Thirteen years ago I left a flourishing career as a senior press officer in the film industry because I felt so ill I could no longer cope. I have not been able to hold a job down since - all because of premenstrual tension, PMT.
I invite anybody who attended the British Psychological Society conference last week, where it was suggested that PMT is a figment of women's imagination, to come and live with me for a month and then see if they are still of the same opinion. This is what they will find: depression, terror, panic and fear, aggression, bouts of uncontrollable tears, frequent calls to the Samaritans and Relate and an exhausted husband.
In 1980 my boss tried to stop me handing in my notice for four months because he mistakenly thought I was simply suffering from lack of confidence in the job. Eventually he realised I was seriously ill, gave me a hug and said: 'OK, when do you want to leave?' 'Right now,' I replied and picked up my briefcase, jumped on a train, and waved goodbye to my dreams of becoming a location film publicist.
I spent some of the time during the next three years living in the household of a female doctor who was an eye specialist. She knew little about hormones but told me: 'You're behaving like a middle-aged woman going through a severe menopause.' I was 28. She knew of only one specialist to recommend, a woman doctor in Harley Street, and suggested I ask my GP to refer me.
It took me three years to persuade a GP to do this, during which time I was shoved from pillar to post around the psychiatric route. When I finally landed up sitting in front of the doctor in Harley Street, I told her I was probably wasting her time and should really be sent to an asylum.
She, however, diagnosed me as a severe case of premenstrual syndrome, and treated me for nine years with intra-muscular injections of the hormone progesterone and six progesterone suppositories daily from day 14 to day 28 of my menstrual cycle. She also advised me to eat starchy food little and often, because she believed PMT affected the blood sugar level.
I improved considerably, but never became well enough to return to full- time work. I discovered the existence of the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (Naps), joined, and set up a support group based near Newbury, Berkshire. It has now been running for seven years, along with the regional helpline.
There are literally thousands of other women who, like myself, have suffered devastation in their lives because of PMT and have frequently contemplated suicide. One woman who made contact with me said she regularly hides the bread knife under the bed when she is premenstrual because she gets so aggressive that she becomes totally overwhelmed and considers stabbing her husband each night until she reaches her period. The rest of the time she is riddled with remorse because she loves her husband and wonders what on earth possessed her.
I believe that low blood sugar levels are a key factor in premenstrual syndrome. Since last August I have been treated by a clinical nutritionist, Dr Roderick Lane, a naturopathic physician who also believes low blood sugar to be the main factor and is prescribing me a specially tailored diet and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Dr Lane will be presenting his theories at a symposium organised by Naps to be held at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London in September.
Perhaps the eminent Doubting Thomases of the British Psychological Society could make an effort to attend - they might at least be prepared to listen to what other professionals have to say about the 'phenomenon' of premenstrual tension.
Naps helpline number is 0227-763133
Symposium details: 0732-459378Reuse content