Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe, debilitating form of PMS experienced by less than 10% of menstruating women—and I happen to be one of them. Due to a roller coaster of severe symptoms including but certainly not limited to mood swings, depression, irritability, and fatigue, I’m tough to be around sometimes, let alone date.
- It took a while to be diagnosed and I refused the medication. After I had my son at age 21, my symptoms got so bad that I went to a doctor, who finally diagnosed me with PMDD. There’s no cure and the only treatment options are anti-depressants or attempting to stop your period by taking non-stop hormones. To me, the side effects of the medication just weren’t worth it. I decided to do what I could to reduce my symptoms through diet and exercise and let the chips fall where they may. As you can imagine, this makes relationships a challenge.
- What a guy said last week will piss me off this week. Does he remember when he cracked that joke about how I was fat as a kid last week and I laughed, playfully teased him back, and all was well? I do! Even though it’s done and over with, I still call him an insensitive prick and then sulk for the rest of the night. I silently wonder if I should drop him and move on with my life over one small wisecrack.
- I lose my sex drive for a week each month. When PMMD sets in, inflammation sets in throughout my body, causing my sinuses to swell and my gums to ache and bleed. My boobs swell, ache, and feel bruised. I suffer from constipation, cramps, and embarrassingly disgusting gas. I become overly sensitive to touch of any kind. I suddenly recoil from my partner even though our sex life has been going well. I make excuses until he pushes me on the issue, and then I lash out and overreact. Oh, and after this week of hell is over, I’m on my period for the next week, so he can count that one out too.
- Everyday noises make me want to kill him (and everyone else). We may have slurped down ice cream or devoured greasy, messy burgers two days ago, but not today. Not if he wants to make it out alive. If he makes loud eating sounds near me, I dramatically throw down my food, mutter several obscenities, and storm away. When he comes after me, I feel too stupid to admit that I can’t handle the simple sounds of life without having a childish tantrum, so I start a fight about something else as a distraction. This also goes for noises like coughing, hiccuping, laughing loudly, or just talking a lot. Best case scenario is that I’m murdering him in my head while he talks about work.
- I avoid my partner for no reason. He shouldn’t be surprised if he stops by my house four minutes after calling me and getting no answer… only to find me laying on my couch with my phone in my hand. Yes, I saw his call. No, I didn’t answer. No matter how hard I try to withdraw and avoid any unnecessary interactions with the people I care about, inevitably someone makes a remark that my inflamed PMDD senses will perceive as criticism and I overreact and “punish” the offender for it. Then I spend the next several hours looking for additional crimes to tack on so that I can punish more. I don’t want that someone to be my partner and I don’t want our relationship to be damaged, so I hide out, dodge his calls, and risk making him think I’m not into him.
- My weight fluctuates like crazy. When I meet a guy, I may be at a point where I’ve been successfully fighting the PMDD food demons for several months in a row. I might be at my skinny weight, wearing my goal jeans and feeling on top of the world. Though I normally carefully monitor my caloric intake, during those terrible days before my period, I develop extreme hunger and food cravings that last for days. Many months I find myself eventually caving in and buying giant bags of jelly beans or chocolate and binge eating until I feel sick. Eventually, I give in enough that those skinny jeans end up packed away in the basement for months. I gain 10, 15, maybe even 20 pounds before I’m ready to fight the cravings again. Because of this, I won’t look like the girl he started dating sometimes and I’ll be painfully aware of it.
- I’d like to think that having PMDD doesn’t define me but I know in many ways it does. I like to think that I have enough good qualities to offset the insanity that engulfs my life ten days each month. I’d like to think that I’m worth putting up with a little extra, but not everyone will feel that way and that’s OK. I’m upfront about who I am and what I deal with, and I’m more apt to understand what others may be dealing with as well because of how much I struggle. Everyone has their battles; mine just happen to show up on a monthly schedule.