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:
- We don’t talk enough about periods anyway
- This is a specific issue that cis male health practitioners have never understood when I went to them for help
- 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