“That Time of the Month”: Living with PMDD

Written By: Melissa Roth, M.A., The Kim Foundation Volunteer

Is it that time of the month? Ladies raise your hands if you have been asked this when you are feeling sad, mad, or any feeling other than happiness. I can confidentially assume most of the women reading this article probably just raised their hands. As soon as our cycles start as young girls, we are programmed to think that our periods cause our emotions or mood swings at least one a month. That being moody comes with being a woman and to just live with it. It has been the center of jokes on tv, movies, social media, and much more. Heck, in 1990, the show “Roseanne” dedicated an entire episode to PMS and the impact Roseanne’s mood changes had on the entire family.

Due to this perception, many women feel their extreme PMS symptoms or PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is normal and emotionally changing into a different person once a month is how periods are supposed to go. They are told it is all in their head, that they just need chocolate, or need to chill out. Many of these women, are afraid to see their doctor because it is just our periods…all women must deal with them!!!

According to The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD), 1 in 20 women are diagnosed with PMDD and 30% of those women will attempt suicide. The site defines PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) as a cyclical, hormone-based mood disorder with symptoms arising during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and subsiding within a few days of menstruation. The symptoms are often like other mood disorders so misdiagnosis is high and finding the correct treatment options can be difficult.

I was one of those women and suffered in silenced for many years. Not knowing that my body was not handling hormone changes well. My body was calling out for help. The extreme monthly symptoms impacted my family greatly. Once a month, I turned into a wife and mom that was angry, showing rage, not able to maintain her household chores, not wanting to get out of bed or go to work, and even having suicidal thoughts. My mood swings made relationships with my husband and kids almost impossible. Seven to ten days out of the month my symptoms made it impossible for me to function emotionally. I did not want to be around myself, so I was not shocked they did not want to be around me.

I recently, had an increase in symptoms after five years of symptoms being managed (managed but not completely gone) through a daily anti-depressant. During the summer of 2020, I started having the monthly suicidal thoughts again, along with weight gain, food cravings, mood changes, anger/rage, fatigue, and immense feeling of being overwhelmed. At first, I thought the sudden changes was due to the pandemic and feeling trapped in the house but then during the second month of symptoms noticed as soon as my period would end…. back to my normal goal-driven, happy, productive, and caring self. One day wanting everyone in my family to get away from me to the next day being back to meal prepping, baking cookies, and helping with chores and homework.

 I tracked symptoms for 3 months and knew I needed to dig into what treatment options I had. I met Dr. Jamie Seeman with Mid City OBGYN through the 2020 Mrs. Nebraska pageant and decided to reach out to her to find out where to even begin. I was told previously that anti-depressants or birth control were the only treatment options for PMDD. I was nervous reaching out to Dr. Jamie but knew I needed to find a doctor that would listen and help me figure it out. Being completely open about all my symptoms was not an easy thing to talk about. During my first visit, Dr. Jamie went through all my symptoms and truly listened. Not once did she make me feel like this was all in my head. She did lab work and came up with a game plan on what we could try to make the symptoms go away. I was low in Vitamin D which studies show is linked to PMDD symptoms, put on birth control to completely stop my cycle, and continued the anti-depressant.

I am now on month two of this treatment plan. The first month, I noticed a huge change right away. I still had days where I did not want to get out of bed and became easily angered, but there was no rage or suicidal thoughts. It was improvement. I am hopeful that this month shows even greater improvement. I regained hope that I would not be controlled by my PMDD again. That hope also led to me being open about my PMDD diagnosis. I was originally diagnosed in 2015 and besides my husband and a few close friends, it was a secret. I even made the hard decision to not participate in the 2021 Mrs. Nebraska pageant so I could focus on getting my overall health back. I deferred my local title of Mrs. Omaha to the 2022 pageant and have decided to make PMDD’s connection to suicide my official speaking platform. I have learned from my journey, that many women do not know about PMDD and are suffering not having answers why they feel out of control or suicidal monthly.

Ladies……my message to you. TRUST YOUR BODY!! Your period does not have to be miserable. Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about anything out of the normal. Track your symptoms if you notice or are told there is a pattern (I used the health app on iPhone to track symptoms). Take the time to find out what works for you. The depression that comes with PMDD can be painful and 30% of women who suffer from PMDD will attempt suicide. Treatment can work for you. Talk to you friends, family, doctor, or support groups. If you are experiencing five or more of the symptoms listed below reach out to your doctor for more information:

SYMPTOMS OF PMDD (Source IAPMD website)

• Mood/emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, feeling suddenly sad or tearful, or increased sensitivity to rejection)

• Irritability, anger, or increased interpersonal conflicts*

 • Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, feeling worthless or guilty*

• Anxiety, tension, or feelings of being keyed up or on edge

• Decreased interest in usual activities (e.g., work, school, friends, hobbies)

• Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or thinking; brain fog

• Tiredness or low energy

• Changes in appetite, food cravings, or overeating

• Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness) or insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)

• Feeling overwhelmed or out of control

• Physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, bloating or weight gain

Husbands…Family…. Friends…my message to you. Be patient if you have a loved one with PMDD. Treatments are not easy to figure out and the full reality is your loved one is not doing this on purpose. They are not trying to make life difficult. They do not want to be angry, depressed, and thinking you would be better off without them. Learn what you can do about PMDD if your loved one is diagnosed and do not be afraid to talk about it.

A huge shoutout to my husband Logan. He has stood by my side through this journey and recently has taken on learning more about PMDD. Our conversations have led to me not only seeking treatment but also figuring out a game plan when symptoms do show up. He admits previously, he did not understand and had the thought that “all women have periods…suck it up and deal with it”. Logan taking on wanting to learn more helps push me to continue finding the treatment that works for me and makes me not afraid to discuss how I am feeling.

I am also a firm believer that God puts the right people in your life at the right time. Dr. Jamie Seeman has been amazing at listening to my symptoms and finding ways to help me. Thank you, Jamie, for being willing to help me and figure out what is going on. You have also inspired me to talk about my journey and help educate on PMDD and how many people face these challenges.

PMDD can change your life and your relationships. Talking through how you are feeling, honestly admitting what thoughts you are having, and being open to treatment can all make life saving differences in your journey. You are worth every piece of happiness life can bring!!! Life is not better off without you!!!