By Rebecca Drew
THIS STUNNING young woman was driven to attempt suicide thanks to a debilitating form of PMS that was thought to be triggered by her CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANT, leaving her depressed, in tears and with crippling headaches for the last two weeks of her cycle every month.
Student and social media influencer, Brenna Burk (21) from Bend, Oregon, USA, started to suffer with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS, two years ago after she had a contraceptive implant fitted into her arm. Soon after having the implant, Brenna started to notice a change in mood, tenderness in her breasts, headaches, cramping, bloating, extreme fatigue and even felt suicidal but didn’t link her symptoms to her cycle at first.
As the months went by, Brenna found that she would feel depressed for two weeks out of every month, after ovulation to the first day of her period where she would feel over-sensitive and cry over anything and in March this year, she attempted suicide.
For Brenna, who has struggled with bipolar two, OCD and generalised anxiety disorder growing up, it was only after speaking with her therapist and psychiatrist that a link between her moods and her menstrual cycle was finally made and she was diagnosed with PMDD in December last year.
“I have suffered PMDD for about two years now and have been officially diagnosed for under a year. I think it was triggered by the birth control Nexplanon that I had for a year, which is a progesterone-based arm implant,” said Brenna.
“PMDD is a severe form of PMS that causes debilitation of daily life. It includes symptoms such as suicidal thoughts and actions, depression, crying spells, excessive hunger, breast pain, cramping, bloating, headaches, and more.
“PMDD worsens after ovulation and is debilitating until the first day of the menstrual cycle, where most women with PMDD feel relief for two weeks before progesterone levels begin to increase again for the last two weeks of the cycle (luteal phase).
“Physically, PMDD makes me feel extremely fatigued, sluggish, and sick. I get very bad bloating and indigestion, tender breasts, headaches, and extreme fatigue.
“However, I find the emotional symptoms to be the least tolerable. They are debilitating because I sometimes feel suicidal, and I always feel very depressed for two weeks out of the month. I am very sensitive and will cry over just about anything, and my PMDD once led me to even attempt suicide.
“PMDD affects me in that I know it is coming every single month and have to prepare for how badly I’m going to feel for half of the month.
“I try to enjoy the beginning two weeks of my cycle as much as I possibly can because it is when I feel happiest and most motivated before my progesterone levels increase and I start feeling very sad and unmotivated.”
PMDD is a very extreme form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which can cause many emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before a period. It can make it difficult to work, socialise and make it difficult to have healthy relationships – in some cases, it can cause suicidal thoughts.
Brenna describes her condition as an ‘invisible illness’ and says that sometimes those close to her struggle to understand, she spoke out about the difficulties she faces living with PMDD.
“PMDD affects my life in that my relationships are strained due to lack of understanding on my loved ones’ parts. I do not blame them for not understanding as they have never been through this disorder, but it makes it very difficult to function, and that is hard to explain to people in my life seeing as PMDD is an invisible illness,” she said.
“It sounds as if I’m being dramatic about PMS but it is a very real and debilitating disorder that causes me to be extremely sensitive and emotional, which everyone around me does not always react to well.
“The most difficult part of PMDD for me is the depression and insecurity it brings. It makes me feel truly paranoid and hated by the world. I feel as if nobody loves me, and I certainly don’t love myself during this time.
“I am very self-conscious, depressed, unmotivated, tearful, and emotional because of PMDD and it is very difficult to lead on as if I live a normal life to everyone around me, because this affects me every single day.
“If I’m not in luteal phase, I can’t help but spend some of my “happy” days dreading luteal phase when I’m going to feel terrible.”
Brenna is on Abilify and Prozac for her condition, she also follows a vegetarian diet and a semi-intense exercise routine to manage her disorder.
“I would really like women that think they’re experiencing this to know they are not alone, they are not crazy, and they are not flawed because of it,” she said.
“It is a very real disorder and I want women to feel validated for the symptoms they are experiencing, because we can often be told we are making things up or exaggerating.
“I want women to feel safe and comfortable talking about this condition and together raise awareness.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/pmddsupport