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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, March 30, 2011

PMDD - They Only See Our Failures

I’m one of the fortunate few. Through years of carefully cultivated self-awareness, I’ve finally learned how to separate myself from my PMDD. I know that I am not my PMDD. But millions more women are out there, valiantly struggling to get though each day, secretly convinced they are going mad, and simply hoping, even praying, that one day they will wake up and the nightmare that lives inside their minds will be over.

On the outside these women may seem to be coping—some of them even coping brilliantly by all external accounts--but on the inside they are terrified by--and of--this mystifying cycle of emotional imbalance that hardly anyone understands.

They’re also afraid to tell anyone, for fear that those people, too, will think they are crazy.

Or worse, they’ve tried to tell others—friends, family, medical professionals--and have been discounted, dismissed, or simply not believed. Or perhaps the symptoms of PMDD have crashed over their internal walls and manifested themselves, and those they spend the most time with and/or are closest to have already deemed them as somehow defective. She’s a moody one all right, sweetness and light one minute, a raving bitch the next. What gives? What’s wrong with her? How can anyone be so freaking out of control?

Everyone wants to be normal, and PMDD women are no exception. But PMDD doesn’t do normal. PMDD is a biological imbalance in your brain that manifests itself both physically and emotionally. It’s the emotional part people can’t deal with. Women the world over are no stranger to physical discomfort. We can be feeling like something the dog dragged in three days ago and still meet our commitments, care for our families, run households and offices and companies and governments, head up foundations, give speeches, present or accept awards, create beautiful works of art, love our partners, and still get dinner on the table in time.

Women are awesome. We are born with the gifts of joy, laughter, insight, intuition, sensitivity, kindness, compassion, creativity, cooperation, and multi-tasking (our biggest downfall, as we routinely take on too much.) We have more endurance than men. We have more tolerance for pain, be it physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. We are passionate in our beliefs, and loyal to those we love—even when that loyalty is far from returned.

If a woman had a broken leg, and was temporarily hobbling around on crutches, most people would understand if she was a little tired or edgy or weepy during the course of her day. Most people would offer to help, open doors, fetch and carry things for her, run some errands, give her opportunities to rest and refresh herself. Most would give her some leeway to maneuver as she tries to navigate through her suddenly complicated day. At the very least, they would try to be tolerant if her frustration spilled over.

But when our brains are temporarily broken, as in the case of the PMDD phase of our menstrual cycles, there are no boldly visible cues, like a pair of crutches. Sure, the sparkle in our eyes may dim, our heads and hearts and joints may hurt, our handwriting may become stiff and awkward, our reflexes slow and clutzy, but only those intimately acquainted with us may be able to notice. We might not even notice these things ourselves, if we aren’t paying close attention to our bodies. Which most women don’t, we’re so used to putting our own needs aside and fulfilling the roles we play for others—mother, daughter, sister, partner, caretaker, breadwinner, coordinator, confidante.

So silently we slog through our PMDD days, knowing we feel fragile inside, but with no visible way to communicate that to the world—other than our emotions. All through our lives, we’ve been socialized to believe emotions are bad for everybody but actors and actresses. Real people need to suppress their emotions. Emotions get you in trouble. Emotions are counterproductive. Emotions are messy and scary. Don’t make a scene, don’t make a fuss, don’t get hysterical, and for God’s sake, don’t ever cry.

People can’t handle it when other people cry. Men especially can’t handle it when women cry.

Anger is the accepted emotional outlet for men, but there is no acceptable emotional outlet for women. Women are not supposed to get angry. If we get angry, there’s something wrong with us—we’re being countercultural. Little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice. Women who show anger are frowned upon, called all sorts of derogatory names, dismissed, discounted, deterred and destroyed, one way or another.

And so most women turn that anger inward, where it manifests as depression.

This is what happens to someone who passes for a *normal* woman, mind you. But remember, PMDD doesn’t do normal. PMDD lifts the veil on all those suppressed emotions, all those bitten lips and mounting frustrations life throws at us, turns off the biological mechanism that holds all that suppressed emotion back, and flips the switch to ON.

PMDD is your steam valve, honey, and like clockwork, once a month it lets loose.

If you’re especially unlucky, it happens twice a month, catching you on your ovulation cycle, as well.

And when that happens, we fail. We fail spectacularly. We rant, we rave, we cry and throw things. We break things, too. Dishes and doors, spirits and hearts and hopes and dreams. We say things we don’t mean, and hurt the people we love the most.

Why? Because they can’t see inside our heads to where the synapses are temporarily not working right, because they can’t see that we’re fragile inside on those days.

Because they can’t see we’re temporarily on crutches.

And for that, people call us crazy.

We’re not crazy. We’re pre-menstrual. More about what this means next week. In the meantime, remember, You Are Not Your PMDD. It might take up a huge chunk of your life, especially since you probably spend your non-PMDD days trying to make up to everyone for the way you *supposedly* let them down on your PMDD days--but really, who let who down?

Think about it. If you were on crutches, wouldn't the people in your life treat you with more care?

So you are not your PMDD, and your PMDD is not you. It’s something you have to deal with, like you would if you broke your leg, but it does not define you. No one who doesn’t have PMDD has a clue about how much energy and effort is expended in trying NOT to blow up, NOT to burst into tears, NOT to ruin the party, the family outing, the meeting, the conference, the trip…

The relationship.

All others see is our failures. But I read the Facebook posts, and I see how hard everyone tries, and my heart goes out to each and every one of you as you describe for the others how you feel it coming on, how you feel the tension building, how you are in the middle of the storm, how you hate all of it…

And how you ache inside as you do your best to deal with the heartbreaking aftermath.

I am here, and I understand. Because while I have a better handle than most on my PMDD, can even separate it out and still get my work done when my mind is acting up the most, I know all too well how much energy that takes, and how drained you can feel at the end of the day.

And even when I make it through 90% of the day without weeping or snapping or snarling at someone, even when I’ve spent the day protecting others from myself and my moods, moods I have as much control over as I would an allergic reaction, even when I’ve done everything I can to make sure I don’t ruin their day…

There’s always the chance the dam will break.

And that is all they see.

Do not let anyone define you by your failures. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and you wouldn’t do it to them.

Take care and God Bless.


  1. Thank you so much for this, Liana. You've beautifully expressed what we go through. You've hit right on the head all the feelings and emotions and the struggle, oh the constant struggle to regain composure and just get through the day. I JUST had this conversation with my mother and she said the same thing you just did. We are not our PMDD. It is only a portion of who we are not the whole thing. We are intricate, beautiful people with so much more to give. That's why its CRUCIAL to hold onto the positive in our lifes; to focus on the good; to put a magnifying glass over the parts of us that may get swept under the rug because of PMDD. Thank you again for your support and advocacy with other sufferers. You are just as beautiful and it means so much more knowing you've been through the storms too. Keep up the great work.

  2. Thank you!!! Thank you so much-you are right I am NOT my PMDD. It may be a huge part of my life,but I am more than it!! I so appreciate what you have written. And I thank you again! Bless you Liana!

  3. Liana, well said. There's so much here, but I want to focus on one thing you said - we're not allowed to get angry (in society) and I agree. I think society "thinks" its unbecoming of a woman to be angry. It's a shame really. I'm pretty even keeled, thank goodness, but when I do get angry, people raise their eyebrows. They're shocked.

    I admire you for doing this blog and bringing attention to this.


  4. What a great tribute to women. It's true, women are not allowed to express their nervousness without men throwing them a superior, or bored, or impatient glance. Well said, Liana.

  5. I’ve mentioned this before I think. Suffering all and every such symptom as above:(, I went to my doctor feeling v. tearful. Told him I hated feeling so down, and up, and down, and angry and upset, and upsetting everyone, which only ever happened at THAT time of the month. He says, facetiously, so you’re a nice person the rest of the time, then? How’s that for compounding the feelings of despair.

    Great blog, Liana. Keep up the good work!

    1. My Doctor facetiously tells me to piss off and come back in a fortnight when he knows who it is he's talking to! true I promise.

      Thanks for your excellent post : )

  6. Liana,

    I think what's terrible is that people suffer in silence. And I think its a universiality for many types of illness. We don't like to admit that we aren't whole; we don't want the pity of others.

    I'm remembering my mom who had a rare skin condition for 18 months before it was successfully diagnosed. She was always reluctant to show off her eroded skin, as if she had somehow caused it.

    We all try to carry the load put upon us, but sometimes its just too much. I appreciate what you are doing to raise awareness of PMDD, and of how much impact your journey of discovery has on others.

    God bless.


  7. Thank you so much for this. So good to know I'm not alone with this hell every month.

  8. an exceptional post - you keep getting stronger all the time!

  9. This was absolutely wonderful to read. I am not PMDD!! That is NOT who I am.

  10. This is amazing. One of the best descriptions of what it feels like to live with this horrible condition, and inspiring words of encouragement. Thank you.

  11. My husband says I'm on those days...I am...I am feeling so lonely right now. I can't stop crying, questioning his love, begging him to please understand, and he keeps yelling at me with those eyes full of anger "What do you want from me?". My life stops for a few days. I need help.

  12. Thank You for so much, this has helped me understand that I am not alone going through this. I just found out that I had PMDD last year, I am 21 years old. I am not being treated for this and I feel that with my moods, anger and depression I am hurting the people I love the most. I need help, I feel out of control most of the time and I am desperate to find help. I don't know what to do sometimes. My boyfriend has threated me to leave me a couple of times and it just breaks my heart. I know I have hurt him, I don't want to though. My PMDD is put of control, I get aggressive sometimes because the stress, rage, and, anger are so strong. Seems like they are taking over me. Please somebody HELP!!

    1. This is exactly how I feel. My PMDD is out of control and I know I'm hurting those closest to me. I rage and scream and afterward feel awful and apologize. My boyfriend refuses to accept the condition. Every time I try and explain he dismisses it and says I'm just an angry, depressed person. The worst he's ever met. He's a jerk. He teases me relentlessly and then gets angry at me for being angry. I'm sick of it. I'm on bupropion for major depressive disorder and unfortunately it doesn't touch my PMDD symptoms. And actually, I think it just makes everything worse because two week out of the month I'm terrific and happy, then the other two I am a psychotic, angry, depressed and thinking of suicide. A female dog who lashes out at the most minute annoyances I would normally overlook. Constantly questioning motives. Hating everyone I come across. I don't know what to do anymore. I'm exhausted.

  13. simply amazing. I feel like PMDD is wrecking my home. Especially with my husband. I have now spent 24 hrs crying and arguing w/him. We are arguing about arguing... I feel like he thinks I am making this stuff up. But I was diagnosed a month ago w/PMDD and have suffered for well over a year. Especially since having a Novasure ablation. worst mistake I ever made. Thanks for your posts...at least I know I am not alone. Well..I am since my husband left for the weekend b/c of my mood. My relationship w/him is in the tank...so sad right now.

  14. tears dripping from my eyes. Feeling not so alone anymore reading all or your posts. I've been suffering with what I just assumed was work related stress from what seems like over 10 yrs now. I blow up on my 9yr old son I use bad words to get my point across. I feel like a monster and yet 10 min later I'm begging him to forgive me. I am mean what seems all the time.
    Seems I only have 1 good week out of every month. I'm suffering. questioning what I feel for my boyfriend who gives me the world. I feel consumed by so much self worthlessness and sadness i can barely breath sometimes. I am mean all the time. Nasty moods, Irritated, fly off the handle, cant stand noise or repetitive sounds like dogs barking. I go crazy. I can't imagine what my boyfriend thinks of me. I wanna die sometimes. Think it would be easier than living with the torment of one irritating event after the next which sets my mood swings off. It happens so much and so often I can't find it in me to control it. I need help and just don't feel like the dr's in my area are qualified enough. I need to do somemore research on pmdd i'm first now realizing I have this and feel doomed. Thank you for all your insights and thoughts.

    1. Yes, I can completely relate to you and your struggle. This is exactly how I feel.

  15. not sure where this comment will go - not too familiar with blogging! ...but would like to contibute:
    seems as though i have a touch of the pmdd myself - haha
    however unlike some of the info i've read, this seems only to affect my relationship with my partner. he is wonderful, kind, patient and supportive but i grow a serious annoyance to him after my period. it's definitely cyclic behavious as it comes every mth without a doubt. to name it the 'good' and the 'bad' ...the good would be as soon as the blood drops...i am optomistic, alive, happy and sexually driven. as soon as the bad comes on, i withdraw from him completely. i don't become bitchy or snappy, i continue to smile and try to engage in conversation, & such but i am suffering on the inside and crave my alone time. there is nothing worse than the thought of making love. my partner isn't overly masculine, he is soft and sensitive which on the good days, is a God send, but on the bad...it annoys me to no end. i have read that women crave masculinity during ovulation so it makes sense to me...but his every move seems to rub me the wrong way. i try to be kind during this cycle but he senses my withdraw immediately and internalizes it which leaves us in a bad place with one another. i believe he feels rejected and although he knows that's not how i intend to seem, its an intense process for him which can last a week or more.
    i do not become snappy or emotional, i am not bitchy to my 2 children or short with my co-workers...but i get highly aggitated by him inside...to the point where i mimic the things he says in my mind and laugh about them.
    i can't stand the way he even sips his tea...
    i feel like an awful person.
    i hesitate to believe i fully love him and the thoughts of marriage which on the 'good' seems wonderful, i cannot imagine myself actually following thru with it on the 'bad'. i think negative thoughts, sad thoughts...disturbing images come to me easier and my internal filters are shot. i feel hopeless and afraid.
    i also have a harder time coping wth my ex husband who i still feel close to. some may read this and feel i haven't procesed all that i should, and perhaps that is true.
    but to stay away from that for now...i suffer terribly when it comes to my partner and wonder if anybody else experiences anything like this.
    i don't tell him all that i feel because it would seem mean and i always know i'll snap out of it so why bother.
    can anybody relate??

    1. Ohh I soo hear ya. As if I was reading a story someone wrote how I feel about my partner during the same time, to the exact. Wow! But yet I have a real case of pmdd actually so everything else most women go thru during this awful time of the month. For me If I get 2 weeks of "ME" that's a bonus, but usually it's just one week out of the month :( I can't add anything else to what u said cause u described it to exact...but I just wantto say I completly relate. And what to do?! I never know as well....I feel I'm in a vicious circle with him...but yet I know this is not me during that time...then I just hate myself...and want to die :(

  16. Anonymous from 7/12:

    I can relate to you. But think about this for a second: the "good" is the REAL you, and the emotions you feel at that time are your REAL emotions. The stuff you think and feel in the "bad" times are just hormones (nasty little buggers). I know that "bad" stuff can feel very convincing, but it's a trick. PMDD can make you feel like you are 2 people sometimes, in one hand a lovely wife and partner and on the other a really hostile, negative person. But the real woman is the woman you know during those "good" times. Celebate the specialness of that part and use it to motivate you through to difficult times. It is possible to live a happy, successful, life with PMDD-- however, it take a strong committment to learning strategies and tactics to help you get over the rough parts. You can do it!!

  17. "Do not let anyone define you by your failures. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and you wouldn’t do it to them". Liana, what you wrote was extremely profound for me. I have not been diagnosed with PMDD, but I am pretty sure I have it. I feel like when I get in that mode each month, all focus on is what I did "wrong" or "could have done better". Then starts the cycle of depression, exhaustion, anxiety and rage. This emotional rollercoaster is like clockwork each month. Thank you for your posts and helping me realize there are others out there who struggle with this defeating thought process each month.

  18. Yes, THIS. Thank you so much for this.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  19. Thank you so much for this. It so totally spoke to and of me, I could hardly finish the article for the tears in my eyes. Someone understands what I'm living with. Thank you from the bottom of my heart...

  20. Maybe you can help ME. This last "episode" let to me being forced to leave my home of 7 years. A lot of craziness happened right away. it has calmed a litle now. Whenever this happened before in our relationship, I would get the persistant phone calls to come home. This time they aren't happening. It once was like clockwork and now she is less than 7 days away from her period and she is very detached from me. I am hoping when the period finally hits that she will break down to me like she always did and that I will have a chance to be with her while she is "good'. Now reading so much on here, these stories parallel mine so much. People say she is distancing herself from me because I am the one she loves the most. Can that be true? Will she ever again at least temporarily "beak down" again so I can fill her with love while she isn't in her bad state?

  21. I can't speak for your partner, but she may have reached a point where she believes she isn't worth the effort, especially since this cycle keeps repeating itself. She may have simply given up on herself and decided she would be better off alone. Many women with PMDD do (if only to themselves) declare themselves "unlovable" at some point, and decide to go it alone. Anything can happen with PMDD, so all you can do is let her know you'll be there for her if she decides to try again to have a relationship. The detachment is part of the PMDD, though. Depending on what else is going on in her life and your relationship, it may pass. It also might not. I'm sorry for your pain and I hope it works out for you both.

  22. Hi Liana,
    Your blog helps me to feel some kind of comfort that we need while pmdd takes over. I get the understanding that I know no1 else can understand unless they going thru the same thing. Thank you so much for putting all this info out for us, and jut being there :) I do have a question though have you heard or perhaps tried any Chinese Herbal medicine for pmdd?

    1. No, I have not tried any Chinese Herbal medicines for PMDD. Haven't even considered it...yet. Still doing well with pharmaceutical grade Vitamin B-50, B-6, magnesium, and calcium...not any off the shelf brands, though! Unless you shop at Whole Foods...

  23. This post is really more informative. Thanks for sharing this important information about PMDD.