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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Tips For Men Whose Partners Have PMDD

Last week’s post, while it will go a long way toward stabilizing your relationship with a woman in the throes of a PMDD episode, was barely the tip of the iceberg. So this week I thought I’d continue with some tips and information on how to cope with your partner when she’s feeling her worst.

Once again, most articles I read in researching this post were about how awful it is for the man, who has to deal with all sorts of aberrant behavior on the part of his partner. There doesn’t seem to be much understanding or empathy for the woman actually going through the brain chemical changes over which she has no control.

So the first thing I want to emphasize once again is empathy. Put yourself in her place, and my guess is you’ll discover you wouldn’t want to have a body and brain you have no control over for several days a month. How would you feel if your thoughts—due to a biological disconnect between your brain and your mouth—came out as something else entirely—something actually hurtful to those you love the most? How would you feel if no matter how hard you tried to eat right and/or stay in shape, your body suddenly just wouldn’t cooperate? What if it actually undermined all your best efforts by bringing on intense cravings for things you know you shouldn’t eat, cravings for things that actually make your condition worse?

How would you feel if for up to half of your life, nothing you thought or said or did made sense?

One article I read said women could be touchy—touchy!—about being labeled as a raving lunatic for a few days a month. As if the women involved had no business being so sensitive. Who wants to be called insane? Do you?

It also said very few women will admit they’re affected by PMDD. Again, would you feel comfortable telling people, “Oh, don’t mind me, my mind just goes berserk every now and then?” Would you want the strange looks that come with such a statement, would you want people steering a wide path around you because you just admitted there’s something not quite right about you?

So don’t try to be helpful (or antagonistic) by pointing out her PMDD symptoms. She’s well aware of what she is feeling. Anxious, edgy, jittery, depressed, clumsy, fat, foolish, frightened, sleepy, weepy, ravenous, disorganized, out of control…the list goes on.

Even more important is that you don’t make fun of her for any of the above.

Again, if you knew people were going to ridicule you for something you have no control over, would you openly admit to having such a problem? How can any woman win the admiration and respect of the friends and family she loves and respects in such an antagonistic enviroment?

Your best bet is to save your meant-to-be-funny comments and war stories for your buddies, and simply act like nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Help to make your partner feel as accepted and normal as possible.

This does not mean you have to accept any kind of behavior she throws at you. Abuse is abuse, whether your partner means it or not. PMDD is an explanation, not an excuse, and you don’t have to accept abusive behavior under any conditions. For more on this, go to last week’s post.

Don’t spring any big surprises on her. Remember she’s doing everything she can just to cope with her everyday life, to stay on an even keel in a body emotionally tilting one way and then the other, just to get through the day without being labeled crazy. Big news, big plans, big surprises can wait for a day when she’s better equipped to handle them.

Besides, you should never trust any big decisions made while she is under the influence of her PMDD. This includes decisions she may come to regarding your relationship. If she says she wants out…do what you can to stay calm, and wait until the storm passes. If when it does she still wants out…then you have a different problem, and one that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Take it easy on social activities. If you felt like a beached whale and couldn’t seem to control what you put in your mouth, would you want to go to a party and spend it stuffing your face at the food table? A food binge can be great fun, if that’s what you want to be doing—if that’s your way of celebrating good times or good news. But if you’re watching your weight—and what woman isn’t at one point or another?—taking her food binge show on the road is the last thing she wants to be doing.

The same goes for her emotional outbursts. It’s hard enough to keep a lid on things at home. Do you really want to put her in a situation where she spends the evening either snarling at your friends and family or weeping at every little misinterpreted comment? Because during a PMDD episode, a woman’s brain will focus on the negative, and even if you didn’t say or mean anything negative at all, even if you compliment her, her brain is being flooded with negative thoughts and images, and eventually the dam will burst—putting a huge damper on your evening out.

And then she’ll feel miserable about it. About ruining your plans/evening/event. Whether she did or did not, if she’s normally in a healthy frame of mind, she will always blame herself for anything that goes wrong during these dark periods of time in her cycle.

So remember to chart her symptoms and plan social events to avoid head-to-head conflicts with her PMDD episodes if at all possible. She’ll appreciate you all the more for your understanding.

Be understanding of her cravings. Just as men do, women often seek comfort food when they are feeling miserable. During a PMDD episode, a woman will especially seek carbs. Doing so is a natural way to boost the level of serotonin in her body, and she knows this on a subconscious level. Where it gets confusing is the food and advertisement industries have done their best to convince us certain foods and drinks are healthy when they are not. So while on a very primitive level, your partner’s body is craving something to boost her serotonin levels and make her feel better, what manifests is a desire to eat everything in sight in the hopes of finding that magic solution.

It’s best to have good quality carbs already on hand for when these cravings strike. I find that whole wheat or multi-grain toast with no added sugar jam (not artificial sweeteners, as they can make PMDD symptoms worse), a bowl of whole or multi-grain cereal, or a bit of good quality dark chocolate does the trick. When we consume large amounts of cheap chocolate candy (or cereal) we are looking for the same effect, but in the wrong place. The added calories from the sugar and fat that come along with the added amount of chocolate needed to reach the same serotonin boost as a good quality piece of chocolate only cause our PMDD symptoms to worsen. They also cause us to gain weight.

But sometimes, the woman’s level of serotonin dips so low that nothing short of a pizza will do. If that’s the case, then go for it guilt free. You might even plan pizza night around her cycle, and see if that improves things.

Take on some of her workload. Whatever you can do to help out, do it with an attitude of love, not resentment. If she asks you to help around the house, do what she asks. If she wants you to run an errand, please do the same. The slightest bit of effort to appreciate what she’s going through will go a long way toward soothing her, and is it really worth the effort to argue over whose turn it is to take out the trash?

It’s true that things that don’t usually bother her will bother her greatly when she’s having an episode. Just keep in mind who your real partner is, and go along with what she says. The sooner you do, the sooner her episode will pass.

That’s right, stress will prolong her episode, so if you want it to end sooner, the best thing you can do is to go along to get along, as long as it’s a reasonable request.

If you’re a mature adult, you know what reasonable and unreasonable is. We don’t need to go into it here.

Treat her like you appreciate her. Every woman loves to be appreciated, no matter what mood she’s in. During an episode of PMDD, with all those negative thoughts running an endless loop inside her head, your partner needs extra special care. Reassurance is always nice, but might not be believed or accepted. Understand that the negative thoughts in her brain are overwhelming the positive ones you’re trying to get across. Be patient. Be persistent. Let her know you care, and you’re there for her if she needs you. She’ll meet you more than half way if she possibly can.

If she doesn’t, it’s because she can’t, or doesn’t understand enough about what’s happening to stop the train of negative thoughts in her mind. It’s not because she doesn’t want to, or doesn’t love you. It’s not about you at all. So remember that, and try not to take the things she says and does personally. In a few days time, the woman you love will return, and when she does, it would be a good time to discuss what may have gone wrong during her most recent episode.

A lot of women will want to forget what happened, pretend it didn’t happen at all, and that’s quite normal, but not the best way to deal with it. Talking it out with your partner when she’s feeling herself is the best way to prevent unwanted behaviors and situations in the future.

The bible says it best : Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13

All a woman with PMDD is looking for is the same thing everyone wants—love and acceptance.

The more you accept, the less you’ll have to. What we resist persists. So don’t fight your partner’s PMDD. Go with it, roll with it--and watch the waves grow smaller over time.

20 comments:

  1. But be careful not to blame when discussing anything. A small preface, "I know you weren't feeling too good..." will help negate that awful guilt we all sometimes feel (possibly sometimes way out of proportion, if you are the sort who genuinely hates to hurt :)). Just a thought.

    Nice blog, Liana.

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  2. I have just found this blog and it is much much needed. I am sad to see that nothing has been posted recently. However the information that is here has been a lifeline. Nice to see I am not alone.

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  3. Up until this point I haven't really understood my Wifes PMDD. This blog is very insightful. She is a beautiful woman. Loving and caring when not close to her cycle. When her cycle is close she's in termoil and guilt after follows after the way she has treated me during her PMDD. With alot of reading of this blog one of the main things I can take away from this is "Don't take it personal". I did for the longest time and it did nothing for the situation or for my wife's mood. If anything it exsenuated it. I feel so bad for her when I see the inner turmoil that she goes through. I now have to work on myself so I can be there for her in her time of need and through the rest of the month.

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  4. lol. This is good info. I just sent a link to my husband. We've been together over 13 years so a lot of it he already knows.. but I like the bit about the food choices. I haven't been putting anything on our shopping list lately (combo of trying not to eat too much, just being sick of most foods, and not knowing what I want) so when he goes by himself, he tries to find things for me but hasn't been able to find much that is also healthy. My mom and I usually have these periods of time where we really like one thing and so we eat or drink the crap out of it for months. But I haven't had that kind of craving in a while...

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  5. im about to say to my spouse who doesnt acknowledge PMDD..hate me for a full month and i will believe your story.

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  6. I have pmdd and i use a natural over the counter progesterone cream along with a multi vitamin..its been a HUGE life saver..the love of my life did his pmdd research and when he recognizes my symptoms the first words out of his mouth are "put ur cream on"..for some reason it pisses me off when he points it out and i KNOW he is right but shortly after i put my progesterone cream on im much calmer..btw i use the cream cuz its the only form over the counter in NY..oh, and one more thing, i HATE that i hurt the ones i love during this time! With that being said F**k YOU PMDD!!!

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  7. I always assumed that my wife just suffered from PMS until I started reading about PMDD just today! We've been married for 6 years and have almost divorced over the terrible arguments. We recently had our first child and she is having her first period (and PMDD episode) since then. The pregnancy was amazing, we only got in 1 argument! I'm so glad to know about this and the associated symptoms. Thank you for the posts, I really appreciate them. I might look into the cream, sounds like it could help.

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  8. I wish education on PMS/PMDD is included in health education curricula. I feel that PMS is just trivialized and made fun of most of the time - "Oh it is just that time again" is the common refrain. However, PMS/PMDD is wreaking havoc in many marriages including mine and it is my hypothesis that many divorces could be avoided if PMS/PMDD is identified and treated. It is all nice and altruistic to say that men need to be more understanding, but it is not that simple - is it? There is an urgent need to develop a multipronged strategy to address this extremely challenging problem.

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    1. Yeah, I too don't think it's as simple as understanding. Understanding is one small thing, and does not mean that I'll stick around in one, two, five years. That's where my difficulty lies, just basic quality of life. I feel as though my own self-esteem has been through the ringer and (although I recognize that I cause hurt and she causes hurt) I just can't guarantee that I was made for this kind of thing and I've expressed this, which makes the whole relationship teetering on the brink. It doesn't help that she is absolutely dependent on me, has shredded all her relationships including family, and does not believe me when I break up with her.. I'm thirty and cant even go to a party without the debilitating bouts of jealousy, not just in PMDD times but all the time. I have become insistent on protecting myself and trying to build up my own life. But i feel as though I'm causing more harm by staying.

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  9. I live with PMDD and I appreciate this article. Everything I have read about relationships and PMDD usually sympathises with the non-suffering partner. In my case I am willing to admit that I wasn't always easy to get along with and I used to be less under control but now I will warn I have PMDD, take responsibly for it but I still get harassed about it from partner, like they think I'm making things up like it makes me cold or cry for no reason or irritable yet I make sure they know that it's that time and nothing is personal, yet they still act surprised when I show symptoms, they try to debate me about my emotions which after years I have come to accept I have less control over, but they don't trust me about my own experiences, I have almost taken my life numerous times in the past, unaware of what I was dealing with thinking it was some moral failing on my part. The worst thing is that I am a transgender person and I live with PMDD as a dirty secret, I cannot afford to transition at this time or I would as the saying goes kill two birds with one stone. Its terribly disphoria inducing to live with, sometimes I feel like a shell of a person when it becomes that time, I sometimes wonder if the hormonal fluctuations have effected my brains gender identity over the years as well. I also believe it has caused me to be afflicted with numerous allergies over time as well. I hope in the future they find someway to cure this issue more thoroughly. I will end here as this has become more of a confession then anything else.

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    1. Hello, and thank you for writing. I apologize for taking so long to respond, as I was out of town that month, actually preparing to return home that week, and some reader comments do slip past me. You've touched on a few points that many women with PMDD experience, but I have not heard voiced yet on this blog, mainly about telling those closest to you that you have PMDD and are aware of it, yet they don't believe you when you exhibit symptoms, don't trust you to know what is going on inside your own mind and body. So thank you for that. Secondly, you mention the fact that you and so many others have nearly taken your life at times because, unaware that it was PMDD, you considered what it does to your mind a moral failing of some sort. Thirty percent of women with PMDD attempt suicide, and 15 percent succeed. No one knows how many suffer from this very same feeling and/or suicidal ideation every month. I am sorry for your circumstances, being caught between two phases of your life right now, and I have no doubt that that contributes to your dysphoria, but I have not read anything that even hints that PMDD has anything to do with gender identity. Now that you have brought it up, however, I will keep an eye out for such a thing, and report back here if I find anything. Until then, I wish you all the best and thank you again for taking the time to voice your thoughts and concerns. They are all well worth looking into and possibly writing more about.

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  10. I'm a lesbian and my fiancée has pmdd. I understand everything she goes through but it doesn't make it easy to take abuse and just say it's ok it's just her pmdd. It's all good on a day I'm feeling good but god forbid I'm having a crap day. You have no idea how hard it is to stop yourself going off on one at her. I wish there was more articles about how to cope being in the receiving end of a pmdd episode instead of telling us to take the load of her. Even when you do these things the pmdd is still there and it's still not good enough. Maybe some day people will stop and think what about the partner aswell maybe they need a little help sometimes

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    1. I am glad you brought this up! My book, PMDD: A Handbook for Partners, addresses all of these things. It's rather hard to encompass all aspects of the PMDD relationship in a few blog posts. Therefore I compiled them and all the information I have on the subject into a book written especially to and for the partners (male and female) of women with PMDD. It goes way beyond what any one blog post here says. Click on the blue book cover with the roller coaster on the front at the top of the right hand sidebar on this blog for more information.

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    2. I was glad to read the response from 'unknown' in February this year.She is right,sometimes it is very hard to take some of the abuse and 'goading' for an argument.My partner has recently been diagnosed with PMDD,although we had been working with it for the past 6 years with most of the techniques you advise above.My partner works in the Mental Health field and has brilliant insight into the conditions and coping strategies for others,but struggles with her own.Her cycles are different to those you have mentioned.We are not talking a couple of days every month,she is in turmoil for two weeks at a time,and then the most loving girl for the next two weeks,and then the cloud draws back in.If my tolerance is low during these times I sometimes spend the night away,just to give us space.Wrongly or rightly,I think this works for us every now and again as I would rather this than engage in an argument and say things I will regret.She doesn't like this technique/strategy but I cannot think of another way.Our Dr has been very thorough and understanding (the only one to take this seriously over 6 years) and had read some journals and prescribed medication based on evidence.This seemed to work but she stopped taking it due to side effects.I consider myself to be pretty 'thick skinned' but the cutting insults do get through from time to time and I am now mentally exhausted myself.We will be together forever,I know that,but it is very tough at times.The hardest part is seeing the love of my life in such a state of internal torment on such a regular and prolonged basis.She has made some positive changes over the years but when it hits there is little more we can do than we already do.Any other suggestions would be gratefully recieved.If I had any advice for partners of those suffering with PMDD I would advise agreeing a 'plan of action' when things get really bad and unmanageable and stick to this.Try not to point things out to excess around her behaviour but acknowledge them and talk through at the right time as suggested above.At the same time though there is only so much one person can 'absorb'so have an agreed place to go when this happens,a safe haven of sorts.Try not to take things too personally although you naturally will sometimes.Perhaps make the safe haven a with a person who knows you both and has an understanding so not to be judgemental.Everybody is different but that's what we do.Perhaps even plan the away dates in advance if that is possible?I hope that helps in some way and any suggestions for me would be gratefully recieved and considered.

      G.P

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    3. I'm a lesbian too and OMGAHHH I feel your pain!.. this website is awesome!.. I've never heard of PMDD until yesterday after another horrible argument. I felt so dreadful when I hear my partner say "Im cramping" it just reminds me that a bad argument for the next few days is in the future. No matter how much I coach myself and tell myself.. ok don't argue, just agree, just let it roll off your back ect. but somehow she knows a way to push a button that makes me want to explode and just think about reconsidering our relationship but we been together for 5 years and don't think we are going anywhere lol.. so I figured there has to be an answer somewhere.. low and behold

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  11. Good morning, Liana. My husband and I have been trying to figure out the best coping methods for us, and we were considering low doses of alprazolam for when we have to attend a family of social function during the PMDD window. I would like to ask you some other questions and chat with you as well because there is no good information on the internet about it (I feel insulted with most of the medical journals regarding PMDD) and we have not yet found a doctor that fits our needs best. I understand I cannot substitute your advice or blog posts in place of medical counsel, but j appreciate your experience and input.
    Thank you for your time,
    Michelle

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  12. Hi, Michelle, Thank you for writing! Please email me at info (at) livingwithpmdd (dot) com and I will do my best to answer your questions. This offer is open to anyone with questions the blog does not already answer, as I do occasionally have information I have not written about here yet.

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  13. Back when we first got together my partner would experience one irrationally emotional day per month. She'd cry at something silly on TV and usually a hug and a hot chocolate would soothe it out. Fast forward a decade and my now wife is crying, out of it, struggling to concentrate, irrational, depressed, suffering panic attacks, severe period cramps, anxiety and unable to cope with daily life two weeks a month. I now recognise that all the hallmarks of PMDD were always there, but it wasn't until she entered her 30's that the condition really started to get out of control.

    We were travelling through Asia when the severity of her PMDD symptoms noticeably increased. As our lifestyle was so erratic we never gave her condition the attention it deserved. Over a period of months her monthly PMDD went from a 3 day a month period to a 2 week period. It was crushing to watch her suffer, especially when we were in what should have been our ideal life scenarios - no work to get up for, gorgeous sun sets, exotic locations etc. But PMDD was always lurking in the background. At the time we didn't have a name for her condition. We both believed it was severe PMS and at first I felt like I was enough to get her through her monthly turmoil.

    The article discusses giving into cravings - this is a bandaid on a broken leg solution. Yes, a little quality dark chocolate may be a comforting treat, but when you and your partner turn to other vices such as alcohol to deal with the stress generated by a PMDD episode then you are in trouble. I noticed the slippery slope of us reaching for the nearest bottle of wine to lighten the mood on an increasingly regular basis.

    Daily exercise is a far better stress reliever for us both. Travelling and facing up to PMDD has opened us both up to options that we would never have previously taken seriously. We now both practice mindfulness, meditation and non-confrontational martial arts poses. Having some guided meditation podcasts and relaxing music downloaded on her iPod has been a great go-to when we are out somewhere and she begins to feel overwhelmed she can stick in her ear buds and 'escape' for a couple of moments.

    We went to a gynecologist in a private hospital in Bangkok who prescribed her Yasmin birth control pills and recommended she 'get a boyfriend' - yes, he actually said that!! The first month on the Yasmin brought some improvement to her mood which we are not sure was a placebo effect or reality. Over the following 6 months her physical symptoms (bloating and bad cramps) improved dramatically as of course she wasn't actually having a period, but her mental state deteriorated with the number of PMDD days increasing each month. Again we don't know if this was as a result of the Yasmin exacerbating the physiological effects of her PMDD or a coincidence. The really terrifying thing about Yasmin was the dangerous weight loss - over the 6 months of treatment on Yasmin my beautiful wife went from a normal healthy weight to having a dangerously underweight BMI. Her face was sunken and her skin looked liked it was hanging from her bones. When we went looking for help with her weight loss we were shocked by the number of ignorant articles there are out their touting how fantastic Yasmin is for weightloss, while ignoring the dangerous diuretic side effects of taking the drug - which can lead to blood clots. (I would strongly advise that women read up on the emotional side effects of coming off Yaz and Yasmin before taking the pill). I was also shocked to learn that many such medications are only tested on men https://www.ted.com/talks/alyson_mcgregor_why_medicine_often_has_dangerous_side_effects_for_women?language=en

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  14. Are there any support groups for men? My best friend has this, we are very close, She has just recently said she hadn't had periods for a while and has just started having them again,at the time I didn't understand and thought why are you telling me this information, but we are very close so I thought ok fair enough, since then every month it's been really painful to stay close, I can't do anything right, I am always at fault, we talk everyday, she does bizarre things, spends money she doesn't have, I have helped out with money, She has done things and planned to do things that have not been dangerous purely due to the fact that they have not been remotely possible and almost no-one including her could find them plausible, after the fortnight or a little less is over she is shocked by the bizzare plans she made, I could not understand why she is so often desperately unhappy with life for this length of time and then so positive at others. It is complicated because she also gets anxiety, and it is painful because I grew up with years of bullying and so being blamed when not at fault and being talked to with hostility several times on half the days as well as trying to console her lack of hope and support her 100 % with anything she want's to do in life, while trying to help her manage so she doesn't do anything that will really shock her later is tough. It is hard as I have a mental illness, although I am recovering well and she manages herself well in some ways too so the days when it is hard are a mix of fantastic friendship and total weird and unpleasantness with me desperately trying to work out what I have or haven't done to upset her or how I can help her out of her feelings of hopelessness, she sees me as irrational on the occasions when she has PMDD and a wonderful friend when she doesn't. I have blamed that I have blamed my illness for when I have been blamed, for nothing, or been called defensive if I have said that I feel hurt or something she has said is unfair, just to avoid conflict, because I didn't know what else to do. Have you ever come across people who are affected by this who have other mental illnesses or supporters with mental illnesses. Any advice on staying strong as a mentally ill supporter, who was bullied all through school and employment?

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  15. after 25 years of suffering from pmdd wife... i ve found out ignoring it is the best thing. there is no cure.

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