I was sixteen-years-old when my body decided it was ready to complete its transition into womanhood. My face was slick and shiny with oil, uterus irritatingly contorting but I had a stockpile of pads — I was ready! Or so I thought.
There is only so much they taught us during the awkwardness of Sexual Education class. The basics are essential: ladies, you bleed and carry babies; and fellas, you get erections and impregnate the ladies. But knowing what I know now, I wish they would’ve dug a little deeper and urged us — by us, I mean young women — to understand that our bodies are not only going to look different from one another during this transition but that things are happening internally that can negatively affect us mentally.
I was eighteen when I became a pro when it came to my monthly flow. My cycle was on time every month for a five-day visit, and I had upgraded to tampons, so life was good. I was also eighteen-years-old the first time I ever contemplated suicide. I remember being so confused as to why I no longer wanted to live this thing called life. The feeling came out of nowhere, it seemed, but I just attributed it to whatever was going on in my life at the time. Deep down, I knew I didn’t want to end my life, but there was still a dark cloud hovering in the back of my mind telling me that it was what I wanted to do.
I was twenty-five when I started using birth control for the first time in my life. For years, I refused to use birth control because I thought you had to be sexually active to be prescribed — which I know is silly now, because how would a physician honestly know your sexual activity, right? Not only was I taking preventative pregnancy measures, but I was also no longer experiencing the vulgar sensations in my uterus every month. What used to be a sometimes unbearable pain that would bring me to my knees had been diminished to what could be confused as a tiny bubble of gas. My monthly five-day visit had been reduced to two days of spotting. Once again, life was good.
I was twenty-six when I decided to stop using birth control. The migraines I started to get just weren’t worth it anymore. I was also twenty-six when I had the scariest moment of my life. That voice in the back of my mind — the one that kept telling me to end my life — had returned, and it was loud. It had made its way to the forefront of my existence so much so that I could see it. Like before, I knew for a fact that this was not what I wanted, but this dark cloud I’ve struggled with for years had manifested itself in a new and dangerous way, and I immediately sought out help.
The help and advice I received was a life changer, more like a life gainer for me. I learned of this unfortunate disorder some women experience before their cycle begins called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. According to the Office on Women’s Health, PMDD is a condition similar to Pre-Menstrual Syndrome that also happens a week or two before your period starts, as hormone levels begin to fall after ovulation. PMDD causes more severe symptoms than PMS, including severe depression, irritability, and tension; and affects up to 5% of women of childbearing age. When I learned this information, I saw all of my womanhood years flash before my eyes. It all made complete sense. Every time I was in such a massive depressive state was always a week before my period started.
I began to read through all of the symptoms and checked off more boxes than I thought I would.
I was twenty-seven when I regained control of my body. Yes, those thoughts still taunted me a week before my period began, but I knew why they were there now and knew their time was short-lived. What once brought such confusion and uncertainty to my life, had a name. Since then, every time that dark cloud came rolling in, I knew PMDD was rolling in with it. It didn’t affect me the same way once I knew what it was. That voice in the back of my mind became a tiny blip. I’m thirty-one now, and the tiny blip is still there. I don’t think it will ever disappear. But, at least I know I’m not crazy, and most of all, I do not want to kill myself.
Note: If you or anyone you know suffers severe anxiety, tension, mood swings, sleeplessness, and depression a week or two before they start their period, I encourage you or them to seek help as soon as possible. Let it be known that I do not know of any statistical data or correlation between suicide and women with PMDD, diagnosed or undiagnosed. I can only speak from my personal experience and how close I was to doing something I would’ve immediately regretted.
(Featured Artwork: Katherine Streeter)