Surviving PMDD
If you’re reading this you probably already know what PMDD stands for and I’m just 1 of 1 in
20 women and AFAB individuals that live with a Premenstrual Disorder.
As a child I was diagnosed with Premature Adrenarche, an overproduction of androgens
(sex hormones.) I started my period aged 10 but I hit a crisis with mood symptoms around
age 13. There is no credible evidence suggesting PMDs and Premature Adrenarche are
linked, but a sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations has been present my entire life.

The symptoms of PMDD for me then, were similar to as they are now, today, extreme mood
fluctuations including: rage, tearfulness, suicidal ideation, panic attacks, fatigue, migraine,
insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and more.

The trouble with being a thirteen year old girl living with these symptoms in the early
noughties was, everyone thought I was just ‘acting out’ or an ‘angry teenager.’ There was
some acting out, there was also a suicide attempt. Looking back now I can see how
prevalent a role PMDD played in my not wanting to be here, though at the time I was
prescribed antidepressants and birth control and sent on my way.

It wasn’t until around ten years later that I approached my doctor again, armed with cycles
worth of symptoms and research relating to PMDD. There was little information on PMDD
back then and I remember my GP looking blankly at me, as if I’d plucked a random and
fictitious diagnosis from thin air. Once referred to a gynaecologist the term PMDD was
thrown around but my notes always said severe PMS or depression and Anxiety! It was very
confusing because I knew deep down my symptoms were a fit for PMDD.

I’m now 34 and a mum of two. I have been tracking my menstrual cycle for over 15 years.
I’ve tried every contraceptive available, with the exception of sterilisation and many, many,
SSRI’s both month round, and only during the luteal phase.
PMDD, unfortunately worsened for me after each pregnancy and most dramatically since the
birth of my second child. I’m almost two years postpartum now and have been struggling to
find yet another treatment capable of holding me firm. I also have a fibromyalgia diagnosis,
and in recent years particularly, symptoms of the condition have been much less
manageable during the luteal phase.

Allergic reactions, chronic pain and flu likeness increase around ovulation, which is also
when intrusive thoughts and panic attacks start to cripple me.
I’m sensitive to what feels like everything, for two weeks a month, and it’s hell to live through.
I’ve fallen out with friends, family members, employers, and I’ve taken unnecessary risks and
found myself in dangerous situations because of my extreme behaviour before my period.
Instead of relating these life lapses to PMDD though, I always just thought I was crazy.
Unable to bear rejection, constantly seeking validation have all been problematic behaviours
for me.

Until recently, I’ve always been a person who gave the bare minimum in therapy while
expecting maximum results. Then as soon as I would start to feel better again (usually
during follicular) I would shut down and quit.

Sadly, it took me a full on psychiatric breakdown after my son was born and a whole year of
therapy to realise it’s not just my personality. PMDD is not who I am. It’s something I endure.
During that year I completed a 3 month course of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) of
which I am now a huge advocate. DBT is great for PMDD because it focuses on distress
tolerance and offers skills that are perfect for use when in crisis. I’ve also recently been seen
by a private gynaecologist who is familiar with treating those with PMDD. As a result of this I
now use HRT in combination with Zoladex as a treatment. It’s slow in terms of huge
improvements but I’m hopeful that along with lifestyle changes I will be able to live a fuller
and less symptomatic life.

The reality is PMDD is a complex disorder. It takes prisoners. It can destroy self esteem, and
hinders so much of our lives. No two people with the condition will experience the exact
same symptoms. Your sanity may be questioned both by yourself and the people you love.
But there is hope, a combination of proper treatment and the right support network is key as
is raising awareness of Premenstrual Disorders among Health Professionals.