For women who are considered emotional … society uses the word ‘hormonal’ - a euphemism for ‘too much of you’
Where we lack in women’s health research, we make up for in gendering risks for mental illnesses.
We know that illness can be sex-differentiated - our chromosomes may impact our response to the world.
We acknowledge that gendered experiences will affect women’s health outcomes - but that does not equate to women innately having a propensity toward certain mental health conditions. Being a woman is wholly intertwined with societal pressures, cultural norms, and political decisions.
Our mental health symptoms as women are real. The lack of investigation into the root cause of those symptoms is appalling. Unfortunately, the curiosity to uncover “why” halts once we’re given a diagnosis. The current healthcare system medicalizes the very real physical and mental health outcomes of social and political decisions in a way that essentially says: “Here’s what you have. Relax, take this pill, and come back when you need something else.”
Leave that for a couple decades and you’ll even have the data to demonstrate that these mental illnesses are predictable in a certain population, and that dear friends, is when the train has left the station.
A few examples:
Premenstrual mood disorders
All specifically designated for females. In addition, for any women who are considered emotional regardless of their organs, society uses the word ‘hormonal’ - a euphemism for ‘too much of you’.
We are here to validate and confirm that you are not too much. Sometimes, there is just too much for you to hold.
Yes, your hormones affect you. Your hormones influence your responses everyday, your organs, including your brain, influence how much of these hormones you make; but so does the context of the world you are living in and the load that our society has asked women to bear.
Your hormones are not an external force, swaying you this way and that. They are not only here to make some women ovulate or bleed. They are part of your body and responding to your world. The oscillation of your hormones absolutely influences how you feel. But it isn’t as simple as hormones making women anxious, depressed, or moody. They are triggered to release SO THAT your body and mind do what is helpful for survival in changing situations, whether that is growing an egg, resisting misogyny, or feeling overwhelmed by your must-do list. It may not seem like a good survival technique to have these types of feelings, but feelings are signals for us to take action - in this case, something either physically, emotionally or environmentally is not ok for us. The feeling isn’t the problem. The situation is.
They are not random. If we have a surge or a drop, we are not broken. It may feel unpredictable, or out of the ordinary, but stop for a moment - assess whether we are in fact having a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation.
The most common flux associated with being ‘hormonal’ is spiking estrogen. Estrogen influences us to feel, grow, change, play, feel excited, connect, and communicate. But it’s the scapegoat for all big emotions, whether that’s in peri-menopause, PMS, postpartum, endometriosis flares, or taking estrogen for any variety of reasons.
We prefer to see it this way:
When the world asks you to be unchanging, measured, and quiet, and your estrogen is rising - this is a mismatch, and your body and mood will let you know that, perhaps through anger or its flip side, feelings of resignation and helplessness.
When the world asks you to be creative and verbose, and your estrogen is plummeting - this is a mismatch, and your mood might respond in frustration, disappointment or withdrawal.
Feeling different than what others expect of you is not hormonal. Recognize that you don’t have to be anyone, except yourself.
Sometimes, any hormone can go to depths and peaks that are beyond what’s reasonable for you. But the first step to knowing that boundary is giving yourself the space for all feelings that a human can and should feel.
The pairing of hormones to anxiety, depression, or mood disorders is both physiologically true and unproductive. It’s a shortcut to a hormone or antidepressant medication without assessing all other aspects that could support mental health and still give space for hormonal fluctuations - from food, nutrients, herbs, lifestyle, and more.
Women are the emotional workhorse of their communities -
they hold the emotional space for our loved ones
they feel the challenges the next generation has to grapple with
they fear for the safety and growth of our children,
they are parenting in impossible circumstances,
they are supporting our homes in unsustainable economies,
they have existed in misogynistic workplaces for decades,
they are consistently dismissed by doctors that don’t believe them,
they are separated from their support networks (The list goes on).
There is no world in which someone in this context - whether going through peri-menopause, or postpartum, or simply feeling angry or fearful - is in need of a diagnosis of a hormone or gender specific mental illness. What they need is support. What they need is community. What they need is acknowledgment that what they are going through may be an absolutely terrible experience for them - it’s human to have intense feelings in these contexts.
Help comes in many forms. When it comes to hormones, responding with strong measures to demanding situations is occasionally the best choice. Prescriptions may help someone to feel stable when the intensity or duration of the emotion feels out of one’s own grip.
Sometimes, the lasting solutions are herbs and nutrients that support health and address deficiencies.
Often the most important part of recovery is forgotten: receiving financial help, assistance to have more hours to oneself, a shoulder to lean on, coffee with a loved one, a counselor to talk it through with, a scream in the car, a bloody good weep, a serious text session with a best friend.
A plan with many supports is a truly evidence-based plan.
What does not help, is using the word ‘hormonal’ as a way to dismiss what’s happening inside of you,
The pairing of hormones to anxiety, depression, or mood disorders is both physiologically true and unproductive. It’s a shortcut to a hormone or antidepressant medication without assessing all other aspects that could support mental health and still give space for hormonal fluctuations - from food, nutrients, herbs, lifestyle, and more.because your hormones are your helpers, by your side, day in, day out.