If you are reading my story, I know you are probably in a bad place, perhaps right in the middle of your PMS symptoms. I know this because I used to come to the NAPS website during the two weeks of the month that I had my worst symptoms, because I needed to be understood, heard and be given answers. Then I’d disappear for two weeks thinking everything was fine again.
I started suffering with hormonal issues when I was about ten years old. I would have terrible migraines that caused me considerable pain and had a debilitating effect on my quality of life. I think this must have been the beginning of my PMS journey, as I still get a migraine most months when I start and finish menstruating.
My other PMS symptoms started around the age of 16, but I didn’t recognise them for what they were, as tiredness, mood swings and anxiety can all be put down to journeying through those difficult teenage years. At the time, my own mother was suffering from PMS, but she didn’t have the resources or information to recognise what was going on either– but with hindsight now she has passed through the menopause her mood fluctuations are non-existent.
For me, my twenties were without doubt terribly affected by this condition. I strongly associate life-events, general mindset and diet with how bad my PMS will be each month. Therefore, as with any young person going through life-changes such as starting a new job, living away from home and relationship breakdowns my PMS seemed to rear its ugly head with ferocity each month. By the time I was 22, I felt I had exhausted all the over – the – counter options and a couple of brushes with the contraceptive pill from well-meaning but ultimately ill-informed GPs, had always made me worse than better.
I carried on for a couple more years and then I discovered NAPS who were without doubt my greatest saviour. Finally, there was a name for all of these feelings I had for two whole weeks every month. Even better there was an army of women all fighting to rid themselves of PMS. Their chat boards were full of helpful and real-life information and I felt better simply reading that I was not alone with this hellish condition. As I researched further, I began to educate myself on the causes of PMS and I still believe that armoured with the correct information, you can find help easier and quicker. I decided that I wanted to be involved more with this charity and attended one of their quarterly meetings – a fabulous mix of professionals who freely give their time to help women and their families overcome PMS.
My treatment for PMS began after my GP persuaded me to go on the Yasmin contraceptive pill. Seven days of it, catapulted me into a deep dark depression, that ended with me breaking down at work and being sent home, to be found rocking back and forth in my bedroom, by my now husband. That day I had wanted to sleep, to stop my mind whirring around with endless black thoughts, I simply wanted quiet. My family urged me to come home and take a break, which I did –and then I got to work in getting help. Here’s what I did;
I went back to a different GP who referred me to cognitive behavioural therapy, a wonderful and practical way to talk out the anger, depression and worries I was having. I still use the exercises I learnt then, now in my everyday life.
I took Prozac for that first month to give me a safety net in case I couldn’t cope with my feelings – at the time I needed it but I felt it blocked all of my feelings both happy and sad and ultimately came off it.
I asked for help from NAPS and they recommended a long list of specialist doctors, one of whom I met who put me on hormone therapy. This lasted about two years and was extremely helpful, it gave me a break and glimpse of what life could be like with manageable PMS.
I went out and played netball four times a week to take my mind off how I was feeling and to push away those depressive moods. Being part of a team for that one hour gave me much-needed endorphins, as well as pretty impressive weight-loss!
I started to tell people about my PMS. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t what I used as the ice-breaker when I met new people! However, telling my friends and some family gave me validation that It was OK to say I was feeling ill or to give me some time on my own. This was especially helpful with my husband; even now if my symptoms are bad I tell him that it’s been a tough day and he knows to give me a little space and perhaps some leeway if I lose it over something small.
I had a baby. After the hormone therapy, my next step was to try the mirena coil. Then fortunately we were in a position to have a family and luckily I had nine months of no PMS during pregnancy and a year free from it after my daughter was born. Then the migraines re-appeared, just like when I was ten and now just in the last year or so, I catch myself feeling low, disengaged, tired and emotional and I know the PMS is around.
What do I do now? I focus on my diet. It is called the Ketogenic diet which is essentially low-carbs and high protein. It helps keep things even and my mind focused on staying calm when I am due on. My daughter keeps me wonderfully busy and my only hope is she doesn’t suffer the same fate as me. However, I know if she does our first step will be to get in touch with NAPS.
Grace’s husband’s story can be viewed in the Members’s Library