“I made it through the hell of PMDD.”

I wish I could remember exactly when the symptoms began. I know I displayed erratic behavior as a teen, but at the time I thought it was just me being a risky teenager.  My husband, Jim, confirms that by age 20, my symptoms began affecting my life dramatically. This continued until I was 46. I suffered for 26 long, painful years filled with drama and turmoil: absolute hell.

Although I didn’t experience a lot of “physical” symptoms I did experience terrible headaches, cramps, and joint pain.  I was medicated with Lyrica for the joint pain and diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The emotional piece of my disorder was literally unbearable.

For two weeks out of every month, I was unreasonable, irrational, and quite simply out of control. I was overreactive and mean. I was vicious and lashed out at friends, family, and even strangers.

I was diagnosed with bipolar depression and heavily medicated. My doctor prescribed various trials and doses of antidepressants: Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro and more. He added Lamictal as a mood stabilizer as well as Latuda as an antipsychotic.  Additionally, I took daily doses of either Valium,  Xanax or Ativan, and Ambien or Trazadone for sleep. Still, my symptoms were glaring.  How could this be? I was in weekly therapy, and very heavily medicated but I wasn’t responding.  I was either in bed or wired.  The uppers, the downers, the stabilizers; nothing worked.

I was an absolute mess.

I ruined celebrations and vacations. On a family trip out of the country, I completely came undone when my family simply did not want to take a photo.  I couldn’t handle it. I felt my body rush with heat and my head began to pound along with my heart racing.  My buttons were pushed that easily and the scales would tip; after that, anything could happen.  I was yelling and screaming, saying things I didn’t mean, making absolutely no sense at all.  I hated myself. As I lay on the bed of the hotel room, I was completely disconnected from my body. I could see myself in the corner of the room acting appropriately, I could actually see myself just laughing about everyone being too tired from traveling to take a picture, but I was stuck in my misery and could not control the behavior.

Telling me to stop behaving the way I was behaving was like telling someone who was having an allergic reaction to stop – simply impossible.  This sort of scenario happened every single month.  Month after month, year after year, we all suffered terribly. I was in danger, terrified of myself.  I was unpredictable. The damage I had done to people and relationships was quite honestly unforgivable – unacceptable and inappropriate.  I felt that my family, as well as anyone I encountered, would be better off without me and I thought of taking my life on MANY occasions.

Once I got my period I was in complete shock that it was my period again.  The episodes were a blur. I couldn’t piece together what happened or remember how harmful my words and actions were to others.  I would spend the next week crying to my husband, children, and friends apologizing and begging for their forgiveness and promising it would never happen again. I would pledge that I was in control and would fix this. I was beyond remorseful. I was humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed; it was exhausting.  Then I spent one week feeling “normal” – but really what was normal anymore?  I would meet with my doctor, explain the damage I’d done, and how I was losing my family.  I would beat myself up and wonder how I could do and say such horrific things to the people I loved. Everyone was constantly walking on eggshells around me, never sure what to expect from me or when I’d fall apart again. I would build myself up and believe that I could overcome this horror. But they were right to be cautious,  the cycle began again.

I attended two outpatient programs at a hospital and went on several therapeutic retreats hoping to gain control. I completed all of these programs filled with hope but the vicious cycle continued.

In June of 2016, I texted my husband and my best friend to tell them goodbye.  I simply couldn’t live like this anymore. I couldn’t hurt my children anymore.  The people I loved more than anything in the world were afraid of me and didn’t trust me.  It was time to end this terrible life I was living.  I knelt on the floor beside my bed and filled my mouth with pills and water.  As the tears poured down my face I somehow found a desire to fight and in hysterics spit the medication and water out of my mouth and cried – alone for hours.  I was unlovable and not deserving of my amazing family.

My husband was eager to end our 20-year marriage and my children literally shuddered in my presence. Everyone had reached the end of trusting me or believing I could get better. I had ruined everything good in my life.  I was lost.

We made a plan that I would get more help. I would do more therapy, take more medication; anything to get better. The evening before I was scheduled to leave for a three-week stay at a treatment center for bipolar depression,  mood instability, and a personality disorder; my husband and I together with the support of my OBGYN determined that indeed this was a cyclical disorder and I was finally diagnosed with PMDD. My period was making me crazy and suicidal.  I learned that I had a physiological disorder that manifested in a psychological manner. This disorder was out of my control. No matter what medications I tried or how much therapy I underwent, I wasn’t going to improve.

I started monthly injections of Lupron Depot to put my body into menopause and immediately felt a change in my overall being.  As sure as we all were that I was suffering from PMDD we found that the injections would wear off and the symptoms crept back in – less intense but my behavior was still off.  I continued the injections for 6 months and we saw enough of an improvement to decide I should have a double oophorectomy.

I am so happy to say that 6 months after my surgery although some volatility and discomfort remained I was actually enjoying my life. I wasn’t fighting with people and I was behaving much more appropriately. My hormones were still adjusting and I started hormone replacement therapy to help get my body balanced.

I wanted to live. I wanted to wake up and smile and my goals were happiness, acceptance, and most importantly rebuilding my relationships.  It’s been a little over a year since my surgery and I feel amazing. I made it through the hell of PMDD. I lost so much through the years of suffering. I learned a lot about love and forgiveness and am starting to trust myself as a kind, strong woman who literally fought for my life.

Today I am free of PMDD and hope that my story can help save a life.

It’s not acceptable that women suffering from PMDD are misdiagnosed as bipolar or that it’s simply PMS.

I am far from perfect, but every day I’m working on being the very best version of myself that I can be.  I love my life, adore my family and am surrounded by great friends. I am so lucky and blessed that I’ve lived to share my story.

Alissa's Family

Alissa, the PMDD survivor behind this story, and her family: [from right] Jim (Alissa’s husband), Alissa, Eva (17), and Asher (19).

I only lived to tell my story because of the undying love and support of my husband Jim who has stuck by me for 25 years, my son Asher (19), and my daughter Eva (17). Thankfully, they are all giving me the chance to show my true self; my sincere love and continued growth as a wife and mother. I am forever grateful to them.


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*If you have tried everything, like Alissa, to fight PMDD, but still have not found relief, there is HOPE. Contact Gia Allemand Foundation’s Peer Support to discuss further treatment options, including those mentioned in this post.

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