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Anja Simonsen - Life with PMDD
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Life with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – Anja Simonsen

Life with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – Anja Simonsen

Being diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) made me realize women are still being kept in the dark about their health. I want to change that.

As a 26-year-old who has spent the majority of my working life in the health tech space, I thought I was pretty clued up about female health. I didn’t have monthly periods, but that wasn’t really my biggest worry in my late teens and early twenties. Having a bleed just felt like an inconvenience, and to be honest, I hated spending my money on menstrual products. Mostly, I didn’t worry or pay much attention to my cycle. From the way I saw it, I would have inconsistent periods, may need a little bit of medical intervention if I decided I wanted to have a baby, and I would then transition into menopause (a problem for an older me).

Ignoring the Signs: Early Experiences with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

It wasn’t until September 2023, when I was diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) when I realized just how impactful my cycle was.

Going back a few years, I had always had ‘low points’ – times when I just wanted to head to bed, where I would stay for a couple of days. I would lie down and wait for it to pass. I would sob because life felt very long. I would toss and turn because I couldn’t bear the feeling of my own skin. I would bury my head in the pillows because I wanted to quieten the ugly voices in my head. And then, I would feel fine. I would resurface and rejoin my life. With a big, unforced smile on my face, nobody would have known. I could hardly believe it myself! What an odd couple of days, I thought, as I brushed it off.

Getting Answers: The Road to Diagnosis

This brings us to May 2023. These ‘episodes’ were becoming more frequent and way scarier. I couldn’t just brush it off anymore. Was I going crazy? Did I have bipolar disorder? It was at the time that I was working in a very busy job. My work days were long, and my stress eventually led to burnout. So that was my answer, I thought; I was just burnt out. I just needed to change jobs!

After a few weeks of being out of the workplace, I still couldn’t shake these drastic dips in my overall well-being, so I went to my local doctor. It was then that PMDD was explained to me, and that’s when it clicked. My mood followed a very specific pattern. I knew I had about 2 ‘good’ weeks, followed by a week where everything was so much harder: socializing, working, exercising. When I finally got my diagnosis from my gynecologist, I was thrilled. I could be ‘cured’ and carry on living my life.

Understanding PMDD: What Every Woman Should Know

If you haven’t heard of PMDD, you won’t be alone. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a condition that affects individuals who menstruate, causing severe physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms in the days leading up to their menstrual period. Unlike typical premenstrual symptoms, such as mild mood swings or fatigue, PMDD symptoms are much more severe and can significantly impair daily functioning and quality of life.

Treatment Options and Challenges

My three treatment options were simple but life-changing. Antidepressants, an injection to go into early onset menopause or a hysterectomy.

I couldn’t – and still can’t – believe that these were all of my options. It emphasized how little understanding and education there was about women’s hormonal health.

Empowering Women: Advocating for Hormonal Health Education

I started talking to friends, I conducted my own research: I realized the average woman had no idea what was happening in her body. The more I looked into it, the more I realized the power every person who menstruates has inside of them. With a few small tweaks around general lifestyle habits and an understanding of how a menstrual cycle impacts us, it can be life-changing for so many women. The menstrual cycle serves as an intrinsic tool for women to unlock their fullest potential throughout the month. Why is it being hidden from us?

Building a Community: Questions of a Woman

I am now committed to understanding as much as I can about the menstrual cycle and connecting individuals who menstruate with reliable and trustworthy experts who can address pressing, yet often overlooked questions. I am sharing the conversations I’m having on @questionsofawoman on Instagram, and can be heard on my podcast, Seedlings.

Questions of a Woman currently exists as an online community on Instagram for women with PMDD or for those who want to hear how they can use their menstrual cycle to make the best lifestyle choices for them. In Season 2 of Seedlings, you can hear honest, actionable conversations that I’ve had with women’s health and wellness experts. All to shed some light on the ways women can make small changes to feel a whole lot better.

I hope that Questions of a Woman will help even one person. Nobody should feel like they are alone or in the dark when it comes to their health.

If I Could Tell You One Thing…

If you are someone who menstruates, my most important learning (so far) is that your cycle is such an important part of you. It acts as a map when on your health and wellbeing journey – from knowing what food you should be eating and when, how to exercise and move your body in a way that will make you feel your best, to understanding how to manage stress and friendships: our monthly cycle is not something that should be ignored.

The best gift you can give yourself is learning about yourself: what is and isn’t normal for you. You are the only one who can be an expert in your body, so take the job seriously, and have fun getting to know yourself!

Empowering Women Through Knowledge

Your cycle is not a burden to bear but rather a powerful tool for understanding and optimizing your health and well-being. By advocating for greater awareness and education surrounding women’s hormonal health, we can empower women to take control of their bodies and lead healthier, happier lives.

Read more powerful stories on our Inspiration page, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

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Anja Simonsen

Smart Girl

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