Friday, January 29, 2016

Mental Illness & Your Menstrual Cycle

Having to deal with menstruation for forty plus years is a kick to any woman's front butt. 

The cramps, shifts in mood, headaches, backaches, bloating, extreme exhaustion, the need for more food, tender breasts, the fucking bleeding...

It seems like even my hair hurts when it's time.

Being a woman who has a mental illness, menstruation does more to me (personally) than what I've noted above. 

A few days prior (I'm every 28 days like clockwork--because TMI here is what works) no matter the current state I'm in, the depression either begins (again) or it deepens. This isn't the kind of depression that screams, "Oh woe is me, I am woman--hear me roar as I sit here and bleed for the next 3-5 days!" 


This depression spins me into the planning phase of suicide. (Side note: This isn't the only time this takes place. I'm merely pointing out that it exacerbates things.)

I live with suicidal ideation every day of my existence. This is different than actually being suicidal. For me, it's thinking things like...My family would be better off without me...My family deserves to be happy without my illness dragging them down...I'm not worthy of living...Would anyone notice if I just disappear?

But when PMS comes into play, I begin to look around me. I take in the objects within reach that could actually cause me to carry out the act. It's a strand of thought in my head that begins to think things like...I have that bottle of pills in the pantry (and then Google--would it be "enough")...I could mix the pills with alcohol and just go to sleep...Nobody will be home tonight...I'll get a hotel room.

Laura Miller, MD, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Women's Mental Health Division in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital, stated in an article at The Psychiatric Times in 2012 on the topic:

"In a study of 2,524 women, 65.1% of women with bipolar type I and 70.5% with bipolar type II reported increased premenstrual mood symptoms. Only 33.7% of women without BD reported increased mood symptoms." 
She goes on to say:
"Not only is it possible for the hormonal changes to impact mood, but the hormones can also impact pharmacokinetics of the mood stabilizing medications."
Dr. Miller ran a test of a woman's lithium level prior to menstruating and noted in the same article the level was 0.6 just before menstruation and 1.1 after menstruation. That's a huge impact. 
Why do I bring this up?
Because over the years, I've heard people actually respond to me (when I tell them I have bipolar disorder) that all women suffer with mental illness in some way. And prior to wanting to throat punch them, I share the above information. 
Education is part of erasing stigma. 

Yesterday, the person on the other end of this text line reminded me that I don't, in fact, want to die. I just want to feel better. Some of us feel better typing our feelings than talking about them. This is the first time I was made to think before disconnecting.

1 comment:

  1. This post couldn't be more on time! I always thought this to be true, but to hear someone else's experience and to see statistics just solidifies it. TMI: My period just hit me like a ton of bricks. I went to bed Friday night and didn't wake-up until Sunday afternoon! What??!

    Thank you for sharing this. I too live with suicidal ideation on a daily basis. There are times, off and on, when it becomes more intense. Sometimes for no good reason. I just try to ignore, push away, and distract as much as possible. I remind myself that it will pass and I will be grateful that I'm still here, as will everyone else. Stay strong, Krista


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