“It must be day ten”, I think as I wake up with my body searing with more pain than normal. An intense level of muscle and joint pain is just one of the many symptoms found in this rarely known hormonal imbalance condition called PMDD.
PMDD is a condition linked to a women’s menstrual cycle. For a number of days each month my hormones are out of wack, and cause various symptoms that affect both the body and the mind. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating. I think it is best described as having PMS but on steroids, and not just for a few days towards the end of a cycle, but for one or two days each week. In fact I only really have seven to ten days where my body is not impacted by a symptom of PMDD. It is amazingly accurate as to what symptom is going to appear on what day, but the severity of the symptoms change from month to month.
Although my symptoms have started to improve with natural remedies, I feel that as this condition is so rarely known it might be of benefit to describe what my life is like living with PMDD, particularly when it’s untreated. I think I have had this condition for a long time, but because some of my other illnesses have very similar symptoms, PMDD took a long time to identify. The supplements that I am on have improved my symptoms but certainly haven’t taken them away.
The cycle starts and I start off experiencing the usual pain most women endure. However, for those of us with PMDD the abdominal cramps and pain have started the week prior, along with the insomnia. The insomnia phase of this condition goes on average for two weeks. During this time of insomnia I can sleep anywhere between an hour to five hours a night, sometimes in blocks of two or three hours. Some nights I don’t sleep at all. I feel a lot of the time I am running off adrenaline, and so find I strangely can have a lot of energy during this time, despite the lack of sleep. By the end of the second week and into the third week I am sleeping a lot more, but now waking up because my body is in an extreme amount of pain, my heart is racing and I have night sweats. During this time I can often get a strange taste in my mouth, and I put this down to all the different hormones in action.
For about two to four days, somewhere between day six and ten of the cycle, my body is so sore that every movement causes pain to go shooting everywhere. I am used to constant pain, and usually can ignore it, but this cannot be ignored. I very rarely resort to using painkillers, but on the days were PMDD is at an extreme level, it is hard not to take painkillers just to take the edge off the constant searing pain that pulsates throughout my body.
My mind is greatly impacted at various points in the cycle. The week prior to the cycle I get the usual mood swings all women experience, but usually to an extreme. I become anxious, agitated and irritable. I become way more sensitive and view everything as someone rejecting me. My brain feels foggy. I have difficulty comprehending, am confused and have a lack of ability to concentrate. I get fixated on thoughts and overthink things, and also become sensitive to sound during this time.
Suicidal thoughts are coupled with the heighten sense of rejection and the urge to self-harm. Although, this is a feature of my mental illness as well, with PMDD I can predict three times during this cycle where suicidal thoughts, a sense of rejection and urge to self-harm will be present. I know almost to the day when this will occur, and that it will last for two or three days. The handy thing about knowing is that any negative thoughts outside of these days are a result of mental illness, and so I know that during these times whatever I do the thoughts will remain because the techniques employed to handle the mental illness are not necessarily going to work. Instead I just have to realise the thoughts will be there until it passes and the cycle moves on to the next symptom.
This is what life is like for some living with the rarely known, yet life-altering condition called PMDD.