A MUM who suffers an extreme form of PMT has said she doesn't want other women to feel alone after she considered harming herself to escape her "crushing" anxiety.
Lauren Crilly, from Portrush, County Antrim, has battled a rare condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) since her teens.
It has affected her education, her relationships, and at its worst she says it made her think of harming herself she became "scared" about what she might do.
Now the mum-of-one is speaking out to raise awareness of PMDD and reassure other women they don’t need to suffer in silence.
Lauren, 27, says “hardly anyone has heard of PMDD, but for years it ruled my life,” she says.
“I thought I was going mad.
“For four two weeks out of every month, as my period approached, it literally turned me into a monster.”
Lauren’s problems began when she started her periods, aged 14.
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They were heavy and so agonizing that sometimes she would pass out with the pain.
As her hormones raged out of control she began suffering severe mood swings.
“I was irritable, impulsive and confused,” she remembers.
“I would pick an argument with anybody and everybody.
“I ended up taking days off school every month because the pain was just too much.”
Aged 17 she saw her GP and was prescribed a hormonal contraceptive implant in her arm.
“I thought it was going to be a magic solution but with hindsight, it was the worst decision I ever made,” she says.
“For me, hormone contraceptives were not the answer; if anything they made my symptoms even worse.”
Lauren’s intense mood swings caused tension in her relationship with her mum and at 18 she moved out of the family home.
I had this crushing anxiety and felt like I wanted to harm myself.
She trained to be a hairdresser, but for the next few years distracted herself with partying and drinking heavily.
“I was on an emotional rollercoaster and I was trying to numb myself,” she remembers.
“I began suffering with anxiety and panic attacks.
“For those two weeks of my cycle when things were bad, I also had severe body dysmorphia.
“I hated the way I looked and everything about myself.
“I felt disgusted when I looked in the mirror.”
It was around this time, seven years ago, that Lauren first started experimenting with special effects make-up.
She’d always been artistic and began to find using her face as a canvas cathartic.
“It was like I was channeling all my emotions and frustrations into my face,” she explains.
“I could be whoever I wanted to be, depending on how I was feeling.
“Some days I would make myself up like a mermaid or a clown. Other days I was a screaming monster.
“It was like a form of therapy – it helped me cope.”
Then in 2019 Lauren fell pregnant with her partner who had stood by her through many of her struggles.
In an instant, all her symptoms stopped.
She explains: “It was like a fog had cleared. For the first time in my adult life I felt normal.
“That’s when I finally realised it was my periods and my menstrual cycle that were causing the problems with my mental and emotional wellbeing.”
It wasn’t until Lauren stopped breastfeeding her son, Archie, when he was six months old that her periods re-started – and with them all the old feelings returned.
THIS is what you need to know about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), according to Mind:
- It is a very severe form of PMT/PMS, thought to affect about 3% of women
- It happens during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle – the two weeks between ovulation and the start of the period.
- PMDD can cause mood swings, feeling upset or tearful, a lack of energy, anger or irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, an urge to self harm, dark and even suicidal thoughts.
- Physical symptoms may include breast tenderness, headaches, bloating, food cravings, muscle pain and sleep problems.
- PMDD can make it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships.
For information and support, visit www.mind.org.uk.
“That was a real turning point,” says Lauren. “I had this crushing anxiety and I actually felt like I wanted to harm myself.
“I just thought, ‘This can’t go on. I’m a mum now, Archie needs me. I need to get help’.
“I was scared of what I might do to myself.”
Lauren began researching online and came across Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
She spoke to a psychiatrist who confirmed her suspicions, although she says he had to get a second opinion as he’d only seen PMDD once in his career.
That was six months ago and Lauren was prescribed mood stabilising medication, which has eased many of her symptoms.
I know I wasn't going mad
She has also gone teetotal and has rebuilt her relationship with her mum.
“Mum was really emotional when she learned about PMDD, because things finally made sense,” says Lauren.
“It was like a light bulb going on for both of us.
“There had been a reason for my behaviour and my mood swings.
“Having the diagnosis was like a weight being lifted because I knew I wasn’t going mad.”
Lauren is now a busy mum to Archie, but she still finds time to do her special effects make-up once a week, posting tutorials on her Instagram account @lauren.crilldawg.mua.
She also volunteers as a make-up artist for local am-dram productions and says she still finds it cathartic when she’s struggling.
Archie loves seeing his mum’s creations, although he did do a double-take one day when she made herself up as the Joker.
“I really want to raise awareness of PMDD,” says Lauren.
“There must be other women out there who are suffering in silence, wondering what’s wrong with them.
“I want them to know they’re not alone.”
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