’m sorry you have such a terrible time 🙁

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  4. Grace (the Changeling) says:

    I also ended up going on the pill because my depression made my mood swings before my period utterly horrible (or was it my mood swings making my depression worse…? Chicken/egg, I guess). I was irrationally irritable and unable to respond logically or in a healthy way to my emotions – I just sort of rode them out and constantly apologized to everyone around me, or put back on the Mental Normalcy Mask. So that wasn’t great. But the pill has evened me out a bit, although I’m still getting used to the new emotional patterns. Do you have any methods for tracking the effectiveness of it?
    Thanks for starting a conversation about this!

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  5. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I feel like I’m always saying that, but you’re right about how periods and depression link together. I’ve watched family members experience these terrible symptoms. It has been incredibly painful to sit on the side and watch it all unfold without understanding why.

    The tricky part about us not talking enough about periods is that we don’t think to ask about it since it’s not at the forefront of conversation. It took YEARS for the people I know to realize that the Pill was something they needed for their own mental health. No one had made the connection. It’s amazing how birth control can help stabilize your emotions. Even for me, it’s essential and I don’t apply any mental health labels to myself. I know I’m one of the lucky ones, but my period makes crazy things happen!

    Do you have any ideas/thoughts about how we can make the connection between periods and mental health more prominent?

    Like

    • whatthelog says:

      Thank you 🙂 I think I was relatively lucky. I went to an all girls school (yes, those still exist!) and we were all really open about periods and everything related. It was actually one of my classmates who first started talking about how her moods had stabilised when she first went on the pill that made me realise this could be helpful for me. I’m glad it works for you!

      I know this is simple, but just talking about it more! Talking about the ways the pill and other birth control can help women in ways beyond not getting pregnant. Other than that, I’m not really sure! I’ll have to think on it 🙂

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