Dear PMDD Warrior…

By Catherine van Warmerdam

I know what it’s like to have an invisible illness. Like you, I have suffered from PMDD, and, like you, I have suffered from the stigma of invisible illness. For me, I believe that the hardest part of PMDD is its invisibility.

From the outside, someone with PMDD looks totally fine.

In your follicular phase, you feel relatively normal, and you’re able to get things done. You can brush your teeth, do your hair, put on socially acceptable clothes, maybe a bit of makeup, and go out into the world.

In your luteal phase, you might look a little tired or pale, but that isn’t out of the ordinary in a culture where sleep hygiene isn’t particularly important. Everyone is tired. But not everyone is struggling with menstrual pain, inner emotional turmoil, and sensory overload.  

Invisible illness can be hard because others assume that you are functioning ‘normally’ and hold you to ‘normal’ expectations.

Your family expects you to show up to their events and socialize, not realizing that you might be in pain or having intrusive thoughts, or experiencing crippling social anxiety.

Your friends don’t understand why you don’t invite them over anymore, not realizing that it is because your house is an utter and complete mess – not because you are lazy or messy, but because pain and fatigue leave you with little energy to complete your regular chores.

Family and friends see you leave your job and constantly ask when you are going back to work or looking for a new job, not understanding that you simply aren’t well enough to work.

For the most part, people are well-meaning in their questions.

But you begin to feel as if you simply don’t measure up to the expectations of your loved ones.

You begin to internalize the stigma of invisible illness.

You start to think, “maybe they’re right, maybe I am just antisocial/messy/lazy/avoidant” and that turns into “maybe I’m just not trying hard enough” and “maybe I’m just not enough.”

That very idea can wreak havoc on a person, going from struggling with depression and anxiety in their luteal phase to struggling with it full-time.

But I see you.

I know that you are struggling.

I know you feel as if you can’t talk about your menstrual and mental health. It feels as though no one wants to hear about it. It’s taboo. You’re scared that people might think you’re fishing for attention, or victimizing yourself.

But just as they don’t see you hurting inside, they also don’t see you fighting.

But I see you.

I see you anxiously sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  

I see you rushing to the pharmacy because you need to refill your medications.

I see you making changes to your diet, your exercise routine, your relationships.

I see you researching your symptoms online and reading up on your illness.

I see you joining Facebook support groups and sharing your experiences.

I see you struggling yourself, but offering support and advice to other sufferers.

I see you. I am with you. We are in this together.

And when times get tough, please remember:

You are doing your best, and you are enough.

About the Warrior

Catherine van Warmerdam is a PMDD Warrior, an adoptee, an advocate, and an aspiring blogger. She likes dogs, knitting, crocheting, reading, and snuggling with her husband.

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