Breaking up with PMDD
My Experience with PMDD
I’ve learned so much about the different stages in my cycle! I used to be doubled over in pain during my period, with massive hormonal breakouts, and mental symptoms through the roof. Now I write this as a lady with a V who knows her follicular stage, ovulation stage, luteal stage, and menstrual stage like the back of her hand and has the proper diagnosis.
There is a common misconception that your period is just your menstrual stage! It’s so not true. Throughout my wellness journey, I’ve learned about living with PMDD, being misdiagnosed with Bipolar Depression instead of PMDD, how my cycle can aid me in my work if I use it to my advantage, and hormonal balance to deal with pains and suicidal ideation during PMDD symptoms!
Now I type words I’ve never thought would come from me: I LOVE MY CYCLE, and even better I understand it! I’m happy to have it back and even more excited to begin sharing some of the steps that got me here.
I was mis-diagnosed with bipolar depression when I was 19. Along with the diagnosis came the subscription for carbamazepine. The medicine was amazing except for when it wasn’t. A couple of bad choices later, horrible relationship management (lack ability to remain present, angry outbursts, leaving), suicidal ideation and the worst high/lows, even while on the medication I found a pattern. At first I believed I needed to up my prescription, that I was just having bipolar breaks, but these breaks seemed to be too timed.
I'd noticed that my hormonal changes only started after my menstrual cycle and lasted until the start of my menstrual cycle. Throughout my 6-year wellness journey, I'd learned some things we stopped teaching due to the taboo around periods and lack of understanding in a world highly catered to non-POC men. I learned that there are four stages of a cycle: Menstruation, Follicular, Ovulation, and Luteal! So just imagine all 3 of these stages being hell only to receive relief during one phase. I searched high and low for a new doctor in my area.
I was beyond grateful to find Kiara Eily of Carolina Center of Restorative Medicine. If you are in North Carolina or down to travel, she will change your entire life. She can subscribe conventional medicine as well as holistic medicines. Holistic was very important to me because I noticed that chemicals sometimes had a worse reaction or caused side effects with me. I went back for rediagnosis with my notes, her online chart collection discussing pages of my health history, and a healthy diet but 60+ regained pounds. I found out that I'd been treating my brain (at 19 with carbamazepine from the Bipolar Depression diagnosing doctor) and holistically when switching to a holistic lifestyle. What needed treatment were my hormones. I was diagnosed correctly with PMDD, Insulin Resistance, ADHD, and a Vitamin D deficiency from Dr, Eily. Of the women who go through life with this condition undiagnosed "an estimated 15% of women with this disorder will attempt an act of suicide in their lifetime." - IAPMD - formerly Gia Allemand Foundation. Things made so much more sense.
I cannot diagnose you, but I can tell you my main symptoms were:
- Mood Shifts
- Heavy Depression: I would wake up some days wanting to end my life when nothing had changed. But, I had the reactions of what I'd imagine I’d feel in losing my whole family in one day.
- Inability to Function: this included eating, working, moving excluding to use the restroom (Some Days)
- Excessive Weight Gain (even with rigorous diet and exercise and consistency)
- Tender Breasts
- Irregular Cycles
- Very Profound Food Cravings
- Feeling Absolutely Unattractive During the Weeks Leading up to My Cycle (I always felt like a goddess afterward. But, during this time I would genuinely look in the mirror and want to cry or avoid mirrors all together.)
My doctor diagnosed me with PMDD, Insulin Resistance, and a Vitamin D Deficiency, and on the cusp of having an under-active thyroid. I was subscribed 6 holistic medicines, which I’ll cover in the next PMDD post. She even gave me a conventional emergency subscription to take if the natural medication took too long to kick in. My husband picked up the conventional prescription for me, and to this day I still haven't had to touch it. Since being treated for just 2 months with the 6 treatments, I feel better than I felt since my first cycle at age 12.
I share this because the wellness industry will make you think that sometimes you need to work harder, stronger, be more, eat better. I'm telling you as a woman who started her journey undiagnosed, worked out 7 days a week and added more time to compensate for cheat meals. I lost 56 pounds and still felt horrible. We need to stop this culture.
Now I work out moderately (3-4 times a week) and can use intuitive eating without seeing my weight fluctuate. I've lost 28 pounds with regular activity, and I've lost that tight, uncomfortable feeling in my face. I take long walks without worrying about how I need to make sure I get in a specific amount of steps because I have gained the will and desire to be active again due to proper treatment. If you have to bust your butt in the gym to maintain a normal healthy weight chances are there are underlying issues. There is nothing wrong with training to achieve aesthetic results and staying active. I’m speaking on having to workout like an athlete or trainer simply have a normal healthy functioning body. Don't let Chad from Instagram who could care less about Woman's health tell you that "One cheat meal can't make you fat, just like one good meal can't make you fit." This is true for healthy functioning bodies, but if you notice fluctuations don't think you have to work harder. Go to a doctor like mine who will have you fill out pages of history before seeing you, ask you track your meals before coming in, and sit with you for 2 + hours discussing and understanding you.
Don't underestimate the power of a doctor who will take the time with you. Before my wellness journey, I sat down with a conventional doctor who legitimately heard my concerns and told me I needed to eat healthier and work out more. She said this as she sat across from me with a Yoplait yogurt...something laden with sugars that I wouldn't even touch because I had noticed my bodies reaction to things laden with sugar, yet was still gaining by the minute. I told her how often I worked out (at that time 5 days a week alternating between cardio and strength 2 hours a day) and she informed me I needed to amp it up. I felt drained, tired, and like I was working against something. It turns out I was, but her response made me feel like I was lazy and seeing her in perfect shape while eating a Yoplait and essentially fat shaming me sent me into a frenzy of unhealthy workouts. She didn't even run a blood test.
You are not alone, and there are doctors will take the time with you. Find them, and if you are reading this right now, please know I can honestly tell you there is a way to get you on the right regime to make your quality of life better. Now I exercise a very normal amount, 3-4 times a week with the energy to want to be active outside of that. I take rest days and don’t gain weight by looking at a piece of gluten-free seed bread.
I will be sharing more of my journey, my regimen, and updates on the Wellness section of my blog, so if you'd like updates Sign Up for my mailing list here.
How I Knew Something Was Up
In 2014 I started my fitness journey. I began this journey at 223 pounds (top picture.) I wasn’t eating whole pizzas by myself or anything. However, the wellness industry made me feel like I could be doing much more. So I did! I took some nutrition classes, starting working on certification, worked out, ditched all processed foods and added sugars, the works! I noticed regular workouts didn’t do anything for me. I stayed at the same weight if I did cardio daily for 20 minutes and strength trained for 30-45. So I amped it up and got even more restrictive with my food. I did cardio for an hour daily and strength trained for a 1 hour and 1/2. I took my meals everywhere I went…even to Christmas family dinners. I planned my cheat meals to perfection and worked out additional to compensate for the fluctuation I would see.
I worked my butt off
I lost 56 pounds in total. I dropped from a size 14/16 to a size 6. Each month I still struggled with the weeks before my cycle. Intense food cravings, body image issues, suicidal ideation, heavy depression, the works. When I had a cheat meal, I would notice a very noticeable fluctuation (I didn’t know it at the time, but this was from insulin resistance) so I would work out for an extra hour after my planned weekend cheat meal. I made sure to burn 3,000 calories per gym session to negate my food intake. I was out working my disease, and while I was a healthier weight on the outside, my insides were screaming for my health. Eventually, I gave up. I was cool with “looking good” but still felt bad and had no idea why I was working so hard to feel like crap inside. I decided to continue working out but not so hard. I wanted to try a “normal” balanced workout plan and fewer restrictions to see if I could maintain.
Turns out I Couldn’t
I was still in the gym. 2-4 days a week depending on the week. On days I only went 2/week I did Bikram Yoga, bike riding, or long walks. I ate reasonably healthy except for when the intense food cravings made their appearance (usually two weeks before my menstrual.) I gained 81 pounds all while still in the gym and maintaining a balanced diet. I was frustrated, and I didn’t want to go back to a doctor after the experiences I’d had with doctors not taking me seriously or fat shaming me. I knew I wasn’t lazy and I knew I needed help, but was fearful I’d get the same type of response of the doctor spending 20 minutes with me and deciding I was lazy and needed to work harder without blood tests or even digging deeper. I was stuck. I remember crying to my husband because I didn’t recognize my face when I looked in the mirror, and there was this tight “full” feeling in it from gaining weight so fast.
Where I am Now
The top photo was from a few months ago. The bottom picture is from October 21st, 2018. Within just two months of treatment from Dr. Kiara Eily at the Carolina Center for Restorative Health I’ve seen more progression and changes than I have since high school days. PMDD and a history of abuse made for a fierce battle with getting to this space, but now I’m able to do normal things like hike and bike without spending 2+ hours in the gym just to stay at a healthy weight, My hormones are balanced, and I don’t loathe myself 2 weeks before my cycle. When life throws things at me, I’m able to handle the adversity. I don’t spend weeks unable to move or contemplating how life would be if I weren’t here. I use my voice, and I speak up. I don’t feel lesser than anymore. I’m so thankful for the people who have stayed with me during this time. When people don’t understand things it can seem like someone is making something up, that it’s “not that bad,” or you can choose to be okay.
I’m learning with the PMDD community and doing everything I can to share my experience. I know how isolating it can feel with everyone around you navigating in a way you can’t seem to grasp. I know what its like to have relationships fall apart because you literally can’t function and don’t know how to scream out “I’m doing everything I can, but it feels like I’m going to crack at any moment.” I write this for anyone struggling because these are the wellness bloggers I wish had been around when I was going through these things. I’ve tagged some of my favorite PMDD resources below. I can’t wait to keep sharing because messages like these on some of the Slack channels I’ve shared this message with are what keeps me going:
Me v PMDD: Symptom and Treatment Tracker
IAPMD: Learning About PMDD | My husband used this site to learn more about my diagnosis and help me during the weeks leading up to my menstrual.
My FLO: For tracking your cycle and noting which stage you are currently in (Follicular, Ovulation, Luteal, or Menstrual.) So beneficial for understanding the mood shifts and how to provide extra support/brace during cycle transitions.
Shift App: Lifestyle change prep.