WRITTEN BY TERRI (GUEST WRITER)
Hi, I’m Terri. I have a twisted sister, her name is premenstrual dysphoric disorder. And the thing is, girls, I’m not alone. Perhaps you’ve got your own twisted sister, too. And if you don’t, then likelihood is that someone you know does, or maybe your mother did, or your colleague at work does, but she holds that inside as she taps away at the keyboard at her desk. Maybe one day your daughter will be graced with her presence. Or, maybe, you’re one of the lucky ones. But even the lucky ones need to know about her. You must be armed and ready, open and willing to educate yourself and others on this. Because she is brutal. She wrecks lives, crushes self-esteem, damages relationships, clips wings, flattens dreams, and most terrifyingly, she impacts ability to function, to parent, to work. At her worst, she tries to take lives.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe reaction to the normal monthly fluctuations of progesterone and oestrogen. It isn’t a hormone imbalance. Or PMT. It isn’t bipolar disorder (BPD) . Or Depression. Postnatal or otherwise. (though so many of the physical and emotional symptoms mimic other disorders that it is very easy to get them confused)
It’s specifically cyclical.
During the follicular phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle (from bleed to the point of Ovulation) a sufferer will feel well, happy, in control, productive. She will have the necessary energy and patience and rationale needed to carry out her day to day duties and to-do-lists with ease. She will love her partner, engage with her friends, appreciate her children, her job, and her hobbies. But during the luteal phase of that very same cycle (typically 1-2 weeks prior to her next period), from Ovulation onwards, everything about her will change. The joy and calm that she experienced during the first half of her cycle will slowly be replaced with anxiety and paranoia. She will no longer be able to find that joy. She’ll beg and plead for it, but in its place will be apathy, fatigue, and rushes of visceral rage at the smallest mishaps. She’ll catastrophize everything, nit-picky, attack and feel attacked. Unwanted intrusive thoughts will blur her vision, her mind will play tricks on her; telling her that she is unlovable and unworthy. She’ll feel everything at magnified levels and it will drive her crazy. Sights, sounds, smells? Magnified. Motivation and energy? Gone. And there are other symptoms that make life harder for her still. Memory loss, headaches, joint pain, bloating, night sweats, and hot flushes to name a few. She’s either wide awake in the small hours, or she’s in desperate need of a nap. And don’t get me started on libido. A sufferer of PMDD will likely experience frequent moments of overwhelm at even the smallest feats, much less want to jump your bones.
I speak of women, I speak in the tone of a third person, but this is MY reality. I am Terri for 10 days of my cycle, and I am someone else entirely for the rest of it. It has the power to make me feel truly mentally ill when I do not use the right tools to cope with this endocrine mood disorder. It has the power to make me consider taking my own life, to end my marriage and walk away from the children I fought so hard to conceive. And then, like magic, my period arrives and within 1-2 days, the fog dissipates, the weight lifts, the darkness leaves me and I can see clearly again. The joy, the love… all the things that make me, me…(a contented partner, a loving mama, a loyal friend, someone who wants to do good in the world)… she returns with the follicular phase.
This is happening to people everywhere. The statistics state that between 1 and 5% of women and AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals suffer with PMDD, but I question that figure. It is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed by medical professionals. There are people out there who think that what is happening to them is “just what happens, its just PMT. “
And I’m here talking to you today to tell you that if the run up to your menstrual cycles are significantly disrupting your life, then that is not PMT. No amount of period jokes will make it so.
There is treatment.
You’re not alone.
You’re not going crazy.
This is not your fault.
It is not something you can “just” control. And nor should you have to try.
For me, PMDD developed I’m my 30s, once my postpartum periods returned. I had Fertility treatment, I had babies, I breastfed, and from then on my life has completely changed. For some women it starts as soon as they begin their periods, as young as their teens. For others it’s a later in life development. So, you see, it can happen to any of us. It’s a serious condition that doesn’t get enough recognition and people are suffering needlessly because of it.
Please do your PMDD research. Familiarise yourself with invaluable resources such as https://iapmd.org/, https://www.pms.org.uk/ and https://www.viciouscyclepmdd.
com/ these websites are crammed full of information and help. There’s a huge community of supportive PMDD warriors online, too, and we can fight this fight together. Because we deserve to live our lives to the fullest. We deserve happiness and peace.
I’m over at @ohhheymama and can often be found talking about PMDD, how I manage it, what treatment options I’ve tried, and how it impacts my family and I. Feel free to come over and say hello.
My inbox is always open to anyone struggling. Consider it a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through.