My struggle with PMDD

Sometimes it’s hard to know where moods end and reality begins, where “I’m just sad and emo right now, but I know it’ll pass” is truth or where “Maybe I’m really actually depressed” is more of the way things are.

Welcome to my world. I struggle with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, which is just a fancy way of saying I’m hella moody and each period of moods brings out either the best in me or the worst in me.

The extreme mood swings started a few years ago and was the reason I finally gave in, abandoned my long-held belief that I was too good for, or didn’t need, medicinal intervention to help me snap out of it. I’d been depressed before, certainly, and I could see I was headed back down that road. My confusion set in because I wasn’t always depressed, in fact many weeks of the month I was happy and joyful. My highs were extreme highs and my lows were extremely low, bottom of the barrel, rock bottom, lows.

I remember texting or Facebooking one of my friends and telling him that I believed I made my husband and children miserable. All we did was fight. We fought about every little thing, every big thing, every thing in between, then we’d fight about fighting because one of us would point out the other wasn’t doing it correctly. And, with two overprotective, very stubborn, very set in their ways people having a blended family, we fought about kids and everything you can imagine related to raising them and how they’re treated and whatever else. I told my friend that I thought they’d all be better off without me, that sometimes I just wanted to pick up and run away.

(As it turns out, I was right. I made my husband and stepdaughter miserable and they left almost two years later. Over the weekend one of my children, in a fit of tween angst, told me I’m making her life miserable as well. I don’t think she really meant it. Yet.)

I finally decided to seek help because I knew I couldn’t go on that way. In December 2010, during an appointment with my GYN, I discussed my highs and lows, my little freak outs in certain situations and told her I needed help. It’s a very humbling thing to have to admit, especially when your feet are in stirrups.

She prescribed the anti-anxiety pill Zoloft and I started taking it the next day, which was my son and stepdaughter’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I felt like a zombie. I don’t remember anything about that day except my friend telling me I needed to at least act like I wanted to be there, to smile. I was in that Zoloft beginner’s fog for a month, then one day I snapped out of it, I was more productive at work, my moods evened out, and all was right with the world. Or better. When I take my medication regularly.

One night I was researching the side effects of taking Zoloft and birth control pills together, because I believed the BCPs were cancelling out the effects of the anti-depressant, and I found that many women take Zoloft to control PMDD. I’d never heard of such a thing, so I looked it up and I cried. It sounds exactly like me (I have every last symptom on the WebMD page).

I’m still moody, though it’s not as extreme as it was before. My moods are quite often predictable, and they center around my cycle. They go like this: extreme joy and being overcome with blessings (“The beauty of this pasture is a sure sign there is a God! How could you disagree? Just look at it!”), happiness/content (“I’m happy being single. I don’t need a man right now.”), extreme rage (yelling and screaming, flying off the handle over LITTLE things), extreme sadness/hopelessness (“I’ll never be married again; I’ll never have a 50th, much less a 10th, anniversary. I’m going to die alone.” and “No one loves me, I’m unlovable. What’s the point?” and “I don’t know why, I just want to sit here and cry for hours about nothing.”). Wash, rinse, repeat.

Stupid hormones.

Can you imagine what it’s like being both Hilary Faye and the people from the “depression hurts” commercials all in the same month? It’s exhausting. In my depressed mood, it feels like my feelings, my sadness, my hopelessness, my depression is pouring out of my body, my eyes, my arms, my everything, like a tsunami. It’s like I’m bleeding out with sadness and I can’t control it. I am reclusive and creative during these times because I feel like I can bare my soul through words or art. Sometimes I really welcome this mood.

After my husband left, which has been almost a year now, I started skipping pills here and there because I wanted to feel the pain of the divorce. I wanted to grieve and not feel numb to it. I wanted to feel the heartbreak because it was very real and sometimes medication that keeps you on even keel doesn’t allow you to really feel things. And, my God, have I felt it. I still feel it.

I started going to counseling last fall and my therapist also believes I suffer from PMDD, but I’m already on the medication prescribed for it, so there’s nothing to be done, really. I just feel like I’m alone, or like I’m pretending to have something I don’t. “Every woman is moody,” people have told me. Yeah, but every woman doesn’t turn into the possessed Linda Blair just because the phone is ringing off the hook at the office (“I’m the Devil. Now kindly undo these straps.). Every woman doesn’t just wake up the next day and want to dance around reenacting the Alps scene from “The Sound of Music.”

I know there’s a stigma attached to people who rely on medication to be happy, agreeable people, but I don’t care. I’m a human being and sometimes we need to be fixed, just like a car or a house. My mom’s car sometimes stalls out after you put gas in it, so there’s a special little routine she has to do in order to keep it running smoothly; for me, being on medication is like that. I often joke about it, but that’s because I want to make light of the fact that apparently I can’t get through life without it, that I need medicine to help me cope with things my body and my mind aren’t doing on their own.

My depressed mood is lasting longer than usual this time and so I’m beginning to wonder if it really is depression or if I just need to give myself a little more time. Maybe I just need to feel what’s going on around me? Because a lot has changed in the last few months, and not only is living on your own for the first time ever very stressful, it’s a daily reminder of how you ended up in the cute little cottage with the purple bedroom in the first place: a broken family, a broken marriage, a broken heart. (It’s easier to deal with if you hate your ex-husband, or husbands in my case, but I don’t.)

I know I’ve been blessed with a lot of good fortune, and I’m thankful for it. I’m not so sure I’m thankful for the broken brain, though.


2 thoughts on “My struggle with PMDD

  1. Wendy McElroy
    August 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Thank you for sharing so openly.
    I’ve often compared medication for depression and other mental struggles to medicine for diabetes. Would you feel guilty if you needed insulin? It’s not a crutch, it’s a chemical correction for your body.

  2. Merrilee
    August 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I totally agree Wendy. Make no apologies. xx