I Have PMDD, Here’s How I Treat My Skin

I Have PMDD, Here’s How I Treat My Skin

PMS – you know, the acronym that men like to label us with when we’re slightly moody or rightfully pissed off – is when your hormones run rampant once a month, making you feel a little out of control and a tad crazy. 

Imagine if every cycle you experience PMS symptoms, but on steroids. That’s Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). But it’s not that commonly known. In fact, I suffered from it for years without knowing I was suffering from anything at all. 

Here I was thinking my period was just a little intense – yeah, yeah, I get real moody and hungry before I start to bleed. As I got older though, it got worse. I wasn’t simply cranky anymore, I was anxious and depressed for anywhere from 1-2 weeks before my cycle started. Panic attacks became a monthly occurrence. And my skin? Deep, painful pimples would break out on my chin and jawline. 

I felt so disorientated from myself that it was impossible to recognise the pattern of it all. When these symptoms take up such a huge chunk of a (on average) 30 day cycle, it didn’t click that it had anything to do with my period. 

My GP encouraged me to track my symptoms over 3-5 months. I started making notes on when my irrational anger would start to rear its ugly head, when my appetite increased, my stomach bloated and more importantly, when the panic attacks started and what their triggers were (usually cooking incidents or mistakes, funnily enough). It became clear that these all coincided around the same time each month: right after ovulation and before menstruation. Seeing the notes on my phone become a consistent pattern felt oddly satisfying. I wasn’t going crazy, I was at the whim of my hormones, but I was starting to understand them. 

After that, my doctor confidently told me that I have PMDD. What could I do about it? Well, I could opt for anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants, but personally that didn’t feel right for me. Otherwise, I should continue to eat wholefoods, exercise regularly, and take painkillers when needed. So yeah, there’s no real ‘cure’. 

Post-diagnosis I had to devise my own coping strategies. Aside from regular meditation and appointments with my psychologist to combat the deflated balloon-like feeling in my chest, tackling my hormonal breakouts felt a little more tangible. The tiny bumps that appear along my jaw and turn angry and inflamed overnight are the first sign that winter (my period) is coming. While I can’t make these bad boys go away instantly, I can soothe them, and treat them nicely, to help speed up the healing process. 

I like to strip my routine right back and focus on the products/steps I know are going to support my skin barrier. A gentle gel cleanser to keep my skin clean and hydrated, and then a BHA gets to the root of those dang pimples. It’s tempting to want to go hard on the astringent, drying products, but I have found – through trial and error – that this does more harm than good. Instead, I pat in a replenishing hyaluronic serum, then apply a ceramide-rich mask for added nourishment. I let that get to work for quite some time, before gently removing and finishing and locking in all that new-found moisturiser with a face oil and face cream before bed. 

It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but when I don’t have a lot of (emotional or physical) energy, some simple self-care steps that feel like they’re actually making a difference can really lift my mood. Plus a mountain of chocolate – f**k the wholefoods, I like to wallow.