PMDD and Me
This blog was written by Becca, Bloody Good Period’s Social Media Manager. TW: This blog explores themes of depression and mentions suicidal thoughts, so may not be suitable for all readers. Please take the time to check in with yourself and how you are feeling before reading.
In my second year of college, I was really, really horrible to be around. My mood swings culminated in either being extremely angry or extremely depressed - I swung from shouting at my mum over anything and everything and crying uncontrollably over the smallest things, to lying in my bedroom for hours; in the same position in bed, staring at the wall. This repeated, like clockwork, every single month - usually lasting for just over two weeks. If a friend didn’t pick me up and take me to college every day, then I wouldn’t go. When I did go, I struggled my way through it - not concentrating in lessons and having the occasional emotional breakdown / crying session to my wonderful art teacher (a real arty-gal cliché, eh?)
I never noticed the link between my periods and my mood. I didn’t even know what PMDD was at the time - and, after getting my diagnosis, it seemed like most of the internet and some doctors didn’t either. It wasn’t until one day, when my mum came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed, probably, (and understandably) exhausted and extremely worried: “We need to go to the doctor.”
And so we did. As soon as I explained my symptoms (sadness, anger, feeling flat, suicidal and then completely normal a couple of weeks later…and repeat, every month) that my family doctor - a nice, friendly, middle-aged man who’d seen me through various childhood illnesses, explained: “You have severe PMDD.”
He set me on a course of contraception to “see if that helped me manage the symptoms” (thankfully, they did/do). Then my mum asked: “But when will she be able to come off them?” — “When she wants kids, I guess.”
When I got home, I googled what PMDD was. There were literally 2 articles about it. It was 2013/4. I was confused, and in a way I felt lonelier than ever - though extremely thankful that I had an answer and a diagnosis straight away, as most people have to wait around 12 years for one. Without it, I really don’t know where I’d be today.
I’m forever grateful to my mum for dragging me out to talk to someone, and to the doctor for listening and passing me tissues as I explained my feelings between sobs.
This, to me, only highlights the importance of having a support system, and being able to talk about your emotions, periods, and PMDD, openly. I understand that this is also a privilege, and the majority of people with PMDD are disbelieved and disregarded. Listening and honest conversations could save a life, and it certainly did mine.
Because of the absence of articles and therefore reassurance, I pretty much denied my own condition. The pill was working - I’m fine, right? In my last year of University, about five years after being on contraception full time, I decided to ‘take a break’ from it. I’m fine again, I don’t need it - that’s how this works, right?
At first I was ok - I noticed my moods fluctuated more, but I was ok, and in a way the highs felt higher. But then, a few months after, when my body had gone back to its ‘normal state’, everything changed - and I was back to square one. It was only then that I started to take it, and myself, more seriously. And it’s only now, almost ten years later, that I talk about PMDD openly with confidence: it is a real condition.
Working with BGP in no doubt helped in this too, though I’ve only ever met one other person who also told me that they have PMDD - even though 1 in 20 people with periods have the condition. It’s still massively underdiagnosed, and massively misdiagnosed - with many people being misdiagnosed with Bipolar for it’s similar mood fluctuations. And that’s why it’s so bloody important to talk about.
Today, I track my moods monthly, on a nice, separate, brown-coloured tab on my Google Calendar (what can I say, I’m an organised, calendar-colour-coding loving gal). When I start to notice my mood dip, I check in with myself: doing things that I know will help and make me feel more at ease. If I’m having a particularly low month, I try and organise more stressful, large tasks for weeks that I know I’ll naturally be feeling higher. I’m also still learning the importance of saying no when things get too much (hey, we all still have some learning to do, right?)
My snazzy, high-tech mood-tracking technique
This, alongside taking the contraception pill, works for me. It doesn’t for everyone, and there's no ‘right way’ to deal with symptoms - every persons body is so different. It’s a journey for everyone, and if you’re currently on it - keep going. I’ll be thinking of you.
If you can identify with any of these feelings, and feel like you may also have PMDD, please talk to your local GP about the condition today. Learn more about PMDD through the bloody powerful, important videos and articles below. TW: some of the below content also has themes that may upset readers/watchers. Please check in with yourself and take time to think about if you’re in a suitable place to watch. Sending you all the bloody love.
Video: 'My periods make me suicidal' - BBC News
Video: Living with PMDD | Laura's Mental Health Story - Mind
Blog: ‘It’s a double stigma of menstruation and mental illness’ - The Bristol Cable