Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dealing with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

My lovely love Whitney took this picture for me in NYC.
The following entry is deeply personal and potentially upsetting to those with emotional or mental issues, as it deals with a physiological condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I feel strongly about sharing this, but I am aware that it is a difficult topic. Please read at your own risk.

My mental life spiraled out of control after my miscarriage between Jacko and Lucy—I could not get control of my thoughts or my actions. I know now that I suffered greatly from postpartum depression, but the worst of it was the 72 hours before I started my period.

Each month, for those three days, I would spend every second that baby Jacko cried crying along with him. If my daily exercise was interrupted or I could not eat healthily like I desired, I would veer wildly into a crazed fury. My brain would turn into some sort of extremism machine: each irritation turned into murderous anger and every happiness became an ephemeral wisp of time.

I made my husband and my baby miserable.

The final straw for this behavior came when my husband returned home from work one day two years ago. My red puffy eyes looked into his uncertain ones, and I unveiled the tops of my thighs. I had been angry that Jack would not sleep, which caused me to punch my thighs in anger. There were easily twenty knuckle marks on each of my legs, which bruised and took seemingly forever to fade away.

I never thought of hurting Jack or Caleb, in even my worst times. That was never an option. I felt that I was the problem and sought any means necessary to deal with myself.

Caleb made me go to the doctor the next day, who didn't even need me to finish listing my symptoms before he diagnosed me. His treatment was to put me on Prozac; I wasn't even on it a full two weeks before I began to feel like my old self again. I still take 20 mg of Prozac every day.

Those 72 hours per month were still hard, but the extremes were gone.

Usually, once women with PMDD become pregnant again, their hormones reset and their disorder eliminates itself. I was not so lucky—I still battle this demon, two years later.

There is a school of thought that claims PMDD is not a "real" condition. This is not unlike the thinking towards Restless Leg Syndrome or other new medical terms. To those who scoff, I would like to remind you that you can't know what a disease or disorder fully is until you yourself have it. With how I felt after my diagnosis and treatment, I wouldn't have cared if I had actually been a mutant or blasted with some Hulk-like radiation—I just wanted to feel better.

Here is a reliable list of symptoms that may help you understand yourself or others who might be dealing unwittingly with this condition.


I tell you all of that first, because I also want to express that, for me, there is also a plus side to PMDD.

Since I have been dealing with this disorder, I have been feeling more bold in those 72 hours than in the rest of the month combined. I know what you're thinking: "How could you be more bold?"

My usual brand of boldness doesn't really hurt anyone. Me wearing loud shoes or introducing myself to someone I think is interesting has never damaged anyone but myself. But my PMDD empowers me to channel all of my negative thoughts and actually do something about them.

There are aspects of my life in which I am deeply unhappy and doing anything about them would burn some definite bridges. These three days are the ones where I really consider doing something about those portions.

What I am trying to say is that my PMDD encourages me to want to be wholly happy. Weird, but true.

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