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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, November 10, 2010

How Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Can Mimic PMDD

You know I’ve written about how PMDD can be (and has been) confused with several other conditions, like thyroid problems, insulin resistance, anemia, or even bi-polar disorder--which is just one part of why PMDD is so hard to diagnose--but last week I got an unwelcome surprise when I encountered yet another condition that mimics PMDD…

Carbon monoxide poisoning.

That’s right, the silent killer that’s the leading cause of accidental deaths in America. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, but the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized annually due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older.

On Saturday, I joined the ranks of those ER visit statistics. I started feeling badly on Wednesday. I work at home, in a relatively new house that is extremely air-tight and energy-efficient (something I’ve been rather thrilled with to date, as it keeps my heating and electric bills low.). I do a lot of work at my dining room table, which is less than ten feet away from my kitchen stove.

Little did I know I had a gas leak at the stove. All I knew was I was having an enormously hard time concentrating on my work that afternoon. I couldn’t think straight, and had absolutely no motivation to work. Thinking it was my PMDD kicking in, I ate some carbs...then ate some more. I took some 5-HTP...then took some more. No dice. All I wanted to do was take a nap. The thought of going for a walk kept entering my mind, but my body and mood simply wouldn’t cooperate, and I just couldn’t muster the energy to put on my sneakers and coat and go outside.

That evening I opened the windows for another reason, and inadvertently resolved the problem. Thursday and Friday I went out of town and felt fine, which lead me to believe I’d simply had a fleeting episode of PMDD. I returned home Friday night, and within an hour again felt tired and listless, with no desire to do much of anything besides sleep. Again thinking my serotonin level was down and I needed some carbs, I went out and got a pizza for dinner.

The expected boost in energy and clarity of mind didn’t happen. Instead I got more and more tired, until I just couldn’t stay awake any more. Plus I started to feel nauseous, and wondered if I’d gotten a bad pizza.

Nothing to do for an unrelenting case of PMDD but go to bed, right? So that’s what I did. The following morning, I overslept by two hours. When I went to make my morning tea, I was shocked that the clock said 8:00 a.m. instead of 6:00. What was wrong with me? I’d gone to bed at my regular time, and slept an extra two hours. Why was I so tired? Why did my head hurt and my joints ache so badly? And why the hell couldn’t I think straight?

I checked my PMDD calendar. The timing didn’t seem right, but since I’m in perimenopause nothing comes on schedule any more, so that didn’t help much.

Okay, time to start my day. After being gone for two days, I had a lot of work to catch up on.
But I just…couldn’t…get…started. Couldn’t even figure out the first thing to do. I thought of some errands I needed to run, but had absolutely no desire to get going, to move in any way.

Finally, I simply stood in my kitchen and went inside myself, trying to figure out what was wrong. What was different about this episode of PMDD and why none of my usual tricks to boost my serotonin level and mood were working.

All I knew was everything ached, and I felt miserable---like when I’ve been exposed to too many chemicals or fragrances. Chemical sensitivities and heightened allergies are a symptom of PMDD as well. My insides swell up and the pain caused by the pressure on the meridian nerves in my arms can reduce me to tears.

It felt like that. It felt like I was being poisoned.

I got the idea to call the gas company, and have them come and check things out. So I found the number and called---and they called 911. Next thing I know, I’m being told to get out of the house and wait for emergency services. The gas company, fire department, and an ambulance arrived within minutes.

It seems I had not one, but two leaks. One from the stove, and one from the boiler in the garage. Both were putting out carbon monoxide and my wonderfully energy-efficent house was not allowing the air to properly circulate.

I declined a trip to the emergency room via ambulance, but got a friend to drive me to the ER to be checked out. Fortunately, my levels were not dangerously high, but my symptoms were quite evident. They included:

Headache
Dizziness
Nausea
Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
Impaired judgment
Confusion
Depression
Agitation
Drowsiness
Memory problems

All of which can also be experienced by a woman having an episode of PMDD.

I credit the fact that I’m still alive to two things—my awareness of my body, due to my constant attempts to keep my hormones balanced, and to my Qigong classes, which include deep breathing, and therefore keep a strong, steady supply of oxygen circulating through my system.

Which only goes to underscore my belief that a woman with PMDD needs to take better care of herself than most. While every woman could benefit from relaxation techniques, quiet time, good nutrition, and exercise…women with PMDD are more sensitive than most to just about any life event, environmental toxin, or ingested food, drink, or substance that can stress the body, so we need to be extra vigilant about our health and well-being.

That said, as a public awareness announcement, here are some sources of carbon monoxide you need to be especially careful around:

Gas water heaters
Kerosene space heaters
Charcoal grills
Propane heaters and stoves
Gasoline and diesel powered generators
Cigarette smoke
Propane-fueled forklifts
Gasoline powered concrete saws
Indoor tractor pulls
Any boat with an engine
Spray paint, solvents, degreasers, and paint removers

Take care and be well. Be especially vigilant when the cold weather comes, and if you don't have them already (I didn't, but do now), get yourself a carbon monoxide detector or two.

And the next time you're having an episode of PMDD that just won't quit--try looking at your external environment for a possible cause.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Women and Insanity - Moving into the 1900s

Today I thought I’d continue my thoughts on Women and Insanity. Recently I watched the movie, The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. I didn’t know what it was about, just that it was Angelina Jolie and she had a missing child. What I discovered was this was a true story, a story about the disappearance of Walter Collins in 1928.

Now, women in 1928 had precious little rights, and especially single mothers like Mrs. Collins, who supported herself and her son by working at the telephone company. Until her son disappeared, she was a quiet, unassuming, hard-working single mom who adored her son and was just trying to make a good life and home for them to the best of her ability in the times she lived in. She got called in to work on a Saturday when she had planned to take her son to the movies, and (although this wasn’t made clear in the movie) instead sent him to the movies alone. He never returned.

Mrs. Collins spent five frantic months looking for her son, and the Los Angeles police department, who at the time was already under fire, was looking even worse. So they concocted this scheme where another young boy would pretend to be her son, and they could announce that the case was closed. The only problem was that Mrs. Collins knew immediately that the boy was not her son, and protested. Because by closing the case, that meant the police would stop looking for her real son. So she became a mother on a mission, desperate to find her child.

Meanwhile, the police tried to tell her she didn’t know her own son, and why couldn’t she be happy with the one she had? They tried to make her out as a loose woman, having had five months to party and live it up while he was gone, and now that he was back, she wanted to deny her son and shirk her responsibilities toward him. She finally became so outspoken that the chief of police had her committed to an insane asylum until she signed a paper that said the boy was her son and she had been mistaken. She refused.

Call me na├»ve, but I was shocked that this could happen less than 100 years ago. I mean, my initial post about women and insanity had to do with pioneer women in the 1800s. You’d think things would have improved in a century or so. But apparently not. I also found this, from a college paper on women and mental illness.

It states: "Mental illness during the Victorian era revolved around the empowerment of men. Hysteria fuelled from a fear of intellectual women. Women were denied tasks such as reading or social interaction due to a fear of becoming a hysteric. (Remember, hystera is the Greek word for uterus.) Women were further forced into the stereotypical passive housewife role. Anorexia was an attempt to fit the male standard of beauty. These women refused food in order to appear "feminine" and become a frail ornament for their husbands to show off. They also furthered the idea of the passive housewife, lacking personality or emotion. Those who took a stand for their beliefs or exercised a sexual emotion were deemed insane as they rejected the feminine ideal. Such women were forced into asylums to keep others in line; they were sacrificed to show that those who spoke up would be punished. Thus, the rest of the women remained silent. And finally, spinsters and lesbians were a major threat to male domination. These women preferred life without sexual interaction with men. They rejected the social norms of woman as passive, emotionless accessories and instead embraced personal choice. They too were deemed insane and subject to male-induced public criticism to try and reform them as well as fuel the idea that this sort of behavior was not acceptable."

So poor Mrs. Collins never had a chance. Fortunately, however, there were enough people in the community who would stand up for her, and went looking for her (as she was whisked out the back door of the police station and off to the mental institution in the dead of night) and found her and got her released. She then was able to get released all the women in the institution classified as Code 12, which turned out to be a euphemism for someone the police wanted to get rid of.

A book on the subject I would recommend is Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945 (Paperback)

Here’s a snippet of what one reviewer had to say about it:"This book is an interesting compilation of personal accounts of women who were imprisoned in asylums for various reasons, usually at the request of a relative. It seems throughout most of this time period, all it took to get a person imprisoned in an asylum was a statement from the doctor that the person was insane. Consequently, if a woman angered a man in her family, he could have her imprisoned by pointing out that she was not performing her duties as a woman around the house and for the community, such as at church…often, individual thinking landed a woman in the insane asylum.

"One of the women questioned the doctrine of her church; thus, was imprisoned for religious problems. This same woman wrote a very articulate account of her treatment and the treatment of other women in the hospital, which made me wonder exactly what it was that they saw wrong with her views on the church. The only conclusion I could draw was that it had to be her individuality that brought her into the asylum.

"The most striking thing about this book is to look now onto what these women went through, and consider these were absolutely normal occurrences at the time…While these stories explain the reasons women landed in the asylums, they also told of the treatment of them and the other inmates. These stories are clear, but the authors/editors also explain what types of treatments were used at different times and how these all tied in with how the patients actually responded. While you can see their legal rights starting to improve towards the end of the time studied here, there is a definite slip in the treatment and attitude towards the inmates as these hospitals grew in size…"

The bottom line, I think, is that the times dictate what is crazy and what isn’t, and I have to wonder why it is that no matter where you look, even today, women seem to fall on the wrong side of crazy every time.

Take care of yourself, be blessed, and know you're not crazy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Women Died for the Right to Vote -- Exercise Yours!


Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity. ~Quoted by a male doctor who examined women's suffragist Alice Paul when the government wanted her to be seen as suicidal for her hunger strike in an effort to gain women the right to vote.

If you don't do anything else today, make sure you GET OUT AND VOTE!