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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

Friday, September 14, 2012

PMDD and Neural Pathways

In next week's post (which I am already writing today), I'm going to talk about stressors specific to PMDD women.  I'm going to use words you may or may not have heard before.  Like neural pathways.  What does that mean?  Well, let's look at neural.  Neurology. Neurologist.  Having to do with nerves.  Ever have a pinched nerve or experience nerve pain?  Ever say to someone "You're getting on my nerves?"  A neural pathway is like a dirt road.  The more you use it, the more it gets worn down.  If you use it a lot, the road develops ruts.  When a road has ruts in it, you can get stuck in the mud. 
On the flip side of that, think of a pair of shoes.  Nothing better than a pair of shoes you've had so long that they feel totally comfortable. 
So we have these neural pathways in our brains.  The more we use them, the more they can either develop ruts we get stuck in, or the more comfortable they can become.   Sometimes we can get comfortable with things that are not good for us.  Like addiction and abuse.  But hey, they are familiar.  Better the devil I know than the one I don't.  So in times of stress, we reach for the familiar. Our brain sort of goes on autopilot and says "I know how to react to this" and sticks with the tried and true.

The brain does not distinguish between what is comfortable and what is a rut.  Left to its own devices, the brain just takes the path of least resistance.  To get a different result, or take a different path, you have to consciously choose to do so, and in a sense, give your brain instructions to do something different this time.  Because even while the brain reacts automatically, you are in control of your thoughts, your thoughts are not in control of you.

Hard to believe when you're in the middle of a PMDD episode, but bear with me here.

To take a different path, you have to let your brain know that's what you want to do.  It will be hard, of that there is no doubt.  Your brain has been conditioned to doing things a certain way.  It's quite content to keep doing things this way.  Basically, you have to re-train your brain. 
I'd much rather slip into a comfortable pair of shoes than get stuck in a dirt road rut. 
Screaming and yelling and crying and creating all sorts of drama is sinking into the rut.  Taking a deep breath, holding your tongue, going for a walk or into a room by yourself to calm down is breaking in a new pair of shoes.  It will feel unfamiliar and tight and pinched at first, but the more you wear those shoes, the more comfortable they will become.  The more you practice self-control, the more familiar and comfortable it will become.  Eventually, you will have created a new rut...one you don't mind being stuck in.  One that helps your relationships instead of hurts them, and one that doesn't leave you feeling destroyed every time you get stressed.

We're talking normal stressors here, the stuff people have to deal with every day.  A meeting with your boss, a new client, your kid's teacher, a presentation you have to give, just dealing with people in retail, or long lines at the grocery store.  Traffic jams, flight delays, spilled milk, and crayons on the wall.  Practice is how you retrain your brain to deal with that stuff.  Because PMDD women have a reputation for being unable to cope with everyday stresses.  But this is because our PMDD brains have been conditioned to over-react to normal everyday stresses.  We have to work hard to get out of those brain ruts and we have to start small.

One moment at a time.

Some think of PMDD women as being weak, but I think the opposite.  I think we are strong.  Stronger than most.  Because we're starting out from deep in the ruts, while everyone else is starting on solid ground.  And still we succeed.  We get the clients, give the presentations, raise our children, maintain our households, keep our families and businesses afloat,  bring home the bacon, create beautiful things, care for our loved ones, and win recognition and respect DESPITE having a brain that does not function properly.

So never put yourself down for having PMDD.  Doing so only creates another rut you have to crawl out of.


  1. I'm slowly being able to shorten the days i get my moods/turn them around faster than i could before but what i'm really struggling with is how to accept that this is how life will always be. do you ave any advice on i guess just accepting how our bodies and minds work? i know i have to accept it but i don't want to. it's like, okay, i'm safe again but for how long? when is the next bad day coming? or sometimes you just can't prepare for how you will feel and out of no where it strikes. i haven't given up yet and i don't plan on it but i feel like for as far as i've come, i'm really getting worn down. any encouraging words will help. all my love and prayers your way, thank you for your continued posts.

  2. You're very welcome, Lena, and I have no advice other than the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get back to what you really want to be doing. For instance, if your body is telling you it wants to sleep, if there's any way possible, take that nap. The longer you fight it, the more it will fight back. I've learned to just go with the flow, and not think about the next bad day until it's here. Some days I feel worn down, but most days I feel really good. A daily walk helps me a great deal. I don't know why, but I am glad it does. Keep working at it, Lena. It *will* be over one day...after menopause. And the more you do to learn about your body and moods now, the better it will be for you then.

  3. I definitely think a important start and aspect to getting out of the ruts and behaviors that have long been familiar to us is to educate ourselves...which you have done and continue to do a wonderful job of! I have a tendency to ask "why" to almost everything and anything. The counselor that I used to see told me to take that word out of my vocabulary. I understand now why she said that, but I don't necessarily agree with her. I used to ask "why" in a way that I would roll around in a self pity party wondering "why is this happening to me", "what did I do to deserve this" etc, etc. That sort of "why" is self-defeating and if you stay in that stage, yes it's unhealthy and you will continue to stay in your rut. However, if you accept the fact that yes you do have PMDD and want to know more about it...then you can ask why and put an action with it. That action is to edcuate ourselves. Because once you have the head knowledge that anxiety will pass, when you feel an attack coming on, instead of panicking you can learn techniques to help yourself through those moments. When we learn that the symptoms of PMDD will pass once our periods begin or shortly thereafter...we can get through the time a little easier. Thank you for the continued research and putting things into perspective for us all!