I’m 26 this is the first time I have ever experienced feelings of despair that I was born a female, and as someone who is so happy and proud to be a woman, it has shaken me to my core.
I’ve had a pretty smooth sailing journey as a female I think until this point in my life. I’ve always been self assured and secure in my gender, always felt comfortable and self assured in my womanhood.
When I got my period at 14 I didn’t really get the hype of the struggles and pain. I didn’t get any period pain or noticeable mood changes. I’ve always been fairly blaise about my menstrual cycle.
Until recently. Over the last 6-12 months I’ve really been really struggling behind the scenes. I’ve been having a fierce internal battle with myself and my body.
Having a history of mental illness I’ve tried many many medications, I’ve been diagnosed and re-diagnosed with quite a few disorders including bipolar, depression, anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder, but nothing really felt fitting to my symptoms and medications didn’t really make much difference to my major symptoms.
Over the last few months my physical and mental health has really suffered and starting to go increasingly down hill (for at least 10-15 days of every month). I have literally been living a half-life. It’s
been a frustrating battle to try and get to the bottom of what’s been going on. I described my symptoms and no one could really give me a straight answer. I began feeling hopeless and like it was all in my head.
But I refused to give up, refused to to be brushed off or told that it was just the normal pressures of life I was experiencing. Finally when I saw a 3rd different doctor two weeks ago for another second opinion, I was finally diagnosed with PMDD.
PMDD is an extreme and chronic form of PMS.
A woman experiencing a regular form of PMS will usually suffer the following symptoms in the lead up to her menstrual cycle:
- Mild- medium mood swings
- Generalised discomfort and discontent
- Sporadic irritability and emotional outbursts
These symptoms usually start around 3-7 days from the start of their period. And don’t get me wrong even standard PMS sucks!
For me though, my life is significantly impacted by PMS.
Along with the above list, I experience many, if not all, of the following symptoms in the lead up to getting my period.
- Anxiety and depressive episodes
- Severe mood swings
- Chronic irritability
- Feelings of being overwhelmed by life
- Increased sensitivity and fear of rejection and abandonment
- Thoughts of self-hatred and shame, and
- Frequent and intense panic attacks, and at times, suicidal thoughts
And the kicker?! These symptoms start 10-15 days out from my cycle which means yes, this is my quality of life for nearly 3/4 of every cycle/month. (I am currently on day 16 of my PMDD cycle, a particularly bad episode).
PMDD is not an overly widely recognised disorder. And some doctors as I’ve discovered are all too ready to label your symptoms as a garden variety mental illness and not look deeper to see how and when they arise, and how they fit if your cycle.
The last doctor I saw before I found someone that helped, essentially told me that there was nothing out of the ordinary happening that I just needed to see a psychologist, and there was no medical way she could help. Despite the fact that I was telling her that my anxiety was 8/10 and affecting my ability to complete basic tasks and it was all happening in the lead up to my period, during and after which I felt like a completely normal, happy and stable person.
So why I am sharing all this extremely personal information? I guess its partly out of feeling like a fraud. I get so many messages from friends and people who follow our page, telling me how awesome they think I am and how great I’m doing. When really, 10-15 days out of the month behind closed doors I’m barely
functioning. My partner often becomes my carer in the days when I’m most affected and I’m not exaggerating when I say that my menstrual cycle has nearly ruined my life.
The other reason I wanted to share this very personal story, is to be a living breathing example and voice to say IT’S OK TO NOT BE OKAY.
Now that I have finally been properly diagnosed, over the next few months I will be starting some first line hormone treatments, and therapy to see if we can see some improvement, although I’m told it will he probably 2-3 cycles before we see improvements. And from there we can look at next steps.
I don’t know how many people, or who will end up reading this. But PLEASE I hope you take away from this not to take no for an answer with things life this. If you honestly believe in your gut that something is wrong, speak up, reach out. And if you’re turned away, go find someone else. Keep trying until you’re heard. No one should have to live a life like I have been living because of a mental health or physical health related issue.
If anyone is experiencing similar struggles or emotions and feeling alone, please reach out. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t be able to provide medical advice, but I will be able to provide care and compassion and a shoulder to lean on.
For professional assistance and support, contact your local medical centre or lifeline on 13 11 14.