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Anxiety, Tears, Mood Swings: PMDD Drove Me to a Breaking Point

“What was I thinking? What was I doing? What has happened to me? Have I gone crazy?”

Updated
Her Health
7 min read
Underlying depression and anxiety are common in both PMS and PMDD.
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Strong, superwoman, fighter, optimistic, confident!

These are some of the adjectives you will hear from the people who know me when asked about me.

Justifiable to a large extent (keeping modesty aside), considering the odds I've had to face in life and how I chose to face them.

I was just 26 when my son was diagnosed with autism and 33 when my husband had to undergo a major surgery for a life threatening condition. While it would have been easier for me to get shattered, I chose to fight back the odds with optimism.

I remember tearing my son's report that had a very bleak prognosis of his condition and telling myself:

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I Don’t Ever Give In

No one can tell me what he will be 15 years from now, no one can predict what he will or will not be able to do. I will keep my faith and belief, and work hard to make miracles happen.

And miracles did happen and we continue celebrating his every achievement. He surpassed the benchmarks somebody had set for him which is nothing short of a miracle.

My spirit, my belief, my strength was unshakeable even when my husband was being wheeled into the operation theatre. I sent him off with a smile on my face and the faith that he will come out fit and fine. I did not once breakdown during his 12-day-stay at the hospital and the miracle happened again. The only time I cried was when I couldn’t control tears of joy, relief and gratitude when the doctor told me that the 10-hour-long surgery was successful.

It's important to talk about this to give a perspective to you about the kind of person I am and how I have dealt with tough times.

It’s important to talk about this to give a perspective to you about the kind of person I am and how I have dealt with tough times.
It’s important to talk about this to give a perspective to you about the kind of person I am and how I have dealt with tough times.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

But Something Changed...

But a year later something happened that shook me. I had been feeling unusually low for a few days (today I can't even recall what I was feeling low about and why I was being so negative).

Driving to work one day I had these random negative thoughts that led to a moment when I thought to myself wouldn’t it be easier if I could end this all? Suicidal thoughts had crept in.
I was going going through the options to figure out the least painful method to end my life.
I was going going through the options to figure out the least painful method to end my life.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

I was going going through the options to figure out the least painful method to end my life. The strong headed woman in me could only fight back to the point where I prayed to God to help me end it by making it easier for me, by giving me some terminal disease instead of ending it myself. I was just talking to myself aloud as I drove.

Just then my boss called and I ended up getting into an ugly argument with him. Even he found my reactions strange and asked:

What’s wrong with you? Is everything ok? Why are you, out of all people, being so unreasonable?
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"I don't know", I replied in a choked voice as tears welled up in my eyes. I think even he was shocked because I'm usually this chirpy, energetic person you'll usually spot with a smile on her face. "You take care we'll discuss this later and if something is bothering you, you can talk about it", was all he could say as I ended the conversation.

I reached office, but couldn't concentrate on work. The negativity was disabling. I left for home early cause by then I had started cramping. I took to comfort-eating the moment I reached home. Thinking back, now I don't even know if I can call it comfort eating.

In a span of three hours, I had gorged on a sandwich, four packets of cookies, three packets of chips and half a tub of ice cream, and had ordered butter chicken for dinner. Well, I managed to eat that too and as soon as I finished stuffing myself, I realised I couldn't breathe. I started crying while my husband watched in shock and horror. The discomfort from the so-called comfort eating and the realisation that something is wrong with me hit hard at that point.

What was I thinking? What was I doing? Why did I just continue to eat to the point where even breathing became difficult? What has happened to me? Have I gone crazy?

When Panic Set In

I started panicking and spent the next two hours throwing up and crying inconsolably.

I couldn't sleep the whole night knowing whatever happened that day wasn't normal. The uncontrollable behaviour, the suicidal thoughts, whatever it was, was scary and I couldn't let it overpower me and I needed help.

I knew it had something to do with my menstruation cycle.
I knew it had something to do with my menstruation cycle.
(Photo: iStock)

I knew it had something to do with my menstruation cycle as, lately, I had been noticing extreme irritability around the time of my periods, episodes of unreasonable outbursts and crying over petty issues which I had been dismissing as regular PMS and mood swings.

The next day I took an off from work and was sitting with my gynaecologist discussing what I've been going through. She heard me out patiently, asked me a few questions, noted a few points on the prescription,  counselled me and enlightened me about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and explained how chemical imbalances lead to a more severe form of PMS.

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Could Nutritional Deficiency Have Been a Reason?

She couldn't really point out with surety, but she believed that this could have happened because of some fancy crash diet I had been following to lose weight for a few months. Nutritional deficiency could have led to low serotonin levels. She then immediately referred me to a psychiatrist.

So, there I was sitting at a shrink's couch, telling him about myself and what I was going through. He explained my condition to me again and discussed about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI, drugs used as antidepressants).

With the prescription of low dose SSRI in my hand and more knowledge of my condition, I walked out of his office determined to win another fight, but for myself this time. Thankfully, the premenstrual phase had passed and some sanity had started prevailing.

Nutritional deficiency could have led to low serotonin levels.
Nutritional deficiency could have led to low serotonin levels.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Of Side Effects and More

Even though my doctor had told me about the side effects that people face when they begin the SSRI therapy, the first few days on the meds weren't easy. Despite nausea and vomiting in the first few days to extreme lethargy and drowsiness in the first two weeks, I can now look back and say it was worth it. After the first month, the side effects disappeared and I started feeling better. By the third month, I just had some minor mood swings and the obvious chocolate craving right before my periods. I had corrected my nutritional deficiencies by adding supplements like folate, omega 3 and 6, and gave up that fad diet for good.

My family and friends was extremely supportive and the discussions around PMDD were done in a casual way, like we’d discuss any other health issue. The fact that I was on antidepressants wasn’t made out to be a big deal.

I'm told now my mother was initially a little skeptical about me being on meds and said, "She has stayed strong and faced such extremely difficult situations in life with her grit and a grin. Ab aisa kya hua hai (what has happened now) that she's getting depressed? Maybe she's hiding something from us, maybe something really big is bothering her."

She worried. But there was nothing. Believe me, when the chemicals in your brain go haywire, you don't even need a reason to feel depressed or anxious. You start creating your own monsters.

Thankfully my brother who was visiting us from the US, explained to her that PMDD in my case was a result of chemical imbalances, specifically low levels of serotonin, and that SSRIs would help in correcting that imbalance.

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The Road to Recovery

I'm being weaned off SSRIs now and have started making some lifestyle changes by working out and eating a nutritious diet.

Ladies, PMDD is real and it can hit you hard. If it can be so difficult for a strong willed person like me, I shudder to think what it could do to other women.

It is not about how weak or strong you are as a person.
It is not about how weak or strong you are as a person.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

It is not about how weak or strong you are as a person, this chemical locha can affect anyone, even the strongest of us, and can mess up your thought process and life.

My advice:

Dear ladies, don't wait for sh*t to hit the roof, and dear men, please, if you notice some extreme changes in the behaviour of the women around you, during particular days of the month, subtly suggest that they see a gynaecologist, or share articles like this one with them.

PS: For your own safety, ensure that you advise them when they are in the calm mode and more receptive!

(This is a blog piece written by a member of The Quint’s sales team. The views expressed are personal.)

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