CONFESSIONS: what life is like with PMDD

Well once again it’s been a while since my last blog post.  To be honest, I’ve been enjoying not putting the additional pressure on myself to pump a post out frequently however, I’ve felt compelled to write on this topic.  The more I’ve been sharing my journey with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and what it’s put me through over the past year and a bit, the more I realise how prominent it is amongst women.

I’ve written some pretty emotional posts over the years but this will be the worst for me.  I’ve barely begun writing and as I bring up memories of the girl who suffered for 15 of the longest and loneliest months of her life, I sob.  I feel so sorry for her and what she felt she had to go through alone and to be honest, at this point, I just hope I don’t short-circuit my keyboard with these tears.

To those who don’t know what PMDD is, I tell them it’s like PMS on steroids.  Like PMS, there are varying degrees of severity.  However, unlike PMS, even the most minor of degrees of this disorder is unbearable.

I’ll leave it to you to google the full list of symptoms so you can fully understand that this disorder can get bad.  There have been women who have murdered their own children as a result of the anger PMDD instills in them, there have been women who have been the drivers in hit-and-runs and even women whose spending habits were so badly affected, they had to declare bankrupt.  Now, I can’t speak for these women, but I can share my story with you.

Thankfully for me, after the worst year and a bit of my life, I seem to have ‘cured’ myself of this disorder – I say ‘seem to’ because I don’t want to jinx myself.  Healing myself took me a long time but I wake up everyday grateful that I have found a way to – I’ll discuss this more later on in this post.

So what was PMDD like for me?

Suffering from PMDD is like being possessed.  It’s like something or someone has come in and taken over your body and all you can do is sit there watching as this thing ruins absolutely everything you worked for and you’re powerless to stop them.  On my good months, I would have one, maybe two weeks out of four where I would be myself.  I would be my normal, happy, positive, loving, caring and patient self.  I could function in society with a level-head and could make (and take) jokes.  I would be the girl who’s singing and dancing around the house while she’s getting ready of a morning, the girl whose only concern is what song plays first when she hits ‘shuffle’.  This girl has all the time in the world for those she cares about, the girl who would go out of her way to make someone else happy and feel special.  The girl who is full of sugar, spice, some of the ‘all things nice’ and definitely all of the sass.  I fucking love this girl and I savoured every moment that I was her because I knew it would be short lived.  I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I would wake up and be someone completely different.  Someone I absolutely hated.  I would wake up a monster and would stay that way for weeks.  It was like all of the goodness in me had evaporated.

During these times, I would wake up absolutely exhausted at the prospect of fighting with whatever seemed to be possessing me.  My goal would be to just get through my daily routine and pray that I could fool everyone that I was fine.  If anything got in the way of this routine running smoothly, I would bite – and I would bite hard.  All my patience was gone, I was raw and moody and on edge.  I would say and do things that I knew would upset others but I couldn’t stop myself.  I was inside my mind watching everything around me crumble and I could hear the good version of me in the background screaming and begging for it to stop.  This demon had come in and she was doing what she liked.  I watched myself tear the man I love to shreds and I would go home every day feeling physically ill and praying it would stop before it was too late.

There were times where I would lash out at Bella because she’d done something I wasn’t happy with.  Thankfully I would only raise my voice but there were times where I feared that the disorder would continue to get worse and at those moments, I worried what I’d be capable of.  What made it all worse is that she would always forgive me.  She didn’t even need a sorry, she just moved on from whatever I’d yelled at her for.  Seeing someone so pure and happy made me feel even more guilty at the fact that she was near a person who could potentially suck all the goodness out of her.  There were so many nights where I took myself to bed crying over the mess I had made that day.  The mess that I knew would get worse the next day if I wasn’t due to bleed yet.

You see, what they say SHOULD happen with PMDD (and PMS for that matter) is that it should arrive at about day 14 in the cycle – when you ovulate.  You are then supposed to have these symptoms for 14 days, until you get to day 1 again and get your period.  That’s what they say SHOULD happen.  So at best you’re meant to get 14 days of freedom – 14 days of the amazing, beautiful girl who I enjoyed being – and then you get 14 days of complete and utter hell.  Two weeks on, two weeks off.  HOWEVER, what they don’t tell you is that when you have PMDD, your body isn’t doing what it should – particularly when you have it as bad as I.  At my absolute worst (around March to April this year and then again in June to August), I didn’t get to see the real me for about 2-3 months at a time.  I was happy one week, miserable the next and held my breath until I bled again – however, during these months bleeding didn’t give me any reprieve.  This is where I did the most damage in my life with relationships and hit my lowest point.  I spoke to my therapist about how I was numb.  How I couldn’t even force myself to smile.  How my mind was dark.  I contemplated what I would do if I could never get out of this darkness.  What I would bring myself to do because, quite frankly, living like that and impacting those I cared for most wasn’t worth it.  I had two people in my life who I would live and die for and I felt myself ruining those relationships beyond repair.  Thankfully, Bella was one and like I said, she forgives me for no reason and goddammit I am lucky to have a daughter like her.  I was so worried about how I was treating her so I had to ask my family and her dad to take her more.  I couldn’t handle the noise in my head while fighting with myself just trying to be a functioning mother.  I was so alone at this point and I didn’t care anymore.  I wanted to be left alone so I could just sit and think how much I hate myself.

When I would get the chance to be myself, I would make plans but if those plans fell into a PMDD week, I would cancel.  I wouldn’t give a reason for it, there were times when I would pick a fight so that it was them to blame.  I would give any excuse other than the truth because to give the truth would mean admitting to illness, a weakness I had no control of.  At this point, I preferred people thinking I was a horrible bitch over someone who was too weak to control what was going on in her own mind.

Aside from the depression and anger, I seemed susceptible to get every other PMS/PMDD symptom under the sun – the bloating, fatigue, back pain, the insomnia, swollen and sore breasts, food cravings, increased appetite, headaches – I got every single symptom.

PMDD would impact my diet and exercise habits.  I would binge on food until I felt sick and because of the food I was eating, I gained weight, became even more bloated and would stare at myself in the mirror loathing my appearance.  I would hate leaving the house and couldn’t even bring myself to go for a walk so I wouldn’t exercise during this time.  I didn’t want to see anyone.  I just wanted to sit at home and actively avoid any chance of feeling happiness because I didn’t deserve it.  My goal was to self destruct – punishment for what I had been putting others through.

As I said earlier, there have been women whose spending habits become so bad because of PMDD, they would go broke.  Whilst I never came close to ever being bankrupt, I did have huge fluctuations with my spending habits.  I would spend because it would give me a short moment of happiness.  My worst week was where I bought a new fridge and a new laptop (the one I’m currently trying to avoid drowning in tears), ridiculous amounts of clothes and items for the home – I even started buying things for the beach…it was the start of winter.  I was buying everything I could in sight but being out and about and not focusing on my personal disdain made me happy.

I had started noticing my moods changing in May last year.  I was in a relationship with one of the most amazing men and I had started to cause fights just because I felt the urge to yell and scream at somebody.  I would try for days to get a rise out of him just so I could have someone to argue with.  I then started noticing the difficulty of pulling my mood out of darkness and I started to become scared of what I might do to our relationship and I feared pushing him to the point where we couldn’t get past it so I broke up with him.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and when I look back now and realise the stupidity of that decision – breaking up with someone in order to reconcile when I’m better – shows just how warped your perception of reality can be when affected by PMDD.  This decision is obviously made even worse by the fact that if anyone is to get through this without the internal damage that I have caused to myself and am working so hard to forgive myself for now, they need to have all the love and support they can in the world.

I tried really hard to heal myself quickly.  My therapist had offered to prescribe me Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – a common treatment option for PMDD sufferers – to take during those weeks where I felt myself start to decline but as someone who fights hard against even taking Panadol for a headache, I wouldn’t accept the prescription.  My goal was instead to use good ol’ diet and exercise to help me through it all but as you’ve just read, during my bad days I would binge and lose all lust for life so there goes any chance of those two treatment options working.  It took me over a year of complete deterioration before I decided to try herbal supplements to ‘fix’ myself.  I first purchased some in September this year and oh my fucking god – the change was almost instant.  After two months on these supplements, I don’t have any symptoms – ANY.  In fact, I now have to consult my period app for when I’m supposed to be due because without it, I have no idea.  I don’t have mood swings, depression, headaches, body pains, insomnia or even bloating.  I am still amazed by them.  I wake up naturally now too and excited to greet the day.  I don’t go and blow my money, I don’t binge, I don’t sit at home dreading speaking to anyone out of fear I’d ruin that relationship.  I’m that girl singing in the bathroom while I’m doing my makeup again.  I’m encouraging Bella’s antics and haven’t had a single negative thought toward myself in months.  I am patient, chatty, laughing and smiling again.  Finally, I get to just be me and I get to be me 24/7  – a notion which I’m sure is sickening to some (!!).

Of course whilst I am celebrating the fact that I am ‘cured’, I still do have to deal with the mess I created whilst I was sick.  Unfortunately, the closer you were to me, the more you saw my dark side.  I am now trying my hardest to repair a relationship that was nearly completely destroyed by the worst version of me.  They endured treatment that absolutely no one should have to.  Treatment that they didn’t deserve.  Treatment that I should have been defending them against rather than causing it.  I will never forgive myself for the pain that I have caused particularly when it all could have been avoided if I had just been upfront and honest about what I was going through.  And even after everything I went through, all of the darkness, this is the real tragedy of my story.

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