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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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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.
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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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Relationships - Choosing Your Family

Families are…hard to deal with, any way you look at it. They consist of the people who are supposed to love you the most, care more about your welfare than anyone else, treat you more kindly than strangers, and keep you safe from the world’s evils.

But they don’t. In fact, they quite often do the opposite. Which leaves all of us feeling pretty damn confused. If my family is supposed to love me and nurture me, provide for my needs and keep me safe…but doesn’t…then how can I expect anyone else to love and encourage me, provide for my needs, and keep me safe?

That’s a question I don’t have an answer to. So I spent yesterday morning researching articles on families and the holidays, hoping to offer some sage words of wisdom in my post on family relationships, and researching took so long I used up the time I would have used writing the post. The worst part was the best advice I could come up with was…

Just say no.

That’s right…just say no. If your family is toxic…then just don’t go to those holiday events, reunions, and family affairs. Article after article after article said the same thing.
Being the kind of person who much prefers to see everyone get along, this message was rather disappointing to me. But it trumped the message boards, hands down.

And I have to admit, that if you follow the advice in my previous posts, about making friends with yourself first, before you make friends with others, and about choosing your friends wisely, and choosing to spend time only with those people who exhibit the qualities you would most like to develop in yourself—how many of us would choose our own families?

Some of us have families that are truly supportive, encouraging us to be the best person we can possibly be. Others, unfortunately, are pits of dysfunctional hell. If you have PMDD, due to the correlation between childhood abuse and PMDD, chances are your family falls more firmly into the second category. Which also means the relationship you’re in right now is probably unhealthy. Which only adds to your problems with PMDD. Like attracts like, (even if you’re opposites—you’re the same in your ability to have a healthy relationship), and if you were abused as a child, the chances are good you will end up in a relationship that is abusive in one way or another. Which will only make your PMDD symptoms worse.

I’m jumping ahead of myself here, because my next post will be about dealing with your immediate family…but the facts can not be denied…studies have shown there is a strong correlation between abusive relationships of any kind, and PMDD.

So…if you have PMDD, chances are your extended family relationships are strained, and holiday gatherings are not pleasant. Taking us back to the first relationship post, where I said relationships begin with you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to learn to listen to yourself, to your intuition and your body, to become more aware of your feelings about everything, and let them guide you.

Emotions are just that, emotions, and they will pass. But feelings, true feelings, will resonate in your body. If the thought of going somewhere and spending time with people you don’t like and who don’t like you fills your body with dread, churns your stomach, gives you a stress headache, puts you on edge, or makes you reach for substances that dull your pain, then yes, you need to stop and think twice about why you are doing this to yourself. Remember, if you don’t look out for yourself, nobody is going to do it for you.

If you don’t set the boundaries of what you will and won’t accept from other people in the way of behavior, be they family or strangers, nobody is going to do it for you. People with abusive personalities don’t recognize or observe boundaries—they will push and push and push as much as you let them. You can either 1) push back—which benefits no one—2) set your boundaries and quietly but firmly enforce them—which abusers will then call abuse, since you are no longer letting them have their way—3) simply refuse to engage, by not answering (unfortunately, this method has its own drawbacks) or 4) not attend any event in which you are likely to be treated with any form of disrespect.

In the end, it all comes down to you again, and how healthy you want to be. PMDD and stress are like the chicken and the egg. Nobody knows which comes first. But they do have a strong correlating relationship, and one affects the other. How you handle stress affects your PMDD and how you handle (or don’t handle) your PMDD definitely causes stress.

The best thing to do then, to get a handle on your PMDD, is to remove all sources of stress from your life. This in itself can be extremely stressful, but in the long run is much healthier than taking drug after drug to solve a problem that can not be fixed by taking drugs, no matter what the drug companies tell you.

So the same advice applies to forming or perpetuating family relationships that applies to forming and maintaining friendships—are the people you spend time with people who exhibit the positive qualities you would like to have more of in your life?

If not, then why are you spending time with them?

Sometimes you have to go out and create your own family. This works, too, because once you get right down to it, a family, like a home, is simply a place in your heart. You can create a home anywhere, and you can create the kind of family you’d like to have anywhere as well. To do that, however, you might have to first let go of the old one. Or at least limit contact with them until you are strong enough to stand up for yourself and can comfortably deal with the stress of the situation.

Until then, they’re going to keep getting to you, your PMDD will continue to worsen, and you’re going to continue to dread every family event that comes up that will be attended by people you don’t really like and wouldn’t choose as friends.

The choice, as always, is up to you. I can hear the “But you don’t understand!” comments now.

I can, and I do. Been there, done that. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but I came out on the other side of it just fine, and this year, for Christmas, I had two of the best and most memorable holiday dinners I can ever remember having. I looked around and thought, This….now this is what I was aiming for all those years.

So I know it does exist.

And I wish it for each and every one of you.

Take care, God Bless, and I wish us all a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Choosing Your Friends Wisely - Whether You Have PMDD Or Not

Okay, so we’ve learned that Relationships Begin With You, and that you need to be a friend to yourself before you can be a friend to anyone else, and that being a friend to yourself starts with slowing down and listening to yourself, mind, body, heart, and soul.

For instance, I’m late with this post because yesterday I was listening to my body and being good to myself. I woke up with a tremendous pain in my neck, one that had kept me up for most of the night, so I called my chiropractor first thing, made my first appointment in months, and then actually listened to him when he told me to go home and take it easy, instead of throwing myself headlong back into my life. I came home and took a three-hour nap, then spent the evening reading a book. This morning, I made sure I attended my Qigong (slow movement and stretching) class, knowing that would help to keep my positive healing energy going.

Was there a lot I didn’t get done? Yes. But do I feel 100% better? Yes. Much better than slogging through the day, trying to cross half a dozen more things off my to-do list before the holidays. Things that will still be there to do after the holidays. Right now, I need to take care of me, or I will be miserable over the holidays and no fun to be around at all.

So…that’s the difference that comes from listening to my body and attending to—instead of ignoring--its needs. Since I started doing this unfailingly, I haven’t had a PMDD episode to speak of. I’ve had a dip or two in mood that was quickly boosted by eating some whole-grain carbs, but other than that, life has been on a pretty even keel for several months now.

So today I want to talk about relationships with friends. A lot of women with PMDD have at one time or another isolated ourselves, because we don’t feel friends or family will ‘understand’ when we are having an episode, so it’s easier just to go into isolation and deal with it alone.

Easier, but is it healthier? Wouldn’t it be nice to know you’re still loved and people still want to be around you, even when you feel the most unloveable?

You do this by choosing your friends wisely. You do this by choosing friends who are patient, kind, and understanding. You do this by moving away from people who are not. As a PMDD woman, you need to look out for yourself, because nobody is going to do it for you. If this means ending or scaling back a few friendships and/or relationships, then so be it.

You have to do what is right for you. Why would you want to remain in a friendship that isn’t healthy for you?

You decide who you want to have in your life, and who you don’t. You don’t have to cut former friends out completely. You can simply put some distance between you--see them less often, speak less often, or speak only when you run into each other during social events--just don’t do anything one on one anymore.

Instead, surround yourself with the kind of person you would like to be. To me, that’s kind, caring, giving, compassionate, and loving. I’ve moved away from anyone who doesn’t embody the kind of qualities I want to see more of in my life. I’ve moved away from those who are negative, demeaning, demanding, needy, and live lives full of drama they create themselves.

Some people need a lot of drama in their lives to be happy. I’m not one of them.

I’m not saying you can only be friends with people who are the same as you…or people without any problems (is there such a person??)...not at all. I have many different friends, with all sorts of different lifestyles, problems, interests and beliefs--but they all hold the same caring qualities in common. They have patience and understanding, tolerance and compassion, and accept when I tell them I’m having an episode and can’t really participate in whatever is going on.

They allow me to talk about my PMDD openly, and even though they don’t understand it, and can not imagine what I am going through, they accept that I am going through something that is extremely painful, upsetting, and draining for me.

They don’t try to talk me out of it, tell me to get over it, tell me I’m being a witch or boring or no fun, or tell me to “smile,” “relax,” or “just cheer up.”

They let me be quiet when I need to be quiet, and understand if I say things that don’t quite make sense.

On my part, I feel it’s up to me not to snap at or lash out at these friends, and so I take full responsibility for that. If I slip, I apologize immediately, and explain that I am having a PMDD day.

Remember, your PMDD is an explanation, but never an excuse.

In this way I have created a circle of friends who might not understand fully what PMDD is about, but respect and understand that I know what’s going on, and if I say I’m having a bad day, then they accept that I am having a bad day, and don’t expect or ask for more than I am willing to give.

Sometimes I don’t feel like going out or meeting anyone at all. Sometimes I will go to whatever it is, a meeting, a dinner, a lunch, or church, and just sit there and be quiet. Sometimes I will openly talk about what I am feeling inside, and how it completely goes against the reality of my life. (Or how my inner thoughts reflect the opposite of what is going on in my life, and how that doesn't make any sense at all.)

My life is pretty darn good. I have been abundantly blessed in ways tangible and intangible. I have a supportive family, caring and understanding friends, a warm and comfortable home, work that fulfills me, and a son who has been well-trained to deal with a woman’s hormonal moods--while at the same time accepting no disrespect from me or any other woman because of those moods.

I didn’t always have these things. I’ve been working at it for ten years, slowly pruning away what needed to go, and moving into the forefront of my life what needed to stay for me to live the kind of life I want to live—calm, creative, fulfilling, and productive.

I lost touch with some friends along the way. But as I began to better understand myself, I gained new, more accepting and understanding friends.

Studies show that if you hang around certain kinds of people, you will become more like them. If you surround/align yourself with hard workers, you’ll work harder; if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive; if you hang around with those who take an active part in maintaining their health and well-being, you’ll be more active and healthier overall; if you keep company with goal-oriented people, you’ll attain a few goals, yourself.

In general, if you hang around successful people, you’ll be more successful.

The flip side of that works just as well: if you surround yourself with complainers, you’ll complain more; if you surround yourself with people who like to overindulge in food, drink, toxic environments or substances, whatever; you’ll do more of the same. If you hang with people who do things you know are detrimental to your health and well-being, you’ll do more than you may personally want to, just to fit in.

So choose the people you want to be with carefully. If you want to be well, then make friends with those who are also trying to be well. If you want to complain, then make friends with those who complain. Either way, you will have friends…

But which friends are more likely to help you make progress toward successfully managing your PMDD?

Think about it, and then adjust your life accordingly. Listen to your body, notice how you feel before, during, or after you’re around certain people. Some people can get you churned up just thinking about being around them. Take time to notice who these people are in your life. Don’t just go through life on auto-pilot, accepting whatever comes your way. That’s probably what got you where you are today, and why you’re reading this post.

So slow down, come to know yourself, make friends with yourself, and then choose the rest of your friends wisely. One small step at a time.

Until you have the life you really want.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Relationships - How To Be A Friend To Yourself

Okay, so I’ve said that Relationships Begin With You, and to love or be a friend to others, you first need to love or be a friend to yourself. What exactly does that mean? I mean, if somebody told me I need to be a better friend to myself, I’d probably get annoyed. What are you talking about, be a better friend to myself? I treat myself just fine, thank you. Give me some real advice, why don’t you? Don’t just spout platitudes like you’ve got it all covered, and I don’t.

So I started thinking about it. What does that even look like, being a friend to myself? How does one go about doing such a thing? The first answer I came up with was: Easy to say, hard to do. And why is it so hard? Because it requires thought. And most of us barely have time to think anymore, especially at this time of year. We live in a world of instant this, instant that, where technology has sped our lives up so much that half the time we don’t know whether we’re coming or going. All we know is we’re racing here and there, trying to get everything done that we think needs doing in December.

But we’re not really thinking, are we? We’re just doing. We’re doing all the things we’ve been conditioned to do since the cradle. We’ve accepted that this is how it is, this is how it’s got to be, and the last thing we have time for is to think about being good to ourselves. That, we leave up to the others in our circle, be it friends, family, or co-workers.

Wrong approach. Because everyone else is just as busy as you are, and people are only going to treat you with the same amount of care and respect that you give yourself. So to be good to yourself, the very first thing you have to do is SLOW DOWN. This goes against the grain, I know. If you’re a list-maker, you’ve probably got a list that has at least 50 things on it you need to do between now and the end of the year. You don’t have time to stop and think. Maybe come January you will, maybe not. Maybe by then you’ll have a whole new list to work off—that list containing your New Year’s Resolutions that somehow you never get around to following completely through on.

And why is this? Because while our intentions are good, most of us don’t stop and think about how to make those intentions a reality.

Awareness is the key—to success in all things, including being good to yourself.

You can start by asking yourself one simple question: What is the best thing for me to be doing right now? Right now is the critical part of the question. What is the best thing for me to be doing for my health and well-being right now? Is it making a healthy breakfast? Reading a daily meditation? Driving a parent to a doctor’s appointment? Cleaning the bathroom?

That’s a valid answer, because there are some of us who don’t feel right or settled unless the environment around us is clean and orderly. Others don’t care, so the answer would be different for them. And that’s okay. But try this for a week. Several times a day, stop and ask yourself, what is the best way to spend my time right now? What is the most important thing I need to take care of right now?

Don’t just run through your days like a mouse in a maze. Take the time to become consciously aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it, each and every minute—or for as many minutes as you can hold the thought, while racing from commitment to commitment, or obligation to obligation.

Maybe it’s work. You need to get paid. Then be aware that you’re going to work, in order to get paid, so that you can provide your family with food, shelter, clothing, or luxuries. Are you going to work for a bigger TV, a fancier cell phone, or a new stove? Are you going to work for an island vacation, a school tuition bill, or new braces? Why are you doing what you’re doing, and is it the right reason and the best use of your time?

If not, then notice the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and think about what you can do to close that gap.

What about our so-called free time? Say you’re at home. What is the best way you can be using your time right now? Is it changing the sheets, helping a child with homework, paying bills, or do you just need a little time out? Time out to read a book, play with the kids, call your mother, or maybe make a cup of tea and sit down long enough to catch your breath, then jump back onto the treadmill of your life.

If you never ask yourself this question, you’ll never answer it. And if you take the time to answer it, you will more than likely be surprised by the answer.

The interesting thing is once you start asking yourself this question of what is the best thing I could be doing with my time right now, your priorities will start to fall in line, and you’ll start coming closer to where you want to be, to being the person you want to be.

I compare it to choosing a house. Many of us move into houses that are already built, and then work with what we have. But what if you had the opportunity to create your own house, to design it to have everything you ever wanted in a home? Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have even envisioned the idea. I thought I had no opinions on such things. The question never arose, so I never considered it.

But then I had the opportunity to design my own house from scratch, and I found out I had very definite opinions on what I wanted. It was easier than I ever would have thought, to go into a store and pick out tile and countertops and flooring and lights and fixtures.

But nobody had ever asked me before, what I liked or didn’t like about my house, and so I never considered it. I just worked with or around what I had.

The same can be said of your life. What do you like or not like about it? What would you change if you could? What would you design differently if you could start from scratch? Then why don’t you? Start now. Start where you are. Start by taking a moment here and there to think about what you are doing right now, in this moment, and why. Then choose what you want to be doing next, and move in that direction. Eventually, you’ll find out you have very distinct opinions on what you like and don’t like, and how you do and don’t like to spend your time, who you do and don’t like to be around, what you do and don’t like to eat, what gives you energy and life, and what drains you of both.

But to do that, you have to start taking the time out to ask yourself one simple question: What is the most important thing I could be doing for myself right now?

Is it taking a few deep breaths, is it eating an orange, is it dropping a casserole off for a sick friend, or running an errand for a family member? It doesn’t have to be all about you. But it does have to be about what makes you feel good inside, because when you feel good inside, then you’re being a good friend to yourself.

Right now I need to get this blog post done. Why? Because it’s Wednesday morning and people will be stopping by the blog, expecting something new to be there. But at the same time, my cat has jumped onto my lap, looking for some love. Do I get annoyed and throw her off, because I have something else to do, or do I stop what I am doing to pet her and coo at her and give her what she came looking for?

I stop. I slow down long enough to feel the softness of her fur, appreciate the way she pushes her head into my hands, and listen to the contented rumble of her purr. I smile and use both hands, cuddling and stroking her until she relaxes and settles in my lap, happy just to be with me. She knew what she wanted, what she needed, and she came looking for it. It took maybe all of two minutes. She’s happy, and I’m happy, and we can both get on with our day. She, snoozing on my lap, and me, continuing to type.

What would have been served by throwing her off, by telling her I was too busy to deal with her right now? I learn a lot from my cats. When they’re hungry they eat, when they’re sleepy, they sleep. They don’t worry about what’s coming up next. They live in the moment, and are fully present to whatever is around them, be it a sunbeam on the carpet, the sound of the can opener, or somebody at the door.

We need to slow down like that. We need to be fully present in the moment. When we’re folding laundry or doing dishes, that’s what we need to be doing. Nothing more, and nothing less. We need to take the time to let our thoughts roam free, not use that time to make more lists in our head or angst about things already over and done with, or what we’re going to be doing twenty minutes from now. In twenty minutes, we’ll deal with whatever is happening then.

When we’re driving, we need to be driving, and not doing anything else. When we’re at the store, we need to be shopping, and nothing else. When we’re talking to another person, we need to be doing that, and nothing else. When we’re praying, we need to be praying. The same goes for having a meal, so that we can stop and think about what we are putting into our bodies. Is it something that is good for us, or not? Or are we just wolfing down fast food while we chauffeur the kids to wherever it is they have to go and talking on the phone in between bites?

Tell me. How is that being good to yourself?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Relationships - Learning to Treat Yourself Like a Friend

So last week I said Relationships Begin With You, and that is true. The most important thing of all for a PMDD woman is to have a good relationship with yourself. Obviously I have a good relationship with myself, or I wouldn’t be here, boldly putting myself out there for all the world to read about. I like myself, I enjoy my own company. I’ve learned how to listen to myself, in good times and bad.

One of the best things I’ve learned along the way was that “What you think of me is none of my business.” It’s what I think of me that matters, and as long as I am happy with me, as long as I like and respect myself, that’s what counts.

Surprisingly, adopting this belief didn’t turn me into some self-centered egomaniac. I think that was always my greatest fear…if I put myself first, won't I turn into some kind of monster who doesn’t care about anyone else? Then everybody will really hate me. (Because we all know that PMDD women regularly think everybody hates us.)

I think that’s why I put it off for so long. As women, we’re raised and socialized to put everybody else first. Love means doing for others. It’s how we get love, how we show love, how we determine our worth in the world.

Or at least that’s what we’re raised to believe. But the Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Here is a link to an excellent blog post on the subject, one that includes eight specific quotes from the Bible that say to love your neighbor as yourself. I am a woman of faith, but my purpose here is not to preach, so I’ll leave that to others....

But to me, to love my neighbor as myself means to love others as much as I love myself.

Not more, not less.

So to do that, I have to love myself first.

Loving yourself is hard when you’re a PMDD woman. You do and say things you regret all the time. We’re conditioned to beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. I’m not sure why this is, because it makes for a lot of miserable people in the world, but the bottom line truth is everybody makes mistakes, not just women with PMDD.

Think about all that energy wasted in beating ourselves up. Think about all the good and positive things we could be doing with our time and energy instead. Think about how much happier your life would be if you simply acknowledged your mistakes, did what you could to make amends, accepted that you'd done your best with the information you had at the time, and then got on with your life.

Just think about it for a minute. Can you imagine how different your life would be?

So the first step to loving yourself, is to accept yourself as you are, right here and now. Are you in the middle of a bad episode, or are you doing well today? Is your day just so-so? That’s fine, too. Start right where you are. If you’re having a bad day, what can you do right now to make your day a little better? Take a nap? Call a friend? Eat some chocolate? Read a book? Watch a movie? Make a cup of tea and just sit there feeling miserable for a while? Then go ahead and DO it.

Nobody says you have to be happy all the time. There is nobody on this planet who is happy all the time. And there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a little down time, a little pampering, to help you get back on your feet again.

I have a real dislike for taking drugs. Any kind of drug. I’m all about natural health and healing. I’m especially against the unnecessary use of pain pills and anti-depressants. But a friend once explained it to me this way: When you’re in constant pain, when your body has gone haywire and is sending an uninterrupted stream of “I hurt” and “I feel miserable” signals to your brain, then what is the harm in taking an occasional pill to chemically interrupt that endless loop of biochemical messages running through your body? What's wrong with giving your body a little period of pain-free space to figuratively take a deep breath and have a chance to recover itself from that endless stream of pain messages circulating through your system?

Along those same lines, if your pain is mental, as well as physical, then what is the harm in briefly taking an anti-depressant to stop the endless loop of negative thoughts running through your brain? Just long enough to get you back on your feet again.

In the case of a PMDD woman, certain anti-depressants have been clinically proven to provide relief within hours in 60% of the women who take them during an episode of PMDD. But you only need to take them while you’re having an episode. (That’s the part the drug companies don’t tell you.) For some reason, even though anti-depressants usually take several weeks to kick in for the truly depressed, these same anti-depressants can act quickly in the case of a woman simply having an episode of PMDD (although there’s nothing simple about an episode of PMDD).

So, in the case of chronic physical pain, taking a pain pill can give you small break in your constant misery. Just enough time for you to catch your breath and remember what it feels like to feel good again, and marshal your resources for the next wave of pain.

In the case of mental pain, if you’re one of the 60%, a SSRI anti-depressant can give you a quick break from that endless loop of negative thoughts in your head.

In the case of emotional pain, talking to someone, or pampering yourself in some way—listening to music, stroking a pet, reading a book, taking a walk, making a cup of tea—can give you that same little space between the endless loop of emotional pain you are feeling.

Spiritual pain—read a book, watch a program, listen to a tape, or go to a place of worship and spend some time in silent contemplation. Just you and your maker. Quiet time with the spirit that lives inside you.

That’s what’s known as being good to yourself. Whichever of these areas is calling out to you the loudest, start there. Baby steps. Take time out to get a handle on your pain, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. If you don’t do it, nobody’s going to do it for you.

Because you’re the only person who knows what is going on inside you. You’re the only person who knows just how hard it is to be you.

Especially on the days when you are not feeling like you.

So loving yourself comes from taking care of yourself. From listening to yourself and attending to your own needs. The more you do this, surprisingly enough, the less selfish you will become, because along the way, you manage to develop empathy, and realize you’re not as alone in your pain as you thought you were.

That’s when friends come in, and that’s what I’ll talk about next week. Finding supportive friends, being it on line or in your own neighborhood.

Until then, be blessed, and find just one way each day to be good to yourself. You’d do it for a friend or loved one. Why not for yourself?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Relationships Begin With You

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for information on relationships, so with the holiday season upon us, I’d like to start writing about that subject today.

Relationships are hard, no matter who you are, or what your situation might be. Relationships for a PMDD woman can be almost impossible to sustain, because, due to our hormonal fluctuations, we’re literally a different woman every day. We feel differently, think differently, and act differently every single day.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: A woman marries a man thinking he will change. A man marries a woman thinking she won’t change.

Unfortunately, both end up being disappointed.

Change is inevitable. That’s our only guarantee in life, short of death and taxes. Life comes and goes in cycles, and nothing stays the same. You will change, I will change, your family and/or partner will change, your circumstances and situations will change. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and otherwise. Accept that now, and you’ll be a lot further ahead of the game than most of us.

Why? Because nobody likes change, even when it’s a change for the better. Change takes work, whether it’s a change we embrace, or a change we resist. We like to be comfortable in our surroundings and relationships. We like knowing what we’re in for, how our day will go, what we’re up against, what to expect. A certain stability gives us a good foundation for dealing with all the surprises Life throws our way, be they blessings or challenges.

A PMDD woman, just like anyone else, likes to have stability in her life. Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury we can rely on, given the tumultuous ups and downs caused by our menstrual cycles. And what affect us, affects the people around us—in particular the people closest to us. Our friends, relatives, and significant others. It takes an incredible amount of inner strength to be the kind of people we want to be, when our brains just won’t work right. Even the most patient and loving person loses it at times—think of Jesus in the temple, ranting at the moneychangers.

So how can you expect yourself to be any better, or different? How can you have the kind of relationships you want?

The first step is awareness. First you have to realize and accept that your PMDD is a part of you, and isn’t going to go away, not without making some serious changes in your life. The more awareness you have, the better it gets, but it never really goes away. You have to stay vigilant, and when you slip, as we all inevitably do, there’s a very good chance our symptoms will return.

So how do you gain this awareness? By taking the time to listen to your body and be good to yourself. Your first, and most important relationship, needs to be the relationship you have with yourself. You’ve got to take care of you, before you can take care of anyone else. You’ve got to love yourself, before you can truly love someone else, no matter who that someone else might be.

Most PMDD women spend a great deal of time hating ourselves. Beating ourselves up, for things over which we have no control—in particular our thoughts and moods, which then affect our words and actions. I don’t need to tell you how the cycle goes. You’ve already been there, done that, at least once a month for as long as you’ve had PMDD.

So the first thing you have to do, no matter how awful may think you are, or might have been to yourself in others in the past, is to stop beating yourself up. Just stop it. Right here. Right now. Stop it. You are who you are, and that’s where you start. Don’t be dragging all that baggage from past PMDD episodes along with you. Let go of it and start anew. Today is a new day, and today you are going to be good to yourself, if only for a few minutes.

Because change is hard, and works the best if you do it in baby steps. Not many of us can suddenly start shoving everyone else aside to carve out time to be good to ourselves. We have commitments and responsibilities, and if we’re very lucky, people who depend on us for some measure of support, comfort, and stability.

But we also have a commitment and responsibility to ourselves, to be as good to ourselves as we can possibly be. That doesn’t mean chucking it all and hopping the next plane or cruise ship to some exotic destination, as tempting as that sounds. It just means take a few minutes, either at the beginning or the end of your day—or even in the middle, if you miraculously find yourself alone for a few minutes with nobody around you wanting or needing something from you—and remember what it is that makes you happy.

The choices are as limitless as the number of people reading this. Each one of us has at least one thing in this world that makes us truly happy, probably a couple dozen such things if we really take the time to think about it, but for now, just start with one. What is it that makes you happy?

Now what do you need to do or change to make that situation happen? How far are you right now from making that happen? What do you need to do right now to get there? Is it something you do, or something you want to do for someone else? Is it some way of being? If it’s something you do, then what do you need right now to do it? Do you need ingredients? Supplies? Or do you just need to pick up the phone and call someone? Send them a letter or card? Get in the car and go and see them? Or do you just need to cross the room?

Figure out what it is you need, then figure out a time when you can do it. If you’re not doing anything right now, then get started. Make a list if you want to. Write it down. Then put it somewhere you’ll see it often. Go to the store if you have to, to get those supplies or ingredients. If you’re not feeling up to doing that, then work with what you have right around you. Do you like to doodle? Read? Pray? Listen to music? Take a bath or long, hot shower? Talk to friends? Cook? Sing? Dance? Sew? Garden? Take walks? Maybe playing with your children brings you joy. Or spending time with a pet. Spending time with your significant other. Not everybody recharges best when they are alone.

The bottom line is whatever it is that makes you happy, find a way to do it. Nobody should deny you the time and space you need to soothe your spirit and settle yourself. If they try, be gentle but firm. Say I’m doing this for me, so that I can be a better mother, spouse, partner, sibling, daughter to you. Be the change you want to see in the world, and your world will change around you.

But don’t expect it to happen overnight. Part of the problem is we live in a world of quick fixes and instant gratification. People have come to expect things to be easy, to right themselves with the swipe of a credit card, the popping of a pill, the immediacy of a text message. With PMDD, it doesn’t work that way. With PMDD, you have to work doubly hard to be the change you want to see in the world, because not only are you bumping up against the rest of the world, who most of the time is bumping back (to say the least), half the time you’re fighting yourself.

But it’s not really yourself you’re fighting. It’s your PMDD. I don’t want to be like this, you say. Then don’t. Stop fighting your PMDD. Accept it and roll with it. Start where you are, and start being good to yourself, by eating right, getting enough rest, taking the time you need to calm and settle yourself, then listening to your body and giving it what it needs, and listening to your heart and doing the same.

As your relationship with yourself improves, little by little, your relationships with others will improve, and your PMDD won’t be running (or ruining) your life anymore. Eventually, it will end up being nothing more than a bad memory.