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What My Doctors Kept Missing as My Depression Worsened Near My Period

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When I was 23, I started to notice symptoms of depression. I’d get irritable, moody and withdrawn for no reason. After feeling like this for a few months, I talked to my mom about it, and she said, “You always seem like this before your menstrual cycle.”

A light bulb went off, so I started tracking my cycle, and yup, she was right. It was always a week or two before my menstrual cycle that I would begin to feel this way.

I’d mention it to my gynecologist, and they’d say, “Oh, sounds like PMS.” They would recommend exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep — all of which I had been doing.

As years passed, the symptoms started to get worse. Now, it was a full two weeks before my period of mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety and a lack of interest in my day-to-day life, which started to bother me.

Then, I realized something was wrong when I started having suicidal thoughtsAside from a history of anxiety and disordered eating, I never had a suicidal thought. Even in the depths of a panic disorder, never once did suicide cross my mind.

I was scared and didn’t know what to do.

I struggled for years with the ups and downs and worsening symptoms. I was missing work, disinterested in life and felt hopeless, all while trying to hide it from family and friends. I tried supplements, yoga, vitamins, changing up my diet, exercising, acupuncture, Reiki, massage — anything. I tried it, but my symptoms never got better.

Six months ago, I decided I had enough after snapping at a colleague of mine during a work meeting. I knew something had to change. After talking with my new gynecologist, she confirmed what I had known for years. I had premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). We talked about the treatment options for PMDD, and I decided the best treatment option for me was to go on an antidepressant.

While the antidepressant did not reverse my PMDD symptoms, my symptoms are mild in comparison to where they were over six months ago. I knew for six years I had PMDD, but due to a lack of knowledge around the condition, my medical providers were unable to diagnose me with it, and offer treatment. Those struggling with PMDD often don’t get a proper diagnosis for years due to the lack of awareness, research and mental health and menstrual stigma around the condition. Luckily, organizations like the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAMPD) are fighting the stigma through research, education and training for those living with PMDD and their medical and mental health providers.

Unsplash image by Alex Boyd

Originally published: April 13, 2020
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