Rhian Ivory chats to us about her novel and her experience writing about PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
If you’ve never heard of PMDD then you will not be alone. This is a condition that has a severe impact on the sufferer’s lives. Yet, it’s often misunderstood and under-diagnosed.
So, therefore (like any menstrual health condition) there needs to be more awareness. In any sense of the word, awareness is important. Whether it’s through a much-needed shake-up of menstrual education in schools or a campaign that aims to get people talking about the condition. The more we talk the more we learn. If we all strive to learn, educate and support each other than one-day things might change. We might see more support for people with PMDD symptoms, and more resources or help for those living with the condition.
Putting awareness into words
Whether you find out about something through an image you see on social media, a book you’ve started reading or a research journal on the topic, it’s all awareness at the end of the day. All of which are important. We should encourage different types of awareness. It means the message is adapted for more people, extending the reach and impact.
Author, Rhian Ivory chose to raise awareness through her new book, Hope. Here she tells us more about the book, and her own PMDD journey because of writing about the condition:
First things first, what is PMDD?
“PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome and a little-known condition. PMDD affects 3-10% of women. Despite being such a chronic and devastating condition, it is largely unheard of and massively undiagnosed. I only realised I myself was suffering from the condition – which can cause extreme mood swings and rages – while researching the book.”
What response have you had to the book?
“Although Hope is my sixth novel I’ve never received fan mail like this before. But I’ve received letters, emails, tweets, DMs and messages on my author page. When I speak at festivals, author days and writing workshops I’m shocked by how many people this novel has resonated with. It seems we haven’t come very far since Judy Blume’s iconic, Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret which published in 1970.”
Could you please tell us about your own PMDD diagnosis?
“Hope features a young woman who is having difficulty with her periods. But has never heard of PMDD until someone suggests it to her. Ironically, I had the same experience. It wasn’t until I was doing my research for the novel that I realised I might be suffering too. I was diagnosed just as I finished the novel – which made for an interesting editing experience! I was clearly writing through my pain but didn’t see it at the time.”
Would you say this book is helping to raise awareness?
“Following an article, I wrote recently for the Daily Mail about PMDD, I have been overwhelmed by readers getting in touch to share deeply personal stories with me about their PMDD and how the article and novel have helped them. I’ve also been contacted by parents and grandparents who are so relieved to have discovered the novel, to be able to put a name to what their daughter is going through and find a way to help them.
I’ve written notes in the back of the book to ensure that anyone reading Hope would be able to get help if they felt it was something they were dealing with. I’ve been asked by teenage girls for years during author visits to please write about periods and not hide them away, they very much wanted to read fiction which dealt with periods openly and break away from periods being a taboo topic in YA fiction.”
Thanks to Rhian for chatting to us and telling us more the book. For more information on PMDD check out the Gia Allemand Foundation website. Hope was recently picked by The Guardian as one of the best New Books for 2018. You can find out more about the book here or follow Rhian on Twitter.