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Trauma, PMDD and Women’s Mental Health: Straining to See Through Premenstrual Fog 

woman with hand over face
Photo by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

My car is almost 16 years old. I love it. But it’s at the end of its road, I’m afraid. Time to retire my trusty steed. In my search for a new car, I found one I knew I needed to act on this week before it was gone. Something I wasn’t prepared to do just days before my period. Because when my premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) shows up, I suffer at its mercy until I bleed. 

I’ve known I’ve needed a new car for years. The repairs to my car have been endless, and it doesn’t seem to want to go more than 40 miles per hour. It’s obvious it is time. But I haven’t been ready for the change. While in trauma recovery, so many other things have been changing, I’ve needed it to stay the same.

I bought my car in 2004. It has been the safest, most consistent home I’ve ever had. It escorted me when I moved to San Diego. Then to LA. Then back to San Diego. It brought me on trips to Arizona and to Michigan to visit my family. It was there for me through graduate school in Chicago. Waiting patiently on the busy city-street until I had a weekend off to take a trip. And then it became my husband’s and my family car over the last decade. Even he said he’ll be sad to see it go. 

While I’ve been reluctant to say good-bye, I started to instinctively know I’d find my next car this week. So on Monday as I drove, I told my car all the reasons I’m thankful for it. Then on Tuesday, I found the new car I knew I needed to see. So I emptied my car out. Proud of myself for finally feeling ready to let it go.

But then my PMS shifted to PMDD. Casting a haze over everything I did. A cloud. Causing even the simplest of tasks to take all the energy I had. I knew if I wasn’t careful, I’d be quickly thrown into a whirlwind and have to brace myself so I didn’t get swept away. But my new car sat there waiting. So even though I knew I was at the point in my menstrual cycle where I have to limit my tasks and interactions with others, I pushed myself to drive to the dealership to see it. But by the time I got there, the car had been sold. 

I sat in my car upset with myself for not calling ahead first. And then I began a frantic search for another car nearby. I started calling other dealerships. I fell into a research hole I wasn’t planning on falling into, which made me dizzy. Disoriented. Lost in the haze. It took everything I had just to drive home. Hoping my trusty steed wouldn’t stall on my way. That night, I was so exhausted I could barely speak. I went to bed early to try to conserve my energy. Knowing the next day, the day before my period, my energy was going to be even worse. 

Concentrating on anything right before my period arrives is often difficult. I’ll have a million ideas at once or none at all. Same with my energy. All the energy in the world or I’m completely drained. Making daily tasks feel impossible. And for some reason, talking on the phone is one of the hardest tasks for me to complete — especially when the premenstrual fog clouds my thinking. 

I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like it takes all of my energy just to focus on what the person is saying on the other end of the phone. Like I’m straining to hear him across a loud, crowded restaurant but without the benefit of seeing his body language to help me understand what he’s saying. Not to mention how difficult it becomes for me to speak during my PMDD. To verbalize my thoughts in an organized, timely manner. So this was the worst time in my cycle for me to even try to talk on the phone. 

But with my husband in and out of meetings all day, it was up to me to call the dealership. We’d found the car I was looking for again. And learned there was only one left in the state. It was an end-of-summer sale and they were almost out. So I had no time to put the call off. I stood at my kitchen counter. Water, pen and paper ready. Bracing myself. Knowing it could take everything I had. I spoke to the salesman and then to my husband. Then I had to call Carvana about a back-up option. And that’s when things became extremely cloudy.

The first time I called, I opted for them to call me back so I didn’t have to wait the 10 minutes they were estimating, and then I missed the call. Of course. So I called again and opted for them to call me again. Already starting to feel overwhelmed, I answered the second time and was trying to retrieve the account my husband set up the day before with the customer service representative, and we got disconnected. The call just dropped. And I could feel myself falling into the fog. 

I began pacing. I called again but waited on the line this time, turning the volume down on my phone so the elevator music and loud, random announcements didn’t disturb me too much. But I was confused. And starting to feel sick.

A representative eventually answered and we were able to accomplish what I needed, but then I had to call insurance. My sixth call within two hours. Good thing I wrote down what we discussed because my ability to think was lost. Gone. Along with my ability to process anything else.

I walked outside after to get some sun and air, but my neighbor was cutting his grass. So I had to go back in to get my noise-canceling headphones. When I came back out, another neighbor had started burning leaves, and I couldn’t take it — too many senses became overstimulated at the same time. The fog became too thick. And before I knew it, I was lost in it again. I began sobbing and swearing and had to go back inside. Losing time. Taking me hours to recover. 

But it’s okay. PMDD used to mean blacking out in fits of rage. So at least I’ve been making progress as my trauma recovery teaches me how to heal. I’m learning. And I’ll take the fog over the blackout any day. Either of which I hope to navigate safely. Hopefully in my new car. 

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Trauma, PMDD and Women’s Mental Health: Straining to See Through Premenstrual Fog 

Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including healing from trauma, coping with neurological disorder and practicing mindfulness in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website for more of her stories.

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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2020). Trauma, PMDD and Women’s Mental Health: Straining to See Through Premenstrual Fog . Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2020
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