**Trigger warning for men. This post is about the female menstrual cycle. Don’t read if the topic makes you uncomfortable.**
If you’re a woman, I’d wager that every month you experience a spell of what feels like temporary insanity, otherwise known as YOUR PERIOD. That’s right, I’m addressing the elephant in the room that “women use as an excuse to have a moan” (I won’t confirm who said that to me, but I will say that I accidentally knocked over his pint, 75% of which fell onto his lap. It was glorious)!.
In many ways I do sympathise with men. A menstrual cycle is hard to explain and even harder to understand, unless you’ve experienced one.
I once described it to my husband as;
“Imagine that your balls are really aching and you can’t do anything about it. You feel hot, bloated and so tired that you could easily fall asleep on the office floor. Oh and on top of all that, your mood switches rapidly from anger, sadness, insecure, then back to anger again. WITH NO EXPLANATION!”
Just recently I found myself sobbing hysterically on the bathroom floor (such a cliche I know), because I’d smashed my favourite mug. The smashing of the mug was not just
a random accident, it proved to me that I was a failure in every single way. OR…. maybe… maybe, it was PMS? I’m not sure, I’ll let a judge decide.
If you have a mental health condition, then a dose of the old menstrual cycle is like adding fuel to an open camp fire. BOOM! It took me a long time to equate the two, but it’s so obvious.
“Research suggests that lower estrogen levels cause serotonin levels to drop precipitously a few days before menstruation. Low levels of serotonin are implicated in anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder … you’re even more physically sensitive to pain than usual, and more emotionally sensitive. You’re less resilient in the face of stresses and feel sadder, hungrier, and more scared, tearful, and angsty.” Dr. Julie Holland, from her book Moody Bitches.
Serotonin is the magic word that all you ‘crazy’ folk will understand. We don’t produce enough of it, so if the menstrual cycle alters the levels, then
basically we’re f**ked
we’re already at a disadvantage.
Rather than being at the mercy of your bleeding vagina. (Why mince words)? I would suggest a more proactive approach. Try and make a note of what happens in the days before and after you menstruate. This way, at least you can plan ahead. (I’ve recently started doing this). For example, two days before I bleed, I tend to feel either very irritable or emotional. During my bleed I’m really tired and bloated, and two days after I’m done, I feel low and empty.
So for me, this highlights three key areas to focus on:
Stage 1: Two days prior – Increase my serotonin medication to re-address the balance. (Obviously talk to your doctor first, if this is something you also want to consider). Other ways of doing this is via Omega three vitamins, or eating lots of oily fish. Also, I make the people close to me aware of how I’m feeling and ask them to be patient if I’m snappy. To be honest, Dan just stays out of my way and brings me fizz!
Stage 2: One day prior – increase my iron intake. When a woman bleeds she loses quantities of iron, which can cause fatigue. I’ve started taking irons tablets and increasing my spinach and broccoli intake. It’s not a cure, but I have noticed a difference. Caffeine and sugar might be a quick fix, but you’ll soon notice the drop.
Also, wear giant comfy knickers because seriously who gives a shit? I buy decent sanitary towels too, because comfort is everything.
Stage 3: One day after – Cardio exercise to boost my mood and I plan activities to keep my brain engaged, both personally and professionally. Also, I don’t allow myself to wallow for more than a few hours. It’s not easy, but getting up and doing something, even if it’s just a walk around the block, always lifts my mood.
Sending massive love to all the women out there who deal with both mental illness and a bleeding vagina. You’re a warrior and you should treat yourself as such!