By Kait Petersen
The women in my family have an unfortunate history of painful periods…
When I was about 15, I started getting PMS symptoms. I didn’t have a physical period for a long time, but I got extreme cramps to the point that I couldn’t leave my bed and would become so nauseous that I always vomited. I was so upset that this was what I had to “look forward to” for the rest of my life.
The next few years I just dealt with my periods as they came. They were extremely irregular that I couldn’t even keep track of them; I just had to wait and see.
It wasn’t until I started becoming sexually active that I looked into birth control. I was already diagnosed with anxiety and depression before starting birth control. After starting it, I did notice that my cycles were becoming normal and my PMS wasn’t as bad as it had been.
Now we fast forward to about 6 years later. I was consistently taking the pill throughout these years and beginning in 2018 I started to notice I was bleeding way more than usual – I was basically having 2 periods every month. One day, I started having intense abdominal pain and felt lightheaded. I went to urgent care, and that’s where I found out that I was experiencing extremely high blood pressure and an ovarian cyst had burst. They were unable to tell why I was bleeding so much though so I had to follow up with my primary care doctor.
The first thing we did was change my birth control. My doctor suggested that I needed a higher dose of estrogen, but since I’m prone to migraines, we switched me to the Nuva Ring. I also went in for a cardiology consult to have a 24-hour blood pressure monitor placed.
My blood pressure results came back, and it showed that I consistently had high blood pressure. This meant I had to go through several tests and stop all hormonal birth control.
I followed up with my gynecologist, and it was determined that any other kind of birth control was not ideal for me given my family medical history and my symptoms. We decided that I would stay off birth control to see if my cycle normalized and revisit birth control in a few months.
The first few months it went so well! I wasn’t experiencing migraines, I had minimal cramps, and I wasn’t excessively bleeding. I was so happy with the results. But then things started to change. All the hormones had flushed out of my system, and my body was adapting to this new lifestyle. I started becoming so depressed and angry. I was angry to the point of using physical force. I cried uncontrollably and wanted to eat everything in sight.
I had another follow up with my doctor to discuss my blood pressure. During that visit, I told her that I had a lot of pros being off birth control, but the cons were starting to become too much. She suggested that I start an anti-anxiety medication. I was hesitant because I told her I was feeling fine most of the time, but when my period came around, I was out of control. This was when she told me I likely had PMDD. I had never heard of it before and started doing a lot of research at home. Everything I read made so much sense. I literally felt like I was going crazy and this proved that I wasn’t.
Living with PMDD at 23 years old has been extremely difficult. It’s put an extreme strain on my friendships, relationship, and my work life. I was overwhelmed and felt like there was nothing left for me anymore. I was about to take my life, but a phone call stopped me. Had I not received that call, I would have gone through with what I was about to do and attempted suicide.
Since then I’ve been in therapy, taking my medications, and seeing the appropriate doctors. I downloaded the app Me v PMDD so I can keep track of my symptoms daily. I’m learning more about my diagnosis and how it affects me and what I can do to take control of it. I know it’ll never be fixed and that I’ll still have my bad days, but I’m doing everything I can to get help. I definitely would not have been able to do this without the support of my family, friends, and my ex-boyfriend. (We stopped our relationship due to the strain of my PMDD and his busy life. We’ve continued to stay in touch, and he’s been much more understanding of what I’m going through).
The support I have, medication, and tools I use from therapy have been incredibly beneficial and life-changing. It’s a slow process, but I’m determined to stay patient and know that I will get to a stable place soon.
About the Warrior
I’m Kait – a 23-year-old with PMDD. I currently run a lifestyle blog where I talk about my journey with PMDD. I’m a huge mental health advocate and want to see changes in our society!