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Dealing With the Dark Days: A Personal Struggle With PMDD

This story is supported by a grant from #BlackinScicomm Week and COMPASS Scicomm. All stories under the brack•ish series can be found here.

 

I reached for my pack of tissues, hissing at myself when I realized that the pack was empty.


I opened my eyes and stared around me. My bed was a mess. Scattered all around me were rumples of tissue paper soaked up with my tears. My head felt as though huge stones hidden in my skull were thumping steadily against each other, resulting in one of the most torturous headaches of my life, and my eyes were badly swollen.


If someone came into my room at that moment and asked me what the matter was, I doubt I would have been able to explain categorically to the person what the problem was.


My head felt as though huge stones hidden in my skull were thumping steadily against each other, resulting in one of the most torturous headaches of my life, and my eyes were badly swollen.

All I could possibly have said is that it seemed like a wave of bad energy had come over me when I woke up that morning, that it felt like something was drawing darkness out of me, bringing to the surface, secrets that I had safely buried in a part of my soul that I thought was way out of reach, that my mind was suddenly overwhelmed with memories from all my bad days, my mistakes, my traumatic experiences, all the pain I had survived over the years, that my head was filled with questions. Questions about who I was, what I wanted, what I was living for, why I was living.


I got up from my bed and glanced at the reflection of myself in the mirror. My face was a mess. I looked away, suddenly feeling appalled by the young woman staring back at me, suddenly wishing she was existing in a different place, a different time, a different body, and for a minute there, wishing she was not existing at all.


I am not always like this. I endeavor to keep myself mentally healthy most of the time. I keep myself busy with school, with my writing, with my music, and of recent, with my dance lessons. I keep my mind productively occupied and my body healthy.


But there are those times when something dark invades my personal space and takes over my mind. It usually lasts for about four, five days, roughly about one week. Within that period of time, I withdraw to myself, I avoid people, I spend most of the hours on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. I’d pick up my tablet and try to do some reading, some writing. It never works. So I give up. I would turn off the lights, bury myself under layers of blankets, and soak my pillow with tears till I fall asleep.


The hours would drag by, drowsily, heavily, till the day of salvation comes, the first day of my period.

The hours would drag by, drowsily, heavily, till the day of salvation comes, the first day of my period. As the blood starts to flow between my legs, and the physical ache that accompanies my menstrual period takes over me, the ache that had consumed my heart for the past few days would gradually begin to ease away, and slowly, but surely, my smile, my lightheartedness, would return.

I would look around my room, stupefied by the mess I had made. I would pick up my tablet and check my calendar and I’d be mad at myself for the load of work that I had piled up in the past one week, all the missed appointments and classes, all the missed calls, and I’d run my hands to through my hair, whispering to myself, “what on earth came over me?”


Then the darkness would be gone, my heart completely free of all the ache that had plagued it the past few days, and I would return to my normal, busy, healthy self; until the plagues returned, usually a week or so before my menstrual period, and I’d find myself plunged into those recesses of darkness once again.


Unsplash/The Xylom Illustration

 

Upon sharing these series of experiences with my doctor a few weeks ago, I learnt that what I had been suffering from is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of the more common premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The first emotion I remember feeling the moment my doctor shared this diagnosis with me is a kind of strange fear. I remember my heart thumping loudly in my chest and my palms getting wet with sweat. I had never been diagnosed with any serious health condition before and being diagnosed with something that had the word “Disorder” in it was new and scary. Briefly, at that moment, I really felt like something was wrong with me. However, with my doctor’s encouraging and comforting words, I gradually began to get a grasp of this condition and to understand that it is not something to be terrified of.


The first emotion I remember feeling the moment my doctor shared this diagnosis with me is a kind of strange fear. I remember my heart thumping loudly in my chest and my palms getting wet with sweat.