For quite some time now I have suffered with mood swings, varying from happy to sad, lovely to angry. The last year or so with other things going on I have put it down to stress, and shoved it to the back of my mind. Recently though I have come to see it in a different light. Its almost as though I can watch myself and see it happen, but I can’t quite control it.
More importantly, it is effecting not just me, but the whole family. Because of course, it is always those who are closest that take the brunt of a bad mood. In my job I have to be consistent, I can’t let things get to me. But that doesn’t mean things don’t get to me, it just means that when I get home, one small thing from one of my own children will be the final straw. I become that shouty mum that no one likes, and almost instantly am filled with the mum guilt that comes with it.
Recently a friend of mine shared a post on Facebook and honestly it all clicked. The post was spreading awareness of PMDD, I read the information whilst scrolling through my phone, and something stayed with me. That night I couldn’t sleep, I started to think about my own mental health and things started to make sense. The next day I made an appointment with the doctor.
what is PMDD?
PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is a condition that effects 2-10% of women. It is a cyclical mood based disorder which effects women in the luteal phase, with symptoms easing at the start of their period. There is a whole wealth of information about PMDD here. Although it is connected to your menstrual cycle, it is not hormone based. It is a genetic disorder, which is believed to be hereditary, thanks Mum! Symptoms may be similar to that of PMS, but with higher intensity.
spotting the cycle
Looking through this poster I could see a lot of myself. I am not for one minute saying that I feel all of these things every month. But the signs are there.
From reading through the information and taking time to think about my own situation the cycle became a lot clearer. I knew that I became more difficult to live with nearing the time of my period. And I knew deep down that my mental health maybe needed a little TLC. But I had never connected the two.
Suddenly I could see that my mood swings were only really present during that phase. I could see the extent of my mood swings. Not just being a bit off colour, but lashing out at those I love most for the silliest of things. I feel like I should add, this realisation came at a time when I was feeling okay.
Like most things, when you can see something in clear light, it completely alters your thinking. I had considered seeing a doctor about my mental health, but because the symptoms ease I let it slide. Seeing the cycle encouraged me to do something about it.
I phoned the doctor one Monday morning. To my complete shock they had a cancellation later that day, and James was home so I could go without the children. Even with having a same day appointment, I still very nearly felt like I should cancel. I spoke to James and told him I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to turn up at the surgery, self diagnosing, and looking like a complete fool. James told me to just go, tell the doctor how I feel, and reassured me that I wasn’t being silly.
So I did. I went, I spoke, he listened. Since being sterilised I am no longer on a contraceptive pill. I asked him if that could be the reason. I no longer have artificial hormones to balance my own levels. He agreed that it is a possibility, although, with my youngest being 5, it has obviously been some time since I was taking oral contraceptives.
His recommendation was a low dose anti-depressant. It is something I had considered. And it is something I wasn’t entirely sure about. But with all things considered, I decided this would be a good starting point. Hopefully something to take off the edge whilst I try to figure everything out.
He prescribed me sertraline, one little tablet, once a day. The following morning taking the tablet seemed like a big deal. I was still torn about how I felt about it. But I took my tablet, and obviously didn’t really notice anything at first. Honestly, it is still too early for me to say whether it is helping, but I will continue to try them.
As with all mental health concerns, there are many other forms of treatment to consider. My main goal alongside medication, is to take more time to take care of myself. Self care, its such an indulgent thought isn’t it? Only someone selfish would take time to themselves, to really take care of themselves wouldn’t they?
Well actually, I have come to the realisation that as the woman of the house, I play a pretty vital role. And if I want to take care of everyone else, I really need to take care of myself first. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So I am trying, and its not easy, but I am trying to take some time out for myself. To read a book, to take a long bath, even to scroll through Instagram if that’s what I fancy doing. But most importantly, I am trying not to feel guilty for it.
For me, the next steps are looking at other possible treatments. I want to get back to taking up a little bit of exercise, and I really want to improve my diet. I have got back to awful habits, grazing on unhealthy snacks, skipping meals. Basically, I think it all comes back to taking care of myself again, remembering to ask for help every so often and being kind to myself.
There is an app I have downloaded called Me V PMDD. It can be used to track symptoms and treatment. I have only downloaded it this week, so I can’t comment on its long term use, but it looks like a useful app.
As linked throughout the post there is a whole host of information at IAPMD. There are also facebook groups, and so many people throughout social media that encourage us to be kind to ourselves. One of my favourites, someone who I can always resonate with, who doesn’t specifically cover PMDD but all mental health is Anna at Mamas_Scrapbook.
Hopefully a first line of support can be someone close to you, a partner, friend or relative. But if you feel like you have no one to talk in in real life online support can be an amazing network.
I will hopefully be writing some more on this in a few weeks. When I have given the medication a chance, and hopefully given some of the other treatment options some thought. But for now, I really hope that by sharing my story, I can help someone else.