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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, February 16, 2011

Relationships and PMDD -- Doing Your Part

Last week I posted 20 tips for partners who live with women who have PMDD. While it would be ideal if your partner did all of these things, that’s still only 50% of the equation. You’ve got to bring something to the party as well. As any relationship book will tell you, it takes two to make a relationship—any relationship—work.

So if you’re thinking, “If I just love him enough,” or “If I just (do anything) enough,” it’s not going to work—not without you running yourself into the ground. Relationships are full of give and take, and only work well when each partner gives as much as he or she takes.

Even if you’ve got the best partner in the world, there are still things you can do to make your PMDD episodes run more smoothly. And if your partner is not supportive—then do it for you…because you’re worth it.

1. Chart your symptoms daily. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, one of those pocket calendars will do. Just write a few words each day: anxious, crabby, sad, sleepy, achy, bloated, cravings, weepy, snapped at __________. Use this to get in touch with your feelings and your body. Eventually you’ll discover patterns of symptoms.

2. Consult your chart/PMDD calendar when considering social events, activities, creative or household projects, vacations and such. Making major decisions comes under this heading, too. Don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on something big when you know you won’t be feeling up to it. Don’t just try to slog through your life the best that you can…be pro-active!

3. Learn to recognize when you are symptomatic, and consciously postpone thinking about anything that needs serious thought until you are feeling better. If you don’t, your decisions will be colored by your PMDD, and you may well end up asking yourself, “What the hell was I thinking when I decided to do this?”

4. Understand that if it is not treated, your PMDD will only get worse. It could end up a major depressive disorder and who wants that when you know it can be avoided?

5. Find a doctor who will listen to you. If the doctor won’t listen, change doctors. It’s your life at stake here. No one has as much to gain from finding the right treatment for you as you do. So take an active part in your own health and well being. Don’t just do what the doctor says because “the doctor knows best.” The doctor knows what the doctor knows, and if the doctor doesn’t know anything about PMDD, you need to find one who does.

6. Try whatever you need to try to feel better. If you don’t feel better, then stop whatever makes you feel worse, and try something else. This goes for both medical and natural treatments. If medication works for you, go for it. If it doesn’t, don’t keep hanging in there, thinking it will get better. Your doctor is not you. Your doctor can’t feel what you feel or experience what you experience. Only you can know what works for you and what doesn’t.

7. Do not let anyone make you feel inadequate because something that works for others is not working for you. There is nothing wrong with you if this treatment or that treatment doesn’t work. All it means is you haven’t found the right solution for you yet. PMDD is not a one-size-fits-all disorder.

8. Move your body. Fit exercise in whatever you can, whenever you can. Isn’t a healthy you worth it? Find a few kinds of exercise you enjoy and mix it up so it doesn’t get boring fast. A class here, a walk there, maybe Tai Chi today and Zumba tomorrow. Just put on some music and dance around the house with the kids or by yourself for a song or two. See if that doesn’t put some energy in your step. Park your car a few spaces away from the door instead of in the closest spot. 30 minutes of some sort of aerobic activity a day is best, even if it’s just cleaning the bathroom or carting laundry up and down the stairs, but if you have to start with 5 or 10 minute increments, then start there. Anything is better than nothing.

9. It is essential that you get enough rest. Sleep is when your body re-regulates itself and if you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have the time it needs to complete its repair job from whatever abuses you subjected it to during the day. (aka substance abuse, smoking, stress, overexertion, poor diet). The more sleep you lose, the harder it is for your body to catch up, and you fall further and further behind each day. This explains why you are so exhausted.

10. Eat healthy. Whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, sugar substitutes, anything made with high fructose corn syrup (yes, you might have to start reading labels), white rice and white flour, for starters. Start being aware of what you eat, and as you pour that cup of coffee, know you are contributing to your PMDD, and know that you are choosing to do so. Ask yourself, is this candy bar, energy drink, glass of wine, piece of cake worth feeling miserable two weeks from now?

11. Get yourself some high quality dark chocolate for when the cravings come. Not that mass-produced stuff that comes in a bag. No matter how good it tastes, it’s not going to help you like true chocolates from a chocolate store will. There are plenty online to choose from if your town doesn’t have a chocolate store. A bonus is you’ll need less of the high quality stuff to feel better, so you might even lose some weight.

12. If you snap out at someone, stop, apologize, and explain to them that it’s not them, it’s your PMDD. Don’t let hurt feelings fester, on either side of the relationship. If they’re not open to an explanation of PMDD, just say, “I’m sorry, I’m having a bad day,” and leave it at that. Everybody has bad days now and then.

13. If somebody is trying to bait you, walk away. Don’t let their bad mood spark yours. Tell them you’ll be back or continue this conversation when you’re both in a better mood.

14. Ask for help when you need it. If you don’t have anyone in your life who is willing or capable of doing this, find new friends who will be supportive and encouraging. Even if they’re just online. PMDD forums and discussion groups abound. You don’t need to go through any of this alone.

15. Do not let your negative thoughts and feelings get the better of you. Every day, all day long, our minds run rampant with thoughts. Good ones, bad ones, even strange ones. One way to get a handle on this is to learn how to still your mind. But that takes dedicated time and effort. If you’re not at a place in your life where you can take the time out to meditate or practice some form of deep breathing exercise that stills the mind, at the very least, when the negative thoughts come, push them right back out of your mind and refuse to dwell on them. Say to yourself, “That’s my PMDD talking, not me,” and consciously change the subject.

Remember (as long as PMDD is your only problem), you are in control of your mind…your mind is not in control of you (even though it very much feels like it). You need to refuse to give those negative thoughts any air time, because if you don’t, they will loop endlessly through your mind, creating deeper and deeper ruts, until negative thoughts are all you know and you end up with major depressive disorder. This is how PMDD women become suicidal.

Some wonderful ideas on how to mentally shift gears are in this article from Women to Women. The article is about perimenopause, but unless you die first or have your ovaries surgically removed, thus throwing you into instant menopause, you’re headed for perimenopause anyway. Why not learn how to deal with it in advance?

Be blessed, and keep me posted on your progress!

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