When I was diagnosed with PMDD, I was working as a research assistant in a not-for-profit research institute. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing emotional-based issues with my colleagues or employers. This led to not understanding why I had lots of ‘sick days’ and being told, in not so few words, to sort it out. They all seemed to ‘have it together’. I just kept quiet, leading me to be isolated at work.
I have since started a PhD and met lots of students with various levels of mental health impairments. It took a few months to overcome the stigma I felt taking antidepressants. There shouldn’t be stigma about medication, yet I couldn’t help but feel it. I felt like a fraud - I had it easy with the predictive nature of PMDD, while others have ‘proper’ depression. This kept me from talking about it until other peoples’ openness about their mental health made me realise that I have it bad, too - I’m entitled to feel how I do.
I told my supervisor about my PMDD, from the aspect of wanting to design a study around myself, as a side-project to my PhD. I was nervous about opening up so much. I said, in an objective way, ‘I want to study the chemical changes in a disorder called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, It’s like PMS but worse… using me as a patient, as I have it’. He looked blank and said he hadn’t heard of that, but the project sounds interesting. We went on to talk about the disorder, in a clinical manner, which I felt helped me open up. I’m also very lucky he isn’t one of those men who is embarrassed or grossed out by women’s health and biology. He spoke about other women’s health research he is interested in, such as the microbiome of vaginal vs c-section births. I feel he spoke about this to show that he isn’t averse to having such conversations, while also supporting my research idea, and being considerate of my mental health. I’m excited and happy he is so supportive.