So much is being spoken about depression these days and I am here to tell you my story. I was in the dumps with my chronic pain and can tell you I have experienced the worst. Aniti-depressants prescribed by my doctor were a game changer. I can say today that they changed my life forever. But no, I am not here to talk to you about that. There are some types of depression that are unique to women alone. While some awareness is present about postpartum depression in women (mood changes, feelings of worry, unhappiness, and exhaustion experienced by women in the first weeks after having a baby), there is another condition which is not very well known – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
While I was already on antidepressants, I was still going through extremely severe bouts of depressive days which would come and go on their own. These would last for a day or two. During these times I would be laden with feelings of grief, sadness, bouts of crying spells which wouldn’t stop once I started. Any small episode would trigger me and set me off. These spiraled into feelings of inadequateness, self harm and suicidal feelings- all this while I was still on anti depressants. Other symptoms included increase in my chronic pain levels, irregular heartbeat (tachycardia) and anxiety or panic attacks. Once I was feeling hopelessly down and had even called the suicide helpline. Another time when I wanted to self harm and was again having suicidal feelings, I mustered the courage to call my doctor. She called me over and heard me out. She said I was suffering from anxiety and PTSD and prescribed me a mild anti-relaxant to take during such episodes.
However, over the course of time I started noticing a pattern in these depressive episodes. They were brief and would suddenly disappear as they had appeared and were always followed by the onset of my period after a couple of days. I would have noticed this pattern earlier if I had regular periods but since I have PCOS I couldn’t identify this earlier. I had heard of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and thought this is what it was until I chanced upon an article on the net about premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD.
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, refers to moodiness and irritability in the weeks before menstruation. It is quite common, and the symptoms are usually mild. But there is a less common, more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. As described by the National Institute of Mental Health, USA, PMDD is a serious condition with disabling symptoms such as irritability, anger, depressed mood, sadness, suicidal thoughts, appetite changes, bloating, breast tenderness, and joint or muscle pain. This is it. Symptoms matched. Everything suddenly made sense. This information made me understand what I was going through was hormonal. And this thought gave me strength to get through these bouts. I learnt techniques to overcome those days telling myself that this feeling was only temporary and all I had to do was get through the other side of the night.
I would avoid triggers like emotional movies, over thinking negative thoughts, thinking about my life problems, listening to sad or emotional music because all these would set me off and I made sure that I kept myself busy with positive thoughts, keeping myself busy and distracted with some activity. Aromatherapy also helped a great extent. Today I have a set of coping mechanisms ready to get through these days. But all women are not so strong. Family support also plays a great role in getting through these days. Talking with the family members helps them also to understand what you are going through as these times can be tough on them as well to see us like this. Counselling can help at these times
Pregnancy, the postpartum period, perimenopause, and the menstrual cycle are all associated with dramatic physical and hormonal changes. Depression affects each woman differently and at different stages of their life. But the good news is that even severe cases of depression can be treated with medication, psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”), or a combination of both. Being informed and aware helps us to identify our moods and triggers and seek help and support. So the more we talk about it, the more awareness we are spreading to reach women who may not be aware of these conditions and are constantly beating themselves up not knowing what is wrong with them. If these feelings are regularly and consistently occurring over a long period of time and are connected with phases in the menstrual cycle, it may be hormone induced and the best thing is to seek help from your medical practitioner.