Posted November 11th 2022
Please note that this blog contains references to suicide.
I spend 60% of my year living as my alter ego.
18 days and 432 hours each month.
I spend 40% of my year being me.
10 good days and 240 good hours each month.
It all began at 14 years old, having just begun my period
I had been prepared for the acne breakouts, feeling a little teary, and having occasional sugar cravings before my period.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) was talked about like a rite of passage, once you had experienced your first ‘episode’ you had entered womanhood!
But what I was experiencing every 2.5 weeks before each period didn’t feel normal. It felt like an unknown entity that had taken over me, pushing me to the edge of suicide, twisting my self-belief and bringing out anger I didn’t know existed in me before.
Nobody warned me of this
Doctors brushed it off as teenage angst, diagnosing me with depression and generalised anxiety disorder. My mum tried to convince the doctors that these symptoms were connected to my periods. All we kept hearing was ‘every woman experience PMS, it’s normal.’
This certainly didn’t feel normal, I didn’t feel normal.
Not many people understood this dramatic shift in me every month. I gradually lost more and more friends and felt alone and isolated.
At 26 I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and bipolar disorder.
But this didn’t feel right. My symptoms were cyclical, it felt as though nobody saw the connection between my hormones and my mental health. I tried medication, but this made me feel like a walking zombie, waiting for the 2.5 weeks before my period, where a flip would switch, and my alter ego would be unleashed.
I was 32 when my husband felt unable to cope any longer. He took me to the doctor, scared I would once again act on my suicidal urges. The doctor listened to me and recognised the cyclical pattern in my symptoms.
It was then, 18 years after my symptoms began, she diagnosed me with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
It was the validation I had been seeking.
It was the reason for my Jekyll & Hyde persona, the reason for my fractured relationships with friends and family.
It was a relief to know that there was a reason why I’d run away during episodes, thinking I was escaping life’s responsibilities and the people in my life, only to realise I was trying to escape myself, my disorder & the pain it inflicted.
The doctor told me that there were others out there like me – I was not alone. I am 1 in 20 menstruators who live with PMDD, a cyclical hormone-based mood disorder.
The next step would be a referral to a gynaecologist, who would suggest cycle suppression, otherwise known as Chemical Menopause. I was also seen by a psychiatrist who also agreed that I did have PMDD and not bipolar disorder.
So, who am I? What does living with PMDD mean?
40% of the time I am me, which means picking up the pieces of destruction each PMDD episode leaves behind, trying to piece my life back together, and trying to hold my family together once more.
It means the never-ending cycle of putting old plans and new ones in place to try and minimise the damage PMDD brings to those closest to me.
It means living with shame, guilt, fear and embarrassment because of the things I have said and done.
It means making the most of the small window of time I have to enjoy my family before the dark cloud descends once more.
60% of the time I am her. Depressed, fatigued, suicidal, angry, withdrawn, and lost to the world and everyone in it.
But without me, she would not exist, nor I without her.
I’m now a volunteer on behalf of Fair Treatment for Women of Wales as a patient representative and a panel member of The Patient Insight Panel for the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders.
I want to help create a new narrative surrounding mental and menstrual health for future generations without shame, fear, or stigma.
- Webinar | PMDD: Myths and Misconceptions
- IAPMD | About PMDD
- IAPMD | Women and Depression
- IAPMD | Transgender and PMDD
- IAPMD | Diagnosis
- IAPMD | Toolkit
- IAPMD | PMDD and Bipolar
- National Association for Premenstrual Syndromes (NAPS)
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