Are all women mentally ill?

Via Rachel Brathen
on Sep 6, 2011
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 I’m a raging lunatic.

But not all the time. Just sometimes. Once a month, to be more specific. I read in a book once that “a woman’s menstruation is a great time for contemplation, and can be a gateway to enlightenment.” I’m on my period now, and honestly, enlightenment has never been further away. Yes, I just said period. Period, period, period. Does reading this upset you? Please crawl back underneath whatever rock you came from and stay there—I don’t want you to read my posts anyway. If you think I sound bitter, that’s fine. I am. I have a headache and I’m out of chocolate and my back hurts and I’m very, very grumpy. Today is not the day for answering comments such as “do you really think anyone is interested in reading about your periods, you Swedish idiot?” (I know how vocal some of you elephant readers can get). I am aware of the fact that this is my second blog on the matter (see the first one here), so if you want to label me as “the girl that only writes about stupid things like her periods and paddle board yoga,” be my guest. I’ll label you as “the person that labels people that enjoy writing about stupid things” and frankly, I’d rather be a writer of stupid things than a labeler of stupid things, so screw you.

Anyway. I am on my period. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the time of the month typically makes me kind of emotional. Sensitive. Irrational. Often, quite sad, angry, or all of the above at once. Sometimes I feel as if I have some sort of mental disease—there is nothing I can do to control the things I say, think or do. Tourette’s, or Schizophrenia perhaps. I try to be nice. I try to be normal. But I can’t. Am I the only one? Or are all women in fact a little bit mentally ill, just once a month?

For some reason I tend to “forget” that my period makes me sensitive and irrational and sad and I never fully understand why I feel the way I feel. Which of course makes me feel even more sensitive and irrational and sad and I take everything far more seriously than I should and then try to blame it on all kinds of things like the weather, my father or other natural phenomena’s that are hard to predict. This goes on until I can no longer escape the fact that I myself am in fact the problem and that I deep down inside am 100% fully and completely worthless in every way. This is the fun I have while on my period. It’s great, almost like going to Disneyland or getting a new puppy for Christmas (yes, it’s on my wish list).

So. Just now. I was sitting on the couch watching a movie (something you are allowed to do in the middle of the day, guilt free, during it’s your time of the month) when suddenly I got this unexpected craving for olives. You know, the kind of craving where you just need it now, now, now or you’ll go bang your head against the wall until olives start raining from the sky. Recognize the feeling? Just me? Well. Luckily, there was a jar of green olives in the fridge, purchased just for times like these. I might be alone in this (am I?), but I tend to get strangely intense cravings for random things at the most inappropriate of times. Once, I woke up with an urge for graham crackers so strong that I thought I could die. I drove all the way to the gas station in the middle of the night. In my pajamas.

So I needed this jar of olives now. Not later. Now. But here is the deal: I couldn’t open it the jar. I couldn’t. Olives were trapped inside. Me, outside. Panic.

At the first try I was a little surprised, like; “oh that’s odd. The lid is stuck!” as if I was the first girl in the history of the universe that couldn’t open a glass jar on her own. So I tried again. Lid still stuck. The thought hit me: “what if I really can’t open this thing? I’m all alone at home!” but I quickly dismissed it and tried again. Nothing. I started telling myself “I can do this! I’m strong!” I mean, I do forearm stands and handstands and arm balances without breaking a sweat. I still beat my brother in arm wrestling. I’ve got muscles. But the damned thing wouldn’t budge. I twisted and screwed and banged and put it under hot water (what difference would that ever make? I know someone taught me this but it really does not make any sense at all) and then I did it all again and again and again but the f*cking lid simply would not move. Not an inch! And so it happened. After the millionth try, sweaty and tired and pissed off, I turned around and asked my boyfriend for help. Pathetic, for two reasons:

  1. I totally should have been able to unscrew that stupid lid on my own.
  2. He wasn’t even home. He is at work, a place where normal people tend to be at noon on a Tuesday.

From a dark, bottomless corner of my soul I suddenly realized—I really can’t open this jar of olives. I’ve failed. And this realization for some reason became synonymous with all of this:

You are alone. No one in the whole wide world can help you. And no one likes you. This is all your fault. If people liked you, you wouldn’t be along right now. You’re weak. It’s just olives, for christsake. You can’t even open a jar of olives? Because you suck. You get no olives. If this jar stood between you and a terrible death, you would most likely die and no one would care.  

Do you see the logic in this? Me neither. But, yes. This happened (in my head). In my irrational desperation for olives I went completely berserk and lost it. At the time, it all made sense. No olives = helpless, stupid, weak, worthless, can’t take care of anything on my own. So I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried, in this lonely, worthless, helpless, oliveless state that I created out of thin air.

But suddenly, mid-cry, I had a glorious idea. “I can go to the store and buy new olives!” I thought to myself. “I’ll get a new jar! A better jar!” I stopped crying, got a kleenex from my purse and started to smile. “I can try and open all the jars in the whole store! And make sure I buy one that isn’t stupid and glued stuck like this one! I’m a genius! Genius! Oh, and while I’m there I can get tampons too, because I need that.”

And bam. Just like that, my super intelligent brain finally made the connection: olives = I am stupid = store = tampons = period = emotional/sensitive/irrational. Of course—this is why I’m so upset! It’s not my fault, it’s Aunt Flo’s! And just like that, as fast as it arrived, all the craziness went away. I got happy again. Like, really happy. Like, dance-around-the-kitchen-singing-Shakira-songs-into-a-zucchini-happy. Jesus. If I had my own reality show people really would think I was mentally ill (which, technically, once a month I am, but that’s beside the point). I did my Shakira dance for 20 minutes more or so (loca loca loca), in total euphoria.

And after that I went across the street and asked my neighbor if he could please, ever so kindly, open this jar of green olives. He did. Then I ate all the olives. And now I feel a little bit nauseous and tired after writing this so I’ll be taking a nap now.

If you have a crazy period-related story to tell, please share! Maybe elephant could put a “Period”-tab on the home page (it would fit nicely between “Wellness” and “Adventure,” I think).



Relephant bonus:

Waylon talks Love & Yoga with Rachel Brathen @yoga_girl & her fiancé Dennis.



About Rachel Brathen

Rachel is a yogi on a world tour. Born and raised in Sweden, she currently resides in the beautiful island of Aruba where she is busy teaching yoga at a resort in the mornings, coordinating retreats at noon, taking her three somewhat crazy dogs to the beach to keep up with the surf in the afternoon and trying to survive as a vegan (where no vegetables grow!) in the evenings. She firmly believes that life is not black or white – it’s black and white and blue and yellow with rays of pink and sparkle in between. You can teach yoga and still be a party animal. Meditate and ignore your spending problems. Be vegan and eat too much chocolate. Have a Swedish passport and live in the Caribbean. You can do anything, as long as it’s you! You can find Rachel on the beach, probably practicing her Astavakrasana, or on


49 Responses to “Are all women mentally ill?”

  1. ARCreated says:

    hahahahahhahahaha Hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt 🙂 you must still be in your 20's? poor thing. I have to tell you when I got some of the stress out of my body. got my food choices figured out. took the right supplements for me AND do my yoga consistently this did get less!

    Good luck I'll pray for the men in your life and the olive jar ; 0

  2. lucid says:

    As a guy (whos had to open my fair share of olive jars) I almost feel like I wasnt supposed to read this article but im so glad i did, it was the best laugh i had all day! Rachel you're awesome and you tell a hell of a story mentally ill or not 😉

  3. Aella says:

    This is awesome. I tend to have that kind of thinking too. I am also on my period and found this to somewhat be me yesterday, and this made me laugh so hard. Now I am in a good mood. 🙂

  4. Laura Ruiz says:

    Ha Ha Ha! I LOVE YOU!!!

  5. Cindy says:

    Hey..I've ..Been There! I tell you, (sigh)?!?!;-D

  6. porsha says:

    Rachel, this is Porsha. You don’t know me, never met me and probably never will but i’d like to say “hello new friend!” You just summed up what I couldn’t put into words. And though I’m late on my period (not preggo just late), I’ve realized that not only is it futile to fight this monthly MANIA with anything that’s not a nap, but that the later I am to start my period~the crazier I get. But at least I (and my boyfriend and my coworkers) are not alone in my/their suferring. Lol Thanks Hon!


  7. Sara Young says:

    "Insane", "crazy", and "mentally ill" are a matter of perspective. Clearly.

  8. Mary says:

    I love it! I so appreciate the expression of it. My son (who is now 22) used to PMS and man you would need to leave the room with him! He has fortunately since outgrown that phase of his life (which I am sure his girlfriend appreciates LOL) Crazy is good!

  9. Sandi says:

    Some women are super sensitive to progesterone. – Enjoy this journey of discovering yourself in relation to your hormones.

  10. jessica denorio says:

    Me me me! Me too! Once a month I go nuts. The happy go lucky me is gone and the very fragile, irrational, sad, sensitive one shows up. This never happened to me until after my second child around age 25. Took me a year almost to figure out that it always happens the week before my period. Its ridiculous. For me, yoga helps A LOT!

  11. annieory says:

    I'm so glad this time in my life is ending. I loved being a mother, and I love being a woman, and the roller coaster is part of that, but I'll be happy when this next phase of my life begins with no monthly cycle. I already feel calmer than I did years ago. More of that please.

  12. Rachel says:

    i am in my 20s, yes…. does it get better with time? thanks for the kind words, i think my boyfriend needs them!

  13. Rachel says:

    haha, love this!! acupuncture has helped me in the past too… maybe this month's craziness is a sign that i should give it another go.

  14. Rachel says:

    glad you found your way here! next time i'll send that jar your way.

  15. Rachel says:

    love you tooooo!

  16. Rachel says:

    Hi Porsha! Glad you liked the article – and yes, the only way to counteract is naps and chocolate. Have a happy period, girl!

  17. Rachel says:

    I love Power of Now, it's my favorite book… And I resonate with that, collective pain. There is definitely a reason to why we feel like this – hoping that window of enlightenment is true! Just need to make sure i always have someone to open my jars of olives 🙂

  18. Maddie says:

    Love this! This is definitely what goes on in my head during my period, particularly the food cravings. My boyfriend has this habit of saying "you're inner fat kid is showing" because all I want is chocolate, ice cream, or something that's fried-oily-delicious-goodness. Thanks for writing this! I needed a good start (and laugh) to my day.

  19. Maddie says:

    And I just realized I used the incorrect form of your. Let's not judge now, thanks.

  20. Michelle says:

    This is perfect since I have my period now and actually cried over burning a piece of toast…then cried more for being a loser who cries over burnt toast…Then cried even harder when my 4 yr old says “dont cry mommy, I love you”… (sigh) Well, then hubby offers to make me pancakes…and before anyone goes “aw, what a nice guy” I have to say that my cramps are so bad that I would love to die right now. So he made pancakes…I ate them. He left for work. I walk into the kitchen to ‘the mess’…yes, hubby had made pancakes but left it at that…dirty dishes were right were he put them down, drips of batter were on the counter and stove…yup, I went berserk and screamed and cried and wanted to throw the dishes against the wall, but that would be MORE mess to clean, plus a safety hazard for my kid…so no, I dont appreciate the pancakes…my husband does not get a good hubby award….

    ok, well, I feel better writing that down. It makes me seem bitchy and ungrateful and…crazy…but oh well. Its only once a month…LOL LOL

  21. Kate says:

    I started today for the first time since having my last baby. I'm pretty bitter. I'm also gorging on olives and brownies. Enjoyed finding this today. 🙂

  22. Sarah says:

    Love THIS!!! Hilarious!! I don’t tend to get too crazy during my period but this post was awesome and if it were totally up to me, you could write about periods as much as you want!

  23. Vero Barnes says:

    Nope. 35 here and I find its gotten worst over the years!! Total craziness out of control irrational emotional crisis monthly. But yes, I agree yoga and meditation seem to have reduced the roller-coaster rides for me as well.

    Loved your article, so funny. Thanks for that 🙂

  24. Amy says:

    Rachel. . . It Get's Better!!! (51 and ready to be over this crap, if only my body would agree with me!!!!)

  25. warriorsaint says:

    Knowing the demographic for Ele is somewhere between H.S. and the mid-30s allow me to make a comment on Aunt Flo as a older female reader.

    Don't believe all the propaganda about menopause it is WONDERFUL. After a random hot flast or two you are out of the woods. Free! You know that pelvic liberation you feel about a week after your period is over? That's how you feel ALL THE TIME in post-menopause. No more crazy mood swings, pharmacy runs in the middle of the night, ugly stains on your best lingerie.

  26. Ruchi says:

    AWESOME article!!! Thanks for sharing !! Its SOOOO good to know that I'm not alone in the insanity that happens every few weeks …and that the extremes of emotion are shared by all of womankind.. 🙂

  27. jazzedaboutstuff says:

    I literally laughed out loud in public while reading this. So. Freakin. Hilarious. Lol. Now I want olives. :/

  28. Sam says:

    I can relate. Only difference is I turn into a mean person who wants to bite people’s heads off. I can say really mean stuff and make people cry as though I killed their dog. And I have to win every argument, even non-sense ones. I’m usually nice and mellow in between visits from my frenemy, so I mark my calendar- just to remind myself to say nothing and avoid e mailing too. Its like clockwork: it last 24 hours the day before. If I don’t remind myself heads will be rolling. Yes smthg berserk happens- I think men get it too- just without the overt signs. Like right now my brother must be on his “period” bc his ego is overinflated. LOL. TYfor sharing

  29. tammy says:

    i've known for many years that women are under much pressure from about the age of 12 as they are either getting, having or getting over their periods….hormones are the strongested controller of emotions….GOD BLESS WOMEN!

  30. Jessica Denorio says:

    Woops! I meant 35!! I am almost 37 now. It sucks being that fragile, and it makes anything that I am not totally content with come right to the surface and seem like a major problem. Thank you, oh mighty creator, for hormones!!

  31. Damon Turner says:

    I love you.

  32. Damon Turner says:

    I love you!

  33. Larah says:

    Rachel this is hilarious and oh-so-familiar! I become completely and irrationally crazy when I have my period, and chocolate, a movie in the middle of the day and a hot water bottle are my only comforts. I once made the mistake of watching The Notebook and my boyfriend came home to find me curled up in the foetal position sobbing uncontrollably… that movie is heartbreaking under normal circumstances but it is about 100 times sadder when you have your period.

  34. […] into crying spells about once a month which of course was blamed on being a woman blessed with menstruation. It sure didn’t feel like a blessing to lie in bed with a hot water bottle and pop Advil like […]

  35. […] into crying spells about once a month which of course was blamed on being a woman blessed with menstruation. It sure didn’t feel like a blessing to lie in bed with a hot water bottle and pop Advil like […]

  36. […] into crying spells about once a month which of course was blamed on being a woman blessed with menstruation. It sure didn’t feel like a blessing to lie in bed with a hot water bottle and pop Advil like […]

  37. […] who post about their moon cycle on Facebook: Yes, I see it all the time. What next, posting about […]

  38. Maria says:

    Loved it about the olives. Good to know you’re not alone – that is the time of month I usually sit sobbing in the kitchen thinking that no-one understands me except my cat – and suspecting that even he was acting particularly insensitive today and looking like he had better things to do than hang around and comfort me (what do you expect from a guy, anyway?). Thank you!

  39. Stefani says:

    The emotional reasoning, sure. The critical voice in my head calling me crazy? Yes, absolutely.
    But it’s REALLY dangerous to pathologist natural hormonal cycles. Calling all women “mentally ill” in a blog might look like humorous literary license. But the psychiatric and psychopharmacological professions are actively working toward making PMS a diagnosable mental disorder. Just another facet of the war on women that we keep hearing is “all in our heads.”

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  41. Brandiece says:

    I'm right there with you. To a tee 🙂

  42. mercifulmaenad says:

    This. THIS.
    Sweet bejesus this is my life story. Luckily, my job is pretty understanding but mentally ill once a month? Check! Period cramps that are actually labor contractions? Check. Insane cravings and nonsensical weeping? Check. Dreams of penguins clubbing Ishtar on a boulder-filled beach strewn with ketchup packets? Check.

    I'm totally on board with the whole "period" tab on Elephant, btw. 😉

  43. Love love love this!
    Here's my tip for opening recalcitrant jars…. and it works every time – no men required! Insert a butter knife between the lid and the jar and press upwards. You should hear a pop as the seal lifts and Voila jar now opens with one deft turn. I learnt this one when I was a solo mum and had no males around.

  44. JMLO says:

    I was like, HEY, when did I become a contributor to EJ? For that matter, when did I become a writer?!? And then I realized, I actually didn't write this. I aaaallllllmost broke in to tears because I didn't write it, so I put down my bag of pita chips and became so very impressed at the perfection and attention to detail in the post that I immediately became filled with love for you Rachel, brave writer that you are <3

  45. Guest says:

    This made me so happy! I always get this way the week before my period. This time, between exams and work, I felt super stressed to the point where I felt like something was wrong. I went to the doctor and they actually prescribed me antidepressants! After that I felt like I was labeled as depressed all week, which is so strange because I am usually a very happy person! The depression deepened until I got my period and realized it was just that time of the month. It's crazy what those hormones can do to you! And how a little bit of sensitivity really alters our perspectives!

  46. Jenny says:

    hahahahah glad to know I'm not alone… thanks for sharing! 🙂

  47. Bob says:

    Well i certainly would say that most of them are without a doubt.