What in the hell is PMDD and what’s it like to live with it? My experience learning I have PMDD and the steps I took to get there.
It might be the worst question to ask a woman yet it happens: “are you on your period?” when you’re angry or sensitive or binge eating chips. It’s enough to start a massive blowup but what about when it’s honestly the truth.
Growing up in a single parent home raised by my dad had it’s unique lessons for a girl. I vividly recall leaving the store crying while my dad truly didn’t understand why trying to shop for my first bra. Poor guy.
Needless to say my menstrual cycle wasn’t something we sat down to chat about. Everything I’ve learned was through observation and asking a lot of questions.
So, how did I realize what I was experiencing wasn’t ‘normal’ and find out what worked for me. My experience with PMDD has been a long journey but I hope by sharing it may broaden our knowledge.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am sharing my personal experience. If you see yourself in my journey please connect with your medical professional.
What is PMDD?
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a hormone-based mood disorder where symptoms occur in the one to two weeks prior to your period beginning.
The main difference between PMS and PMDD is the severity of the symptoms which affect a person’s day to day life. Symptoms of PMS are more easily managed than those of PMDD
When I started to become more aware that symptoms seemed to be related to my period I often heard people say how they felt the same way when I would share.
It was extremely difficult to explain that what I was feeling felt much more intense than PMS. I felt unheard and it wasn’t until I truly dedicated time to tracking my symptoms in detail I was able to see what I was experiencing went beyond traditional symptoms of PMS.
What are the symptoms of PMDD?
Common symptoms of PMDD include:
- Feelings of sadness or despair, even thoughts of suicide
- Feelings of tension or anxiety
- Panic attacks, mood swings, or frequent crying
- Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
- Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
- Trouble thinking or focusing
- Tiredness or low-energy
- Food cravings or binge eating
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling out of control
- Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
For me, for example, in the two weeks prior to my period beginning I have an onset of depression, am typically not able to get out of bed and begin sleeping far more than normal, and feel completely out of control of my mood. The most challenge for me is irritability, anger, and tension. As a mother of two small children, this is incredibly hard to navigate and because of the anxiety often leaves me feeling extremely depressed.
To be diagnosed with PMDD, five or more of the symptoms must be present.
When did Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder begin for me?
From the time I was in my mid-20’s I started experiencing severe mood swings. Small things would send me into a complete tailspin.
Having struggled with childhood trauma in the beginning I thought my extreme sensitivity, bouts of depression, and explosive anger were related. It was also a trying time in our life as we lived away from our families, were financially strapped, and planning a wedding. I thought it must be stress.
Although, what stuck out was that I felt completely out of control in those instances. I would be convinced I was depressed, then feel myself again.
It wasn’t until after Amelia was born I started to notice my symptoms seemed to be related to my period. Even that took time because I didn’t have a period while I breastfed for 9 months.
Yet I had these extreme mood swings, excessive anger, and couldn’t get into a good self care routine because of severe exhaustion. I also experienced my first suicidal thought.
What I did notice at this time was that it was happening every few weeks.
It became increasingly hard as a new mother and had a huge impact on my marriage. Still, I felt completely out of control. I didn’t want to react or feel how I did but I couldn’t seem to control it.
When did I talk to my doctor?
After I was through breastfeeding Amelia and my period returned I was better able to see the link between my period and my mood swings.
The intensity of the mood swings felt increasingly worse and, again, the inner dialogue I had with myself was getting more hopeless. Another thought of suicide, thoughts that Amelia would be better off without me. A difficult time keeping up with my day to day life.
I approached my doctor about my symptoms and that I thought they were more out of my control and intense than PMS symptoms.
In my next post I will share about how birth control as a method of managing my PMDD worked for me and how I prepared myself for a second pregnancy and postpartum journey.
Do you see yourself in my story? If so, please contact your doctor. This is my personal story and should not be considered advice. It is important to learn about your own experience with individualized support.