PMDD is a condition only diagnosed in 2-10% of menstruating women; It sees them swing through emotional extremes for up to 14 days of their cycle. Depression with extremes of suicidal thoughts, euphoria, paranoia, rage are just some of the symptoms. It is pretty much the scary big sister of PMS. There are, as you can imagine trials going on to assist with this condition yet still little is known about the isolation that women can feel when they live with PMDD
This is a familiar story for me, I was finally diagnosed with PMDD after having my son in 2013, the extremes of emotion were more than I could stand now that I was a mum with the need to be balanced for my new child.
I had though suffered the symptoms to a greater or lesser extent for almost 30 years by this point. My periods had started when I was just 9 years old.
I don't claim to be an expert in the condition but I can tell you that I struggled on with symptoms worsening the more stressful and complicated life became, by the time I was in my mid teens I had cyclically suffered from such dark depressive episodes that I had considered suicide several times, yet this would suddenly swing to a rush of excitement with life, I was paranoid on the occasions that I did venture out, convinced that everyone was talking about me or laughing at me, I would swing between being intensely insular to craving the spotlight.
In addition the cyclical pain was horrendous, my legs, back and stomach would ache to a level that no standard pain killers could touch.
I was virtually impossible to speak to and could fly in to a rage at any point, yet this was so alien and so far removed from the happy, kind, loving young girl that existed for the rest of the month. This was put down to teenage angst, the thing is it never went away as I got older. The monthly mood swings worsened, and the periods of time that they lasted seemed to get longer each month.
To add to this the appetite was something that I could not control, a hunger which could never be filled. suffice to say, when all of this started then so too did my issues with weight gain/loss/eating disorders etc. (but that is another blog post).
As time progressed and I got older life became more stressful than I could have anticipated and symptoms reinforced themselves, however the focus for my fluctuating mood became more of an issue as I became more focused on my career. I was good at my job but I wasn't popular, I just about got away with it as I was a manager in a world of men and my often aggressive moods could work to my advantage. But it started to get out of control when I would suffer panic attacks, and once a month would sit outside in the car panicking and desperately wanting to leave a job which I otherwise enjoyed.
I moved in to a far more gentle work environment and my mood swings, paranoia and permanent exhaustion became far too much of an issue, it was a small environment but on the wrong day of the month I could become very problematic, with all reason going out of the window. I could become, obstructive, and very very testy, so unprofessional that I shudder at the thought, but it is as though I became a different person, I would almost exaggerate events to support my paranoid beliefs.
A few years later I suffered from Post Natal Depression after having my son, and I believe an element of PTSD after experiencing a placental abruption, having him by emergency C section 5 weeks early.
After breast feeding stopped I was hit by a flurry of hormones which had the greatest impact on accelerating my PMDD. Monthly I would sit in a DARK depression, at one point dropping my son off with his dad as I planned to head off to goodness knows where, I had no control of the despair. Luckily his dad detected that this wasn't the usual exchange, or usual low mood, and he insisted that I stay with them, refusing to let me go, within hours I was back to my usual self.
It was at this point that I became insistent with the GP that this needed to be taken seriously. Thankfully she got it, to this day I am grateful that I found a GP who knew what PMDD even was and that she trusted that my son was in no danger because I had this (a Huge fear in discussing it)
She started trials with anti depressants. I have to say I did find some initial relief, though in hindsight I think that came from finally being able to talk about it. Finally knowing after all of these years that I wasn't completely mad, I wasn't a bad person, and that this roller coaster would end.
Then after a few months I moved house, I was anxious that the next GP should understand so my GP suggested that she write a letter to my next GP in order to discuss the treatment we had been trialling.
Sadly the next GP (a female) literally laughed in my face at the notion that PMDD even existed. I was devastated, I was humiliated and I was no longer taking medication which had been helping.
Free fall in to 18 months of hell, swings, roundabouts, suicidal thoughts, leaving home every few weeks, even considering leaving my son with his dad because I wasn't worthy of being a parent and he would be better without me, and rage, oh the rage.... then the calm, the tumbleweed that blew through the house as the dust started to settle and again I was left with apologies to make, wounds to heal and confusion as to why this was happening along with despair that it would never end.
I was referred to a gynaecologist, finally!!!!!! Within 10 minutes she concluded that I no doubt had endometriosis and PMDD and at the tender age of 40 I might as well have a hysterectomy... HUH? A what?
Isn't there something less extreme? She suggested that they start a chemically induced hysterectomy, which would involve a monthly injection to close down my reproductive system, then if that gave the desired results I would have a full hysterectomy.
Again, this was too much, I explained that I wanted another child, I didn't want another child as I am now but that if this could be controlled then I would want another child.
So she prescribed all sorts, 3 months of a full range of drugs which would help them to manage the symptoms without the hysterectomy.
In 2016 I started training to become a hypnotherapist, during my training my colleagues and I practised on each other, taking each other back to different scenes in life which have impacted upon us, in order to change the attachments we have to them and so change how we feel and react to similar situations.
It hadn't occurred to me that this may be treating my PMDD, as I was trying to use it to focus on other areas, such as weight etc, however a strange thing happened... I started to realise that the extremes of my PMDD were affected by the levels of stress in my life, that the more I had on my plate the worse my reactions became.
I also started to realise that as I worked through the attachments I had to certain issues in my past the better I felt about myself and so similar issues to which I may have over reacted during my monthly cycle, were no longer trigger points.
So where I would previously have hit the roof if I perceived that I was being ignored, or that I was being told what to do, or controlled in any way, I was able to gloss over these things with a roll of the eyes or heaven forbid, discuss them like an adult.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still a bit fiery, but sometimes life calls for that, and sometimes only the use of the F word will do, but it isn't a cyclical thing, its just a normal response to situations in life which sometimes are a pain in the arse.
As I said at the start I am not an expert in PMDD, however in my way I have found something which has most definitely worked to release me from he certain extremes of response which come with PMDD.
I do still get a little moody a day or 2 before a period, but it is uncomfortable, it makes me bloated and I fall off my clean eating wagon which makes me feel crappy, but I will take that any day of the week over the confidence and energy sapping, relationship breaking, life destroyer that is PMDD.
I'm no longer on a waiting list for a hysterectomy.