What is PMDD
PMDD is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. It is a problem that affects about 6% of menstruating people. It’s not a frequently discussed problem. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much knowledge surrounding PMDD. I struggle with PMDD, and I have briefly mentioned it in earlier articles on Women’s Republic. To bring more awareness, I’m starting a series called PMDDiaries. I will recount my experiences with PMDD and what I have done to alleviate some of the symptoms.
First, let’s talk about the symptoms of PMDD. General symptoms are depression, irritability, lack of control, irrational anger, forgetfulness, crying spells, moodiness, insomnia, anxiety, and panic. These are the most common symptoms. However, many people with menstrual cycles have also reported physical symptoms. This can include extra fluid retention, vision changes, eye infections, excessive cramping, nausea, and headaches. As I mentioned before, about 6% of the menstruating population suffer from PMDD. Current research says that the numbers could be higher because of the lack of research in the women’s health area.
It has also been hard to correctly diagnose PMDD because we learn that excessive cramping, mood swings, and pain are normal during your periods. This is actually not true! Some amount of cramping and moodiness is common to almost all people who menstruate. But if the symptoms are unmanageable and truly disruptive to your life, you likely have at least one out of six menstruation problems. The six problems are PMS, Amenorrhea, Dysmenorrhea, Menorrhagia, PMDD, and PCOS. Always consult a doctor, but research has shown that people who suffer from debilitating periods usually have at least one of these disorders.
My period has always been really bad. I would have horrible cramps on the first day. I would almost always have to leave school early or stay home. People said that this was pretty normal and that I did not have any cysts, so nothing was wrong. But in hindsight, needing to miss a day or more of school every month is not normal.
Is it depression?
I had been diagnosed with depression. So, for some time, I thought it was just that. Then, my depression started to get better. Still, though, the week before my period and during my period felt like a huge regression. I couldn’t sleep even though I felt fatigued all the time. I was constantly irritable. Worst of all was the brain fog. I truly felt like I couldn’t think straight to save my life. I felt like I couldn’t remember anything, I didn’t have a grasp on time, and everything would feel so unclear.
This brain fog would make me think and feel in really irrational ways. I was losing my grip on reality. Feeling irrational like this for such an extended period of time would make me feel suicidal. It is such a scary feeling when your hormones are working against you. Your brain is feeding you all sorts of misinformation, and you are just too physically exhausted to be able to sort it all out. And I’m a Capricorn. I like to maintain some semblance of control in my life, thank you very much.
It wasn’t depression
I was terrified by not being able to see clearly and see things or situations for what they really were. It was honestly a debilitating feeling because I was concerned and upset that my depression was coming back, stronger than ever when I thought I was doing so much better. It turns out I was doing so much better! When I wasn’t about to have my period, I was working out, having a regular sleeping schedule, socializing, and doing my work. I had coping mechanisms that helped me when I would start to feel depressed.
But every time my period was about to come, I would feel so bad and physically incapable. It would mess up my whole month. It’s hard to rebuild the structure in your life after being in bed for two and a half weeks out of every month. It got more and more exhausting over time, and I was finally diagnosed with PMDD.
I am already on antidepressants, so to tackle this specific problem with my hormones, I was told to take a hormonal birth control pill. Now, this may seem like the obvious solution to some, but I had never taken hormonal birth control before. I had the copper IUD, which is a nonhormonal contraceptive.
There is limited information on these issues and birth control in general, so I had no idea that birth control (and progesterone) could help balance out my hormone levels! I have now been on this pill for about two months. The first period on birth control was not too different from my prior periods.
Did It Work?
However, my most recent period was incredibly manageable. I had little to no physical symptoms, no trouble sleeping, and best of all, I was not overly emotional, anxious, or distressed. It just felt like…a normal week, with some light cramping. It was such a breath of fresh air to know that periods don’t have to be this awful, scary, painful thing that we must endure.
For now, I will leave you with this information and my initial story. But, I will be back with updates in PMDDiaries 2 as I continue my journey with birth control!