Is My Depression Back, or Is It My Period?
Many people who experience periods also experience depression in the form of mood fluctuations that can range anywhere from frustrating to debilitating. If you're like me and you're in recovery from a mood disorder like depression, these monthly fluctuations can be a real source of fear and hopelessness.
Before I do the math and realize my depressed mood is right on schedule and my period should be arriving any day now, I often get very nervous that I'm experiencing a full-blown depression relapse. I've been doing so much better recently and every month when I start to feel depressed again, I can't help but start to worry that everything is getting seriously bad again. I worry that I'm facing months of depression again when really, this will be over in a day or two.
Validating Period-Related Depression Without Becoming Hopeless
When I first started noticing this pattern of serious depressive symptoms arriving right before my period, I tried to shame them away. I told myself how stupid I was being, that a little hormonal shift could put me back into such a horrible headspace. I told myself it was stupid to be afraid that this depression might be long-lasting this time. I told myself a lot of mean stuff to try to make my period-related depression to go away. Shockingly, that never worked. I've said it before and I'll say it again: shame solves nothing.
Now, I am trying to validate the pain I'm experiencing when it comes to period-related depression without falling into the trap of believing that my depression is back for good, I was never really recovering and everything is hopeless and terrible. This is incredibly hard to do when I'm depressed because my brain automatically goes into a very hopeless mode, but over the years, I have gotten better at gently holding different realities at the same time. It's possible to be genuinely depressed without my major depressive disorder making a full-blown comeback, and it is possible to allow myself to be depressed without giving up on everything.
5 Tips for Coping with Period-Related Depression
- Remind yourself it's temporary this time. I know in my experience, my brain resists this knowledge. It tries to scare me by constantly asking "But what if it's back forever?" I try to remind myself that if that happens (and that is a big "if") then I will deal with it when my depression has lasted more than a few days.
- In the meantime, be patient and forgiving. While you wait for your period-related depression to fade, try to give yourself as much patience and forgiveness as possible. I felt so guilty today as I scrolled through social media over and over while my infant son had to entertain himself for most of the day. But I fed him, cuddled him and changed him, and for today, that was enough. You can only do what you can do. Remember that depression really limits your ability to interact with the world around you, and this applies to period-related depression as well.
- Try at least one coping mechanism. You don't have to whip out every self-care activity in the book, but you owe it to yourself to try at least one good coping mechanism. If you don't have the energy to color something or go for a walk, try a more low-energy form of self-care, like listening to soothing music or simply sitting in the sun for a little while if that's an option.
- Schedule therapy appointments on a schedule that lines up with your period-related depression. If you use therapy to help treat your mental illness, try to schedule appointments so you have a chance to talk to your therapist when you're experiencing period-related depression. Many of us see our therapists once every two weeks, so try to make sure the schedule works so that you have an appointment a few days before your period is supposed to start each month.
- Talk to your doctor or therapist about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). If your period-related depression has a serious impact on your life, you may want to speak to your doctor or therapist about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is a disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and it is characterized by severe depression, anxiety, or irritability in the week or two before your period that has a significant impact on your functioning or quality of life.
Have you noticed that, even in recovery, your depression gets worse before or during your period? You definitely aren't alone, feel free to share your experience in the comments below.
Griffith, M. (2020, May 5). Is My Depression Back, or Is It My Period?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2020/5/is-my-depression-back-or-is-it-my-period