As a teenager, I remember having to leave class sometimes because of the cramps, dizziness, migraine. I also remember feeling very tearful, and much more sensitive to rejection around certain times of the month.
At university I had boyfriends, and they commented that 'I definitely got PMS!'. I can remember staying in my bedroom crying all evening on occasions, while my bemused boyfriend sat in the living room watching TV. After I finished my degree, I was on a progestogen-only pill at the time, I started charting my symptoms and self-diagnosed myself with PMS.
I started my first job and I was ok for another year or so, until I had another relationship and took a progestogen-only pill again. This one made me drowsy and depressed, and I lost my libido. My ex-boyfriend and I argued a lot when I had PMS. He didn't understand it made me dopey/scatty, and so got annoyed when things went wrong which weren't my fault, just misunderstandings on my part because i wasn't really 'with it'! After I came off that pill, my moods were worse again. I started developing 'monthly' depression and lots of other symptoms, including hot flashes during my period.
So I started seeing GP's and gynecologists, trying to get some help for the moods. A long road, since none of them seemed to understand that PMS could be that much of a problem, or would admit to me that contraceptive pills had side-effects! Because they didn't listen to me, it felt like a constant battle, not what you need when you feel low anyway! Sometimes you do really have to fight to get what you want, especially with poorly recognised conditions like PMDD. It is worth spending time looking for a sympathetic doctor though.
My main symptoms are anger, depression, fatigue, migraines, feeling overwhelmed, or uncomfortable & restless and unable to concentrate on anything. On top of all that, I feel quite lonely when I have PMS. It's hard to explain to people that you are feeling 'crap' because periods are a taboo subject, especially with most men. People think you are weird if you talk about your hormones, or call you a hypochondriac. So you feel shit but aren't allowed to talk about it with out risking a negative reaction. People are a stress-trigger, and so I am more wary of social situations when in PMDD phase, and so it's easier to distance yourself. But during my period is also when I feel most needy, I guess i want to be looked after and have the pain 'taken away'. I also crave affection more. So I feel torn between wanting to be around people but also feeling unsociable and ill.
In the past, PMDD has made relationships more difficult because of the mood swings, but I've been more depressed when I've been alone. A therapist said any illness can put you more in touch with subconscious feelings, and that the psychological defenses come down. So perhaps what I am feeling, isn't completely irrational or pointless. Even my mum said that PMS may make you 'overreact' but the trigger is still real. In the past i've spent too much time feeling guilty and apologising for my moods, when sometimes they may have been caused by other people's behaviour. I've blamed too much on my hormones (and therefore myself).
The reptilian/primitive part of the brain controls our basic emotions (love, hate, fear, lust). In experiments where people have to make a decision on a computer simulator and have had a brain scan at the same time, the unconscious parts of the brain make the decision, and the 'conscious/thinking part' of the brain lights up afterwards, giving us the illusion that it has made the decision. I think it's the same when you feel depressed, the 'thinking part' of your brain is looking for reasons for your bad mood. This may be why you blame people around you, or self-blame (depression). I don't think it's true for me that negative thoughts cause depression, negative thoughts may come from trying to rationalise my mood. Many illness's and drugs can cause 'biological' depression.
I was lucky to see Dr Panay, to receive HRT treatment for PMDD, which hasn't cured my moods completely but I don't suffer from the suicidal lows that I used to. Although I took this in conjunction with seeing a psychotherapist and swimming regularly, which may have helped too. I used to think "why see a shrink for something biological?" But if you can afford it, it does help having someone to talk to. And the mind and body are not separate entities, they are linked.
Bad relationships, work stress and contraceptive pills have always made PMDD worse for me. And I've worked hard recently to rid my life of stressful people and to have more control over my life. The same with men. On the whole I feel positive and happy at the moment but the oestrogen implant will wear out of my system in 6 months time, so we will see. I stopped HRT treatment because I became intolerant to progesterone. I have already noticed my concentration dropping at work.
Given hormones aggravate other illness's and psychiatric disorders, it could be that PMDD just intensifies existing problems. Or it could be biological, or caused by lifestyle (not enough sunlight/diet/the contraceptive pill?). Perhaps it has many causes. Whatever the cause, it's extremely distressing and prevents some women from fully living their life. And it would be great if they did more research into it, especially as hormones play such a big part in our personality and behaviour.