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.

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