Receive a gifted guided meditation in your inbox 💌🌊

Monique Gonzalez, Psy.D.


Channeling PMDD sensitivity to reimagine oppressive paradigms

Dec 12, 2023

Those of us living with PMDD feel deeply. PMDD has a way of pulling us to come in direct contact with the most soft, vulnerable parts of who we are.  All the protective layers become tender to the touch. We lay in bed with a heightened sensitivity as our unwelcome companion on those days hidden away, disconnected from the world during the luteal phase. We literally hear things and smell things others cannot pick up on. Astute critical observers, we process the world around us differently. Our nervous system is on vigilant watch, our brain detecting small and big acts of injustice. We know in our gut something is off, though it can be hard to put into coherent words, especially in the moment of perceived threat.

We carry an intuitive power, sensitive attunement, and emotional intelligence. However, these gifts become unfairly buried by the exhausting stigma at the intersection of menstrual health and mental health. 

We sit there face to face in the doctor’s office. A visit where we are meant to feel safe, held in regard, and offered assistance. We go to the doctor’s office to feel better, yes? That’s where one goes to hear: “I see you are in pain. I recognize the toll this is taking on you. I’m here to help you.” Instead, we confront the reality of sitting behind an invisible barrier of bias. Am I shouting or am I not speaking at all? My mouth is moving, but I don’t see any signs the recipient is receiving the message. It feels as though I am screaming my truth and yet cannot seem to find any of the right descriptive words that this professional will actually comprehend. The vivid examples of emotional pain and mental anguish are met with dismissive suggestions about pills, exercise, and diet that we don’t have time to go over in depth because the 30 minute appointment time is up. 

Those of us living with PMDD are intimately familiar with learning how to flow with a turbulent internal emotional and mental landscape, all while navigating societal barriers that exacerbate the storm. We confront pains in body, mind, and spirit. We know well the depths of caves filled with darkness and uncertainty; we prepare for them and somehow still manage to find light.

We relentlessly advocate to feel seen, to be heard, to have our needs compassionately and effectively met. Our lived experiences shine light on elements that are wrong with the healthcare system. Our chronically ill bodies seek support, and find discrimination and gaslighting where there should be refuge. Our repeated attempts at playing the bureaucratic game of ‘I am worthy enough and here’s my documented evidence’ dehumanizes our wholeness.

We have profound knowledge in the power of living cyclically and collaboratively, rather than according to a capitalist competitive model. We see ourselves in nature. Therefore, we can empathically see others in their natural beauty, pace, growth, and seasons. We also understand no one lives well in isolation. Community, mutual aid, and systemic solutions are key. WE TAKE CARE OF US. We have learned this time and again. We have relied on this. Think about how many people have had their lightbulb saving moment of diagnosis or validation because of the peer patient community?

For all these reasons, we are uniquely positioned to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable communal response to social injustice and oppression. To understand how to alchemize these insights into conjuring better ways of living for all, let’s step back for a moment and define some concepts that might be helpful. 

Oppression is the systematic targeting or marginalization of a group of people, based on certain identity or cultural factors. One can have multiple layers of marginalized identity, whether that is based on gender, skin tone, economic class, age, birth place of your parents, sexual orientation, body size, health status, citizenship, religion or spirituality, etc. The dominant group  – the one who typically has power and privilege in many of these identity areas – creates the rules, or defines the reality. 

Furthermore, every form of oppression is linked and intersects. The compounding layers of oppression are designed and chained together with the goal of uplifting the select few in the dominant group. Oppression literally means ‘to press down’. If you are a menstruating person in a fat body, a queer/trans body, a BIPOC body, an immigrant body, a body that is unhoused – you know first hand that sensation of suffocation [pressed down] perpetuated by the dominant group simply for being in your true divine nature. 

Oppression sits on the assumption that some bodies or identities are more worthy than others. It feeds off the belief that a certain level of mental functioning, or a particular skin color, or who you love, or the amount of money you earn all dictates what amount of goodness you hold inside of you.

We – those menstruating and struggling with mental health – see the fault in that. We see it for what it is. We call bullshit. We know what it feels like to have oppressive forces suck out our self-worth. It operates in such a deeply ingrained manner. It has us shame spiraling when we can’t work at our job the same as others, or we are not caregiving our family well enough because of the depression and anxiety, or we can’t sustain friendships or partnerships due the fluctuating mood swings.  

In the case of premenstrual disorders, I ask you, who do you see as the group who's been directing the ship? Who holds the keys to the kingdom? Who creates the manmade (hint) boulders that make it harder for you to honor your sacred needs?

Yes. White men with resources.

I mean, this is reflective of the larger sea of white supremacy and patriarchy that we all swim in and have to name when we recognize it. In the words of adrienne marie brown, author and activist, from their book Emergent Strategy: “We are in an imagination battle. Trayvon Martin…and so many others are dead because, in some white imagination they were dangerous. Imagination turns Brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of ability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else's capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else's imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.” 

We owe it to our full human story to accept and honor our wholeness. Embracing all parts of ourselves is a radically loving act. The sticky, tired parts. The gloriously glowy parts. The confused, in between, stumbling parts. All are worthy of being seen and held.  We should not need to contort our being to fit into a mold for others’ satisfaction or comfort. We ought to be ourselves in our identity and truth.

The words of adrienne marie brown encourage us, dear loves, to dare to imagine differently. We start small. We do this when we practice the art of self-compassion. We pull up the mirror to our self and repeat loving affirmations. We catch ourselves gently when we speak harshly to our sad, fatigued self when we are “not doing enough”. We breathe. We place hand to heart. We remind ourselves, “You know you’re still lovable, even when it feels like the world has forgotten about us.” That is re-imagining.

 When we practice that honestly with ourselves, we are more likely to be able to do so with others. We extend this compassion to our comrades who are flowing with premenstrual stuff too. We send a message of encouragement to our cyclical friend, reminding them that their existence in itself is a radical expression of what it means to be authentically human. We lean on each other for the validation that in fact there is nothing inherently wrong with us. We in fact live in a world that has long been structured around and tailored to resourced folks who do not live with a menstrual cycle (let alone a premenstrual disorder).

Take that in for a moment, please, dear one. Medical care, school, work, the current concept of time, and the current idea of productivity were not made to serve us. It’s absolutely normal that we need rest, unconditional love, up-to-date medical support, affordable ongoing mental healthcare, extra time and patience, access to childcare, connection to nature, accommodations in school and work, and social support. We are worthy of all of this.

It’s also okay if we’re different. I have been practicing saying  – I am different. I live with a premenstrual disorder that I manage on an ongoing basis. I live an unconventional life. I re-imagine new ways of being by staying true to my unique multitudes. We all have differences. It's called being one cosmically unique star in a galaxy of beings. The imagination we are called to conjure up together honors difference. It doesn’t cling onto fear of being different; that’s the narrative of the old outdated, racist systems. This imagination knows deep down that we each have something to teach the other. We hold the mirror up to each other, and say ‘Hey, I see you, in all you are, and I look forward to unraveling the layers together.

So, cherish the knowing that when you show up authentically and compassionately for your own being during the most challenging moments of your cycle, you are employing a sweet act of resistance. You are also more able to show up in solidarity with fellow humans, especially those who have been targeted by oppressive systems just for being themselves.

It is critical that those of us in the PMDD community recognize the invaluable insights, tools, and gifts that we carry within ourselves. Our heightened sensitivity can ripple out to more compassionate and effective advocacy efforts. Our perspective is grounded in daily realities that reflect back poignantly the ways in which systems need to be transformed. Together, we can channel these into co-creating the future we need, that we deserve.

We need more of us involved in leadership, in solidarity, in efforts towards collective liberation. So, share your story, love. Amplify voices, creative endeavors, visions, and dreams of those PMDD wonders who have been historically marginalized. Remember that we are each cosmically unique gems in the PMDD community; we hold intersectional nuanced layers that are worthy of being honored. Make your PMDD content accessible to all through captions, transcripts, visual aids. Use gender-inclusive language. Look around your PMDD circles (and your work team, school, community events) and stay critical of who is still left unrepresented in the room. Find a trusted organization that provides menstrual health care to groups that are facing current crises.

We need you, dear PMDD being. We need your magic on this path towards collective liberation. You hold truths our society desperately needs to hear. You hold experiences that need to be integrated into the planning of our future world. We are capable of both holding space to tend lovingly to our cycle and engaging our PMDD inner wisdom to uplift equity and protection for all beings.

In solidarity and with love,

Dr. Mo

Clinical psychologist who also lives with PMDD. Learning and co-creating ways to honor the sacred messy in our humanity.

Support children of GAZA


{This page may contain affiliate links for select items that are in alignment with Dr. Mo's values.} 


✨Gifted Guided Meditation✨

Dr. Mo has created a 'flowing with the waves' guided meditation. Sign up below to receive the mediation and to stay updated on future mindful offerings. Look out for a confirmation email in your inbox to confirm and subscribe.