Since getting back from Copenhagen just over a week ago, I had felt noticeably lower, more anxious, and much more volatile than before I left. Yesterday specifically, I had the most emotionally and mentally challenging day I have had to deal with in a long time, and I was convinced I was relapsing psychiatrically. Today (and sorry if this is too much information for ya) my period started, and I have honestly felt so much lighter, incredibly relieved and so grateful for the reprieve after a contrastingly painful previous few days.
Although this is a common pattern which occurs most months for me, I always seem to be equally surprised and baffled by the sheer impact my hormones and PMS can have on me. When I am in the midst of it all for a week or so beforehand, I become increasingly self-judgemental, convinced that my mental health is worsening, and ultimately end up perpetuating the pained state I am in by seriously catastrophising. I cannot seem to attribute the increase in symptoms to the fact that I am simply due my period as an alternative and nearly always fitting explanation! Instead I dig myself into a rut of increased depression, paranoia, hopelessness and pain, with the worst part being the conviction I have that I am relapsing and will never feel stable again – an ineffective cognition which only drives the dysregulation deeper. This is despite the fact that pretty much as soon as my period does arrive, the number and intensity of my symptoms dissipates, the internal chaos calms down, and my sense of hope and relative stability is restored once again.
Here is a list of some of the symptoms I experienced over the past week or so prior to today:
- Increased sensitivity, even to seemingly menial stimuli.
- Feeling the need to cry but not being able to…
- … Or alternatively not being able to stop crying.
- Increased volatility in terms of mood swings and reactivity.
- Decreased motivation and drive in many aspects of my life: work, family, friends, hygiene.
- Decreased motivation to being alive, i.e. life apathy…
- … And suicidal thoughts…
- … Accompanying an impending sense of doom…
- … Or total and utter hopelessness.
- Increased urges to self harm.
- An increased desire to get drunk.
- Increased paranoia…
- … e.g. Thoughts that I am “being tested” or that others are “out to get me”
- Feeling inadequate in social interactions both mentally and behaviourally…
- … e.g. Decreased ability to make eye contact or act interested in conversations.
- A much shorter temper with family, colleagues and friends, as well as with the girls I nanny.
- An unfamiliar sense of urgency and impatience.
- Desperate clinginess and attachment to my therapist J.
- Even more intense reactions to rejections (perceived or real) to usual.
- Slower return to baseline than usual.
- Increased impulsiveness.
- Compulsiveness around food and a tendency to overeat.
- More intrusive and obsessive thoughts.
- An overwhelming fear that I am not in control of my illness and that it is taking over me again.
- The conviction I am relapsing psychiatrically and will never be able to get out of it.
- The desire to avoid and isolate.
- Intolerance towards those around me.
- Increased physical sensations.
- Increased body flashbacks.
- Inability to fall asleep or sleep restfully.
I didn’t realise when I started writing this list^ just how extensive it would be. I need to actually start tracking my cycle so that when I feel myself slipping I can see if there is a correlation or not. When I realised this morning that the past few days’ distress coincided so accurately with the onset of my period, it came as such a relief. It’s time I download an app so that I can Cope Ahead (of time) next month and every month after that!
I feel so clear-headed and relieved to be back to my ‘normal’ self again.