In the Life of PMDD by Heather L. Premo

Most people do not know what PMDD is let alone just how destructively debilitating it truly can be to a person; a person like me. PMDD, better known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder has been raising some hairs for quite some time now. Questions like whether or not it is a psychological illness or a medical one is very common, but the one that chaps my behind is the doctors who claim that it does not exist and that it is a made up illness. I am sure you can put your imagination to what I would say to them and have.

It is not uncommon for women during their reproductive years to have symptoms of PMS. We as women have all heard the jokes and have been invalidated in our efforts more times than we can count saying, “It’s that time of the month, isn’t it?” or, “Are you PMSing again?” Words that we as women have all heard and comments that just make us more irritated, but in the cases of PMDD, the anxiety, mood-swings, anger, and sadness are literally off the charts and uncontrollable. To put it into understanding, PMDD is like PMS supercharged and on steroids. I know this first hand because I have had this illness since I was a teenager when I began menstruating. For years and years I could never understand where all these feelings of helplessness would come from; how I could just cry endlessly for no reason, and why I felt that my world was at an end; but only before my periods would start, and then all those feelings were gone like they had never existed.

To explain this more, I am going to bring you into my head and my life just so you have an understanding just how devastating this illness can be to women. When these feelings before my period began, it was usually about a week or so before menstruation began. I would literally cower in corners crying. The feeling of dread consumed my every thought. I believed that everyone hated me and that the world was going to get me. I hated everything about myself. I would try to do my hair and have become so agitated and angry that I broke things or threw them. The level of anger I felt had me thinking of hurting others or hurting myself. Luckily I never succeeded. Mood swings from one extreme to the other were so prevalent that I began to isolate. Not that anyone could tolerate me anyway. The way that I looked at the world for that short time was completely dark. Then I would snap out of it, just like that. I returned to a normal functioning human again, able to cope.

As I grew older, the PMDD symptoms got worse. Especially now. I have tried to commit suicide and have checked myself into the hospital a few times. I also drank during those dark times to cope with the level of anxiety I was feeling. Drinking enough to choke down an elephant just to numb the pain and be able to sleep. Anything to stop what I was going through. Especially the anger; the anger is what scared me the most because I literally wanted to explode at other people. People who have done me wrong or simply just got in my way when I was walking at school, work, or the shopping mall. The level of distain that I feel toward humanity during that time is not healthy. Again, learning to lock myself away. Because my method of coping was to drink, it got me in trouble with the law and my family when I did drink at those times, but somehow never drank when it wasn’t that time of the month. Sometimes I didn’t drink for months. I have lost jobs simply because I would so easily get angry or frustrated that I would just up and walk out or at times just not show up. A few times I have chopped off my hair in a rage only to regret it a day or two later when I snapped out of my crazy faze.

Fortunately in all my irrational cracked up behaviors at that time, I never hurt anyone. Probably due to the fact that my heart and my conscience would not allow me to go that level. Deep down I wanted to get better and not make it worse although what I felt at those times contradicted. Somehow I always did remember that the feelings would pass and that helped me get through.

So many unhealthy things befallen me that survival had become near impossible it seemed. It is only recently that finally I had gotten health insurance and checked myself in because I became so sick of the way my life was going. I knew that if I wasn’t able to change it and fast, I was either going to hurt someone else or jump in front of a bus. I was at the breaking point. So, I checked myself in to the coo coo’s clinic, and managed to find a psychiatrist whom also is a woman and around my age and stayed current on all the medical and psychological issues concerning women. Since then, I have been on multiple different anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. I finally have found one that seems to be working. Now that I am feeling like myself and not a total nutball, I have decided to educate others on the effects of this illness and the damage it can cause and hope that other women like myself can get some insight on what is happening to them and get the help that they need.

Some facts about PMDD: The illness can begin between 1-2 weeks before menses and generally end when menses begins. 3-8% of women experience PMDD during their reproductive years with onset of symptoms beginning in their 20’s. PMDD can begin earlier as it did with me, but it is rare. PMDD is also linked to being a genetic illness so it is possible that someone in your family may have it or have had it and not known because it is just becoming a realized illness within women.

Symptoms of PMDD are anxiety, extreme anger, depression, irritability, an overwhelming sense, social withdrawal, sensitivity to everyone and everything, fatigue, forgetfulness, and poor concentration. Some of the physical symptoms are the same as with PMS, but are more pronounced or severe like with problems sleeping which was one of the major issues that I have experienced. The most severe of all the symptoms however are suicidal thoughts and possibly actions.

Along with the symptoms I have listed, illnesses like migraines and fibromyalgia seem to go hand and hand with PMDD. With caffeine or alcohol use, they can exacerbate the symptoms and make them worse.

It is important to know yourself and to begin charting your symptoms and the times that they occur with as much detail as possible. The next step is getting the education and the help you need to conquer this illness so that stops interfering with your life and you begin to feel like yourself and get to know the wonderful life that can be lived.

I went through several treatments and medications before finding the one that worked for me, but it took a bit of time and I had to not only be optimistic, but patient with the process. I am now on an anti-depressant that not only helps the symptoms of PMDD, but also helps to subdue my migraines as well which also have interfered with my life, and racked up some nice ER hospital bills.

I do want to say that now that I am healthier and beginning to know the great world around me– even if there are still jerks on the street that I run into from time to time– I do not regret what I have gone through. Everything that I have lost, every tear, and every single horrid experience is what made me stronger so that I could find the help that I needed for myself so I could bring this knowledge to you and many more.

I chose to be an advocate for PMDD because I believe that it could have been fatal for me and may have been in the past for other women. No one should have to live in that much pain. No one should have their life turned upside-down so much that a person feels like there is no end to the panic and no light in the endless tunnel we walk in our journey. There is a light, a very bright one and I am proof of that light and I hope to encourage and empower you.

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