HOW TO FIGHT PMDD LIKE A WARRIOR
Does your PMS ever feel like demons are trying to suck out your soul? Like you’ll never be cheerful again? Like life is a hurricane of anxiety?
Well, that’s what PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) feels like for me. PMDD, or “severe PMS” has sent me to my knees with crippling depression, anxiety, irritability, and suicidal thoughts almost every luteal phase, since I started menses at 11. And unfortunately, there are lots of silent sufferers out there, since so many of us have never even heard of it before! Why is this? Unfortunately, PMDD falls into a no man’s land at the intersection of gynecology, psychiatry, and endocrinology. Whose disorder is it? Most of us with PMDD symptoms don’t know who to turn to, and many doctors are not yet familiar with treatments. Oh, and also, maybe because historically, women’s pain has been systematically ignored.(1)
But alas, no more!
Here are my top tips to fight PMDD like a warrior:
1. Reframe the battle. For years before my diagnosis, I thought my symptoms were my fault and only felt so intense because I was weak. I blamed myself. I shamed myself. And I suffered undue pain—beyond the PMDD itself—because of that. In the months after my diagnosis, I finally realized that this bag of PMDD hell was just dropped on me, not my fault, and I am wickedly strong to still be breathing under its weight. Then, I said goodbye to suffering. I am fighting this b****! I am a PMDD Warrior! ←That’s my personal juju right there. It’s liberated me, but if it’s not for you, find your own juju out there, my friends.
2. Find your tribe! You, PMDD Warrior, are not alone. I am here and there are thousands more of us online too. Type ‘PMDD’ in on your Facebook search and pick a group that clicks with your journey. Check out Gia Allemand Foundation PMDD Support for starters. Also search #pmdd on Instagram and Twitter to find the most inspiring, empathetic, and badass people with PMDD.
3. Seek Support. Your online tribe is a great place to turn to for support, but you can also get one-on-one peer support from a trained Gia Allemand Foundation peer support provider.
4. Keep tracking your symptoms. Beyond diagnosis, symptom tracking, with an app like Me v PMDD, can help you learn exactly how PMDD affects you, so that you can prepare for the bad days and plan for the good. You can also use tracking to assess all treatments and lifestyle changes.
5. Find a Doctor. Not all docs are down with PMDD. You can search this provider directory to find one who is. If there isn’t one listed in your area, seek out a gynecologist, psychiatrist, functional medicine doctor, or naturopathic doctor that seems pretty woke. If they know about PMDD (A), if they treat PMDD (A+), if they don’t do either, but they listen to you, believe your symptoms, and are willing to learn about this with you using the resources on the Gia Allemand Foundation website, and explore/prescribe treatments (Gold Star).
6. There are treatments. Sometimes you can manage PMDD with diet, exercise, supplements and other healthy lifestyle changes. But sometimes these aren’t enough. Once you find a practitioner you trust, ask about your options. Here are some medical courses that can be taken: antidepressants, birth control pills, chemical menopause (this effectively shuts off your ovaries to stop hormone production), and surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus completely. These are all big choices, so be sure to first find that practitioner you trust, and be sure you fully understand all risks and benefits so you can make the choice that is right for YOU.
7. Arm yourself with self-care and self-love. Self-care is everywhere these days so you probably know it includes ‘treat yo self,’ but it also includes ‘love yo self’ and ‘give yo self a break.’ If you’re fighting PMDD right now, you’re doing a really hard thing, no need to be harder on yourself. Be gentle. This too shall pass.
8. Advocate. This tip is last for a reason. I’ve said before that PMDD is hell, and if you’re in it, you know it. Sometimes, when we’re in that hell our whole selves need to be fighting on our own personal PMDD battlefront. Take care of you first. Always. But if you’re in a place where you can raise your voice and help others, to fight for better awareness and treatments that don’t involve ripping out our wombs, here’s how:
Get involved with Vicious Cycle (PMDD awareness superheroes)
Gia Allemand Foundation (the angels of peer support and resources)
For app-y people, give me a holler at Me v PMDD.
Written by: Brett Buchert, PMDD Warrior in Florida
(1) Kiesel, Laura. “Women and Pain: Disparities in Experience and Treatment.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 7 Oct. 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-and-pain-disparities-in-experience-and-treatment-2017100912562.