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Any girl can tell you that PMS is a big ole pain in the behind. It varies from girl to girl, but invariably it sucks. I definitely didn’t have it easy growing up. My periods were irregular and I had horrible cramps. Mood swings? Mine were more like a daily merry-go-round. And about every other month I would get so sick that my blood sugar would drop, the pain would be unbearable and I would be bedridden for hours. It continued like that for over a decade. I just thought I had really bad periods.
When I started taking birth control pills, it got better by degrees. I became more regular and the horrible sick episodes were almost non-existent. Overall, I was happy with the physical effects. But as time went by I became less regular, which definitely isn’t supposed to happen on birth control. My mood swings were more pronounced. And the cramps and sickness were beginning to increase with great regularity.
The Onset of Anxiety
I had struggled with varying degrees of anxiety since I was a preteen, but it seemed mostly situational. As an adult, there began a pattern that was hard to ignore. After moving for the first time in 22 years, leaving all of my family and friends, getting engaged, planning a wedding, and starting a new job, my anxiety spiked. I became withdrawn and heavily dependent on my fiancé. There were lots of panic attacks and anxiety episodes. I attributed it to the massive amounts of change in my life and how consuming the change was.
My Breaking Point
Fast forward to June of 2017. I’d become increasingly irritable and unhappy. I’d go from fine and content one moment to full of rage the next. Even I could tell this isn’t normal. And there seemed to be no reason for it. My life was good, pretty much exactly the way I wanted it at the time. In June while on summer break, I’m binge watching Star Trek: Voyager (nerdy, I know). I have not a care in the world and I really feel relaxed.
Next thing I know, the Hubs calls asks me to do something and I snap. I’m immediately agitated and combative. For no reason. After we hang up my mood continues to darken and I cannot get beyond the frustration that feels both physical and emotional. Then the panic attack strikes. Over nothing. I’m rocking and crying on the carpet in the middle of the family room floor. Logically I know there is nothing wrong, but it happens anyway.
I am so frustrated and tired of all the moodiness. I’m starting to realize that I am a really happy person but that I hardly ever feel or act that way. That some of the arguments and bad feelings between me and the hubs are attributed to my inexplicable agitation and argumentativeness. I couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to change, and change fast.
Could It All Be Just One Issue?
I had heard the term PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) on commercials but never thought anything of it until after that anxiety attack. I researched it and every single symptom was something I was dealing with on a consistent basis. As I read further into the description it sounded more and more plausible as a diagnosis.
Unlike my normal course of action, trying to find an over the counter solution, I made an appointment with my obstetrician immediately. It was bad enough that I wanted to seek medical intervention. After a discussion of my symptoms and the timeline of what had been happening, she agreed that I was probably dealing with PMDD. I switched from a pill to the Nuva Ring and started on a daily dose of Prozac. She told me that it would probably take two weeks before I noticed any difference, if any.
Did it Work?
Ten days later, I felt like I was clear headed for the first time in years. I felt great. And I was behaving normally, to everyone! What was better is that I was myself again, happy and well-balanced. The things that normally would have set me off in a flash were now non-consequential. With two tiny changes, I had my life back. Now my anxiety was easier than ever to identify and control, though I hardly had to do it. I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to do something about it. And I can’t believe I made the Hubs go through at least a couple of rough years where he never knew what version of me he was going to get. It was like a horrific marriage version of Russian roulette. But thank God there was a treatment and that it worked for me!
Since Christian’s passing my anxiety is worse. There are so many triggers and they can be super unexpected. However, I am still a better version of myself than I could have hoped for a few years back. The Prozac continues to be a helpful aid in controlling the anxiety. I still have bad days and times that I have to take extra anxiety medicine. But in the grand scheme of what is transpiring in my life, I don’t think that a few episodes here and there are all that bad.
What Exactly is PMDD?
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, is a severe and often debilitating form of PMS. It manifests itself in emotional and physical symptoms. The general list of symptoms from WebMD.com includes:
- Mood swings
- Depression or feelings of hopelessness
- Intense anger and conflict with other people
- Tension, anxiety, and irritability
- Decreased interest in usual activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in appetite
- Feeling out of control
- Sleep problems
- Cramps and bloating
- Breast tenderness
- Joint or muscle pain
- Hot flashes
If you suspect that you have PMDD, definitely see your obstetrician and have a discussion of what you can do about it. Life is too short to waste dealing with these horrible symptoms that do have a reliable treatment!