Cycling through Madness: My Experience with PMDD

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your PCP or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

This is my story. I’m not a medical professional and my experience is not intended to be used for any medical purpose. I chose to share my experience in case anyone else is going through a similar situation. If that is the case, I recommend to talk with your PCP or gynecologist about what is best for you.


I first noticed I was having depression symptoms about a year ago. I didn’t think much of it as I had gone through depression before and I was able to function normally. I simply pushed those feelings aside and continued my life normally. And then I was fine. I figured I was doing a good job at pushing them away.

As the year went by, I noticed that it was getting worse. Some days I couldn’t go by without ignoring those symptoms – the sadness, the exhaustion, the sense of doom. But other days I was okay. I had gone through a lot of stress – a new job, scrambling to find ways to improve my chances of getting into medical school, financial issues, managing Poshmark, to name a few – so I figured that was the trigger to my depression symptoms. I continued my with my life. I went on vacation, got accepted to Northwestern University, spent time with my family, had a thriving relationship – everything was great. My symptoms were less noticeable, I was feeling okay.

It wasn’t until September that I noticed that my depression was back, but this time I noticed that it was a cycle. I was fine some days and then I was not okay other days – some days I felt like living and other days I did not. I started worrying that I had bipolar disorder because of my lows, but I wasn’t experiencing any mania during the other days so that couldn’t be it. I started thinking back to the times when I was feeling depressed and realized that it almost lined up with my menstrual cycle. That’s when I remembered reading about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) . The Office on Women’s Health defines PMDD as:

a health problem that is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is more serious. PMDD causes severe irritability, depression, or anxiety in the week or two before your period starts. Symptoms usually go away two to three days after your period starts.

When I looked at the symptoms, I could almost check off all of them. Symptoms I was experiencing:

  • Lasting irritability or anger that may affect other people
  • Feelings of sadness or despair, or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Physical symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain

More symptoms listed here.

What drove me crazy was that I felt super depressed and in so much physical pain for 1.5-2 weeks and then I was perfectly normal by day 2 of my period. How is that even possible??

I finally decided to go to my doctor and I told her about what I was experiencing and my concerns about having PMDD. She told me that I was experiencing PMDD and that it can be treated with Zoloft (sertraline). We both agreed that I would try to manage symptoms on my own and not start medication just yet.

It all went downhill in December. December’s and January’s periods were bad but February’s was the worst. I experienced so much pain and had no will to live. I was not suicidal, but I did not want to live. For a week and a half, I had to force myself out of bed every morning. I had to pretend to function at work. I had no motivation to do anything. Then day 2 of my period came and I was normal. Day 3 I went to my doctor and told her that I think I needed to start the sertraline. I told her what was happening and told her that I was scared of my depression episodes worsening. She agreed that it was time I started medication.

I’ve been on sertraline for almost three weeks now. (You can find more information about the medication here) Adjusting to the medication was a little rough. The first few days of taking it, I felt extremely sleepy and I felt like my head was in the clouds. Then I just felt different – like something was off but I couldn’t just put my finger on it. By week two I was no longer feeling drowsy. Now at almost week 3, I feel like I’m tolerating the medication well. Only thing that still hasn’t improved is my sweating. I. sweat. so. freaking. much. I used to sweat a lot prior to starting sertraline, but now I am sweating even more (something I didn’t think was possible).

As I previously mentioned, I am sharing my story for anyone that may be going through something similar. If you have any indication that you may have PMDD or any mental/physical health issue, please please please talk to your PCP. Seek help. You are worth it.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

-M

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your PCP or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

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