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I entered perimenopause about four years ago. It not-so-coincidentally was accompanied by an intensification of my PMDD that eventually made me realize I had PMDD. Up to that point, I thought I was just the lone grumpy bitch everyone thought I was once a month for most of my life and that, for some reason, I had turned into a bigger grumpy bitch at the age of 45.
The thought of menopause for many women with PMDD is like the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel...a very, very long tunnel. Unfortunately for many women, the symptoms of PMDD actually get worse in stages proceeding menopause, and it can take years to feel better. I know that is not good news. That doesn't mean it will be your experience, but it has been mine. I share it now not to shatter anyone's dreams of a better future, but to help women going through the same thing to know, yes, it's a new kind of challenge, and no, you're not imagining or creating things. Here's what gets tougher:
Charting goes out the window...
A woman with PMDD relies so heavily on the calendar to plan life around symptom-free days. In perimenopause, this becomes entirely unreliable, if not downright impossible, as women start to skip periods or have them closer together than normal or even go without having a period for months at a time. Some might even prematurely celebrate that their last period was actually their last period. Though my own sister just suddenly stopped one day and never had anothet period (lucky bitch!), I think that's the minority experience. One feels a little like there is no ground and nothing left to rely on when one of the only vestiges of control is wrenched from her aging hands. But you know what? The sun still rises and sets like clockwork...thank heavens!
One of the worst symptoms I've been learning to deal with are ghost periods...periods that never come but feel like you're on your period for weeks at a time. In fact, I just passed a 46 day cycle during which I felt like I had my period twice but never did. I had all the usual PMDD symptoms and all the usual menstrual symptoms of bloating and tenderness, but nothing happened. Sometimes it feels like constant PMDD with no relief because the menses that usually brought some relief after PMDD never comes. It totally sucks. It is just bewildering at times and can really lead a women to think she's in permanent PMDD. True to PMDD, this does pass, but when one is in it, it's the only damn reality.
No Way to Know What's Causing Moods...
For women with PMDD, there is a flood of relief when menses starts and we can confirm repeatedly for ourselves, "Ah, yes, so that's why I totally lost my sanity and self-control yesterday. Okay then." A very difficult challenge for the perimenopausal women is that there is no way to know why you've suddenly turned into a dragon if the expected period never arrives. It brings back the pre-diagnosis fears of just being a nasty, unstable person and could be one month, two months, supposedly up to 12 months, before you'll know for sure! I cannot explain my relief after two months with no period how relieved I was to get it the day after I threw a complete fit over absolutely nothing. I cannot tell you how much I dread the thought of no longer being able to count on that!
It's not all bad news. There are things that get easier too. In my case, my flow has been lighter. I'm also just so much older and wiser now, and the things that would have made me feel guilty or triggered me in some other way when I was younger just don't trigger me anymore. Plus, taking care of myself and giving myself what I need without apology or explanation is so much easier.
We all face unique challenges at every age, but the fact that there are challenges are what we share. I'm still holding out for a promised land of a completed menopause where PMDD is a sure and certain history. Until then, I've joined yet one more Facebook group for women with peri and menopause support. See you there?