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What Life With Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Is Really Like

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My depression is not born from trauma. It’s my brain’s adverse response to normal hormonal changes. It occurs at the same time every month and it’s severe. That’s not to say it doesn’t worsen with trauma; it most definitely can! I have been through my fair share of trauma too, but for me it’s not a  case of “she’s depressed because _____ happened.”

I have a reasonably good life and for that I consider myself lucky. I’m reasonably young still at just 32. I have a loving husband, a beautiful daughter and I get the opportunity to do the things I love when my chronic illnesses give me the occasional break. If you took away those illnesses I would probably be envied for my picket fence tableau.

Yet every month, without fail, with no real rhyme or reason, I still feel like I want to die. I still feel like I cannot breathe, I feel as though the very foundations of my life are crumbling my world is spinning on its axis and I’m powerless to stop it. I convince myself my family would be better off without me and I resign myself to this fact, planning my demise whilst taking to my bed. I feel so weighed down by these changes every month, I convince myself I am in fact, going (for want of a better word) mad. It’s not really a surprise that my brain functions in this way. I also have fibromyalgia, which is of course another instance in which the brain reacts abnormally, perceiving normal stimuli as pain and fatigue triggering activities.

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Trying to explain this monthly breakdown to a nurse recently was probably one of the worst experiences of medical gaslighting I have ever had the displeasure to encounter. She didn’t do it on purpose, but she didn’t have any idea. She’d never heard of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t fathom that this was a reoccurring thing, and not a reaction born from tangible trauma or stress. She couldn’t understand why I was refusing therapy options she’d offered in the place of me speaking to my doctor.

The reason for that is because I don’t need therapy. I mean of course we can all benefit from therapy, but I’ve had therapy, in abundance. I have had therapy for my illnesses and for my life’s trauma since I was 14 years old. Sometime’s it’s helped, sometimes it’s made things worse. It creates a pathway for me to over analyze all that is considered normal in my world. It’s also not a cure for a reoccurring medical condition. PMDD is classed as a mental illness and therefore is a medical problem; therapy can help. I am not against it, but I know myself and my failing body well enough to know when talk therapy just isn’t going to work for me.

I tried to call my doctor 11 times in the same week. When I finally got to speak to her, her reassurance at the fact she believes what I’m saying, recognizes that this is a flare up in PMDD symptoms due to a medication change and is trying to help me, was an overwhelming relief. I’ve made lots of changes in the past two years as to how I manage my conditions and lots of medication changes and trials. A lot of my symptoms overlap between illnesses such as fatigue and body aches, and a lot of my medications counteract each other. So it’s not as simple as just going on antidepressants and being done with it or returning to hormonal contraception and “waiting and seeing.”

It’s also not just about feeling suicidal or out of control every month. Because once that phase has passed, it leaves in its wake a sense of shame that comes with feeling guilty or stupid about my behavior. It leaves behind an overwhelming need to prove that I’m fine! So during this time I over compensate for the weeks in which I am not fine. It’s exhausting. Absolutely exhausting. It’s a life with little stability. It’s one that confuses me even though I know the reason for its origin. I still hate it. It’s left me hating my body for what it can’t do, and hating my mind for all that it does. It’s complete extremes.

It’s waking up one day and wanting to punch someone for breathing too loudly and the next day or week wanting to reach out and love everyone I’ve ever met. It is feelings of mania, feelings of suicide and feelings of complete normality somewhere in the middle. It’s feeling ashamed and pathetic then later feeling strong, proud and controlled. It’s me. It’s me with PMDD.

Image via contributor

Originally published: September 1, 2020
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