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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

Monday, July 4, 2016

Declare Your Independence from PMDD - Nutrition Matters

Today we offer a two-for-one post, with a guest segment from Julie, a woman who, like me, has taken the responsibility for management of her PMDD symptoms into her own hands.  Read on to find out how and why. 
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates, founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine
Julie starts:  Over a decade ago, I sat down with a doctor and burst into tears. Literally within moments, I had a prescription for an antidepressant.
I left feeling ashamed and deficient somehow. The drug didn't help at all and I was cycled through various others to see if one would finally work for me. When I decided to quit the search, I was tapered off of everything and felt like bolts of lightning were jolting through my body for weeks.
Nobody ever asked about my diet.
I've had three idiopathic blood clots. That means doctors can't identify what caused them. But now I take an anticoagulant for the rest of my life. For years, I've had to be careful about which foods I ate because certain foods could interfere with the medicine.
I even saw a gastroenterologist who wrote me a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug before printing me a list of foods that might be the culprit behind my constantly upset belly. There was no real plan, no follow-through. Just a drug to treat the symptoms.
I was told that my symptoms were all in my head and just manifesting themselves in my gut. I felt broken and shamed again.
Yoga was my first step in recovering from depression. I'm now a registered yoga teacher and practice almost daily. I meditate and take long walks to soothe my nervous anxiety. I have been gluten-free for years and until recently ate what I thought to be a fairly healthy diet. I don't drink or smoke or even drink caffeine. Most people who know me would probably consider me somewhat of a health nut.
One day it occurred to me that I would never just "open my medicine cabinet and start swallowing random handfuls of drugs." I don't even take Tylenol without checking to see if it's safe with anything else I have to take. But I do this with food. I open the refrigerator and...
I [finally realized that I] paid more attention to the appetizing picture on the package than to what was actually in the package. I finally understood that FOOD IS MEDICINE and that literally every single cell in my body was made of the food I chose to eat.
For the past several weeks, I've been eating nothing but clean food. I've removed all dairy, grains, legumes, soy, and sugar from my diet. I have piled my plate with veggies, fruit, and protein. Everything has been delicious and satisfying. I've definitely lost weight, and I've never felt deprived or gone to bed hungry.
But I've also gained strength and endurance. My sleep has improved. My skin is happy. And my resting heart rate has dropped steadily.
And this happened after only two weeks!
I'm much happier these days than I was a decade ago. I've fought for my own happiness. I now know who I am and what I need to feel like me. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are helpful to many and there's no shame in taking them—none—but they've become so stigmatized that we sometimes get defensive about them instead of fairly examining the whole picture.
None of the doctors I met ever asked me about my diet. I was told that my symptoms were all in my head. Who cares that my head happens to be connected to the rest of my body?
What we eat matters and affects our entire being, not just our physical body.
Did you know that body fat secretes hormones? It works like an organ. If any other organ were enlarged and throwing the rest of your system out of whack, you'd probably consider that a problem.
Food is comforting. These past weeks have been emotionally exhausting. I got a call from the vet who has been treating our beloved dog for his leukemia. When they diagnosed him, they said he had 7-60 days left. He fought for more than six months! Even so, the vet confirmed that we had to say goodbye. He suggested euthanasia was the most compassionate response. It was gut-wrenching. I was standing in Target sobbing and calling around looking for someone to come to the house that night to help my dog transition in peace.
During that situation and other, equally stressful situations, I found myself face to face with the reality that I use food to comfort myself. I longed for sugar, cream, grains... Cookies, basically. I stared at the brightly colored bags of treats and imagined what it would be like to eat them. To feel their crunch and sweetness and melting chocolate. I felt alarms going off in my head like an addict fighting to stay clean amid temptation. I pushed my cart through the store with eyes red from crying and left with my commitment to a clean diet intact.
Once at home, I made myself a bowl of chia seed pudding with coconut milk and cream, bananas, blueberries, and love. It satisfied and comforted me. It nourished me instead of making me feel sick and sad.
It's okay and good and right to feel comforted by your food. Food is medicine. Food is one of the truest joys in life. Learning to see food for what it really is has been an intense and eye-opening experience.
If you're looking to learn more about all of this, please go find a copy of the book, It Starts with Food. Written by a certified sports nutritionist, it's an absolutely fascinating and inspiring read.
Liana adds:  So make today the day you declare your independence from PMDD.  In addition to whatever treatment plan you are following, take a good, hard look at your food habits.  What you eat, when you eat, where you eat, and why you eat.  Read up on food and nutrition and how it all works to support and sustain your brain and body.  Do what you can to eat clean(er)—and feel the difference for yourself.  Become more body aware as you start to feel healthier. 
Make changes in small increments if that's the only way you can stick to a plan.  Baby steps. 
That's the way I did it, and, like Julie, my symptoms have eased to barely worth mentioning in the year and a half  I have been eating cleaner.  So much so that I haven't needed to take anything for anger, irritability, depression, mood swings or anxiety other than an extra 100mg of progesterone as needed.  (I wear an estrogen patch (.75.mg) and take 100 mg progesterone capsule at bedtime daily.  I take an added dose of progesterone (either via a second 100 mg capsule or a dime-size dollop of progesterone cream) on days when I feel symptomatic.)
Nutrition matters.  And you deserve to be nourished, not pacified.  So give cleaning up your diet a sincere effort, like Julie and I have.  There's nobody out there who can or even will do it for you.  It has to come from you.
Then, once you, too, feel stronger and have more stamina and energy—mentally, emotionally, and physically—you may be able, with the supervision of your medical practitioner, to be weaned from any substances (or situations) you have determined are making you feel worse...instead of better. 
And wouldn't that be something to celebrate?
Readers can find Julie on Instagram @hideadollar and can reach Liana either through posting a comment here or by emailing her at info (at) livingwithpmdd (dot) com.