So you know PMS, right?
So you’ve heard of PMS but ever heard of its evil twin, PMDD?! It affects around 1 in 20 people who menstruate but it's never really talked about - and I want to change that.
My name is Laura Murphy and I suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (AKA PMDD).
So imagine your crappy, bog standard PMS and multiply it by 1000 and then you’ve got PMDD...
PMS = bit weepy
PMDD = uncontrollable sobbing and feeling like someone has died
PMS = bit tired
PMDD = awful fatigue, meaning you have to sleep for 14 hours then have a nap (or two)
PMS = bit jumpy
PMDD = anxiety to the stage where you cannot sit still and feel like the world is going to end
PMS = argument with partner
PMDD = deciding and being convinced that you never loved your partner, they’d be better off without you and it's best if you break up
You get the gist.
"She’s just being dramatic" you might think - and I wish I was.
For half the month I am a happy, normal, functioning person. But for the other 2 weeks, I am quite the opposite. I can constantly feel like I have received devastating news and that my entire world has fallen apart. You have to fight to get through every day.
There’s no pulling yourself out of it, so you fight and get through it - only to know it’s coming back again next month.
When I stumbled on PMDD (via Dr Google!) it was a light-bulb moment in my life. I’d been to the doctor so many times over the years for depression, anxiety, panic attacks and bad PMS but no one ever linked it to my hormones.
I went 17 years undiagnosed. I haven’t been able to work full-time for 15 years and I am now due to have a hysterectomy to rid me of my cycle. It’ll be incredibly weird to not have periods – but I I'll have to keep buying sanitary towels to donate to Bloody Good Period eh!?
PMDD is a genetic malfunction – basically your hormone levels are normal (so it doesn’t show up in any blood tests) BUT your body reacts in a wonky way to the fluctuations in between ovulation and around your bleed.
For some, normality resumes as soon as your periods start – for others is takes a few days for the cloud to lift. It’s a sensitivity to those fluctuations that causes the extreme symptoms.
I now run the UK PMDD Support group on Facebook. Every day I hear stories of people that have been suffering for years because doctors have never even heard of it.
A few of us sufferers got together to form a collective to change this and the Vicious Cycle: Making PMDD Visible project was born.
One of the Vicious Cycle's support initiatives is PMDD postcards, where sufferers can share their experiences creatively and anonymously
We aim to find those suffering and get them help and treatment. As sufferers we have all been through the trials of doctors that don’t have a clue, through the trial and error of different medications, through the ‘time of the month’ jokes that make you want to sucker punch people in the throat.
If you don’t suffer from it, keep an eye out for friends that might. I have only ever met one GP that has ever heard of it, let alone have a clue how to treat it. Which when you think that it affects 1 in 20 women that's pretty appalling! Therefore self-advocacy and talking to other sufferers to get fully clued up is absolutely vital.
Main image credit: Angie Harms