I Have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, And This Is What It's Like

by Kathy Soppet
Originally Published: 
A woman with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder lying awake and uncovered in bed
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock

Two weeks ago, I had to run out of my doctor’s office. I was in the waiting room and was hit by a giant wave of extreme panic, the likes of which I had never felt before. As an anxiety sufferer, I thought I knew what panic was, but boy, was I wrong. I couldn’t even say goodbye to my husband and 5-year-old son. I just kept running.

I was completely overwhelmed and out of control. I did not know what was happening to me, I just wanted it to stop. Please let it stop. I ran to our car and my husband and child joined me shortly after. I could barely get out the words, “Take me home now!”

I am extremely fortunate that my husband is a psychiatric nurse. He was able to recognize my symptoms of panic, and gave me some of my Xanax as soon as we got home. He held my hand and comforted me the whole time. After five or ten minutes, I started gaining some control. The seasick type feeling I was experiencing subsided. I could let go. I was back on the shores of sanity. For now.

I was so lucky to be in the presence of someone with extensive psychiatric knowledge. I was so lucky to be in the presence of a man who was not scared away by this event. He never left my side. He only held me and listened to what I had to say with no judgment. He listened as we tried to figure out what was going on.

I have been suffering from chronic Lyme disease for almost three years now, and six other chronic diseases for almost twenty. It is often hard for me to figure out what is wrong with me since I have so many symptoms. It is a constant tidal wave of pain and anguish.

I usually blame my chronic Lyme disease for my discomfort, since it is my worst illness which often causes mayhem.

But I have never experienced severe panic attacks before. This was new. This felt different.

I explained to my husband that this felt hormonal and unlike my Lyme disease symptoms. He agreed that it could be my PMDD worsening.

I was diagnosed with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) five years ago, right after the birth of my son. I was put on birth control pills, and they helped to keep it at bay for over three years, but are no longer working.

I never suffered from PMS, and had no idea that something like PMDD even existed, or was so awful and debilitating. According to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, it is a severe form of PMS that affects about 3-8% of women in their reproductive years. It can happen to anyone, but their are a few risk factors including age, family history, and prior anxiety or mood disorders. The symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, panic, lack of control, confusion, trouble sleeping, headache, cramping, nausea, hot flashes, dizziness, heart palpitations, sadness, suicidal ideation,feeling overwhelmed and social isolation.

John Hopkins Medicine describes PMDD as follows: “an abnormal reaction to normal hormone changes that occur with each menstrual cycle. The hormone changes can cause a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is a substance found naturally in the brain and intestines that narrows blood vessels and can affect mood and cause physical symptoms.”

I am not myself right now, and I am currently debilitated from it. I was already low-functioning due to my other issues, but now I can barely perform any daily tasks. My family is suffering, and I can’t feel much joy or even leave the house much due to my extreme fear and ongoing symptoms.

I’m caught in the jaws of PMDD, and I struggle to be set free.

I hope and pray that the treatments my doctors prescribed will help very quickly. Some of the suggested treatments are medication, light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, lifestyle and diet changes, and some herbal remedies. Due to the severity of my PMDD, I must try many of these options. I will start medication in a few days. I will pray for it to work quickly. If it does not, I may have to pursue other more drastic measures such as oophorectomy/hysterectomy .

This is very hard for me to deal with. The feelings of fear, loneliness and despair are all consuming. I want to plan fun trips with my family. I want my kids to enjoy their summer vacation. I want to be a good loving mom again. But until my PMDD is under control, many things are on hold. My life is on hold.

I must bear this burden, I have no choice. I will pray for an end to the panic attacks for they are the worst part of this. They are almost unbearable for me because they are terrifying and temporarily impair me. They make it impossible for me to be fully present and able to handle any emergencies that may arise, such as my son suffering an anaphylactic event due to his food allergies.

I must get this under control. I know I will eventually, I just don’t know how long it will take.

I had to take medication just to be able to write this story because just thinking about it induces panic. That has never happened to me before. Writing is my escape. It is my joy, my calling and my blessing. It is currently being taken away from me by the great leviathian called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Like a chum-filled ocean, my thoughts are cloudy, and I want to escape before the next shark takes the bait. I am uncharacteristically writing this fast so that I can try to out swim the panic. It creeps up on me slowly, it entraps me, it encircles me.

Like a shark looking for its next meal, it sees me struggling on the water. My legs kicking swiftly just to try to keep afloat. My hands swirling around, I must keep treading. I cannot go under.

But when it has me in its grasp, I struggle to breathe, I struggle to speak, I struggle to swallow. I want to run. I want to escape. I want to be anywhere else. I want to be anyone else.

I want to be free.

But my heart keeps pounding, my head keeps aching, my mind keeps racing.

I would give anything to have a simple bad hair day, but this is simply intolerable.

I need Chief Brody to destroy the monster inside of me.

I need to become fearless like Quint to be able to keep fighting, but I’m trying not to be swallowed whole by this and suffer his ultimate fate. Like he said in Jaws, “You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn.”

I’m trying to wait for my turn to be healed. And I am very frightened.

I may need a bigger boat…..full of hope….

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