One week of contentment, two weeks of misery, one week of recovery. Four letters. PMDD. One more than its gentler cousin, PMS. Eight defining characteristics: depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, moodiness, increased appetite, extreme fatigue, feeling out of control. Twelve, the number of days per cycle you experience said symptoms. Forty-four, the age at which you were diagnosed. Three years of experiencing symptoms before an official acknowledgment. Two, the number of psychiatrists it took to diagnose you. 2013, the year PMDD was added to the list of depressive disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). One mental disorder it’s often confused with: Bipolar Disorder. One main hormone that is to blame: Progesterone. Four different treatment options: oral contraceptives, antidepressants, chemically-induced menopause, hysterectomy. Three, the number of antidepressants it took to find the right fit. Two brain chemicals your medication targets: Serotonin and Norepinephrine. One, the number of sleeves of Golden Oreo cookies you can consume in one sitting two or three days before your period arrives. Two children who have to hear you say “sorry, mommy can’t play Monopoly right now because she has to lie down.” One, the number of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) courses for anxiety you took after you were diagnosed. Zero, the number of people you knew had PMDD before your diagnosis. One person, you suspect had the condition—your mother, an Italian-immigrant, stay-at-home mom who would never give credence to a mood disorder but who would simply “push through” because caring for your six children is more important than taking care of yourself. Five, the approximate percentage of people worldwide who have PMDD. Fifteen percent of people with this disorder will attempt suicide in their lifetime. Six, the number of years left before you go into menopause according to national statistics when you may see some relief. Zero, the number of known cures. The number of times a sufferer will encounter misogyny while seeking support: countless.
Lori is a writer and teacher from Ontario, Canada. Her essays have been published in the Humber Literary Review, The New Quarterly, Nurture: A Literary Journal and Porcupine Literary. You can read more of her work at lorisebastianutti.com.