Portfolio of Hope

Interesting fact: up to 92% of Autistic people who menstruate have PMDD* (Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder).

(statistic from a study by Obaydi and Puri, 2008).

*PMDD being a hormonal health condition that causes clinically significant and impairing depression, anxiety, mood swings, and uncomfortable physical symptoms in the week leading up to menses, the onset of a period, and improve in the weeks following menses.

In terms of why PMDD is shown to disproportionately effect people with Autism (and ADHD), i.e., people who are neurodiverse, the reason is likely due to us being so sensitive, whereby we feel everything so much more intensely. The pain, the sorrow, the ‘brain fog’, it’s all massively ‘turned up’ in our sensitive, neurodivergent brains. As such, the rise and fall of hormones (hormonal fluctuations) which occur during our menstrual cycle can cause our already hypersensitive nervous system to massively struggle, as it simply cannot keep up with the physical, and emotional, toll of what our bodies are going through. We therefore, unsurprisingly, feel out of control, and can oftentimes find it incredibly difficult even just functioning when we’re struggling with PMDD, so ‘bogged down’ are we with such crippling emotional and physical symptoms, that ‘normal’ life seems so unattainable, like a distant dream, almost- never actually reachable…

To say that up to 92% of Autistic people who menstruate struggle to such an extent with their monthly cycle, there is little help offered in the way of helping to relieve some of the pain we feel. Looking at this from a feminist perspective, one could argue that this is likely due to the nature of the patriarchal society in which we live- everything is based on men’s needs- designed by men, for men…

If men had periods, I genuinely do believe that there would be, not a ‘cure’ for them, but more help in the way of allowing us to actually function like human beings every month, not like extras (i.e., Zombies) in the Shaun of the Dead movie. You’re not telling me that men would accept a tablet which has little, if any effect other than massively increasing their risk of cancer, as a ‘solution’, or that they would agree to have their uterus removed (hysterectomy) just so they can not feel like a zombie every month. There would be more out there to help, I’m sure of that. The medical community would have spent decades researching the complications of menstruation, with billions upon billions being poured into science. So much effort would’ve been made to pull men out of severe pain, cramps, and hormonal difficulties that endometriosis would be cured by now… But, men don’t have periods, and so we have no choice but to ‘make do’ with the naff options which are available to us, of which there are embarrassingly few. There is no choice but to do this. We have no choice. As always, it’s men who hold the money, men who hold the power and, because it doesn’t effect them, men who choose to invest their money (and power) elsewhere.

Now, it is this obsession with money and power which underpins capitalism, too. Not only do we have to pay for sanitary products, but we also have to pay tax on them We have to, ultimately, pay to menstruate, like it’s something that we choose to do? Paying for the privilege of bleeding every month- lovely. Whereas Viagra, which is not an essential, is not taxed. It is considered an ‘essential.’

Similarly, less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated solely to reproductive health, despite the fact that one in three women in the UK will suffer from a reproductive or gynaecological health problem. There is five times more research into erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than into premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women…

Why? The reason is obvious, because Viagra, like most things, is, again, designed by men, for men. It’s an ‘essential’ because, they just ‘get’ it. They don’t get periods…

I really do hope that as we move to a more progressive society, there will be more options out there for people who menstruate, and, especially for neurodiverse people who menstruate (people who are marginalised for not being a man AND people who are marginalised for not being neurotypical, all rolled into one)… For, as the beginning of this post highlights, people with Autism and ADHD feel the effects of menstruation all the more intensely…

At present though, that hope is dwindling, I have to say… When we don’t even feel able to talk to men about the fact that we have a period because it might ’embarrass’ them/when we have to come up with stupid turns of phrases because the word ‘period’ is just too embarrassing, how can we possibly expect men- the very same men who have to leave the room at the mention of periods- to help us?

Maybe one day things will change, I guess all we can do is hold onto the hope that they will. That really is all that we can do- hold onto the hope because, as is becoming evident now/a central theme, we really have no choice BUT to do this.

It is men who have all the power, still

(for now).

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