PMDD and why we need to talk about it
I have PMDD. I have been suffering with this since I was a young teenager and I believe even before that. PMDD stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and it is considered a mood disorder that is caused by hormones and the neurotransmitters not taking these hormones well during your luteal phase. Basically my brain freaks out when certain hormones are going through my body during this time of my menstrual cycle. Most people experience symptoms such as anxiety, depression, rage, bloating or inflammation, muscle pain, intense food cravings, increased sensitivity to rejection, self-critical thoughts, and sometimes suicidal ideation.
I got my menstrual cycle when I was 10 years old and I remember being really scared. I was told that they were so painful but I was not sure what that would look like. My mom did her best to make sure I understood the foundation of menstrual cycles and what I would need each month but nothing could have prepared her for the years to come where each month I would be filled with rage, depression, suicidal ideation, and all of the other challenges that came with it and no clear diagnosis.
I did not get a clear diagnosis until about a year ago when I started to do research on menstrual cycles and found out about PMDD. My mom told me how she mentioned it to my pediatrician because she could see that I had issues when I was about to start menstruating but nothing ever came of it and he said to take Advil 3 days before I started to menstruate. She thought back to when she was in her early 20’s and would always be filled with rage and anger before getting her period but didn’t realize this was not a normal reaction. Even before I got a clear diagnosis she was always able to help me realize that it was my ‘PMS’ that was causing me to feel this way. We did not realize this was something other women experienced and that it was in no way PMS and it was a completely different issue causing me to feel this way. It was isolating, lonely, and frustrating not knowing exactly what was going on with my body and mind. I would go to therapy for anxiety and depression and try to track everything but we weren’t solely focusing on one mental health condition because we did not know that’s what it was. I went to the doctor multiple times to get my hormones and thyroid checked and everything always came back normal. It wasn’t until I did research on PMDD and found that no blood test will be able to tell you if you have PMDD because it is not a hormone imbalance it is a mental health condition caused by hormones.
When I found out about PMDD it only brought a small amount of relief for me because I started to think about the journey that would be ahead trying to learn how to manage it. I was in undergrad, living on my own, and working full time on top of having these symptoms. I was stuck in survival mode until I graduated recently and now I have been left with no choice but to face this. I started to experience more intense suicidal thoughts during my luteal phase and would have intense emotions where I would tell myself I was not good enough. All of the stress I had experienced throughout school and life in general finally caught up and making itself known it was there and it needed to be dealt with. PMDD causes so much emotional and physical turmoil each month that I had to accept I needed to heal from all of the trauma my body had been going through. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression since I was 14 years old and suicidal thoughts were not a new occurrence for me but this level of mental imbalance was new and I needed to learn how to manage it.
I currently am going back to therapy and I have found a lot of support through the IAPMD (International Association for PMDD and PME) Facebook page and support groups. They offer a wide range or resources and information if you are needing help with guidance. 1 in 20 people are impacted by PMDD and it is not just cis-gendered women. It’s important to stay aware that there are non-binary, gender fluid, trans, and others who don’t always identify as a cis woman but they still get a menstrual cycle. This inclusivity is important to stay aware of because it can help researchers find how this can impact specific populations too. There is help and support out there and talking more about your experience is the first step to educating not just other peers but professionals who may not be aware of this condition.