TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon something, just lots of whatever it is.
All the time I get asked to tell my stories of my weird ailments and my struggles with my period and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). I speak very openly about it because I refuse to feel YUCKY about my body.
I’ve had horrid trouble with my period my entire life, but after my second child, the mood swings became extraordinarily unbearable. My brain became someone else’s. Someone that would contemplate suicide, that found fault in everything they did, that was so paranoid about her relationships that it undermined them horribly like clockwork. I also struggled with having a high level of prolactin, a hormone associated with breastfeeding and is usually attributed to a benign brain tumor. I had odd, searing, burning pains in my stomach and sides, and my stomach would swell into a hard mass that made me look the same as I did when I was 7 months pregnant. This is a very short synopsis of the worsening conditions that entirely disabled my life increasingly until new pains began about a month or two ago. And the bleeding was incredibly unhealthy, the kind nobody could live through for long.
I’d known I had a couple of big ol’ fibroid tumors, just like almost every woman does, but these ones were now getting out of control. My fantastic doctor had them measured, did all the stuff he needed to, and we opted for a partial hysterectomy because they “couldn’t be allowed to take over,” he said.
YAY, LET’S DO IT ON FRIDAY THE 13TH.
So we did. Turns out my uterus had somehow been pushed up so goddamn far, that it not only dragged my cervix along like an unwilling cat on a leash, but it attached itself to my stomach lining in the front and pushed my bladder into a corner, and put pressure on my diaphragm. My doctor told my husband that surgery was like walking into the kitchen and finding your table glued to the ceiling. It was totally unexpected.
Unfortunately, unexpected medical cases and me are super good friends. See also: aborting fibroid tumor. Or don’t, if you value your last meal.
The point of all this is not to tell you my scary story, but to tell you to PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY.
I go to the doctor regularly. I have a fantastic OBGYN, who finds things that no other doctor does and fixes them. I’m very thorough in tracking my symptoms because *I* need to know what to expect the following month so I can say, “ah yes, this is about the time I called the suicide hotline last month.” I don’t mess with my menstrual cycle because I refuse to be unhappy and I refuse to not help myself.
And all along, I knew all of these crazy symptoms that I suffered were all connected in some way. And I was right.
While I took chaste tree root, magnesium, anxiety meds, a mood stabilizer, and occasional panic pills, as well as birth control to deal with my PMDD, I still knew there was something more. I even took tumor shrinking pills for this possible benign tumor that affects the pituitary gland and the prolactin level, though I did not have the tumor. This was after seeing endocrinologists, and getting MRIs and starting therapy…. I stopped at nothing to fix these problems.
I did do my own research, because of course I did. I read, that’s what I do. But I balanced it with going to all the right specialists so we could come to the right conclusions. The conclusion was that the fibroids (dubbed “the Utermelon,” and “the Ovarian Orange”) caused it all. Fibroid tumors–and again, one fourth of women of reproductive age have them–are in a chicken and egg game with hormones. They multiply when they’re all around each other too much. In my fibroids’ hostile takeover, they spiked my prolactin level, causing me to feel almost like I was pregnant every few months. The fibroids gave me the unhealthy bleeding, the pains in my back, legs, stomach, as well as a fantastic exhaustion that comes with fighting your own body three weeks out of the month. But the worst thing these fibroids did was give PMDD a stage to play on and a standing frigging ovation every time it did.
I’ve met more women that have been diagnosed with PMDD or feel they may have it than I thought possible. PMDD is a sort of Hulkified PMS–and PMS is bad enough. PMDD symptoms show up 10 days prior to the period. It comes with an overwhelming hopelessness that is usually out of character, like mine, but can also link to depressive disorders. This feeling strains relationships, creates conflict where there is none, paranoia, a decrease in self-esteem and exaggerated poor self-image that again, is out of character and just SHOWS THE HELL UP LIKE THAT UNCLE THAT EATS ALL THE PEANUT BUTTER. Mine would often come too with almost a nesting instinct–a need to feel in control of change. And I’d move everything in the house for days, finding myself in tears and unable to stop. Sleep interruption and exhaustion, lack of interest in things you normally do, intense anger and irritation at nothing…. This all occurs with PMS, but with PMDD it is debilitating. It interrupts life. Makes the sufferer have to stop everything because the feelings are in control. I would suffer absolutely terrifying panic attacks that had me screaming like I was being murdered, unable to stop, I’d sleep for an entire day, I’d wake up in the night starving, unable to feel full and then have days of not wanting to eat at all. My most frightening moment with PMDD had me so upset after a failed sledding outing that I felt that it was a metaphor for my entire life and I could just die and everything would be easier. That was the day I called the suicide hotline. Because as entrenched and overcome in the REALITY of those feelings as I was, I also knew that they were invaders. This was not me. This was not how I would have thought days before. It felt like being possessed.
I tell you this because I want you to know that you’re not alone, that your problems are not just yours, and that there’s help. You’re not crazy. This is real.
I worked tirelessly at solving my PMDD problem. I went for therapy, took the supplements that help with hormone health, started a mood stabilizer that worked wonders in tandem with birth control and other anxiety meds. I didn’t miss doctor’s appointments. I didn’t brush it under the rug. I didn’t minimize it as “a period issue” because period issues are actual issues.
I say these things because you don’t have to live with it. I’m still healing from my exorcism of the uterine orchard only 3 days ago, but I have a strong feeling that I won’t have to trap my hormone issues in a prison of pills and therapy anymore. Maintenance will still need to happen, because I only had a partial hysterectomy, so my hormones will still exist, and also because I don’t think anything is ever just SOLVED with me. But I have a really good feeling about this, guys.
What I want you to get from this is a few things:
- Talk about your stuff. Lady stuff isn’t a bad thing.
- If you think something is wrong, it is. If it’s “all in your head,” that is still something wrong! Find the doctors that believe you. Ask for the referrals and tell those bitches right to their faces that you want to see someone who takes you seriously.
- You are not alone. There are resources and you deserve to be happy.
- Keep track of your symptoms.
- Put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do, even if you have to say NO to someone else.
There are resources that I have used often for help with PMDD, anxiety, and hormonal issues.
- Text SUPPORT to 741-741 and they will text with you about anything that’s bothering you.
- @PMDDHelper on Twitter
- PMDD Support Group
- https://twitter.com/viciouscyclepmd The Vicious Cycle
- https://t.co/Zlh4hlgJJj on Facebook
- 1-800-273-8255 suicide hotline. DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL. IF YOU’RE AFRAID THAT YOU’RE THINKING THOSE THOUGHTS, NOTHING CAN BE SCARIER.
I hope this helps someone, and I hope you hold your head a little higher when your uterus comes at you like Rowdy Roddy Piper, and know that there can be an end to it.