About 5 years ago, I was experiencing a cyclical issue that I couldn’t figure out but was causing some terrible symptoms. Migraines, a deeper depression than I normally live with day to day, and some extreme anger. I initially went to the doctor because I was afraid that I was displaying some signs of Bipolar Disorder, but I was actually diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
The symptoms of PMDD are extreme mood swings, increased depression and anxiety, migraines, extreme fatigue, painful menstruation, and other bodily and mental pains. For more info on symptoms, go here (I’m sorry that the language is not gender inclusive. I didn’t write it.)
The trouble with PMDD is that the symptoms are very similar to PMS and they occur around the same time during one’s menstrual cycle. However, PMS is not as extreme as PMDD. The mood swings with PMDD are extreme. I am not usually a very angry person. I have a lot of patience. But when my PMDD is flaring, I get and stay very angry and impatient for several days. And then it just disappears and I wake up in the morning one day and I feel normal again. Another clue to PMDD is hormonal migraines. I am very aware of my menstrual cycle and I usually get a migraine when I ovulate and then a few days before my period actually starts. And then my period is over and I’m back to normal for a couple of weeks.
Surviving with PMDD
The biggest struggle for PMDD for me is that half the month, I feel totally useless and down. It feels like I get two weeks to be normal and then I have to struggle for two weeks through migraines and body pains and anger. And on top of that, Hypermobile EDS does not play well with the hormonal changes in the second half of the menstrual cycle either. So what do I do??
I think that the best tactic is to do what you can when you can. As I type this, I’m in the first half of my fertility cycle. I feel very much like myself and honestly, I wouldn’t be able to even write a blog post when my PMDD is flaring up. So when it isn’t, I take full advantage of being able to be more active and of having the mental clarity to do things like writing or programming or studying. This way, I get things done and take care of myself, which paves the way for increased self-care when I need it after I ovulate. During those times, I may need more sleep, I may need gentler forms of exercise like yoga or stretching or walking. I may not even be able to do those things and that is ok! It is fine to rest. Take it day to day. If you’re not also struggling with a disability that also affects your day to day life, then PMDD may only take a few days out of your month. It is even more vital then to take rests when you need to. Your body is asking for it. So remove guilt from the equation, hunker down, give yourself grace, and wait.
The treatment of PMDD is fairly basic, involving both anti-depressants and hormonal birth control. Together these both stabilize the mood and hormones, making the hormonal shift easier to survive. Eating well and exercising are also recommended. Nutrition may play a role in the severity of the condition as there is some evidence that deficiencies of certain substances can make it worse (read more about the supplement recommendations in the article above. Talk to your doctor, I’m not a doctor, I’m not responsible, etc.). Exercise and conditioning can help too, mitigating pain, decreasing stress, and helping to even out hormonal levels.
Unfortunately, PMDD can last from when it develops until menopause. Does that suck a whole lot? Fuck yeah! That’s why it’s even more important to take care of yourself. You have 20-30 years of this possibly?? Taking 2-3 days a month to survive is allowed and encouraged. Yes, this may impact your social life and the dishes may go undone for a couple days. Do not feel guilty! This is a terrible disorder and quite frankly, if you’re making it through, you’re a MFing rock star to me!