Vicky Pattison: ‘I Consider Myself To Be A Strong Person, But Those Dark Thoughts Nearly Beat Me’

Vicky Pattison's PMDD symptoms were ignored by doctors again and again - driving her to despair. Getting a diagnosis changed her life - but she's one of the lucky ones.

Vicky Pattinson PMDD

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

As a teenager and in my twenties, I’d always had normal PMS symptoms. Then I hit 30, and everything changed. The time leading up to my period would feel like a fog was setting in. Chronic fatigue, sleepless nights, horrific anxiety. I even found it difficult to articulate myself. There was this constant voice in my head saying, ‘You’re not worthy. You’re not successful. You’re ugly.’ Then my period would arrive and I’d be back to normal.

Now I know this to be [pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder {href='' }), but it took me going to a private doctor to get that diagnosis. Recently, I shared my experience with the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament, alongside TV presenter Naga Munchetty, as part of the Government’s inquiry into women’s reproductive health.

I was battling with PMDD that day and so nervous I wasn’t going to do the condition justice. But I was really impressed by Naga’s story (she has adenomyosis, a painful uterine condition) and she inspired me to share my own experience.

At the start of all this, I initially visited my NHS GP, who told me to remove my contraceptive implant. It helped slightly, but symptoms remained. My second visit, they told me I was experiencing ‘normal’ PMS for my age. On my third visit, I was offered antidepressants. I knew I wasn’t depressed. Three weeks out of the month, I loved my life, my partner, my job. I felt embarrassed at this point and resolved to ‘stop being such a drama queen’. But my symptoms were increasing. Over the summer, things got scary. I started to lose interest in the things I loved. I didn’t want to be with my family, walk my dogs, go to work. I was insecure and, at times, I even had suicidal thoughts.

I started sharing my experiences on social media, and women began messaging me saying that my symptoms didn’t sound like PMS and I might have PMDD. I decided to go private. After describing my symptoms, the doctor gave me the formal diagnosis of PMDD. I burst into tears. I’d spent five years fighting to be heard and finally, I felt validated. I wasn’t ‘insane’ or weak.

I’m not alone – 10 per cent of women in the UK have PMDD, but experts say that figure is a vast underestimation because it’s misdiagnosed as ADHD or depression. I’ve heard from countless women whose pain has been dismissed by doctors. One woman described how she was told to ‘just get on’ with her post-natal depression.

Now I know how vital it is to speak up. When women’s pain is dismissed or ignored, it has consequences. I consider myself to be a strong person, but those dark thoughts nearly beat me. I’m a huge advocate of the NHS and I know they are overstretched, but too many women are falling through the cracks. There needs to be more training for medical professionals and better information available online to help women get the diagnosis they deserve.

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