Menstruation Management for My Emotions
September 19, 2019 6:27 PM   Subscribe

I've finally gotten a handle on some of the physical effects of my period (thanks, advil and exercise!), but still get my ass kicked by the emotional/mood effects, which include being very irritable, crying easily/often, and feeling a vague sense of existential despair for about 5 days. It's like a mini depression. Menstruating mefites, please share your tips and tricks with me for managing the emotional/mood elements of your period. I'm especially interested in tangible practices/activities, and open to herbal or mild medication, plus any/all other suggestions.
posted by sleepingwithcats to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing that actually made this stop for me was a hysterectomy, but if you're not ready to do that then I suggest acupuncture.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:38 PM on September 19, 2019

Are you on hormonal birth control? Willing to try it? For me it made my period shorter and lighter and dramatically reduced pms symptoms but ymmv of course.
posted by supermedusa at 6:51 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

depending on the severity of the symptoms it could actually be PMDD in which case i think they recommend taking antidepressants just during the pms week? but otherwise same as bile & syntax above, the most severe of my symptoms disappeared once the bleeding horror pit was gone; i still have my ovaries so it looks like they weren't responsible for much at all.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

I don't think I ever made an active effort to battle the emotional symptoms in my younger years and they don't tend to be as strong for me as I've gotten older, so I focus more on the fatigue and lower back pain that seems to be the worst offenders for me now. But I do still experience some degree of the emotional and mood side effects. Diet can help. Any food that can help boost your serotonin levels. There are a lot of options, so try starting there.
posted by acidnova at 6:53 PM on September 19, 2019

Buy healthy, appetizing groceries and set an alarm to remind you to eat them on a schedule to keep your blood sugar consistent. Hormone Mood + Hanger = A Bad Scene.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:18 PM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Seconding blood sugar. Exercise tends to help me manage my mood as well as my pain, cardio specifically. Adequate sleep. Scheduling things to look forward to so the blues don’t get me down too deep.
posted by mai at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2019

Seconding hormonal birth control. I know it makes some people crazy, but it makes me far saner.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2019

Each person reacts differently according to their body chemistry, but personally, I had much better emotional regulation on a monophasic pill (Ortho-Cyclen) than I did on a tri-phasic pill (Ortho Tri-cyclen and some other brands). Different pill brands also made a difference with the tri-phasic brands—on one, I had significant rage issues, on another I felt on the verge of tears much more easily than usual. For those who are unfamiliar with the difference, a monophasic pill has the same level of hormones throughout the pack, whereas a tri-phasic pill has 3 different hormone levels, intended to more closely mimic the natural rise and fall of hormone levels over the course of the month.

So if hormonal birth control is on the table, that might be something worth looking into.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cocoa is a great, gentle mood improver for me. Also, dark, bitter chocolate. Exercise helps. Listening to a soothing podcast like Kermode & Mayo's Film Review. I also have recordings of natural "white noise" like rain, the sea, and distant thunder, that I just have on a loop. I find these noises incredibly soothing.

About the physical side, I used to get incredibly bad cramps, so bad I had to spend several hours just lying down. That is better now but I still get dreadful blinding headache on the 1st day. Taking ibuprofen * before * the cramps and headache starts works. It prevents the hormones that trigger the pain, and doesn't work nearly as well if I don't take it in time.
posted by Zumbador at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Autumnheart. I had no significant problems when I was on a monophasic pill, but my doctor urged me to go on a triphasic pill a few years ago and I'm a much bigger emotional wreck at certain times of the month now.
posted by TwoStride at 8:48 PM on September 19, 2019

Antidepressants were a game-changer for me. I still get mood swings but the despair is nowhere near as deep.
posted by bibliotropic at 10:00 PM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Low dose of antidepressants and addition of hormonal birth control seems to have tided things over for me. I started taking birth control for birth control reasons recently and after a couple of months have definitely noticed less moodiness. I remembered feeling the same way a number of years back while on birth control but not necessarily ascribing it to the birth control. I plan to take it going forward regardless of whether I need it to prevent babies. It's funny there doesn't seem to be much about it on the internet - most articles about birth control say your mood might get worse as a side effect, just a few mentions here and there of possible positive effects. I guess it's specific to the person, so YMMV as others have mentioned. I also like exercise as a mood stabilizer, though can be hard to get exercise if you are feeling down.
posted by knownfossils at 10:13 PM on September 19, 2019

Yup, cat-sized* dose of Zoloft + similarly tiny dose of hormonal birth control taken continuously. I tried having my placebo week one month and I quickly recalled why I had been taking it continuously.

* as in, I am acquainted with cats who take the same dose
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:59 AM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Continual usage of oral contraceptives, no placebo week. Boom, problem eliminated.

(Before going on the continual birth control, I’d considered many times writing this exact question. Never found a way to feel ok during these periods. Worked so so hard at it, too!)
posted by wyzewoman at 1:16 AM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have the spot on app by Planned Parenthood. When I'm feeling depressed and look on there and see it's PMS (after 20+ years it'd be nice if I somehow remembered...but alas) and I do a mental ritual of acceptance. Like I know it will end in a few days and that somehow helps?!
It is so weird - period hormones - I get full on body dismorphia and barely recognize myself. Very depressed, on edge, all over the place - for 2-3 days. And then 3 weeks later it happens again :-/

Also Chocolate

I probably should exercise but it's the last thing I want to do... Will attempt next time.

Good thread. Thanks
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:13 AM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Taking a high-dose (50mg) B vitamin pill throughout the month helps me with this. (There's some research about this, but not any very well-done studies.) I believe there's also some research about calcium and magnesium being useful for this (again, taken throughout the month, not just when you see symptoms.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:34 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I take L-Tyrosine to help regulate my mood, mainly to decrease the intense anger and crying I am prone to during Dreaded Lady Time. My PMS insanity was most definitely reduced, if not eliminated, once I started taking it daily. YMMV.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 5:51 AM on September 20, 2019

Taking Lexapro for my PMDD and getting a hormonal IUD has completely solved this problem for me.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 6:01 AM on September 20, 2019

I started having PMDD symptoms about a year and a half ago, halfway through the lifespan of my hormonal IUD. With the help of my gyno and the folks on the green, I'm now on a tiny sliver of Prozac. I take it once a day, not just during my period, since I don't bleed with the IUD.

I can get out of bed during my period week now. It's amazing and I didn't realize how negatively PMDD was impacting my life until it was relieved.

Prior to that I tried red raspberry leaf tea, increasing magnesium, cutting out caffeine, and increasing my restorative yoga practice. All did some but honestly the Prozac was a near-instant change.
posted by assenav at 8:26 AM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Same as others above, I tried to wrestle PMDD/PMS to the ground in a zillion different herbal/dietary/exercise ways before getting on a very low consistent dose of Lexapro, which changed everything. I wish I had back all the 5 day chunks that I lost to feeling so awful.
posted by zem at 11:25 AM on September 20, 2019

I started suffering from PMDD in my late 20s. It would destroy me for about 10 days each month. After resisting antidepressants for years because I was afraid of taking them, I finally accepted my gyno's recommendation to try Prozac on the days when the mood stuff starts kicking in. I take it only during the 7-10 days leading up to my period, and stop taking it once the period starts. The standard prescription for PMDD seems to be a 20mg pill, but I cut mine into small pieces and so far the smaller dose works well.

Like others, I wish I'd done it sooner. I lost so much time to this over the years. Based on your description it sounds like maybe your symptoms aren't as severe as mine, but if you feel like you're losing large chunks of your life to PMS, it's worth considering.
posted by wondermouse at 6:44 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The most unexpected and surprising thing for me when I started taking Zoloft was the sudden absence of PMS emotion and mood upheaval. I used to be able to know my cycle *exactly* by the onset of emotions. Zoloft took care of them. I was only on 25mg. per day and apparently you may not even have to take it constantly for PMS/PMDD (I was taking it for depression).
posted by oneirodynia at 10:15 PM on September 20, 2019

I had a hysterectomy because my PMS was literally about to kill me; lots of people don't know how bad PMS can really get, and I originally got an account here to respond to a similar question (follow-up comment but you can also check my profile for a few other times I've written about it). Lots of menstruating people get relief from PMS without having to resort to a hysto -- as many commenters have pointed out, via low-dose antidepressants, etc. -- but for some people, nothing else works. I can confidently say I would not be here typing this without my hysto. If you can find a doctor that takes this all seriously, there are a lot of other things you can try before potentially going that route though.
posted by diffuse at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2019

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