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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
If you're looking for information on a particular topic, type that word in the search box below. If I have written about that subject, a list of posts will appear. If no posts come up, I haven't written about it...yet. Emails, and questions in the comments section for possible posts, are welcome.
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:

Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
Impaired judgment
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.


  1. That's good advice, Liana. The truth is--and I know some people are not sympathetic--that women with PMDD or PMS sometimes learn to accept not feeling well and just 'getting on with it' is the norm. It's just me, we think, as if not feeling well is a crime. Dear, oh, dear, do we need to take care of ourselves.

    So glad you are all right. Make sure to stay vigilant, Liana.

  2. Liana, I continue to learn a great deal each time I read your blog!!! I feel sane Thank You For that!!!