Can hormones REALLY do this? Can hormones really ruin your life?
They sure did for me, every bit of it. Now, on the other side, healing and rebuilding, I carry a message of advocation, education, awareness, healing, and hope. We are not alone anymore!
I fought an almost two-decade-long battle with hormones controlling my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Here’s my story:
As a young girl, I was happy, vivacious, full of life, and a joy to be around. Everyone loved me, success was imminent, and life was good. How did I end up isolated and alone? How did I lose everything worthwhile in my life: my beautiful children (a pain that never relents), my marriage, my job, my home, my self-respect, relationships, physical health, and my mind. Most importantly, I lost my ability to consistently connect with God and utilize the 17 years of tools I had worked so desperately for on the quest to get well.
Throughout this journey, I fought an almost constant obsession to kill myself.
In March 2018, at 43 years old, it felt like the end of the world! Another failed attempt to take my own life! I was rendered completely and utterly hopeless. I’d spent years tied up in the family and criminal court system left defeated, traumatized and begging God to take my life. What was the point of this? To live meant pain and torment. All I knew was unending misery, loss, grief, pain, anxiety, trauma, and chronic progressive fatal illnesses, regardless of the multitude of actions I took to get well. I was done! One more round of doctors, an attempt to get well, and then I was out!
Well, I am still here by the grace of a merciful loving God.
For almost two decades I had been suffering from cyclical (every two weeks cyclical, and often more than two weeks), debilitating depression, relentless anxiety, suicidal ideation, isolated relapses with alcohol, chronic physical illness, impulsive and compulsive behavior, repeated mistakes despite my strong will to fare better, unshakable irritability, impending doom, feelings of being out of control, cognitive brain fog, zapped motivation, zero will to live, self-hatred, self-deprecation, paranoia, hormonal “mania”, chronic pain, nausea, vomiting, utterly tormented! I had no control over my obsessive, intrusive thoughts that enveloped me, repeatedly saying eath was the only answer, despite every attempt to change them. I had spent an enormous amount of time using many tools to change my thoughts, but in PMDD times it was virtually impossible.
It’s hard to believe ALL of these symptoms and more were directly related to my body’s reaction to hormonal fluctuations! This living hell was made even worse because I knew it wasn’t me! But I couldn’t shake it. The “normal” times when glimpses of my real self would appear made me feel like I was crazy. I was left in disbelief picking up the pieces from out of control actions, behaviors, and thoughts, particularly directed inward at myself. As an additional form of punishment, I presume. Most doctors, professionals, and others seemingly rarely or never heard of this.
Instinctively and intuitively I knew it was my hormones; however, navigating the medical, mental health, rehab/recovery, and community systems along with my now ex-husband, family, friends and fellows, for the greater part of 17 years, I was strongly and repeatedly influenced to believe it was a number of different misdiagnoses [major depressive disorder, PTSD, ADHD, mood instability, alcoholism, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, and straight up crazy] and/or something I had control over. PMS was “uncomfortable”; they said, however, this was NOT PMS. Besides how can you have PMS when you’re pregnant? (When this all began). How lost, confused, and helpless I felt. I questioned my own reality and sanity all the time, only holding it together for my children’s wellbeing and appearance’s sake.
I am a recovered alcoholic as well; however, my PMDD is not my alcoholism and my alcoholism is not my PMDD, let’s make that very clear! Surgically removing four major organs (which is the route I had to take) or other treatments such as Lupron, Zoladex, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will not treat or cure alcoholism; however, depending on the severity of PMDD, and a sufferer’s unique genetic makeup, these options can help treat PMDD. Most of my well-intentioned fellows and/or professionals couldn’t grasp the severity of what PMDD does to one’s mind and body and attributed the laundry list of symptoms to my alcoholism/mental illness. PMDD certainly complicated my alcoholism but it was not my alcoholism. At this point, I believe alcohol kept me alive at times in the unshakable mental anguish that comes about with PMDD, while it also destroyed me and brought about horrific consequences. Making my self-hatred, guilt, and shame for my behaviors skyrocket.
At times, I’ve even felt like an AA failure and was treated like one, what a low place to be. Today I still have to work my 12 step program diligently. When I am diligent, it does treat my alcoholism; however, it did NOT treat my PMDD no matter how hard I tried. Working a 12 step program certainly saved me in a lot of ways helped me navigate life in a God-centered healthy fashion. It gave me a glimmer of hope in the normal times, yet made me lose confidence in my stark reality knowing there was a lot more than alcoholism going on.
In my post-PMDD life, I am consistently able to apply my 12 step program along with all the other therapeutic tools I proactively sought these past 17 years (prayer, meditation, mindfulness, CBT, DBT, diet, daily exercise) without the vicious cycle of being “hijacked and possessed” by a debilitating state of mind and body spirit being set back over and over by hormonal insanity.
Postoperative from a full hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy, remarkably my alcohol cravings have been significantly reduced. This is not to say overnight surgical menopause has been easy and I certainly have my work cut out healing from the trauma, losses and working to change my thinking and programmed years of habits used to survive all this. I tell you it is doable!
How could such a severe life-threatening condition as this have no answers, little research, and very little tangible help and support? How could being admittedly suicidal every month and burning my life to the ground over and over and over again be an acceptable way to live? Or chalked up to eyes rolling “it’s just hormones” and “snap out of it”? Dr’s please tell me if its “PMS” how did I suffer ALL 9 months through all three pregnancies?
I sensed I was on this venture alone and had to be my own advocate. Getting through the times alone was hard enough, but to live in this reality and defend my pain from the many people who did not believe or support me, simultaneously being kicked down by the people who are “supposed” to love you the most while also raising three sickly children, was a whole different ballpark! Talk about finding Faith, strength, and courage. I found myself praying without ceasing begging God all day long to help me, somehow never relenting in prayer and Faith.
Here’s how it began:
Seventeen years ago, I received the best news of my life: “You’re pregnant!” What a gift, I thought. The excitement was hard to contain. I had wanted children more than anything my whole life and felt I was meant to be a mother from birth.
Shortly after, I began vomiting incessantly 40-50 times a day, even the foam from a cough drop. My anxiety took on a life of its own while major depression, anger, irritability, feelings of being out of control, impulsivity, acting out, itchiness, insomnia became all-consuming. I knew this wasn’t me, not even a resemblance, and, of course, I felt like a horrible person and an even worse mom for having these feelings. It didn’t help that they were reinforced and used against me by my husband, family, and in-laws. I was isolated, alone, misunderstood and distraught. I have my baby, the best thing in the world growing inside me, yet my mind and body are tormented. How can this be? I’m so happy about my baby yet have these out of control feelings and physical issues.
Thus starts the beginning of my ‘new life,’ full-time doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, specialists and solution searches. After a week stint in the hospital, an at-home IV is added for the duration of the pregnancy. Consumed by fear for the wellbeing of my child and little belief in the doctors telling me everything was “fine and normal” I continued on with therapy and my Faith as a Christian and did what I could on my end.
The day finally arrived. The doctor was going to induce my labor early as a result of my health. On October 31, 2003, my baby girl arrived and it was hands down the best day of my life. The moment I gave birth my mental and physical well-being were restored immediately. I was home with my baby, soaking up every moment, feeling a love I had never ever experienced before. God blessed me with such a miracle; I relished in every moment of it.
Four months later I woke up in a panic attack after a dream and I knew I was pregnant again. So joyful, about to have another miracle enter my life, while my mind was simultaneously flooded with trauma from the state of mind and body I just came out of. Of course, I had to keep this silent as I was already judging and hating myself for these feelings and blaming myself for how unwell I was, trying to explain and defend myself to family, friends, doctors, and therapists, yet again. I was home full time with my beautiful four-month-old. I would never dare fess up to the thoughts of not wanting to be alive that would cross my mind out of nowhere for no reason at all. It was hard for even me to believe especially because I had everything to live for. More guilt, shame, and remorse sent me back to the hospital for a week, and again I was sent home on an IV. Therapy, Faith, and church kept me afloat.
Three weeks before my due date I was induced as a result of my health. This becomes the next best day of my life with another beautiful daughter, in so much love. Poof, I’m back to me, just like that. The next eight months were filled with raising two beautiful girls with some health, temperament, and sleep challenges but I was relatively well; my mind was solid and breastfeeding kept my period away. I had bed sweats and some other hormonal things, but they were a walk in the park compared to the hormonal state of pregnancy.
I’ll never forget the day that I woke up at 4:30 am in that same state of panic and anxiety. I knew that I was pregnant again. Boom, like a ton of bricks. It comes again. Press rewind, repeat, and replay. Except the symptoms were tenfold now. I spent a week in the hospital to heal my mind and body. The week ended, and I was sent home with another home IV while raising two babies alone. At this point, due to the damage that my hormonal behavior had caused and my now-ex husband’s lack of support and abusiveness, our marriage was shot. He spent most of the time on the road for work and made a good living for us. I was with the children, the hospital’s pediatricians, doctors, therapists, and specialists. The next best day of my life came. I was induced again and my son was born! My life was now complete I thought! I had everything I had ever asked for.
In the end, it was the love for God, my children, and relentless seek to get well that kept me alive long enough to push through and find a long-term solution. God’s Love, A mother’s love, this mother’s love, my mother’s love – despite her inability to understand and support me fully, her love was always there. Love is a force not to be reckoned with.
After having my son I was completely in love with him and my daughters, albeit traumatized from the state of mind that my pregnancies had left me in and at how unwell I really was! I had sickly children, and an abusive, toxic marriage. I fantasized about being dead. I had little, to no support and/or help. Nevertheless, my mind was still so much better! My life was so busy and completely enveloped in my children. My children and I attended our Christian church regularly and my period stayed away while breastfeeding.
After a few months, when my PMDD hit, it hit like a ton of bricks. I felt the same way as when I was pregnant, except worse! How was this possible? Was I crazy?
I picked up drinking for the first time after almost 3.5 years of abstaining during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It was ugly! That happy partying girl was swapped for a quick, sloppy drunk! When and how did that happen? I decided to start my journey with a 12 step program as I didn’t want my children to be affected or raised in a dysfunctional environment. I was adamant about breaking the family dysfunction cycle. I also started the medication merry-go-round with my psychiatrist. I tried almost every medication (Lexapro, Lamictal, Abilify, Zoloft, Xanax, Wellbutrin, Spironolactone, allergy meds, on and on, then Prozac, which finally gave me a mental lift for some time in conjunction with my 12 step program), but it still couldn’t conquer the PMDD. All of these attempts to get well would later be used against me by my ex-husband and ex-in-laws in family and criminal court. In addition, they used my illnesses as a malicious tool to change my children’s views and beliefs about me. A deadly weapon that reinforced the very deep stigma against reproductive health, alcoholism, and mental health! How could taking proactive steps to treat illnesses, especially for my children’s sake always first and foremost (and of course my wellbeing too), be recorded as a defect? I was seen as a “bad person,” one who deserves no love or respect by even the authorities, family court, criminal court, children, family, friends, and 12 step fellows?
After exhausting all avenues to save my marriage and family, the abuse of my ex and my ex-in-laws was truly unbearable and an unacceptable example for my children. With three years sobriety, but no hope for my marriage, I filed for divorce and boy, would I be punished for it! The divorce would tear our lives apart, along with three very unnecessary custody battles for my ex to relieve child support and attempts to take my children away and try to make them hate me.
Ok, now we are back on the medication merry-go-round; as well as exercising, church, prayer, meditation, therapy, engaged in 12 step, more and more doctors, begging for a hysterectomy and being told “it’s not medically indicated” and “you’re too young!”. You mean suicidal and symptomatic for almost three weeks a month isn’t medically indicated?! Then what is?
By custody battle number three (my poor children!), we were beaten down and heartbroken, but there was still no solution in sight. As I aged, my symptoms increased in intensity and duration. Relapsing again, I started to believe that maybe I was just nuts, a failure, a loser, and just maybe I am one of the few that the 12 step program doesn’t work for. Giving my ex the sword to slay me once again, I decided it was time to make a drastic move. I decided to move back to Brooklyn with the kids so we could be closer to him and co-parent. At least that was the plan. I humbled myself and asked my ex and his mother (who strongly dislikes me) to watch the children while I got a solid foundation and found an apartment close to their house. They agreed and this time there would be no damaging court law guardians and lawyers (we pay to damage and traumatize our own children).
So, I left everything behind, our home as I knew it, and moved my children back to Brooklyn and enrolled them in a new school almost overnight. I knew my ex-in-laws hated me but I also knew that they had to love the kids more than they hated me, right? Wrong. I went back to rehab. I was served a lawsuit on my 40th birthday for custody of my children, asking for supervised visits that I pay for and at the same time suspending child support and trying to have me arrested for not paying the mortgage I was in fact paying. All with the cruelest lies about me. As if I didn’t already feel like the biggest piece of garbage on the face of the earth and hate myself enough for everyone. My illnesses were used against me like I had a choice to have them. Treatment and my proactive work for the children’s needs were also used against me with the courts condoning this?! Am I trapped in a sick joke? Guess what, whoever has more money wins!
I put myself sober living in Brooklyn so I could be in close proximity to my children (even though I had a home I could live in, no way, it was all about my kids). I put myself in outpatient and searched to find legal aid! I was dead inside from a broken heart and PMDD. My children were gone, alienated, brainwashed and overnight I went from 24/7 amazing Mom to zero involvement. I was completely blocked from their lives. The court was of no help. CPS (Child Protective Services) only added more drama and trauma to my children’s lives. It was time to get a solution and fast!
Fast forward four years later having sought every solution possible, every medication known to mankind, chronic relapsing, alternative medicine, holistic, chiropractic, supplements, diet, exercise, therapy, outpatient, inpatient, two major spinal surgeries, endometriosis surgery, chronic ovarian cysts, regular ER visits, church, 12 step life, CBT, DBT, yoga certification, spiritual healing, I was no closer to a solution, suicidal, and at wits end. I was done! I went back to the doctor begging for surgery and was turned down again despite my 16-year battle. The birth control pill was recommended again. I told her of my last experience with the pill, and how I’d barely made it through…
At this point, I was so confused, unwell, and lost I didn’t know who to believe or listen to which got me in a boatload of unpleasant situations. So I tried the pill again, at what cost? Everything! I went nuts, relapsed, got a DWI, lost my job. My relationship was still strained with my children, I had no license and was on probation in my 40’s? What?! It was a disaster. I went back to the doctor and frequented the hospitals. After several more desperate visits, I finally got my doctor to agree to a full hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. I barely made it to the surgery I was so sick. My mind was torturing me and trying to talk me out of surgery. I’d spent years pleading for this. Is this real? The anguish and emotional torture were inescapable. Thankfully, I had found IAPMD.org and the online support groups which got me through until the surgery. Treatment and support early on are crucial!
I am so grateful and relieved to say I no longer suffer from PMDD. I am no longer a slave to my emotions. My alcohol cravings are pretty much nonexistent. Not only do I have a will to live but I have a strong desire to live. My connection with God isn’t blocked and is strong and amazing now. I experience peace, joy, and genuine happiness. I no longer hate myself. Now, I can apply the 17 years’ worth of coping tools I’ve accumulated without being “hijacked” for almost three weeks a month sending me backward, to recover in the very little “normal time” I had left at the end. I am still in the beginning stages of healing from all the trauma, loss, and consequences and trying to rebuild my life, but it’s 100% possible now. This was not possible for me in PMDD. I am no longer stuck in one vicious never-ending cycle.
Here’s the thing, this is not a plug for surgical menopause. It should be a last resort; rather we need to raise awareness as early on as possible. Then treatment perhaps need not be so drastic with the proper support and treatment options from the beginning.
If I had had the confidence, awareness, education, and support groups in my journey from the beginning and known what I know now, things would have been very different for me. Instead of voluntarily removing and actually pushing to remove 4 major organs (talk about a strong statement!) It may not have needed to be one of my solutions; however, sometimes it needs to be and that’s OK too! I do not regret my decision at all; It literally saved my life. I believe my experience can help so many, which is why I speak out on such a private, sensitive topic. I also believe God used my experience for good and to speak out on such a life-threatening condition.
Here are the facts:
PMDD affects about 1 in 20 women: 90% don’t receive proper diagnosis and treatment, 30% of us will attempt suicide.
It takes an average of 12 years to be medically acknowledged, and a large majority of us get stuck in the family and criminal courts, along with addiction centers, without even realizing or addressing what is happening to our brains and bodies. The more cost-effective route for everyone is early diagnosis and treatment. The amount of resources wasted in courts, jails, institutions, mental health clinics, ER visits, etc. would be significantly reduced AND most importantly, we’d save lives.
I share my story to reiterate the simple fact that the more education, awareness, research, and support available to women with PMDD, the less the problem would be. And women wouldn’t have to destroy their lives to the extent some of us have, simply to survive.
About the Warrior
43 year old, mother of 3, business woman, advocate for health, Yoga instructor, Personal Trainer, recovery Coach, passionate about advocating about the truth on PMDD, parental alienation, mental illness and our failing medical, legal and betterment associations. Passionate to help create an better, more educated world.