For Ashleigh, overcoming her mental health struggles and the stigma attached was only half the battle. Now, she’s ready to raise awareness and inspire other women to do the same.
Let’s face it, periods are anything but a walk in the park. When you weigh up the cramps, irritability, bleeding and bloating, it’s hard not to feel a little cheated, like we drew the short straw in the developmental lottery.
Many of us find ourselves on the brink of a complete emotional breakdown for days, only to be tipped over the edge by a banking commercial about a golden retriever.
But for Ashleigh, her menstrual cycle had far more serious implications. Years before an official diagnosis, her physical and mental health was put under immense strain.
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As someone who had worked in hospitals, Ashleigh believed she was attuned to the signs of depression. But her own dark feelings and struggle with isolation didn’t register as a sign that she was in need of intervention.
When she finally saw her doctor during a particularly difficult time, she was shocked when asked how long she’d been struggling with depression for.
“I was in shock. I thought depression didn’t happen to people like me, I didn’t have any reason to be depressed,” says Ashleigh. “I fought against it, but it did start me on this journey to learning more.”
Taking her mental health seriously Ashleigh has been voluntarily hospitalised four times. During these stays, she found group work with other women with similar diagnoses incredibly helpful in understanding her own feelings.
“You’re never as harsh on other people as you are on yourself. You learn from their stories and the compassion you feel for other people rubs off on yourself and makes it easier.”
After her initial consult, Ashleigh was eventually diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). According to an endocrinologist, there was an undeniable connection between her mental health and her menstrual cycle, giving her the clarity to begin tracking her symptoms in a more preemptive manner.
As well as experiencing PMDD, Ashleigh had other issues including an ovarian cyst, an endometrial tumour and endometriosis, all of which led her to undergo a hysterectomy.
Advocating for other women
After realising the benefit of staying on top of her own health, Ashleigh is proud to act as an advocate for other women experiencing the same issues.
She urges other women to get to know their cycle, consulting with professionals and friends to really understand what symptoms are considered ‘normal’ and what should spark concern.
“There are all these stereotypes of women and what happens when their periods start, but it isn’t normal to have suicidal thoughts or this dramatic drop in your mood,” Ashleigh shares. “We’re starting to talk about these, but we need to talk about them more. We’ve all been convinced we’re in the same boat when we’re not.”
Putting women’s health on everyone’s lips
Ashleigh is gearing up to inspire others through the 2023 Liptember campaign, an initiative calling on women across the country to proudly wear a bright lipstick every day during the month of September to start conversations, spread awareness, and raise funds for women’s mental health.
“Wearing bright lippy can help spark conversations about women’s mental health,” says Liptember CEO and Founder Luke Morris. “By having real and open conversations, we can together help remove some of the stigma around mental health.”
Now more than ever, with the cost of living pressures stopping an increasing number of those from seeking help, it’s important to put women’s mental health on everyone’s lips.
“Our research shows that almost one in two Australian women currently suffer from a mental health issue,” explains Morris. “So there is an urgent need for support services and programs.”
To take part in Liptember, Aussies can simply register at liptember.com.au to become a fundraiser or purchase a bright Liptember lipstick from Premier Partner Chemist Warehouse, to proudly rock every day during September.