‘Sometimes, I felt in control. Then I was a prisoner in my own head.’: Mom battles antidepressants, misdiagnoses to find ‘understanding’ of PMDD

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some.

“When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with Bipolar. I was on antidepressants from the age of 18 to 34 years old to help with my symptoms. Every 3-4 months I would visit my doctor’s, pleading for someone to help me as I felt like a prisoner in my own head. I could not control my anger, being irrational, wanting to make life-changing decisions like ending a job, relationship, or even my life. I was just given more and more tablets with the dosages increasing to the maximum, then changing medication so it could be increased further.

For parts of my month, I felt in control. I felt like me, and I did not need those tablets to function, then I would feel like I hit a brick wall, and it was back to feeling like I was a different person. The aggression and the need to end my own life were real. The thoughts about how you would do this as no one was helping or even understanding me. I felt so alone, and I was made to feel like I was crazy. In some way, I was made to feel I was overreacting to the point of trying to gain attention. I just wanted the pain to go away. To stop living in my own hell.

When I was pregnant with my two children I did not suffer from any symptoms at all. Apart from being sick the whole way through, I felt amazing. I had never been myself more. I felt constant, and I didn’t even realize it. After having my children, the symptoms came back with a vengeance, and I felt I got worse with every child born. Alongside my Bipolar, I was labeled with postnatal depression and you guessed it! More tablets.

Parents and their two kids wear life vests on a beach
Courtesy of Laura

March 2020 was the turning point for me. Covid-19 had started to rear its ugly head, and my husband and I separated (we are now back together). I was rock bottom. The lowest of the low. I thought nothing would release me from the mental torture I endured. I felt out of control, and I took refuge in a life coach who quite quickly advised she didn’t think I was Bipolar.

A man and his son sit in a booth at a restaurant
Courtesy of Laura

She asked me to write down every day how I was feeling to see if we can find any triggers or patterns to my symptoms. She had seen me on my even keel and seen me hit rock bottom. I started seeing my life coach on a weekly basis, as she was worried about my mental state. Some weeks, I would be on cloud 9 and ready to sort my life out and make the changes I needed to have a calmer, more controlled life, and other weeks I would not be able to function, let alone continue with the changes I promised myself I would make. It was a constant battle, and I was losing.

In the meantime, I spoke with a friend in whom I confided, as I was in an unhinged mental state. I would do something I shouldn’t, and having 2 beautiful children at home, I used to think they would be better off without me. I am a burden, and they didn’t need that in their lives. I used to imagine watching them from heaven, making sure they were safe, and I used to get so much comfort from that. But reality set in, and I knew this was not an option, and I needed to be right here with them.

My friend asked me if I had heard of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), I told her I hadn’t. We sat there for over an hour and she told me all the symptoms. With my head in my hands, I couldn’t believe it. For all these years, I had battled with medication and battled with doctors just to find out it was all down to my period.

In an instant, I knew what I was reading was me. Irritable, check! Angry, check! Fatigued, check! Brain Fog, check! It was like looking inside my own head. The sheer debilitating state PMDD leaves you in. Unable to function in real life. Living on adrenaline and sheer impulse. The need to fix everything. I have isolated myself so much from people and lost a lot of people along the way because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And if I didn’t know what was wrong with myself, how on Earth would anyone else?

PMDD is a severe and debilitating condition that affects menstruating women. The symptoms are so severe they interfere in your everyday life and stop you from leading a normal life. 7-10 days before your period is due, PMDD symptoms will come into effect. Many women suffer from PMS, and this is ‘normal’ as long as you can function on a daily basis.

After speaking with my friend and my life coach, I journaled for 6 months, then my life coach and I went through the journal. It was like the biggest light bulb going off. All my symptoms start 10 days before my period. I could not believe what I was reading. How had I not found the connection sooner? Why had a doctor not advised me to do this? I felt relieved, and I felt numb.

A woman in a red shirt holds up a black journal
Courtesy of Laura

All these years I had suffered, and not one medical professional had me journal and monitor my symptoms to really get to the root of the problem. I had been passed off under the Bipolar statistic, and there I would stay. I have been let down. I felt angry for so long that it had not been picked up and  I had not made the connection.

For 15 years, I have been misdiagnosed. I have been taking tablets I did not need, and I have suffered month after month. I wanted to end my life for 10 days out of every 31.

Shortly after finding my patterns, I approached my doctor and advised I wished to come off all my antidepressants, to unmask everything, and to actually FEEL. It took me 1 month to be weaned off. 15 years of co-dependent withdrawal. It took me a further 3 months to balance myself out, and I am so glad I did. I went through withdrawal symptoms for months mentally and physically.

Everyone around me couldn’t relax as I was so volatile, and you just never knew what version of me you would get. I was so good at faking a smile as this is what I do. Pretend everything is fine to the outside world. Looking on Facebook and Instagram, you would never know I struggled. I was a pro at faking my feelings.

A mother stands with her husband and two children outside
Courtesy of Laura

In addition to coming off the medication, I approached my doctor about my findings, and again, I was batted away with my Bipolar diagnosis. The fact I had the proof in my journal was my rock. NO! I am not depressed. I have a hormonal mood disorder that needs to be investigated. It was even a battle when I had the evidence of what happened to me month after month. It was exhausting trying to get people to hear me.

Shortly after that, I was referred to a number of gynecologists. The first gynecologist prescribed me ‘the contraceptive pill’ and wanted to put me back on my medication. I flat out refused and saw another gynecologist, who prescribed me yet again a contraceptive pill. My mind was blown. I took the contraceptive pill for 3 months, and the side effects coupled with my mental state were a disaster. I felt like a human guinea pig again without being listened to or heard.

After 3 months, I saw another gynecologist who listened to me. He listened and allowed me to show him my findings. He then advised around day 18 was potentially when my progesterone dipped and said he would like to give me a progesterone-only pill from day 14 of my cycle until day 28, thus helping with my symptoms.

I have been on the progesterone pill for 3 months, and I have had many ups and downs. It’s finding what works for me and my body, but I am on the right path and welcoming help, as I know I am in the right place. I have a better understanding of myself and what is within the realm of normal for me. Each woman is different with their cycles, so what works for one woman won’t work for another. But it’s about helping women understand themselves better and not being given pills they do not need.

1 in 20 women suffers from PMDD, and most have no idea what it is. They go to the doctors and are prescribed anti-depressant pills without going through timings or patterns with their mood. The number of women who are diagnosed with Bipolar and have underlying PMDD is high.”

A woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes in a black shirt
Courtesy of Laura

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laura. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories, and our Youtube here. 

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