Most women would admit to feeling a little ‘off’ around their time of the month. But for Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm, cramps, crankiness and a craving for carbs is the least of her worries.
Taking to her blog last week, the 26-year-old shared she’s been battling a psychiatric illness that strikes during the latter part of her menstrual cycle.
“So, I am currently really in struggle mode,” she wrote.
“For the last year or so I have had a very hard time with anxiety and anxiety attack. Finally, this year I got a diagnosis for it.”
That diagnosis was Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (aka, PMDD) and it’s estimated that between three to eight per cent of all women are currently dealing with it.
“Basically, for two weeks out of every month during the luteal phase of my cycle), my mental state gets hijacked by darkness,” she explained. “This shifty shadow sits on my shoulder and tells me I am a terrible human who doesn’t deserve anything good. It also drums up some epic anxiety, lethargy, a lot of sleeping, catastrophic thoughts and anxiety attacks. Each morning during this time, I get handed this platter of debilitating emotional pain and I have to navigate my way through.”
When she’s not working, Bridget can barely get out of bed and it becomes a “massive struggle” for her to see the day through. It’s no wonder then, that 15 per cent of suffers attempt suicide.
“It’s a frighteningly real condition,” she added. “It’s not PMS. I miss having PMS. This is much more debilitating.”
Then, when she moves out of this particular phase of her cycle, “a switch gets flicked” and she begins to feel like her old “happy and light” self again.
“It’s getting to the point now where I am terrified of travelling when I am on my ‘two weeks from hell.’ I’m so frightened of having an anxiety attack in an airport (happened), or alone in a hotel room (happened), or walking along the street (happened). For half of my month, there is a part of me, every single day, telling myself that I don’t deserve to live.”
“I’m not suicidal. But, there is a part of me that works hard to try and convince myself that I am pointless. It’s terrifying.”
Whilst the condition is increasingly common, much more research is needed into why it actually occurs (some experts believe it’s a result of damaged/underactive hormone receptors). And as far as treatment goes, the options are also limited.
“There are a couple of options for symptom control, but nothing that gets to the core of the issue because there have not been the resources put into learning about it,” Bridget explained.
“I have tried working out, sleeping more, less caffeine, including fish in my diet, not including fish, being in the sun regularly, being with friends, being alone, reading happy books, meditation, acupuncture, reiki, happy thoughts.”
She’s also looked into blood work, sought advice from naturopaths, tried various herbs and supplements and sat through “hours and hours of therapy.”
“Recognising the signs of danger is slowly getting easier,” she wrote. “But the attacks are getting worse. I am not ashamed to say that I am far from OK right now. I need to take a step back and figure this out. There is a lot of love in my life and I cannot go on anymore losing half of my time to PMDD.”
In an effort to raise awareness for the condition, Bridget is now urging others to speak up if they are struggling.
“Never be ashamed to reach out,” she wrote. “There I absolutely nothing wrong with not being OK. Nobody is OK all the time. Things can get dark. But if we talk about it and bring the darkness into the light we can start to fight the battle.”
If any of this rings true for you, talking to your GP is a great first step. You can also call the SANE Australia Helpline on 1800 187 263 to talk to a mental health professional from 10am-10pm AEST, or visit the SANE Online Forums at saneforums.org.