The Dirty Truth About PMDD

Many moons ago when I was away at college, I called my parents in the middle of the night, crying. Dad answered, obviously still half-asleep. I asked to talk to Mom and as he handed her the phone, he sleepily told her it was my sister. After I made sure she knew which child she was speaking to, I told her I hadn’t been able to sleep at night, but always wanted to sleep during the day. I was sad and crying all the time, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I alternated between having no appetite and eating all the things, and I just wanted to be normal again.

“Well, it sounds to me like you’re depressed. I’ll make an appointment for when you’re home at Christmas.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks, I sat in front of our family practitioner who asked me several questions and looked me over. After listening to my answers and spending some time in deep thought, he gave me a formal diagnosis of “PMDD.” Pre Menstrual Depression Dysphoria, or as I call it, Heavy hitting hormonal hell. He wrote up a prescription for an anti-depressant and that was that.

I understood it to be “just like PMS” only “a bit more extreme”. Not a big deal, I thought, but I looked forward to getting back to my old self. It took a little while, but I did notice slight changes. Everything revolved around my cycle. I was able to sleep at night again, though still slept heavily during the day. As time went on, I knew it would get better.

Except it didn’t.

Bear in mind this isn’t a post I want to write. Sharing this deep dark secret wasn’t on my agenda this week. Or ever. For some reason, however, I feel compelled to share my story.

While my sleep regulated and I was breaking into sobbing puddles far less frequently, I was – what we’ll call – “subdued in my anger”. I was mad, always, but not to the point of acting out. A followup appointment increased the dosage of the medication.

What I noticed with the medicinal increase was a decreased desire for most anything. I was waking up, doing what I had to do, and being miserable through most of it. I wasn’t crying every day, and I wasn’t shifting my appetite. I was simply existing in the subdued, angry state. Acceptable, right?

Eventually, the subdued anger grew over time and gave way to fits of rage.

I’m not talking about yelling. I’m talking about having an out-of-body-experience, watching myself fly off the rails in total fits of RAGE. One morning after my shower, I walked out to find one of our cats was chewing YET AGAIN on my clothes in the laundry basket. I don’t remember exactly what ensued afterward, but I know if I had caught her, I would have killed her.

That is not okay.

As I walked to the top of the stairs, Hubs gently cupped my shoulders and asked, “Do you think…. maybe…. it’s that time?” He meant PMS. But PMDD is PMS to the 100th power. This is something not a lot of people understand.

Irritability during PMS is one thing. I desired to roundhouse kick people in the face. For any reason. Or no reason. That’s not irritability; that’s rage. I would blow up at the smallest of things, and the more others tried to calm me down, the angrier and more defensive I became. I was more than irate, and it didn’t matter that I realized how out of control I was. There was no reigning it in.

Something had to change.

What makes PMDD worse?

In my experience, sugar is PMDD’s best friend. It feeds the crazy. When I eat foods high in sugar, and processed foods at that, my ability to manage my PMDD erodes significantly. Along those lines, fast food and fried food exacerbate PMDD’s symptoms as well. This is tricky, because the only thing I want before good ol’ Auntie Flo comes each month are foods high in sugar, the faster the better, and dropped in a vat of Canola oil is icing on the cake, so to speak.

Food is medicine. Or poison. These kinds of food absolutely feed the severity of my PMDD, and it’s to everyone’s best interests when I steer clear of them.

Also on Team PMDD, lack of movement. You’ll be hard-pressed to find people who hate exercise more than I do, but it’s an incredible detriment to me (and those I live with) when I don’t exercise. My mind stays clouded and hindered, and my body works to process what I won’t stop eating rather than to clear my mind.

Lack of sleep is a big one, too. I’ve always loved sleep. My sister has some funny stories about what it was like to try to rouse me from slumber. No one wanted that job. If I don’t get proper rest, everyone suffers, but my mind and body especially. It adds fuel to the PMDD fire, and a perfect storm begins to brew.

What makes PMDD better?

Obviously, proper diet and exercise make PMDD far easier to manage. When your body is being cared for, it cares for you in return. It may seem insignificant, but how we feed our body determines how our body treats us in return. Crap food produces crap ‘tude. Garbage in, garbage out.

Believe me when I tell you, everyone notices when I’ve been eating right. I look good, feel good, and I’m not trying to chase down any precious kitties.

Consistent, regular chiropractic care is critical to my PMDD management. When I go more than two weeks between chiropractic adjustments, it’s bad news. If I did better with my food and exercise, I’m sure I could scale back on my chiropractic visits. For now, though, they are my saving grace. I’m a strong believer in chiropractic care, and can tell you my PMDD treatment depends on it.

I also use a few essential oils to help mellow things out. I have a daily regimen I use, and definitely have my favorites. I use Young Living oils, (or as Hubs calls it, my “hippie voodoo”) and though I was skeptical at first, 18 months after starting using them, I’m a firm believer in their benefits as well.

I’ve not been on anti-depressant medication since 2008. While I didn’t stop it in the wisest way, my doctor agrees with me I don’t need it now. That may not be the case for everyone, however. Absolutely adjust your diet and exercise, and schedule some chiropractor visits (and a few sprinkles of oils here and there), but keep your doctor’s recommendations close at heart.

I’m not “cured”. It’s important to note this is a management regimen I have to stay consistent with. After delivering three babies in five years, my body started doing weird things, and for that matter, so did my brain. Being in my mid-30s, experiencing the trauma of our daughter dying, and having my body go through an intense restructuring three times in five years, all started to work against me.

Why am I writing about this now? It’s been on my mind a lot lately. I turned 36 this year, and while I’m not in the best shape of my life, I’m far more keen on the steps I need to be taking to make sure my family doesn’t suffer for having to live with me – but also, so I don’t have to suffer.

I’ve noticed this holiday season I’ve turned to more and more sugar and used gatherings and events as excuses to fall off the food wagon. As a result, PMDD is standing at attention.

I share all of this to offer encouragement. If you’re a woman, and your PMS seems a little tricker than most, I feel you. PMDD is a treacherous condition and another betrayal by our own body. I’m thankful for a doctor who recognized my situation all those years ago. I’m more thankful for having found treatment options I trust and have benefits far beyond managing my PMDD.

I’m especially thankful I didn’t kill my sweet (though naughty) cat.

I’ll be more mindful of what I’m eating, how I’m moving, and the appointments on my calendar. My mind, body, and especially my family, will thank me for it.