Growing up I learned that periods are taboo, and we shall never talk about them in public. From dealing with menstrual cramps to figuring out whether to use tampons or pads, my journey with my menstrual cycle has been one of ups and downs.
Ever since I was a little girl, I was always a bit anxious. I’d always be nervous and could never relax. As I grew up, things just got worse. It wasn’t only being nervous now, it was being emotional all the time, having panic attacks, and not being able to socialize. The one that became the worst was the emotions. There were days where I’d feel so sad and distraught that I could barely get out of bed. This started to affect my school work and relationships.
Slowly, I started to realize that I felt these feelings the most during certain times of the month; yes, right before my period. I knew that a menstrual period could affect people’s mood, but this much? It didn’t make sense, but because I never learned to talk about these issues, I kept it to myself until it became unbearable.
That’s when I decided to finally ask my OB-GYN about it. “That’s not really just PMS,” she told me after telling her my symptoms. She introduced me to PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a premenstrual syndrome variant. In order to get a PMDD diagnosis, you need at least five of the listed symptoms as determined by the American Psychiatric Association. The symptoms according to the Office of Women’s Health are:
- Anger and irritability
- Depression and suicidal ideation
- Anxiety, tension and panic attacks
- Mood swings and frequent crying
- Lack of interest in typical routines
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Binge eating and food cravings
She gave me a small calendar to fill out with symptoms I felt every day for three months. That’s when I noticed that yeah, my symptoms were pretty severe and I probably qualified as someone with PMDD. Turns out, I did have it.
So now what? I asked myself. My OB-GYN gave me a list of the next steps. I had to change my diet and lifestyle. I was vegetarian and she recommended I start eating at least seafood to add more protein to my diet. I also had to incorporate more potassium. I also had to implement a strict exercise routine, such as walking thirty minutes every single day. Lastly, I also had to start on contraceptives.
Living with undiagnosed PMDD was really challenging, I was always the difficult friend, the one people had to tiptoe around. Although sometimes challenges still arise, a strict diet, exercise, and contraceptives changed my life.
If you think you could have PMDD, I highly recommend talking to your doctor. I didn't even know this existed prior to bringing my feelings up. Don’t let society write you off as crazy, because your feelings and emotions are valid. And let’s start talking about periods as what they are, women’s health, nothing taboo about that.