A comment on one of my previous posts (PMDD) has prompted me to write a whole post on the topic. This woman’s comment was about how she wished she could better explain PMDD to her husband and family without feeling ashamed. She also described many difficult symptoms eating up her life two weeks out of every month. PMDD is finally getting some notice in the broad American culture, but it is still a mystery to many.
Even though PMDD and PMS aren’t the same thing, they are kind of like cousins. It sometimes makes it easier for me to explain it as really really bad PMS. But that’s inaccurate, and the comparison gives shades of something not well respected.
PMS has often gotten a bad rap over the years. It conjures up visions of highly emotional irrational women, screaming and crying for days before her period. Like saying a woman has PMS that day is a blanket excuse for all kinds of ridiculous behavior. Not saying there isn’t some basis of truth there (highly emotional, sometimes irrational), but it’s been scoffed at and belittled so much it gets very little real respect.
So bring in PMDD, a true mental health disorder that rides piggy-back on a woman’s hormonal cycles. The crashes are devistating, the return to normalcy is suspicious and all-too-short. It’s like a roller coaster that doesn’t let you off. Once you can see that the ups and downs are inevitable, the despair and anxiety set in. What will I be like when my in-laws come over next week? Will I still be OK, or will that be the first day I start going down the drain? I finally feel better now, but just look at my wreck of a house!
It is embarassing and bewildering and depressing, just knowing this thing is going on and you don’t know how to turn it off. My husband still doesn’t quite understand what all that was about, but I suspect many men don’t quite understand the undertow of hormonal emotion.
Just about the worst thing about attempting to tell someone about PMDD is that they won’t believe you and will dismissed your experience. You might even begin to doubt your experience, like you made it seem worse than it really was. Or, you know it’s that bad but feel even more helpless. One bright spot is the regular ads for that birth control pill designed to help PMDD. It is helpful, and it’s the one mainstream clue out there for something recognizable.
So if you know or think you have PMDD, you are not alone. You aren’t lazy, a bitch, crazy, a freak, blowing it out of proportion, or making up excuses. You are a real woman with a real problem. Despite what you fear or what others may have said to you, get help and get it now. The only way the roller coaster stops is if you keep making noise about it to someone who cares.
Tell your doctor, your spouse, your mom, your best friend, someone who can help you find the words to explain it and who will believe you. There are solutions and there is no need to hide alone, crying to yourself in the dark. I did that for too long. I finally got the right help for me and got my life back.