Health & Well-Being
i am you...and you are me.
If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know I've been pretty transparent about dealing with my anxiety and depression. Well, in this post, we're adding one more catch....PEE-EM-ES (PMS). Before we get to these and how they affect me, let's dive into some clinical definitions. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety feels and looks different for every person experiencing it. My anxiety is random episodes of panic, accompanied by an increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, and chest pain. Depression, on the other hand, causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. PMS, also known as premenstrual syndrome, is a combination of physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms that occur in a woman during the premenstrual phase of her menstrual cycle.
So, boom. Isolation during this time has been difficult. And if I didn't feel it at any other time, I felt it last week.....as I sat down in the shower...CRYING....in the MORNING. Like clockwork, one or two days out of the month, there's a certain darkness that just 'hits' me. Let's chalk it up to PMS maybe, but when it hits me....it HITS me. There is no productivity, and there's barely...any functioning. There's just me, exhausted but not able to sleep, lying in my bed, sad, not caring about anything, crying, and...just breathing (and remember...that is OK). This is what my depression looks like.
Breaking down and crying last week was my first time 'cracking' in a while. Of course, I had to wonder...is this because of COVID-19? Was I taking care of myself enough? What am I feeling right now? What do I need? All over our country, many Americans are reporting increases in symptoms of anxiety and depression. So, I supposed I wrote this post to validate that statement. You aren't alone. Working used to keep me "busy", so I didn't have to pay attention to my feelings of sadness and/or irritability. I could push past my cramps, bloating, and fatigue. I had...distractions. But, what do we do now ladies? Now, more than ever, is time to take care of both your mental AND menstrual health. Here's how I've been coping:
1. Crying. I actually CAN'T emphasize this enough. Don't hold back. Don't hold anything in. If you need to....cry it out. And let everything in.
2. It's okay to take time to yourself...WITHOUT explaining anything to anybody. If you need a day...SIS TAKE A DAY. Rome wasn't built in a day and you weren't either. You are not 9-1-1. So, you do not have to be available for everybody's 'emergencies' . Take a break, take a breath, and take care of YOU.
3. AFTER #2, lean in to safe friends and family. Yes, take all the time you need to pour into yourself. But, remember...you don't have to be the ONLY one pouring. This is coming from me, a woman that felt (and still sometimes feels) she HAS to have it together and be 'fine' all the time. Do not spend all your time taking care of everybody and letting NO ONE take care of you. While we are limiting "physical" contact during this time, your support can still continue virtually. Facetime calls, phone calls, texts and Zoom/Netflix Party movie nights with my friends and family have been SAVING me. Love on yourself AND let the people around you love you, too.
4. Journaling. What other way to enter a safe space of non-judgement than writing your feelings? I've been journaling since I was 10. It's always been an escape for me. I've always been an advocate for it and strongly encourage you if/when you're down...get to writing. Journaling can help you to meet your goals and and improve your quality of life, but it also clears your head, and assists in making very important connections between thoughts, patterns, feelings, and behaviors. Overall, journaling has been shown to boost your mood, enhance your sense of well-being, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce avoidant behavior post-trauma, and improve your working memory. So, during this time of isolation...get to a quiet place with no interruptions, maybe start with five minutes a day, and write....what FEELS right.
5. Find a therapist. Please please, PRETTY please don't be afraid on talking to someone. And if you are able, don't allow money to be an issue. What can be better...than investing in yourself? Find a therapist here that is offering telehealth near you.
6. Be kind. Be patient. Do you want to know what's even more validating than having friends/family that support and SEE you? Knowing that there's no "right" way. Each day, you're growing, my dear. You're learning. And...you're not alone. There are tons (and really more than tons) of people experiencing similar things. And NO ONE should expect to have it 'right'....ESPECIALLY now. We are be tried, internally and externally. We are uncertain of what's happening. We are desperate for connecting. It's all okay...because we're all human beings. And we were never meant to be alone. That's perhaps one of the greatest lessons that's affirmed me-we all want SOMETHING and NO ONE wants or should be lonely. So, pace yourself...and remember, you are AMAZING.
On to PMS and my anxiety. My anxiety extends beyond my PMS and occurs randomly. It's random episodes of panic and worry, my heart racing, and if it's really bad...not being able to sleep. I don't think my anxiety has gotten any worse due to COVID-19, but I still utilize the above tips to cope when it is happening.
Now, PMS. Y'all PMS is....a BITCH. And I'm always ready for her to leave. My PMS includes: anxiety, the aforementioned depressed mood, crying spells, cravings, insomnia, social withdrawal, bloating, fatigue, cramps, and acne. Over the years, it does feel like my PMS has gotten worse due to my hormonal contraception. I don't think my symptoms have been worsened by the isolation, but I do think it has made my symptoms more evident because I'm not moving. I wish I had more solid tips for dealing with PMS like I had for depression/anxiety. But, the truth is...I'm hoping to try some new things in the future including natural supplements, vitamins,; etc. Stay tuned!
Do you have tips for alleviating PMS symptoms? Drop your suggestions in the comments below. Thanks for reading!