Mem­ory loss. Un­con­trol­lable rage. Even vi­o­lence . . . Thought your time of the month was bad? Read on!

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - by Rhian Ivory

The spells of for­get­ful­ness started in my late teens. I’d find my­self un­able to re­mem­ber where I’d parked my car, or get ap­point­ments mixed up.

Worse still, I be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing episodes of burn­ing rage, turn­ing into a mon­ster who would say un­for­giv­able things to friends or fam­ily. And un­til I was re­minded, I’d have vir­tu­ally no rec­ol­lec­tion.

It was as if I’d been blind drunk — ex­cept I hadn’t been drink­ing. each time, the hor­ror of find­ing out what I’d said or done was gut-wrench­ing. Not sur­pris­ingly, these bouts of am­ne­sia were ter­ri­fy­ing. Not for many years did I discover I’d been over­come by my hor­mones.

Peo­ple of­ten dis­miss pre­men­strual ten­sion as ‘women’s prob­lems’, the time of the month when women’s emo­tions are out of con­trol. But since the age of 15, my life has been over­shad­owed by one week every month when my per­son­al­ity un­der­goes a trans­for­ma­tion.

Take re­cently, when I no­ticed our new and ex­pen­sive kitchen bin had a deep dent in it. For a sec­ond, I thought: ‘Oh my God, what have the kids done?’ and then, with hor­ror, I re­mem­bered it was me — I had smashed the bin. I was over­come with shame.

Fi­nally, last year, aged 41, I was di­ag­nosed with Pre­men­strual Dyspho­ric Dis­or­der (PMDD), which is thought to af­fect be­tween three and eight per cent of women.

It causes ex­treme emo­tional and phys­i­cal symp­toms, in­clud­ing vi­o­lent mood swings, sleep prob­lems and sui­ci­dal feel­ings. Al­though it is a hor­mone dis­or­der, it has also been cat­e­gorised as a men­tal health prob­lem, too.

While many women com­plain of feel­ing sad and ir­ri­ta­ble for one week a month, they’re mostly suf­fer­ing from the milder PMS (Pre­men­strual syn­drome). PMDD is dif­fer­ent. you can’t ease it with choco­late, a parac­eta­mol and a hot wa­ter bot­tle. And you def­i­nitely can’t laugh about it.

MY DI­AG­NO­SIS was shock­ing, yet a re­lief to have a medical ex­pla­na­tion for what was wrong.

Peo­ple have said I should be able to deal with my PMS like every­one else, but Pre­men­strual Dyspho­ric Dis­or­der isn’t the same.

My symp­toms be­gan as a teenager, growing up in the cotswolds. I re­mem­ber of­ten feel­ing so an­gry I would stomp off, slam­ming the front door. I didn’t want to see any­one, not even my best friends. At school, I was of­ten kicked out of lessons for row­ing with teach­ers.

Over time I learned to ex­pect these symp­toms dur­ing the week be­fore my monthly pe­riod. When the week was over, the rage and mis­ery would dis­ap­pear.

There was phys­i­cal pain, too, I’d be bent dou­ble in agony. yet the rest of the time, I was the life and soul of the party.

I re­mem­ber as a stu­dent at Aberys­t­wyth Univer­sity, I cooked a roast din­ner for friends. We sat down to eat, then some­one in­no­cently asked if they could have an­other roast potato. I lost it.

Sling­ing my plate across the room, I called my friend a ‘big fat pig’ and screamed about how greedy she was. Then I ran up­stairs and sobbed. If a friend’s party or, when I was older, a work event fell dur­ing my ‘hell week’, I would make any excuse not to go. I was pow­er­less to stop my be­hav­iour and I’d be ter­ri­fied I’d alien­ate a friend, or get fired.

As I got older, I’d have scary episodes of for­get­ful­ness. I suf­fered from dread­ful in­som­nia and started to get mi­graines.

My symp­toms had a ma­jor im­pact on re­la­tion­ships. I had boyfriends, but I’d get to about three months and dump every one of them dur­ing a fit of rage. It be­came a fam­ily joke. But I didn’t find it funny. I’d of­ten re­gret what I’d done but feel too em­bar­rassed to try to res­cue the re­la­tion­ship.

The only man who made it past three months would go on to be­come my hus­band. We met at a night­club on Guernsey while I was teach­ing there in my 20s. he pro­posed quickly — if we hadn’t been en­gaged, I would doubt­less have split up with him, too. We mar­ried when I was 26, and I be­came preg­nant — but it ended, trag­i­cally, in a still­birth. Over the next decade I had 11 preg­nan­cies, re­sult­ing in eight losses and three healthy chil­dren, now aged 13, 11 and seven. I sus­pect now my mis­car­riages were linked to my PMDD, al­though doc­tors say there isn’t a proven link. What I know for cer­tain is af­ter each preg­nancy, my symp­toms grew more se­vere, prob­a­bly be­cause the changes in my body played havoc with my hor­mones. Women with PMDD are ge­net­i­cally more sen­si­tive to the ef­fects of oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone.

For a week each month, the world be­came a dark place. I would hear hor­ri­ble, ugly words com­ing out of my mouth, and be un­able to stop say­ing them. I did my best to stay out of the way of my fam­ily, tak­ing the dog for long walks so I couldn’t take it out on the chil­dren.

Women with PMDD used to be locked up in asy­lums. More re­cently, many have been mis­di­ag­nosed with bipo­lar dis­or­der.

I fi­nally got my di­ag­no­sis last year. I’d started writing my new novel, hope, and my main char­ac­ter was a re­ally an­gry girl. I needed a rea­son for her anger. My re­search brought me to PMDD.

When I read the symp­toms list on the NhS web­site, I had a sud­den re­al­i­sa­tion: it ex­plained all the prob­lems I’d been hav­ing for the past 25 years! My rage and frus­tra­tion weren’t a char­ac­ter flaw and I wasn’t go­ing mad.

I went to my GP. But she wasn’t well in­formed — I felt she thought I was mak­ing up the ex­tent of my symp­toms — and pre­scribed an an­tide­pres­sant. It did noth­ing, un­sur­pris­ingly, as I wasn’t de­pressed. A sec­ond an­tide­pres­sant also failed to help.

Then, in Oc­to­ber last year, I saw a con­sul­tant who didn’t make me feel like I was ex­ag­ger­at­ing.

I was pre­scribed a nasal spray called na­fare­lin, which stops me ovu­lat­ing; a cap­sule called Utro­ges­tan to in­crease my lev­els of pro­ges­terone; and San­drena, an oe­stro­gen re­place­ment gel.

The doc­tor told me the com­bi­na­tion would help reg­u­late my hor­mone lev­els — but ul­ti­mately, if I wanted to cure my PMDD, I would need a hys­terec­tomy. I found it hard to be­lieve my years of mis­ery could be eased sim­ply.

The fi­nal proof my rage was caused by my hor­mones came when the med­i­ca­tion worked al­most in­stantly. It was like magic — I was my­self again.

Re­cently, I ran out of cap­sules. I as­sumed I’d be fine for a short spell, but within a day, I had a melt­down. My chil­dren were play­ing with Nerf guns, shoot­ing at each other, when one started cry­ing.

Rag­ing, I made them put every gun and foam bul­let in a bin bag. Then I stomped out­side and put it in the bin, be­fore punch­ing the bin over and over, kick­ing and swear­ing at it. Then I made my dis­traught chil­dren watch as the bin­men took the rub­bish away.

At some point, I will have my hys­terec­tomy. I’m lucky I’ve had my chil­dren — mother­hood is not some­thing I would have sac­ri­ficed. But I can’t wait to func­tion like a nor­mal hu­man be­ing.

Rhian ivoRy’s novel hope is pub­lished by Fire­fly Press, price £7.99.

Monthly mis­ery: Rhian Ivory

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.