We loved speaking to Danielle last week and finding out more about her experience with PMDD. Danielle is a busy working mum of two who very kindly took some time out to chat to us about her condition.
Danielle, tell me a bit about yourself!
I live in Bangor with my husband and two kids and I work for Community Calling. We are a matching service so we connect individuals in need with organisations that can help them, whether they are experiencing poverty, abuse, mental health issues etc.
A lot of women seem to have experienced PMDD but it doesn’t seem to be a topic that is talked about often. Maybe because some women don’t know what it is and it’s perceived as normal to have mood swings and fluctuating hormones during your period. What do you think?
Oh yes but the hormones are worse! I was pregnant to full term twice but I never experienced the hormonal effects that I did with PMDD. That’s with me breastfeeding both times which really disrupts your hormones.
At what point did you realise you needed help and how old were you?
I was 36/37 and I think the problem began when I stopped breastfeeding towards the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018. I always remember my mum telling me I could be quite horrible the week before my period when growing up but I had never been so angry!
What symptoms did you find were heightened by PMDD?
I was getting very angry, all the time over the silliest things like something being out of place in the house or the hoovering not being done. I just blew up and this went on for a while.
Some people that have PMDD can have suicidal thoughts, did you?
No. I did feel those low moments where I thought my family would be better off without me but I never thought about committing suicide. During my low moments I would just lay in my bedroom crying or slam doors a lot. I would even leave the house with my husband standing there and kids crying. It was really horrendous but thankfully it doesn’t happen anymore.
What advice did you get from your GP?
I was told I could take an antidepressant in the two weeks leading up to my period or I could take a smaller dosage throughout the month. At the time, I didn’t want to go down that road. Instead, I asked for counselling but a year and a half later I was still waiting. I then had an assessment but still waited for another year after that. I decided this couldn’t go on any longer and finally managed to get in house counselling this year, right before lockdown. Probably a good time to get it! The counselling definitely helped, even though it was through my doctor. We need improved access to counselling services over here.
How did you cope in the years that you were unable to get counselling?
I ended up telling the doctor that I needed something to keep me level because of the extreme highs and lows I was experiencing. I was either screaming at someone or crying in the corner and that was always a week to ten days prior to my period. I would just turn into a monster which was awful, especially with my husband and two kids being around it.
Did you ever try and find ways to ease the PMDD symptoms yourself?
I did take a high dose of starflower oil. Evening primrose oil did nothing for me unfortunately. Going out for walks with the kids and the dogs also helped but it was still always there bubbling away in the back of my mind, always making me feel that I could explode at any moment. So that’s why I asked my doctor for the antidepressant which has worked. When I started having counselling, my counsellor asked me if I thought I might be able to reduce the dosage but I think I will be on it until I stop having periods. Then who knows!
Was the contraceptive pill ever an option to try and regulate your hormones?
I didn’t really want to take contraception because when I came off it to try for my first child, it completely messed up my periods. They were so irregular which made it more difficult to get pregnant. I didn’t go back onto it after having my first child because it took two and a half years to have him.
What advice would you have for women who are experiencing PMDD symptoms but don’t know how to go forward?
Talk about it! Talk to your GP. I wish I got the help I needed sooner and if you are able to take an antidepressant then do it. That and the counselling really helped me.