My PMDD story: Overcoming the stigma and finding hope

13 April 2023
Anonymous Written by Anonymous
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From time immemorial, women have had a name for ‘that time of the month.’ Aunt Flo. Crimson Tide. Code Red. 

According to an interesting international survey I came across, there are more than 5,000 euphemisms for the word ‘period’ across the world! I’m sure every woman has her own nickname. Mine is the ‘red river’ or ‘red army.’ And for me, it’s also a lot more complicated than it is for most women.

It was a friend who first suggested that I could be living with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Strangely, my first reaction was annoyance. Not relief or joy or the peace that comes with knowledge. Instead, I felt worse. Now, not only was I bleeding out 7 days of the month but I had the added burden of thinking about the new label I had been given for the next 7 days. And sometimes those 7 days of bleeding can become 10 days. Essentially, I was now worried and in pain for the better part of an entire month! 

I did some quick math. If I take out 20 non-functional days every month, that comes up to a whole 240 days in a year! That’s 240 days of anxiety, stress, and discomfort out of 365 days in a year, leaving me with just 125 days to truly enjoy life. For 240 days, I have to go through hormonal mood swings, physical exhaustion, brain fog, and lack of sleep.

My PMDD Story: Overcoming the Stigma and Finding Hope

PMDD hits me like a ton of bricks every month at least 4 to 5 days before the red river shows up. I descend into bad behavior, and I pick fights for trivial things with the people I love. Most times, I am unaware of the reason until I check my calendar, and it dawns on me. 

But it’s not like this for every woman. It’s different for women of different ages. Let me emphasize though – no woman is free from its horrid hormonal impact. If a woman says she is not struggling with PMDD, it’s just that she might be unaware of its repercussions and the various ways in which it shows its effects. 

Add to it the lack of awareness thanks to the stigma and lack of communication that surround women’s health. Girls are strictly instructed by their mothers and other older women in their family to not talk about periods as it’s shameful and embarrassing. And mentioning any of this to men was, of course, out of the question.

Many girls I knew struggled with bad cramps. They would cry and require medication, which was frowned upon. I don’t think I ever heard my mum or sister complain about pain or fatigue.

The mantra was to struggle but struggle alone. Ironically, it was conveyed to me that ‘this is a normal thing.’ If it was, why did we have to hide it all the time? Anyway, like everyone else, I, too, struggled in silence. 

When I got my period for the first time I felt distinctly uncomfortable telling my mother about it, and I barely managed to mention it to my older sister. I even felt ashamed to go to the medical shop to buy sanitary pads!

In my late 20s, after my marriage, my husband found these monthly changes perplexing and frustrating. 

“It seems like you have PMS the whole month!”

“Can’t you just control it?” 

“It’s too difficult to be around you when you are emotional like this!”

It was only when I was 30 that I began reading up more about PMS and the resulting hormonal imbalances, which led to anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, etc. The facts I learned blew my mind. Ever since I’ve tried to speak about the repercussions of PMDD to both men and women to create as much awareness as I can. 

It really makes me happy that women are more open about it today. And some companies have even implemented ‘period leave,’ which is so necessary for women like me who struggle every month.

PMS impacts every woman in the world – that’s almost 30% of around 7 billion people in the world. The effects are different for different age groups. We can’t control this natural process but we can be kind and non-judgmental to each other. We can support each other during that time. Walk away from an argument instead of insisting on having the last word. Buy a small gift to get the dopamine flowing or cook your friends their favorite food to make them smile. Give space and we all know it will pass. 

PMDD is a more severe form of PMS and affects about 10% of women. People with pre-existing mental health conditions: like neuro-divergent brains – autism, bipolar, ADHD, Aspergers etc. and conditions like depression, PTSD, BPD, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders, OCD etc. display aggression, which could be an underlying reason for PMDD. Research is ongoing in this field and right now there’s not much data yet on treatment plans. Hoping this gets better for the girls of the future!

I am always here to talk & support anyone in need. I am not a doctor but a friendly ear. You can DM @secretadhdhandle to connect. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect MyndStories’ views.

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