I have been a long-time sufferer of PMS or PMDD. There are many opinions and beliefs about this subject, but I am here to tell you that they could have done a case study on me to prove the same findings and conclusions that indicate the reality of these hormonally charged conditions. PMS is a real problem; PMDD moreso. Basically, PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, but when someone says “PMS” just about everybody knows what that means: cranky, edgy, bloaty, hungry, teary, snippy, sleepy, crampy, crazy, nauseous, headachy, give-me-chocolate-or-leave-me-the-heck-alone- goshdarnit!!! What it also means for me is that everything is more extreme, and it is actually more difficult to manage my emotions & feelings, my behavior, and my thought processes.
Since I was a teenager, and also one of those lucky girls to “blossom” at an early age, I always suffered from extreme irritability and what may be referred to as “irrational” crying over ev-er-y-thing. Generally speaking, this occurred in those same few cycle days each month – to only be followed by horrendous cramps for one or two days that often had me begging to go home from school, and almost just as often had me in bed with tylenol, Midol & a heating pad.
To be honest – I hate the way I act, the way I feel, the way I think during this time. I do my best to change the way I act and feel and think, but it is not just as simple as an “attitude change.” That is why “Dr Jekyll, Mrs. Hyde” is a pretty good moniker for me! It’s as if I become a different person, and for a long time there was very little I could DO to ease my way through it, other than to isolate myself in order to prevent lashing out at the people who irritated, annoyed or otherwise set me off…
25+ years later, and the symptoms each month have gradually intensified to an unpleasant, but recognizable level. I say recognizable because as a teenager, I wasn’t truly aware of what was happening to me. My mom didn’t have the same kind of symptoms when she was a teenager, and it didn’t seem that PMS was common knowledge either in her time or mine. As I grew older, more people began to talk about PMS, but it was always a kind of joke or label. Along the lines of calling a cranky woman a b*tch – PMS was just another label to apply to some woman who appeared to be “inexplicably” angry or cranky. “Irrational” was another one of my favorite things to hear. (How stupid to say that to someone suffering from PMS!!!)
Having experienced many degrees of this hormonal hurricane, for me PMS is something like a level 1, PMDD like a level 3, and Postpartum Depression (PPD) is something like a Level 5 on the hurricane scale. To have such havoc wreaked on my mind, body, and spirit by my own hormones has been both distressing and difficult, for myself and for those around me. The problem is, until I suffered from Postpartum Depression, seeking medical treatment for PMS / PMDD seemed silly to me. I felt that telling someone I thought I had PMS would produce that same eye-rolling, shoulder-shrugging, tongue-clucking response I’d seen before. For a long time, it had no validity and people believed it was just an “excuse” for a woman to behave badly. However, after suffering these same sets of symptoms from month to month for almost 3 decades, and feeling their effects at varying levels throughout my life, I can say that I’m grateful that these things have been validated by research and studies and been given diagnostic criteria, leading to honest-to-goodness treatment methods.
PMS / PMDD / PPD are not just attitude problems or excuses for a woman to be “irrational.” And for those of you who suffer from this, or for those of you who love and live with women who suffer from this – I will have some suggestions – at least the ones that work for me – in Part II.