Yes, you read that correctly. I’m delving into the not so glamorous side of my femininity and exposing my menstrual cycle for what really is; an evil, satanic force to be reckoned with! Am I being overdramatic? Maybe. Do most of my girlfriends out there relate to this statement? Probably. PMS is a real son of a b!*$h. Not to mention the fact that our cycle occurs every month…365 days a year…averaging approximately 10 years of actual shark week for the majority of us! I’ll just let you sit with that for a minute.
If only the Tampax commercials held an ounce of truth. Tanned, sporty women running around in white tennis skirts, full of energy, not a single blemish (although how could you tell? You’re too distracted by the misleading smile spread across their face, vom). I’ve never loathed marketing more than a deceiving tampon commercial.
Now take a second to imagine your worst case of PMS. You know, those days when you don’t even know how you’re feeling because you’ve cycled through every human emotion over 10 times. Your bloated, lethargic, and in such excruciating pain you’re contemplating your interest in daily living. Are you there? Great. What might happen if your brain chemistry was teetering back and forth or not functioning as it should? Better yet, what would happen if you were diagnosed with bipolar in addition to your PMS? Girl Interrupted psychosis, that’s what.
Side Effects of PMS
Premenstrual syndrome presents itself differently from woman to woman and typically falls somewhere on the scale of mild discomfort (0) to straight up blazing hell (100). For some, side effects are more mild and unpleasant than they are completely debilitating. I dated a girl once whose only symptom was her physical period itself…I’m convinced she’s a witch. Needless to say, below are a few side effects that remind me of my divine, feminine superpowers each month.
- Intense food cravings (increased appetite)
- Major mood swing (cue the waterworks)
- Decreased energy levels
PMS can last anywhere from 7-14 days (or less depending on the person). During this time, our hormone levels begin to fluctuate impacting our bodies natural ability to properly secrete serotonin. Poor serotonin, she’s so easily disrupted.
PMDD (otherwise known as Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder) is a more severe form of PMS. Side effects include intense feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability 1-2 weeks prior to your period. Some women may opt to take an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) to help combat their side effects if natural remedies just aren’t cutting it.
RIP…It’s Shark Week
Every month…seriously? It feels like some sort of sick joke that my period sneaks up on me once every 30 days. Did I not JUST have my period? What day is it anyway? It’s shark week, which can only mean one thing…RIP!
For the most part, my side effects remain the same during this time of my cycle. Luckily for me, a few more decide to join the party and turn things up a notch #periodproblems. Not only am I tired, moody, and insatiably hungry, I’ve now been blessed with,
- Severe abdominal cramps (endometriosis)
- Hormonal acne
- Increased irritability
The perfect recipe for a beautiful train wreck…
Simply put, food cravings are the worst. Especially when you’re struggling with a hormone imbalance because it can feel as if the only way to satisfy your craving is to cave and indulge in your malicious vice! I’ve been there. Infact, I still give in from time to time as I haven’t quite mastered the art of self control (it’s a work in progress).
Over the years I’ve learned to tune into how I feel after consuming certain foods to gain a better understanding of what my body needs. Because I’m hungry 24/7 and craving nothing but sugar and carbs, I started incorporating more nutrient dense foods into my diet that actually make me feel full. I’ve listed a few of my fave’s below.
- Sweet potato
- Eggs (yolk specifically)
- Dark chocolate (every girls dream)
One of many reasons I view my Bipolar diagnosis as an unorthodox gift, is my innate ability to FEEL all the feels…truly, intensely, and fully. Of course this doesn’t always work out in my favour. Does anyone ever want to experience pain so unbearable and misleading that they contemplate their entire existence on planet earth? Thanks but no thanks. PMS mood swings in addition to bipolar mood swings resembles something out of a horror film (sexy psychosis is defs not a thing).
It really doesn’t take much to send me into a tailspin when I’m hormonal. Whether it’s a certain song, the fact that I have to wake up early for work, or because my dog has decided he just doesn’t want to cuddle with me that day, it is not uncommon for me to start bawling uncontrollably out of nowhere. Yes, these instances have actually occurred! No, I am not proud of it. Hormonal imbalances provoke erratic mood swings which feel amplified for those of us already experiencing our emotions on such an intense level #myovariesmademedoit.
Do any of you remember back when you were a small child and your parents had to fight with you to go down for a nap? Same. As an adult I fully regret these standoffs and pray on a daily basis that my boss would walk into my office to tell me it’s officially nap time. I’m not tired, you’re tired!
During your menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate as your body prepares to shed its uterine lining. Although we can’t physically see this taking place, our bodies are working overtime in preparation depleting us of our natural energy. I literally feel like I could sleep 24/7 and yet still be completely exhausted! Inadequate rest severely impacts my ability to function on a good day, throw my period into the mix and we’re talking borderline narcolepsy.
Every month for the last 13 years I’ve experienced menstrual cramps so severe I’m convinced I’m going to die. Seriously, this is my fate, death by period. I wouldn’t wish this gruelling pain on my worst enemy! Fortunately for me, I’ve come a long way in terms of the extent of my symptoms and am only completely dysfunctional and imobile for one day rather than 7…progress is progress, I’ll take it.
The culprit? Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that involves tissue growing on the outside of your uterus rather than the inside. Severe pain during your period is the most common side effect for most women and can seriously impact your ability to partake in regular day to day tasks. I remember being 16 and having to bus to my doctors office once a month to receive a shot that would allow me to go to work without curling up in the fetal position.
These days my heating pad and a bottle of extra strength Tylenol are the perfect concoction to combat cramping when I’m unable to curl up in bed and throw myself a pity party.
So here’s the thing about acne. It has the power to absorb any and all confidence you once had until all you want to do is curl up in bed and hide your hideous pizza face from the world. What’s worse? The more time you spend stressing about your breakouts, the more cortisol your body produces (stress hormone) which creates even more acne…it’s a vicious cycle my loves.
As someone who has suffered with acne my entire life, I could only dream that adulthood would include a dreamy, china doll like complexion! I wasn’t so fortunate. In fact, I spent years on antibiotics in addition to buying overpriced skin care products in hopes that something would cure me of my pesky breakouts once and for all. Not my deck of cards. It was at this time that I finally caved and begged my dermatologist to put my on accutane (this prescription is no joke and I somewhat regret my decision to this day). Finally I was cured from my embarrassing adult acne and felt beautiful for the first time since…ever?
One year later (after happily living makeup free) my biggest fear resurfaced, kickstarting my insecurities into high gear. The breakouts were back with a vengeance and showed no signs of leaving anytime soon. Although truthfully they weren’t nearly as bad as they once were, and coincidentally only flared up around the time I was expecting my period…and haven’t gone away since #hormonalacne. Love that for me.
I’ve managed to shift gears and accept the fact that everyone gets zits and this doesn’t make me a hideous swamp creature who is unworthy of love and happiness. If you don’t like me because I have blemishes then you’re not worthy of my time. Sorry not sorry.
Someone cut me off in traffic. “How dare they!” A coworker interrupted me. “Are you serious?” The lineup at Starbucks is a mile long. “Did they not know I was coming?” Allow me to introduce you to my dark side. The completely irrational, impatient, and irritable part of my personality that takes over when I’m hormonal and struggling to function. I have a short fuse to begin with and very low tolerance for people in general. When my hormones start monkeying with things…look out!
I am an empath by nature and it pains me to ovary-act in situations that don’t warrant this kind of behaviour (pun intended). Increased irritability is a side effect for many people diagnosed with bipolar disorder however it is never an excuse to treat others poorly. When I’m not losing an alarming amount of blood each month, I’m able to pause and choose a much more effective way to communicate my emotions that doesn’t involve an over dramatic eye roll or stalkeresk drive by to the asshole in the Prius that’s cut me off.
Having bipolar doesn’t leave me feeling disadvantaged or hard done by…unless I’m on my period. When my hormones have officially amplified my emotions and I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that orange might just have to be my colour after all…I seriously struggle to regain my sanity.
But there is hope! I’ve come up with a few methods to aid me through this messy shit show each month that you may also find equally beneficial.
Chart Your Cycle
Knowing when to expect your period is a life saver! This precious bit of information can help ensure you’re adequately prepared for the emotional rollercoaster to come and leave you feeling prepared and in control (or at the very least, stable enough to withstand the trainwreck).
There is an unlimited amount of resources and devices out there to assist us in charting our monthly cycles. I use my fitness tracker from Bellabeat because it’s specifically geared towards women! You can do everything from chart your cycle, monitor your daily water intake, keeptrack of your fitness goals, AND record your sleep schedule all using one simple device. Bonus points for the fact that it’s designed to look like a regular bracelet and not overly sporty (I have zero interest in ruining a perfectly good outfit by strapping a tacky rubber band to my arm).
No surprises means I can rest assured knowing exactly when to expect side effects of PMS in addition to my period itself.
The female body is truly an exquisite work of art (I’m slightly biased but it’s a fact). Our ability to reproduce another living, breathing human being is proof of our undeniable strength and bonafide magic! Simply put, we slay. Which is all the more reason to listen to our body when it starts sending us signals that it needs more rest.
Just as our muscles require rest to restore themselves, our reproductive system is no different. If you’re tired, prioritize your sleep and allow yourself to recharge without feeling guilty for lacking in productivity. It’s ok to take a nap, in fact I encourage it! Nothing beats the mental clarity derived from a blissful slumber.
Take a Bath
It’s amazing how quickly a hot bath with a few drops of your favourite essential oil can transform you from a grouchy, lifeless princess into a full blown radiant queen! Essential oils have SO many natural benefits from aiding in relaxation to decreasing stress levels and soothing inflammation. Below are a few key EO’s I make sure to keep stocked at all times,
- Lavender (calming + anti-inflammatory)
- Eucalyptus (antiseptic + antispasmodic)
- Bergamot (stress + pain reliever)
- Peppermint (vasodilator + pain reliever)
Submerging yourself in a tub full of warm water is also a great way to provide relief from menstrual cramps! If your heating pad or water bottle isn’t quite cutting it, hop in the bath and take advantage of some pain free R&R.
Temporarily Decrease Social Interactions
Just because I’m riding the hormonal roller coaster from hell, does not mean that the people around me should have to suffer too. I try my very best to refrain from inflicting my misery onto others by temporarily removing myself from the equation (you’re welcome in advance). Not only would I rather partake in an endless love affair with my bed, but in doing so I take a more proactive approach and am genuinely coming from a place of love.
Obviously there are certain scenarios where retreating isn’t necessarily an option, like at work for example. This can be tricky because human interaction plays a large role for most of us in our careers (I’m impatiently awaiting the day that “stay at home dog mom” takes off). If closing your office door just isn’t an option for you, I suggest taking more frequent breaks, make yourself a tea, go for a walk outside, or listen to some music. Taking as little as 5 minutes to be alone with yourself and gather your thoughts can decrease your irritability and grant you the strength to push through your day.
Navigating your way through the ups and downs of a mental health diagnosis can sometimes feel like following a roadmap without a final destination. It’s messy and complex and we can’t always find the answers we are searching for. For all my ladies out there, I 100% understand the increased psychosis surrounding our menstrual cycles and the impact this has on our overall ability to function. I feel you. I’ve been there. And I still struggle from time to time (I’m only human).
Tuning into our body is truly one of life’s greatest gifts! If you’re willing to acknowledge your needs and shift your lifestyle in order to obtain a more harmonious balance, you can regain control over your emotions and kick PMS and her gruelling side effects to the curb. You’ve come too far to let her win! Death by period is not your fate.