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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, January 19, 2011

Relationships and PMDD - Finding the Right Partner

Okay, today’s post begins the one I had in mind when I started this series on relationships. But once I started thinking about it, I realized that for any of us to have a successful relationship, we have to start with ourselves. We have to know ourselves, like ourselves, and be friends with ourselves before we can successfully have any sort of relationship with anyone else, be it friendship, a family relationship, or a relationship with a significant other.

People will only treat you as well as you treat yourself. If you don’t know yourself, don’t understand yourself, how can you explain your PMDD to anyone else? If you don’t treat yourself with kindness, care, and consideration, how can you expect anyone else to?

So I started with Relationships Begin With You, then emphasized the importance of getting to know yourself as well as you would a friend, and then offered some ideas on how to be a friend to yourself, or how to treat yourself the way you would a friend. Because, face it, most of us treat friends better than we do ourselves. We’re there for friends, but when it comes to taking care of ourselves…for any number of reasons, we drop the ball. Those issues go way beyond the subject of PMDD, so this is not the place to explore them.

I then tackled the topic of family—offered tips on how to get along with your family, especially during family gatherings--and if for reasons beyond your control, you just can’t get along with some family members—I wrote about how to “just say no” to family gatherings for your own peace of mind and well being. This is not opting out. This counts as being good to yourself, and treating yourself like a friend. If a friend came to you and said, “I just can’t deal with my family, family drama stresses me out, or I love them but they just plain make me feel crazy,” what would you tell that friend?

Then tell yourself the same thing. Do what you can to get along, and learn to let go of the rest. Take a break from the family if you need to, if you need some time to get your head together. The only person you have control over and are responsible for is yourself. If others behave badly, that’s not on you. But if you’re the one behaving badly, then you need to take a look at that, take some time out, and do your best to figure out what you could be doing differently. Be the change you want to see in your world. Start with taking care of yourself.

Many of us are already in relationships, and have children. Children who depend on us to be there for them, no matter what kind of day we are having. Taking care of ourselves helps us to be better able to take care of them. When we’re calm, relaxed, and happy, we’re much better able to weather the storms life brings into our days, and provide that emotional stability our children need to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.

They can’t do that if we’re in a bad relationship, whatever the reason. So if you’re not willing to put forth the effort to find or create a healthy, stable, and supportive relationship for yourself, then do it for them—the kids who are counting on you to show them how to navigate life’s many challenges. If you don’t show them…who will?

To have a good relationship, you need a supportive partner. Period. If your partner isn’t supportive of your needs as a PMDD woman, you might as well be a salmon swimming upstream. But for your partner to be supportive of those needs, you have to know what those needs are, yourself. When you’re having an episode, do you need calm and quiet, or do you need to be held? Do you need to be left alone, or do you want someone who can gently and lovingly help to ease you out of your negative mood? Will flowers and candy help? Do you just want to watch TV or read a book, or do you want to talk?

The answers are as varied as can be. But the key to any good relationship is communication. Maybe one month you’ll want to go out to dinner. Maybe another you’ll want to take a long bath. Maybe you’ll want to make some popcorn and watch a comedy. Maybe you’ll want to go for a walk. Maybe you just want to feel appreciated.

Whatever you want, you need to be able to communicate that to your partner. And if your partner won’t cooperate…is he or she the right partner for you? I’ve said all along, PMDD is an explanation, not an excuse. It’s not an excuse to behave badly. It’s not an excuse to take your anger, irritation, or sadness out on others. It’s not an excuse to withdraw and/or abandon your responsibilities.

But it is an explanation for why you feel tempted to do these things when having an episode of PMDD.

The first thing you need to do is chart your symptoms, to discover what your pattern is. I detailed mine in my post, A Perfect Storm of PMDD. Once you know what your pattern is, you need to let your partner know when your bad days are coming, and ask for some extra consideration on those days. If you have a really good relationship with your partner, he or she might be able to see the storm coming before it arrives. I know there have been many times in my life that I was completely unaware that I was starting to act out of character, until my best friend, a man, pointed it out. Then I had to decide if he was right or not, because nobody knows my mental, emotional, or physical state as well as I do.

Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes he’s wrong. When he’s right, we go into PMDD mode. When he’s wrong, I do my best to figure out what’s really bothering me, and if he’s involved, we talk about it. If he’s not, I might ask him to help me figure out ways to deal with the person or situation that is causing my anger and or tears.

Beware of partners who tell you that you must be having an episode just because you’re upset with them for one reason or another. There come times in everyone’s lives when we are genuine angry or upset with someone about something. And that’s okay. Anger and emotional upset are normal and natural signals that something is not going right in our lives. They’re like warning lights, letting us know that here is something going on that needs to be addressed. The key is to know the difference—are you genuinely angry, or has your PMDD kicked in?

If your PMDD has kicked in, revert to the list of phrases I mentioned in my last post. What works with children and family members works just as well with partners. Or make up your own list. Agree on these code phrases beforehand, when you are feeling well. Then, when the bad days come, you’ll have them ready to diffuse tense situations that arise.

A good relationship of any kind is based on mutual admiration and respect. If you’re in a good relationship, your partner will respect your need for space or extra attention when the bad days come. If you’re not, you will likely find yourself with a partner who ignores you, demeans you, eggs you on, refuses to believe you, and/or abandons you when you most need love and support. Partners like this only add to the problem, because they create stress. Stress exacerbates PMDD and PMDD causes stress.

So the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a partner who will not add to your stress when you are already stressed. If your partner simply won’t listen, then there’s more going on in your relationship than just your PMDD. Don’t let anyone blame you or your PMDD solely for the failures in a relationship, be they friends, family, or your significant other. It takes two people to have a relationship. If you’re trying, and the other party isn’t—it’s not just about your PMDD. They’re using your PMDD as an excuse to avoid looking at whatever else may be going wrong in the relationship.

I don’t know any gentler way to say it. If somebody loves you, truly loves you, they will work with you to find a way to make your life easier and your episodes more bearable. They will be open to information and resources on the subject, and will want to help you get better. They will not walk away, and they will not cast 100% of the blame on you. They may not be happy with you at times, but they will be there for you.

If they are not…then you need to start at the beginning again…and learn how to be there for yourself.

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