Cat

Patient Leader

I started writing a blog back in 2007 as a way to make sense of what I was going through. Writing helped keep me sane and offload my thoughts. I was diagnosed with PMDD in 2004 but have suffered with the symptoms since I was 13. I had begun to think terrible thoughts about myself, I had lost all control.. My life would end up in tatters every single month. It was through observing and making note of the patterns that I became aware it was cyclical. There was little online about PMDD ten years ago, but there was enough information to switch that lightbulb on in my head and for me to realise it was not just depression or 'womens problems'. By 2010, I was writing a lot in my blog. I stopped hiding and became more open about myself. I didn't want to hide in shame any more. I was fed up with having to explain everything all the time, and so my writing became more focused along with allowing myself the space to vent if I needed to. More and more women would connect with me, and it made me realise how many other women were hiding in the shadows. By the end of 2010 I had shared my story with a local newspaper and started a private online support group. As far as I know it was the first private group where women could talk in confidence. It transformed my life. Meeting others who suffered with the same things, being able to talk to other people who understood. The group grew quickly as I kept numbers low so people could form friendships (I was also fed up with groups of 500 people where only 20 would chat regularly). I continued to write articles and spent a lot of my time in the support groups helping other women through their bad times. It was always a mutual exchange, as I knew that when my ovulation and pre menstrual phase hit, I would be the one needing support. Over the next couple of years I managed to get PMDD (and information and advice) listed on the Mental Health Foundation's website and the Wellbeing of Women website by sharing my story with them. I also wrote a blog for Mind, which was published on their site in Christmas 2011. I began looking at how PMDD could be brought to the attention of those that needed to hear, so I began campaigning my MP to try and ensure that PMDD is listed in the ICD. I tried to encourage others to be proactive, and to start educating those around them. Many women are just too embarrassed to admit they have problems with their mental health around their menstrual cycle, so trying to break the stigma was the first part of the battle. I liased with NAPS, The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome and attended one of their study days earlier on this year, and I also run the PMDD-Community page on Facebook. Since I started looking after the PMDD-Community page it has gone from a mere 400 likers to over 2100! Using my artistic and design abilities, I created PMDD posters to help promote awareness, and designed images for NAPS to use on Facebook. My life has changed dramatically since 2007. Through setting up the groups and finding that support I have grown stronger and found the courage to make the changes I needed to in my life. My PMDD was extreme and turbulent, but so was my life! I had to move myself to a more stable place to begin working on my own healing. My blog, groups and pages all gave me something to focus on when I was lost. They gave me friendship, advice and support. Many women thank me for starting them, but all I did was click the buttons to set them up! The groups run themselves, with women supporting women for as long as they need it, whenever they need it, wherever in the world they are. There is a lot of debate as to what causes PMDD and how we label it. The truth is, no matter how it is labelled, whether you call it a mental disorder, an endocrine or hormone imbalance, or something that is caused by society's views on women, it is a nightmare to live with. Seemingly bright, intelligent and happy women can end up in the darkest of places wishing they could vanish into the night. The relentlessness of PMDD month in month out can test the strongest of women. No matter what causes it, there is no doubt in my mind that peer support, from women who really do understand is the best kind of medicine there is. I don't know what 2014 has in store for me with regard to my own PMDD symptoms, but suffice to say, I am well enough now to be considering building a career from my art work. I manage my PMDD without any medication, birth control or hormones and am thrilled to see how much my life has turned around. My involvement with the PMDD world has taken a back seat this year as to be able to move on myself, and help myself to grow, I need space from the online dramas that can come with running pages and groups. I plan to bring my focus back to my blog, and sharing my personal journey to an almost PMDD free life. I can only do what I need to do. I can only be true to myself and my own beliefs, and that is the same for everyone. Our little saying is 'This too shall pass'. A reminder that all states of mind are transitory, nothing stays the same. You may feel terrible today, but you might feel great tomorrow! There is always hope. Never give up. Blessings Cat x

Nominations

Best in Show: Community or Forum Best in Show: Facebook Health Activist Hero Best in Show: Blog

Cat has worked tirelessly to almost single handedly set up a system of support groups on Facebook, for what must be now hundreds of women that suffer from PMDD, she provides a place of sanctuary for woman in their darkest hours, all while she has to cope with the very same affliction.  — Jamillah

Cat created her blog and facebook forum to help women who suffer from PMDD. If it had not been for this space and the constant reassurance I have found there my life would not be worth living.  — Lara

She has raised awareness fo PMDD Pre Menstrual Disphoric Disorder, which changed my whole life and many others. Her support groups are life saving <3  — Julie Anne McGrann

Her sharing her life saved mine and countless other's too.  — Miranda

Cat Hawkins has been down the same road that a lot of us have faced or are facing in our lives with this disorder. She shares her life with us, so we know that we are not alone in our journey. She has researched PMDD and knows the subject well.  — Heidi

Cat spends a great deal of time helping others who suffer from PMDD and raising awareness, despite struggling with the condition herself. Myself and lots of women would be lost without her support and understanding. She has turned us into a Community that helps and supports each other on a daily basis.  — Ruth

Cat works tirelessly to spread awareness about P.M.D.D, she has created facebok groups where we can all go to for support, these groups are lifesaving for a lot of us, a space where we can air our thoughts and feelings and not be judged but be understood. Cat has also created a fantastic website and a blog where we can all go to and learn more and understand this awful illness/disorder that we suffer with. She does all this whilst being a P.M.D.D sufferer herself and a great Mum. She has helped me personally and I really want her to know just how thankful we are and how loved she is for being who she is and doing what she does.  — Nicola

Cat

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