Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
For reference, PMDD took such a toll on me that it took me well over a year to write this article with treatment. After four years of feeling like something is wrong with me emotionally and physically, I am finally getting to the bottom.
I remember the exact moment I really lost my inspiration. I was uploading some photos onto this website, thinking, “Why do I even bother? Why do I do this? Nobody cares.” After that moment, I stopped writing. I stopped working on my website overall. I did not want to do anything.
That was about two years ago. It was July 2020.
Today is the first day I write again (began writing on: July 2021, and published in: August 2022) as I finally finish writing this. I think I finally know what is going on with me.
I was diagnosed about a year ago with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a medical condition I had never heard about. Still, when I read the symptoms, I could only think of how most of the symptoms were exactly what I was going through.
What is PMDD?
According to Mayo Clinic, PMDD is:
A severe, sometimes disabling extension of premenstrual syndrome. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome that includes physical and behavioral symptoms that usually resolve with the onset of menstruation. PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt work and damage relationships.
When I first noticed my shift in moods
I got my first period after having my daughter 18 months later (at the end of 2018 and early 2019). I noticed my “PMS” symptoms were at an all-time high.
Losing weight became difficult. In fact, I started gaining weight rapidly, and I found myself not as productive.
I remember mentioning this to my gynecologist at the beginning of 2019 and being prescribed birth control. It did not do anything for me. After that appointment, I put my symptoms aside and continued to do my best to get through the day.
Dealing with my emotions as the pandemic rolled on
I remember the exact moment when I really, really lost my inspiration. It was when I began to hit an all-time low, and I just let myself go. It was November 2020. I had just uploaded some Halloween photos onto our Instagram account, and the crazy U.S. Presidential election was ongoing. During that time, I remember my hobbies were lying in bed and eating.
I did not have the energy to entertain my three-year-old (who is five now). I forced myself to do my work as I teleworked. I just constantly felt like I was living under a stormy gray cloud.
I became predictable to my husband. He always said, “your time of the month is coming up,” because my mood change was so noticeable and extreme. I would get mad at him for saying that and check my menstrual calendar, and he was always right, and it was always ten days before. That is how I started to notice the pattern – my mood and energy would plummet right before my period. It just never occurred to me that it was more than PMS or that I should not be feeling this way.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder symptoms
According to Mayo Clinic and other medical professionals, symptoms include
- Extreme sadness
- Irritability or anger
- Anxiety or tension
- Mood swings
- Lack of interest in daily activities
- Trouble thinking
- Food cravings or binge eating
- Trouble sleeping
- Plus common premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as breast tenderness and bloating
How PMDD makes me feel and my symptoms
For me, PMDD is not the cranky teenage PMS. It is more like losing hope and feeling like everything is impossible.
My fatigue is beyond control
- I feel like I have little trolls pulling down my eyelids because I constantly can’t stay awake.
- Being in my bed is life.
- It’s what I think about, and it’s what I want to do as soon as I get home from work.
I fixate on negative thoughts
- I replay the moment repeatedly and feel the pain as real as I did when the moment happened.
- Situations get me sad.
- I tend to tear up, and emotions are so powerful they rule my life.
I can’t focus
- I get distracted at work and do not feel as productive as I could be; in the same breadth, I totally stopped working on this very blog; a passion that I worked hard on and put so much time and money into.
- I am quieter and shy. I do not want to speak up or be social. I would get anxious even before simple Zoom calls or meetings when I didn’t even have to speak. I wish I could keep staying home even though people are finally starting to resume a somewhat normal life.
Overeating and intense cravings
- It leads me to yo-yo dieting because I can’t stick to eating right.
- My craving for sugar and all things unhealthy is at an all-time high.
- As a child, I would drink sodas, but I stopped drinking them in high school.
- However, over the past few months, I have been drinking a ton of soda which is very unlike me.
- I need caffeine and sugar to make it through the day.
Loss of interest in activities and work
- It also leads to uncompleted projects or tasks.
- Getting anything completed is a daunting task.
- When I was packing up my house to move, there just came a point where I would stop for weeks and would not start up again until I felt better once again.
As mentioned above, it starts about ten days before my period and lasts well into my period and a little beyond. When I finally get back to feeling a bit more normal or at least productive, the cycle starts all over again.
How I found help
My husband noticed my mood swings and how they were starting to affect my life very quickly. He has been concerned about me for a long time and wants his wife back. So, he sought out help for me. He spoke to friends and family to get more info about their doctors and recommendations on who I should see.
Finally, one day my husband discussed my situation with his aunt, who had been through some tough times. She changed doctors and said she saw results. I contacted the health and wellness doctors she recommended and set an appointment.
During my first appointment, I did not feel like I was at a typical medical appointment or annual check-up, my provider sat down, and we chatted, and he clung to every word I said, and it felt good to have this attention. I let the provider know all about my dips in mood and what life had been like for me for the past two years or so.
As I described to my doctor what was going on with me, I actually started crying, and it felt like, for the first time, someone in the medical community was listening to me after four years.
After we chatted, he did the usual doctor things like listening to my heartbeat, and then he said he thinks I have PMDD. He explained the symptoms and discussed a few other things about the disorder, and we discussed my treatment options. He went into detail about the different medications and other things I could do to feel better. I ended up taking a medication that would help balance my serotonin, and about a year later, I began on an antidepressant.
How I am doing with my treatment
I started by taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) to help me. My doctor explained that it would increase my serotonin.
I’ve been on the medication for about a year, and my doctor gradually added an antidepressant. I am still dealing with the symptoms but can also feel the changes. They are happening slowly and get better with time.
While on medications for about a year, I have started working on what I eat again. I gained a lot of weight with my extreme symptoms over the past two years, so I am working on getting back to a healthier weight. I am now mainly eating proteins and vegetables.
I still get cravings before my period. They are still pretty bad but not as extreme.
Increasing my physical activity has also helped. Instead of just always being in bed, I am now moving around more, taking more walks, and doing my best just to be more active. I am doing it slowly and not overwhelming myself.
It’s been a prolonged process, but I am not pressuring myself to change overnight. I still have rough days, but they are decreasing. I have more energy, and it feels like I am getting closer to being myself again.
I do not feel myself having an extreme mood change anymore, but there are still times when I know I am not feeling as good as I should, so I reassess what is going on in my life, and my doctor tells me to go in and see him any time – which I do.
My advice to women who may be suffering in silent
If you feel like you have PMDD or are going through similar symptoms, I urge you to see a medical professional as soon as possible.
I feel like I spent too much time I could have easily gotten back if I had just asked for help. I also feel like I would be a bit more healthy and would not have let my body go if I knew what I was going through mentally and if I knew that I had something wrong going on in my body.
I also urge you to find a doctor that listens to you and makes an attempt to honestly help you with what you are going through. Sure, I saw other doctors during these past two years, quite a few actually, but I feel like they never listened to me. They just relied on things like my bloodwork to assess my health but never actually asked me how I felt or put much thought into what I was feeling overall.
Trust me, I brought it up all the time to every medical professional I saw and asked for help. One doctor told me to book another appointment and bring it up. Sigh.
I know if you live in the states, healthcare is expensive and complicated, but keep trying. There are plenty of great medical professionals that can help you out.
My life has changed drastically due to my treatment, and as mentioned above, I only wish I kept looking for help when I needed it rather than giving up after every doctor’s appointment came up short. I am forever thankful that my husband asked around, and I urge you to talk to people close to you and ask if they recommend their doctor or medical practice.
When I started to realize the pattern of how I felt, I remember telling my husband that my PMS felt like it was on steroids, and I am not the only one to describe Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder that way. But even though I felt that way, I never in a million years thought PMDD existed or knew it was a valid medical condition. I just always felt like it was something I had to deal with and get through.
I also had this notion in my head that I was not allowed to have depression because I have a great job, a fantastic husband, and the most loving daughter. I am living in a dream house with the most amazing views and am living a better life than I could have ever imagined. I felt that for me to have depression or for me to feel this way was all in my head.
Please do not delay in getting help in the way that works best for you. Anyone can have it no matter what their life, income, or home life is like.
Hopefully, you learned something from my experience and if you are feeling similar, start working on feeling better. This illness is debilitating and takes a good chunk of your life away since it seems to stick around until menopause.
Month after month, I just thought that I would eventually feel better because…(insert excuse like: “I will be done moving into my new house” or “I’ll be done with that project at work”) but I never felt better, things never got better.
It took medical intervention for me even to begin to start feeling better, to get my life back. No amount of meditation or physical exercise, or work-life balance helped, and that was my reality. No matter how hard I tried to make myself feel better, it just never worked. Do what helps you, what makes you feel better, and run with it and acknowledge the existence of this medical condition.
I really hope that I can get back to writing on working on the blog. But if you see me taking a long pause, just know that I am most likely trying to work on myself or spending time with my family.
Let’s talk about it! Feel free to comment below. Let me know if you have gone or are going through this or if you have been diagnosed (or anything else).