Woman who felt suicidal every month finally saw why on TV show

Stephanie Gray, 30, a nursing student, struggled for years to get a diagnosis
-Credit: (Image: SWNS)

A woman who felt suicidal every month and tried to kill herself aged 19 has revealed her struggle to get doctors to take the condition seriously - and says it was a TV show that finally provided the answer. Stephanie Gray, 30, a nursing student from Edinburgh received a diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) after years of struggling with suicidal thoughts, mood swings and severe depression each month before her period.

She felt suicidal every single time of the month - and says it took years for her symptoms to be taken seriously. At 19, while studying at university in Dundee, Stephanie attempted suicide after her symptoms increased in severity - causing her to seek help.

"The most problematic symptom was the constant mood swings," said Stephanie. "I was becoming suicidal every month before my period arrived. I’d shift from relatively normal life to being suicidal, and that happened every single month without fail.

"I was very temperamental – I could fly off the handle very easily at certain times of the month. The week leading up to my period, I don’t think I was a very nice person to be around. It wasn’t until I went university in 2013, aged 19, that everything came to a head.

"I was regularly suicidal and isolating myself. I made an attempt on my life during my time at university because I wasn’t able to cope with the symptoms. After a while, it just became relentless. I knew it was coming and it was something I couldn’t hide away from or change, I just had to brace myself for it.

"Luckily, I have a good support system around me, and I lived at home at the time, and we braced for it. I made it out, but it would just make it harder to face it again the next month."

Stephanie began attending therapy and was prescribed antidepressants - but her symptoms still continued. Her family were scared and desperate for answers - until Stephanie's mum Loraine heard Denise Welch sharing her experiences with PMDD on an episode of Loose Women.

Loraine told Stephanie - who immediately recognised her own experience in Denise's story. Stephanie eagerly shared the news with her psychiatric nurse, who dismissed her theory - starting a years long process of obtaining a diagnosis.

"I remember after my suicide attempt, getting support from a community psychiatric nurse," Stephanie said. "Towards the end of the sessions was when my mum saw PMDD on Loose Women and we started looking into it.

"I thought that it was exactly what I was experiencing. I just knew that’s what it was. I remember going to the nurse and saying that that sounds like me, this explains everything and makes so much sense.

"She didn’t laugh, but she smirked, and told me it wasn’t possible – that my hormones can’t affect me that much. I didn’t really understand why she’d just fobbed me off.

"It frustrated me, but I was so ill at the time that I think I was indifferent. I was still so ill that I didn’t have hope anyway. I think it affected my family more because they really thought the professionals would listen and at least investigate a little bit.

"It was completely shot down and my mum felt more alone and felt more pressure for her to figure it out. She kept going no matter what, until we got someone to listen."

Stephanie and her mum began searching across the country for a doctor who would take her condition seriously. After years, Stephanie found a sexual health clinic who helped her get an official diagnosis of PMDD, and prescribed her a combined contraceptive pill to help manage her symptoms.

"The process took years. No one had heard of it. We started reaching out to different people online, trying to see if anyone knew of someone that was even remotely aware of PMDD in Scotland, and eventually we heard of a clinic in Edinburgh.

"It was years – years of not being believed, and eventually slowly getting help for hormones in general at that sexual health clinic. The first line of treatment thankfully worked for me.

"It’s a combined contraceptive pill, and that thankfully worked for me alongside different lifestyle changes. I’m really lucky, because a lot of women end up having to have a hysterectomy to attempt to improve their symptoms."

Stephanie hopes that by sharing her story, she will help to raise awareness of PMDD, and encourage people to take the condition seriously. Towards getting my diagnosis, I was already at breaking point," said Stephanie.

"I couldn’t see how it was going to get any better. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, especially when people weren’t listening to me. When people think you’re just being crazy or dramatic – and when even professionals don’t listen to you – it’s a really dark place.

"It ruled the majority of my life. Every day was a struggle for a good few years. After my diagnosis, there was a lot of relief. I’d found out a lot more about PMDD and met other people who had it as well.

"There was a lot of relief in talking to them. I started to feel more like myself – I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t a lost cause. This is a real condition, and you can get better.

"I had a lot of hope, and then I went through the grieving process. What would have happened if I’d been diagnosed earlier as a teenager?

"Would my life look any different? Would my relationships have been different? There were a lot of mixed emotions, but in general, my diagnosis has led to me growing as a person and knowing myself.

"The symptoms are so serious and so debilitating, and people are going so long being undiagnosed and misdiagnosed. I’m a student nurse, and I’ve seen how although professionals are more aware of PMDD now, the treatments and awareness are lacking.

"My experience definitely gave me a direction – it lit a fire in my soul to want to be able to help women and help improve the healthcare we provide for women."