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‘My periods made me into a monster, the pain was just too much’… How Portrush mum Lauren Crilly found relief in special effects make-up

Mum-of-one Lauren (27) found relief from rare form of extreme PMT in special effects make-up

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One of Lauren's make-up looks

One of Lauren's make-up looks

Lauren Crilly at home

Lauren Crilly at home

Lauren channelled her emotions and frustrations onto her face

Lauren channelled her emotions and frustrations onto her face

Lauren opts for special effects make-up when she's feeling stressed

Lauren opts for special effects make-up when she's feeling stressed

One of Lauren Crilly’s amazing make-up looks

One of Lauren Crilly’s amazing make-up looks

Lauren working on her make-up

Lauren working on her make-up

Lauren and son Archie

Lauren and son Archie

Lauren as the Joker with a surprised Archie

Lauren as the Joker with a surprised Archie

Lauren Crilly with her son Archie at their home in Portrush

Lauren Crilly with her son Archie at their home in Portrush

Lauren applying make-up at home

Lauren applying make-up at home

Lauren Crilly at her dressing table

Lauren Crilly at her dressing table

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One of Lauren's make-up looks

A mum who suffers from an extreme form of PMT has learned to control her symptoms with the aid of a make-up brush.

Lauren Crilly, from Portrush, has battled a rare condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) since her teens. It has affected her education, her relationships and at its worst made her think of self-harm.

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Lauren Crilly at home

Lauren Crilly at home

Lauren Crilly at home

Now the mum-of-one is speaking out to raise awareness of PMDD and tell other women they don’t have to suffer in silence.

To manage her condition, Lauren turns to special effects make-up, transforming herself into a monster when she feels her stress levels rising.

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Lauren channelled her emotions and frustrations onto her face

Lauren channelled her emotions and frustrations onto her face

Lauren channelled her emotions and frustrations onto her face

“Hardly anyone has heard of PMDD, but for years it ruled my life,” says the 27-year-old.

“I thought I was going mad. For four two weeks out of every month, as my period approached, it literally turned me into a monster.”

Her problems began when she started her periods aged 14. They were so heavy and so agonising that sometimes she would pass out.

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Lauren opts for special effects make-up when she's feeling stressed

Lauren opts for special effects make-up when she's feeling stressed

Lauren opts for special effects make-up when she's feeling stressed

As her hormones raged out of control, she began suffering severe mood swings. “I was irritable, impulsive and confused,” Lauren remembers.

“I would pick an argument with anybody and everybody. I ended up taking days off school every month because the pain was just too much.”

Aged 17, she saw her GP and was prescribed a hormonal contraceptive implant in her arm.

“I thought it was going to be a magic solution, but with hindsight it was the worst decision I ever made,” she says.

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One of Lauren Crilly’s amazing make-up looks

One of Lauren Crilly’s amazing make-up looks

One of Lauren Crilly’s amazing make-up looks

“For me, hormone contraceptives were not the answer. They made my symptoms even worse.”

Lauren’s intense mood swings caused tension in her relationship with her mum, and at 18 she moved out of the family home.

She trained to be a hairdresser but for the next few years distracted herself with partying and drinking heavily.

“I was on an emotional roller coaster and I was trying to numb myself. I began suffering with anxiety and panic attacks,” Lauren says.

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Lauren and son Archie

Lauren and son Archie

Lauren and son Archie

“For those two weeks of my cycle when things were bad, I also had severe body dysmorphia. I hated the way I looked and everything about myself. I felt disgusted when I looked in the mirror.”

It was around this time, seven years ago, that Lauren started experimenting with make-up. She had always been artistic and began to find using her face as a canvas cathartic.

“It was like I was channelling all my emotions into my face. I could be whoever I wanted to be, depending on how I was feeling,” she says.

“Some days I would make myself up like a mermaid or a clown. Other days I was a screaming monster. It was like a form of therapy. It helped me cope.”

In 2019, Lauren and her partner became pregnant. In an instant, all her symptoms stopped.

She explains: “It was like a fog had cleared. For the first time in my adult life, I felt normal.

“That’s when I finally realised that it was my periods and my menstrual cycle that were causing the problems with my mental and emotional wellbeing.”

It wasn’t until she stopped breastfeeding her son Archie when he was six months old that her periods re-started and the difficult old feelings returned.

“That was a real turning point,” says Lauren. “I had this crushing anxiety and I actually felt like I wanted to harm myself.

“I just thought, ‘This can’t go on. I’m a mum now. Archie needs me. I need to get help’. I was scared of what I might do to myself.”

Lauren started researching her symptoms on the internet and eventually stumbled across PDD.

She spoke to a psychiatrist, who confirmed her suspicions, although she says he had to get a second opinion because he had only seen PMDD once before in his career.

That was six months ago. After that, Lauren was prescribed mood-stabilising medication, which eased many of her symptoms. She has also gone teetotal and has rebuilt her relationship with her mum.

“Mum was really emotional when she learned about PMDD because things finally made sense,” she explains.

“It was like a light bulb going on for both of us. There had been a reason for my behaviour and my mood swings.

“Having the diagnosis was like a weight being lifted because I knew that I wasn’t going mad.”

Lauren is now a busy mum to Archie, but she still finds time to do her special effects make-up once a week, posting tutorials on her Instagram page.

She also volunteers as a make-up artist for am-dram productions, still finding it cathartic.

Archie loves seeing his mum’s creations, although he did do a double-take one day when she made herself up as the Joker.

She adds: “I want to raise awareness. There must be other women out there who are suffering in silence. I want them to know they’re not alone.”

- To see more of Lauren’s work, look for @lauren.crilldawg.mua on Instagram


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