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PMDD, What is it?
PMDD is the acronym for the condition Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, it occurs in about 5% of the female population, while PMS, according to the Department Health, occurs in about 85% of the female. PMDD can affect women of all post pubescent ages. For those of you who have never heard of, or don’t know anyone with PMDD, the following is a list of symptoms:
- Extreme irritability
- Extreme sadness accompanied with
- tears (for no known reason)
- Mood Swings
- Increased Hunger
- Cravings (sweets and carbs)
- Pain (back, headaches, muscle aches)
- Brain fog (inability to focus or concentrate)
- Suicidal Ideation
PMDD and PMS – Differences
While many of the PMDD symptoms mirror those of PMS, they are in a class all by themselves. All of the symptoms listed above are exacerbated to the point that you feel like you’re literally losing your mind. While it can be said that PMS and PMDD are similar in that they happen at the same time of the month, they are most certainly NOT the same.
The best way to describe to friends and family how I feel during this time, is that I can’t even stand myself. I remove myself from my friends, and have done so to the extent that I have alienated myself from them. Running the risk of suddenly saying something that may offend them, which can easily happen, is not an option because I don’t want this condition to ruin any of my relationships.
I yell a lot, curse a lot, cry a lot. All I want is to be alone, so I rarely go out. If I get invited anywhere when I am going through this, I respectfully decline. If I get a text or call, I simply say or write back PMDD and they know to give me some space.
I have two kids that I need to care for and I have a job that I need to do, so what does one do?
In the past, when I had my own office, I closed the door as much as I could without completely closing it, so as to limit the amount of people walking in. This ensured that I had as little face to face contact with people and perhaps save them from whatever wrath I had brewing inside me.
I can’t do that now, because recently, I started sharing an office with a co-worker. I had no choice but to tell the women who report to me about it, so that they understood that they are not at fault if I suddenly snap or if I am withdrawn. It was difficult, but it had to be done.
I also told my boss because of fear that my lack of focus and concentration would affect my job. Luckily, everyone has been very understanding and accommodating
Effects at home
I told my children what was going on (as best I could). I told them “I don’t feel good for 2 weeks out of the month and there’s not much I can do about it.” Telling them that I am not angry with them personally, that they didn’t do anything wrong, and that it’s not that I don’t love them; was the best way for me to explain it to them. I told them that I simply can’t control my emotions and any little thing makes me snap.
They understood as best as any 11 and 9 year old could, and reassured me that they don’t think I don’t love them. They were so sweet about it, it broke my heart. To help them understand it all a bit better, I got a big calendar and marked off the days I’m affected by this with big X’s. This way, they knew when this was happening and it wouldn’t fall on them out of nowhere like a ton of bricks. But also, so that they would know when it was going to be over. The thought process there was that I didn’t want them to think that it would last forever.
I did that consecutively for several months. Now I simply tell them “I’m having my bad days and I just need a little time alone.” They try their best but quickly forget and I have to remind them, yes, every month.
It’s been 5 years now since I have been going through this. I self-diagnosed by keeping a schedule and doing research online; a lot of research. I saw both a psychiatrist and my gynecologist who both confirmed I had PMDD.
For a woman to be diagnosed with PMDD, she has to exhibit at least 5 of the symptoms listed above. I have all of them except thoughts of suicide. There is no known cause for PMDD, only theories, and there is no cure.
When does PMDD strike?
PMDD starts after ovulation, or what is called the Luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, and lasts all the way through to when you get your period. The week before I get my period is the worst mood-wise. It is literally debilitating to the point that I can’t function and has caused me to miss work a few times.
All mood related symptoms go away the same day or the day after I get my period, and honestly, for me, there is no happier time. As horribly painful and heavy as my periods are, I don’t care, because I feel like the black cloud that looms over me for over a week, has finally been lifted.
No cure, but there is help
PMDD reeks havoc on personal relationships and is sometimes the cause for divorce. It ruins work relationships and can be the cause for loss of employment.
I have read so many blogs of women who suffer from this condition and it brings me to tears because I feel their pain. Some women start going through this from their teens all the way until menopause. While some of us, the luckier ones I suppose, start going through it later on in life.
If you or anyone you know suffers from PMDD, please visit The Gia Allemand Foundation
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I decided to divide this post into 2 parts because of its length. In part 2 I will talk about my treatment throughout the years (effective and non-effective), related weight gain and possible surgery.