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I'm Not 'Just PMSing': Living With Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

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“10 days left until period.”

Once my lovely period tracker app reads those few words, I can already feel the panic. Every single time, spot on, I experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) for 10 days straight. But it’s not just “normal” PMS (not that any PMS is particularly normal). I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD — a disorder I was recently diagnosed with, despite knowing for years it was happening to me. PMDD often goes untreated or unnoticed. People, even doctors, tend to write it off as “just PMSing.” This all, as too many things do, connects back to the narrative we tell ourselves about women and PMS. Women’s experiences often aren’t valued the same way the experiences of men are. When I would try to explain my severe emotional PMS symptoms to doctors, I was not validated.

I was diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder a while ago, on top of multiple anxiety disorders. Not until recently has a clinician reassessed this and validated my experiences with depression and PMS. And unfortunately, many women have this similar experience.

Yes, I get cramps and I get emotional and I crave a lot of chocolate and fatty foods. But it’s more than that, and it lasts for 10 days. I have severe mood swings. I get sad, really sad, and I question everything in my life in those 10 days. I have panic attacks. I’m irritable. I can barely make a decision about anything, which is incredibly frustrating. I get night sweats. I’m so tired and feel depressed and hopeless. I know it will end; I know once my period starts I will feel so much better. But knowing it gets better doesn’t stop the symptoms from happening.

The cycle is exhausting. It’s incredibly predictable, and I tell myself I know how to handle it, but sometimes, when I think about how 10 days out of my 30-day cycle are spent feeling depressed and anxious because of my period, I get really hopeless.

I’ve tried birth control, but that only made it worse. Antidepressants have helped treat my anxiety disorders but haven’t helped much concerning my PMDD. And the worst part is, I find myself invalidating my own experiences and belittling myself. I hear that voice in the back of my mind telling me I’m “just a ‘crazy’ woman” who’s PMSing. It’s been socialized into my brain to invalidate women’s experiences with their periods, even though I am a woman. That’s the most frustrating part.

Follow this journey on Little Erin, Big World.

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Photo by Pablo Andres Sandoval, via Unsplash

Originally published: June 2, 2017
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