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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

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.

3 comments:

  1. Thankyou so much for this... It's put into words how I feel about my situation.

    My dilemma... how do I ever achieve what I am capable of when PMDD brings up brick walls in front of everything, including stable and healthy relationships.

    I feel like my life is being wasted, day by day. Oh the things I could have achieved if I didn't have this.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    Cat xx

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  2. Thank you for your blog. Glad I found this on FB - this month is a bad cycle for me and I need all the strength I can get from others who experience this themselves, you can ultimately feel so alone with this disorder.

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  3. What you have written here applies to sufferers (I don't like that word - i'd like to find something more positive!)of PMDD of course, but also to anyone who has depression, anxiety, low-self esteem. Or anyone who feels stress - and we all do, don't we? Happiness is a choice. And of course we will have obstacles - PMDD being a particuarly frustrating one. But we can't always control what happens TO us, we can only control what we do about it and how we react to it. It's very hard to remember that when PMDD rears its ugly head. Trust me - PMDD can put me in a very low, dark place. But as you say, awareness is a very important first step. I've only recently found out about PMDD and am relived in so many ways - to know that' I'm not crazy, that this is a real condition, to know that I'm not alone, to have the knowledge of what it is and what I can to about it, to be able to educate others about it, especially those around me (fiance, family). And there is a huge sense of relief in being educated about it because I can look at the calendar/my cycle and brace myself for what's coming. I know what to expect and also realize on my worst PMDD days that it's only tmeporary and this too shall pass.

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