Courtney’s diagnosis didn’t come easy, though. It took seeing three medical professionals to figure out what was going on.
“I was in dance school in New Zealand and trained for hours,” she shares. “Before my period and during my cycle, I would get really bad pain and it affected my ability to perform at a high intensity. It affected my mood as it was hard to understand why this was happening and it caused me to want to isolate and not go to school so much so I ended up missing classes.”
“The school spoke to me about my attendance so I went to see a school nurse in October 2019. She gave me contraceptive pills, saying it will help with my pain,” she adds.
Things actually got worse for Courtney as she had really bad mood-related reactions to the pills. While she usually kept her composure, she was suddenly crying a lot. She’d call her parents in tears and they were horrified. She felt like she wanted to give up and realised she needed help.
“I thought the symptoms were just me getting used to the pills so I kept taking them,” recalls the 22-year-old. “I came back to Singapore after two or three months of taking the pills and saw a gynaecologist, who told me to stop taking them. He thought I had endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but I did some scans and it wasn’t the case.”
When Courtney saw the second gynaecologist, he asked her about her moods and put her on another type of hormone pills. However, the same thing happened and he told her to stop taking them as soon as he noticed the change. It was this doctor who diagnosed her with PMDD. She was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Courtney admits she struggled once she was diagnosed in January 2020: “I had a lot of mixed feelings, it was hard to accept that this was real. I didn’t really understand it but there was some sense of relief because I had an answer; it was not just me making a fuss of things with all those symptoms. It’s been a journey and mood and mentality play a big part.”
Another reason why it was tough for her to accept the diagnosis was that she realised she had to change her life plans. She was in dance school training to be a full-time performer and she realised she might not be able to show up for the intense training and rehearsals that are needed in the professional dance scene.
It just so happened that the covid pandemic hit at that time and her school, being very small, stated that they could not properly care for its international students during the rapidly-approaching and indefinite lockdown period when schools would close. So they made an announcement just 48 hours before New Zealand commenced its lockdown and most international students left.
Once back in their home countries, international students joined virtual classes but when restrictions eased and in-person classes took over, the remote-learning medium was terminated and they were forced to withdraw from the course altogether. They could only re-enroll if borders were to open to international travelers, which only happened more than two years later, in July 2022. As far as Courtney knows, none of them had plans to return by then.