Here's what it's like to live with a period disorder — and why we need to talk about it.

Though I've had it since I was 10 years old, it took me almost a decade to realize that my period was not normal.

I always noticed that my cramps were very intense prior to my period. I also cycled through extreme mood swings, felt lightheaded, lacked energy, and experienced symptoms of depression. Not the passing, mope-around-in-your-bed-eating-ice-cream emotional slump — this was depression that affected my everyday life. It made me feel like a completely different person. Leading up to my period, my normally confident, capable self gave way to an intensely anxious, harshly self-critical version of me that I hardly recognized.

But as someone who's suffered from depression, anxiety, and IBS throughout my whole life, I thought it was normal. My high school nurse said it was just PMS and stress, and my mother agreed. During my first year of college, I noticed that my symptoms grew even worse. They began affecting my schoolwork and attentiveness. I often felt like I wasn’t really able to respond to my surroundings due to my lack of energy.


I couldn’t understand what was going on in my body or causing these changes. My peers seemed to not have any of these same issues with their periods. That's when I realized there was something wrong, and I finally visited a nurse practitioner in my college and asked for help.

I received a diagnosis: premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS.

For the first time, everything made sense. PMDD is rare, occurring in only 2%-10% of people who menstruate, and mostly occurs in those who have depression disorders. The symptoms include fatigue, decreased interest in activities that are typically enjoyable, and difficulty concentrating, plus more intense versions of the mood swings and cramps that come along with regular PMS.

While I felt relieved to know exactly why I was feeling the way I did, it didn’t make my life any easier. The nurse practitioner prescribed low-Ogestrel birth control pills, which were supposed to regulate the symptoms caused by PMDD. Those helped for a year or so, until they began to make me feel sick. After starting feeling nauseous each time I took the pill, I decided I was a better off without it.

Then, when I moved to study abroad, things got even worse.

I moved to England, where I wasn’t able to find a gynecologist. I had to deal with my symptoms completely on my own — which is, as I know now, not a good strategy for coping with PMDD.

Walking around in temperate weather made me feel like I was about to faint. I found it difficult to do normal errands, like buying groceries or following directions. My depression also worsened, making everything even more difficult to deal with.

Some days, I’d be perfectly fine and happy. But a week or so before my period, I’d become this lethargic, self-loathing person. Sometimes I couldn't even summon enough energy to brush my teeth or take a shower  — things I do daily whenever I'm mentally healthy.

Even though I'm back in the U.S. now, my PMDD still isn’t something that can be easily solved by going to the doctor and getting medicine. I've already tried birth control, so my next option would be antidepressants. But since I don't have American health insurance, antidepressants would cost a lot — more than I can afford right now. I've been postponing getting medication, but it's something I intend to solve soon.

But the hardest part of PMDD is that I always know it's coming, but for a long time, I didn’t know how to prepare for it.

Menstruation is still so stigmatized in society that it makes it difficult or impossible to communicate what I struggle with and get the support I need.

In school, I’d be an efficient worker and student, until my PMDD hit each month. But telling professors or employers that my performance level would go down due to a period-related disorder was seldom taken seriously. And that's assuming they would talk to me at all — many people don't want to discuss menstruation, even clinically, because it's still considered intimate and taboo to talk about.

People's periods are rarely taken seriously as a cause of true mental or physical distress. We're just expected to deal with it or ignore it, despite it being a big part of our lives. I’m sick of being told “Déjate de changuerías” (Puerto Rican slang that loosely translates to "Stop whining") when I’m dealing with PMDD and my period. Even those who don't have PMDD still suffer through symptoms that can be extremely unpleasant and painful. It’s time to leave behind the taboo of discussing periods and bring to light these issues that show that menstruation is more than a monthly chocolate craving — it's a real struggle facing millions of people who need others to listen, understand, and support us.

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture