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Becca on living with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and the rage it causes

mom wearing a tshirt - essay on premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

For years I’ve been aware that there are about ten days every month when my mind turns on itself and the cascade of chaos begins.

It’ll go something like this.

I’ll be standing over my sink cleaning everyone’s mess for the 37th time that week and it’ll only be Tuesday. Where as I have done this many times before, on this day anger will rise, hot and dizzying. These are no longer dishes, they are injustices.

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My life must have more purpose than scraping old yogurt off of a silicone mat just so that new yogurt can artfully take its place. As I scrub my injustices, I will get peppered with questions. My 6-year old will need validation that his art is in fact my favorite art. My toddler will be fighting his nap for the third time this week, his shrieks sending me for the inevitable tail spin. I’ll begin to actually lose it because of said dishes and failed sleep routines. And yes, it will still only be Tuesday.

Two weeks prior, I would chalk all of this up to a fairly normal day in parenthood. Endless cleaning, endless questions, and never ending surprises. I’m not perfect, I might shout in frustration or spend too much time escaping into adulthood on my phone. I might throw snacks at whining mouths and television at chattering minds, just to obtain a few moments of quiet. But then I would move on knowing tomorrow would be Wednesday and this is temporary afterall.

This is not two weeks ago, however. The rage has now made herself right at home, determined, hormonally charged and roaring for her cause. I want to smash the fiesta ware on the floor, and watch each plate shatter color by color. Unimpressed by the unsatiating gesture of my imagination, I turn on my self worth instead. I start questioning the goodness of my motherhood, the goodness of my womanhood, and the goodness of me as a human.

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Another shriek. Another question. A text from my husband, “Can I have so-and-so’s e-mail address?”

I feel needed in a way I never wanted to be needed. Relentlessly.

I want to run away so I can understand the visceral attack that my thoughts are having on my life. I want to peel back the stress for a minute so I can see what’s really happening in my mind. The violent storm of emotional overwhelm clouds my every move and amidst a global pandemic there’s nowhere to go.

I have always struggled with what I now know to be called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), causing intense irritability, depression and anger up to two weeks before a period. In retrospect it explains twenty years worth of brooding journal entries that follow cyclical patterns, fights with friends or family, and spans of time where I suddenly found myself uncharacteristically unable to cope. It’s puzzling to be 35 and still trying to piece together how to feel consistently level most days of the year.

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I can rationalize with myself that I don’t have to be so intensely affected by this. Maybe just having the awareness could stall the spiral. But since having children I have found new bottoms to scrape. They activate emotions in me, impossible to compartmentalize while I mother them every day of the week. Our contant coexistence, far from the vacuum I desire to isolate the triggering thoughts. Being a mother is hard. Being a mother who spends a third of her life being attacked by her own chemistry is brutal.

I zip around my house on the first night of Hanukkah, preparing a warm and hearty supper, getting the candles situated, the presents wrapped and ready to open. I feel the excitement in the air as I curate a precious, wondrous experience for my kids. I sing the blessings and the last part of the song still brings me tears. I can taste my childhood in it’s soothing melody. I feel good in a way that’s hard to describe, the contrast from the previous week almost laughable. I stare peacefully at the bright candles dripping colorful wax on the table and wonder quietly why I can’t feel like this all the time. Will the imaginary plate smashing, endless crying, reactive, fight picking woman really emerge again in two weeks time?

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I seek all kinds of help and advice on this topic. My therapist is helping me untangle the terrible sides of PMDD with the intuitive gifts it provides. While I mostly hate how I feel, I also find that I create more freely, connect more honestly, and see deeper truths around me, during this hormonal surge.

My family shows me the kind of patience that I always longed for. One that would never give up while I figure this out. My toddler continues to remind me that his residence inside my body was a mere 19 months ago. My 6 year old shows me how far we’ve come and where we are going. They both love me in a way I never asked to be loved. Relentlessly.

Feeling their tiny embraces wrapped around my neck and soft squishy cheeks on my lips, I absorb their effortless lessons in love. I know it’s my turn now to love myself.