PMS on steroids. Or are you living with PMDD?
Raging monthly moods, self-destructing thoughts, sky-high anxiety and so fatigued you can’t keep your eyes open?
Is this PMS on steroids?
Or could it be PMDD - Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?
From the onset of my period I would experience the typical characteristics of PMS; breast swelling, food cravings, cramps, moodiness, and fatigue… or so I thought. But my symptoms went so much further than this.
A week before my period I would become severely depressed and anxious. I would feel so alone and isolated. It was debilitating. It interfered with everything from work, to relationships to how I interacted with the world in and around me. PMDD mimics this severe version of PMS.
PMDD is similar to PMS but much more severe.
Little is known about PMDD amongst researchers (yet another female health condition swept under the radar – ok mini rant over).
Most, however, think it could be a sensitivity to changes in hormone levels around the menstrual cycle. Other research has indicated it could be in some part related to past emotional and physical trauma.
A connection has also been made with low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the brain helping to regulate mood, function, attention, sleep, sexual desire and pain. Hormonal changes around the menstrual cycle may cause a decrease in serotonin levels leading to PMDD related symptoms.
Symptoms usually manifest monthly a week or two before your period (in the luteal phase) and are alleviated on the first or couple of days into menstruation. It can cause you to feel hopeless, out of control, a burning irritability, intense anger, hot flashes, dizziness, depressed, an inability to concentrate, deeply exhausted and sadly destructive thoughts that end in some women wanting to take their own life.
The intensity of these symptoms were almost like someone shaking a bottle of fizz inside of me. I’d be ready to explode. I remember speaking to my mum and just having this overwhelming feeling I didn’t want to be here anymore, “I wish I’d just get run over by a bus.” Those days were bad.
And then my period would come like the cork being popped off, fizz flowing everywhere and I’d feel such a release of tension, physically and emotionally. My family thought I was bipolar. And many women are often diagnosed with this very condition, along with postnatal depression and severe anxiety.
I had never ever heard of PMDD until this year.
That confusion around the pre-menstrual phase can really linger and spiral out of control. If there’s one piece of advice I would offer my younger self it would be:
“Honey, this is a bloody awful day. That’s ok. You’re human. We all have these days. It’s ok. It’s an important part of your growth. Do not deny it. Do not wallow in it. Do not allow it to overcome you. Dark days come. Dark days go. This too shall pass. Ride the storm and allow it to guide you inwards to your deepest self. Your body is your greatest guide, and if it’s screaming it’s looking for you to listen. Stop. Listen. That is where the light truly comes from.”
Working with the dark side of your cycle.
And that’s exactly what I do. I listen. If my body is screaming I want to know why.
I track my cycles and since doing so it’s revealed a deep innate wisdom we can all connect to. My darkest days come in and around Day 24 of my cycle and surge on Day 28 (I’m a 31/32 day cycle). Having tools like this is the greatest predictor of my physical and mental health making it so much easier for me to recognise why I’m feeling the way I am. I know I need greater self-care on those days. I know I need greater support, greater nourishment – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And I know it will pass.
My self-care package:
Self-care doesn’t need to be expensive. You have all the tools inside of you. So here’s some nourishing ideas that money can’t buy…
Getting to know your cycle - download a tracker app or map and start jotting down words you feel on each given day
Sunlight out in nature – breath it all in every day sister!
Sharing with period pals – if you don’t have any, I love talking about periods. Drop me a message
Gentle hip movement – through breath or through movement, encourage the energy flow between your heart and womb space
If you feel like you could be living with PMDD symptoms please take a read here on some beautiful wisdom from Mind or share how you’re feeling with a friend, a loved one or a doctor. You’re not alone. And you’re not weak.