CW: self-harm, depression, mention of menstrual blood
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor/medical professional, this is what I found from my own research and experience with PMDD
Don’t worry if you’ve have never heard of PMDD before, my gynecologist was not too familiar with it either.
PMDD stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder and is easily described as PMS on steroids. Symptoms include those similar to major depressive disorder, yet it is cyclical as it is hormone-induced. So while during one’s period and soon after everything will feel fine but a few days, a week or even two weeks before one’s period, one will feel intense depression, anxiety, hypersomnia or insomnia, extremely overwhelmed and these symptoms can be relationship-ruining and can make life seem unbearable. There are a few routes one can take to tend to their PMDD including therapy, antidepressants (SSRIs), lifestyle changes including tracking symptoms, and hormonal (oral) contraceptives. I currently am on a birth control pill*, although if you watch testimonials on Youtube, there is no one way to ease the symptoms. I also have been seeing a therapist for a few years now and she is the one who mentioned PMDD to me.
While it’s legitimacy is debated by doctors, I have never found a disease that quite justified the patterns and intricacies of my whole life and mental health. The disease is even debated among some feminist circles as PMDD can be viewed as only reversing the battle people have fought with disassociating period pain from hysteria. I personally disagree with the argument that the legitimacy of PMDD is sexist as period pain is already de-legitimized in the medical industrial complex and by getting the diagnosis and treatment I needed with a community waiting for me, feels more empowering than anything.
My story begins with junior year Juli sitting in religion class wondering why it felt like the world was collapsing around me. I could feel the wave of a void within me, completely emotionless, all I wanted was to go back to bed and just lay there. Nothing made sense, I was okay a week ago but now I want to go home and have a glass of boxed wine even though it was a wednesday. The tiniest amount of criticism, or perceived criticism, felt too much to handle. Self-harm felt comforting when I felt nothing. Then I would wake up the next morning to blood stained underwear and be like “Oh that’s why I felt like shit”. I never really thought anything of it. A week of impulsive harmful decisions, pent up anger, extreme sadness and binge eating followed by the final day of complete numbness until I had the “Oh that’s why I felt like shit”. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me, everyone who has a period has PMS and it sucks and we just all get through it. I just had to suffer through the worst week of my life every month, everything else was going okay so I should just suck it up. It was especially hard since my cycles were very irregular so my behavior would just switch and I wouldn’t really notice until it impacted the people around me. It wasn’t until later in the same year where I had a breakdown in front of parents that I started seeing a therapist and it was her who picked up on my cyclical behavior. It validated everything for me since I never really validated this behavior in myself. The cyclical nature of it made me seem like a was “faking depression”. She encouraged me to track my feelings everyday and ask myself “is this truly me or are my hormones making my life a shit fest rn ;P ?”
I started going on birth control because that’s what my gynecologist recommended and it has made my life so much better. I feel pretty regulated and taken care of. When I forget to take my birth control on the week before my period, I felt that same sense of being completely disassociated and empty. Luckily this time around I understood why this was the case, that it would go away so I shouldn’t do anything too impulsive and my partner, who knows all about my PMDD, was with me the whole time to be reassuring and supportive.
I wanted to write this because I wish I knew about PMDD earlier. I wish I knew more people who understood this part of my life. I wish it didn’t have to be looked down upon, especially in the name of “feminism”.
Again, I’m no doctor, I am just a tiny tiny little little baby baby germ. But shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to chat!
*There are many choices, I am currently on Tri-Lo-Marzia, and while I preferred Lo-Loestrin, sadly my insurance stopped covering it. There are oral contraceptives that are not recommended for PMDD so if you think you may have PMDD, look into what forms are recommended.
Me v PMDD symptom tracker app