Leili V • Washington DC • 37
I got my first period when I was 13. I was late compared to the girls my age. My best friend had just gotten hers. I was excited about it because I thought getting a period would mean I could be a grown-up then. I thought I’d be able to escape my abusive home life and take care of myself after I started bleeding. I also thought I would look more like an adult and lose my baby face. My period did none of those things. I wasn’t “cool” because I got it, in fact, I was even more socially isolated than before. It gave my mother an excuse to abuse me more because I was “hormonal.”
I had no idea at the time, though, that my first period also gave me Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. PMDD is actually quite common but not well known. It took me 22 years after my first period to finally get a proper diagnosis and cure, which for me came in the form of a full hysterectomy.
Those 22 years in between my first and last bleed were utter hell. PMDD is often misdiagnosed as Bipolar and/or Borderline Personality Disorder. For me, I struggled the most with mental and emotional symptoms like cyclical intensified depression, self-loathing, panic attacks, weepiness, irrational thinking, paranoia, brain fog, forgetfulness, insomnia, and suicidal ideation, among a myriad of other symptoms. PMDD gets worse with age, and toward the end, my cycles got longer and became more erratic. I was nauseous all the time, especially in the mornings and especially during ovulation until menses. I began vomiting daily. My cramps were more painful than when I gave birth. And suicidal ideation turned into action. I hated myself more than ever, couldn’t trust my own thoughts and feelings, didn’t want to wake up in the morning. I wasn’t sure I could keep fighting to live each cycle.
Thankfully, after decades of being ignored, dismissed, and told to just eat birth control by doctors, I finally found a psychiatric nurse practitioner that recognized PMDD when it was presented to her. She saved my life, as did my wonderful PMDD siblings in the PMDD support groups on Facebook that I joined. I am now two years post-op and finally able to live my life and be my most authentic self.