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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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My First Memory of Having PMDD

It’s hard to pinpoint my first true memory of having PMDD. I think I struggled against my PMDD for so long, denying that I had a problem, that it manifested long before I admitted there was something wrong with me. No one else I knew went through these struggles, or if they did, they didn’t talk about it. They managed, they coped…why couldn’t I? What was wrong with me that I was fine one day, and could barely get out of bed the next? I think I blamed it on everything and anything else but me, sources outside myself, school, work, friends, family, whoever I was in a relationship with at the time--because I was young and healthy and mental-type problems only happened to other people.

The first episode I can remember which I would now attribute to PMDD was a two-week period in my freshman year of college, toward the end of the semester and year, when I simply didn’t get out of bed except to go to class. I was doing well in my classes, not having any problems to speak of, and then suddenly this period of total sadness and hopelessness and lethargy hit, and I had no motivation to do anything or go anywhere. Then just as suddenly it lifted, and for the remaining weeks of the semester I raced around like a madwoman, trying to catch up and make sure my grades didn’t suffer.  I was eighteen years old.

Now, looking back, I can see countless repetitions of this scenario, where I’m sailing along, and life is fine, and then suddenly...it isn’t. When all indications are that I should be happy beyond measure--having achieved every goal I’d set for myself to that date--but I wasn’t. I used to think there was just something inside of me that liked to make life a little more challenging. Something that liked to let me fall behind, just so I could prove that I could catch up and still come out ahead. Now I realize it was the PMDD dragging me down. Now I think about how much I could have accomplished, had I known what was happening and learned to manage my PMDD, like I eventually did.

But I don’t dwell on those thoughts, because those opportunities have come and gone, and negative thoughts will bring anybody down, not just a woman with PMDD. There’s no sense in feeding the fire. What’s come and gone has done just that…come and gone. The only moment we can do anything about is the moment we’re in right now. And right now, I know that most, if all negative thoughts I have stem from my PMDD and I’m just not going to give them any more air time. I’m still as stubborn as I was as a teenager, still as determined not to let the sadness and negativity get me down, only this time I know what I’m dealing with. Now I’m able to separate the two, my usual self and my PMDD self, and when my PMDD hits, I’m able to label my self-defeating thoughts as PMDD thoughts and just set them on a mental shelf to be dealt with later.

The beauty of this tactic? When later comes, those thoughts are no longer relevant. Mostly because they weren’t true to start with. On PMDD days now I rest and take it easy. I find something positive and uplifting to read or watch or listen to, and focus on small, sometimes mindless tasks that I know need to be done and have been saving up for just such a day. Organizing receipts or CDs or books on a shelf. Folding the laundry. Nothing heavy, nothing demanding either physically, mentally, or emotionally. For instance, sorting through old photographs probably wouldn’t be a good job for a PMDD day. The emotions they dredge up might not be positive, might make you miss someone or someplace or stir up regrets. Or they might remind you of a happier time, and instead of making you smile, might make you feel like you’ll never be happy again. That’s the PMDD brain talking, not you. And whatever it is saying is certainly not coming from God.

I bring God into this because my faith was and is a big part of my experience with PMDD. Without faith in something bigger than myself, I never would have come to have faith in myself. I can’t tell you how many times I thought there has to be a way to make this madness stop. The first book I picked up was Prayer, Faith and Healing: Cure Your Body, Heal Your Mind, and Restore Your Soul. I’d tried everything else. Maybe it was time to give prayer a chance. And so I started. With baby steps. One by one, one day at a time, learning how to listen to something positive outside myself for a change, until I learned that God was inside of me, too, and I could go within for the answers I needed. They didn’t have to come from outside sources.

The stronger I became on the inside, the more those negative external voices dimmed to background noise. Such as well-meaning friends and family with unsolicited advice, and not-so-well-meaning friends and family with selfish needs and demands.  Not to mention well-crafted advertisements pointing out all the areas in which I was lacking in my life, or organizations with agendas on how I needed to live my life, and countless books, magazines, radio and television programs telling me I could have it all, while at the same time measuring me by artificial standards no one person could ever hope to attain.

It’s hard enough navigating life with all your faculties intact. But when you’re a woman with PMDD, operating on half power or less half the time or more, life gets really challenging. So don’t beat yourself up. The world is more than happy to do that for you. Accept that you’re not perfect and you’re never going to get there, then relax and enjoy your life. When you’re feeling good, take on all you want to, and when you’re not—take time out to take care of you.

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: Don’t spend another day beating yourself up for something you have no control over. Do start listening to your body, and giving it--and yourself--the respect you deserve. If you don’t know how to do that, if you’re scratching your head at the very thought of it,  like I once was, then check out my blog, my Living with PMDD Facebook page, or my book, PMDD and Relationships, for more information on how to better manage your PMDD, as well as support, encouragement, and tips on how to be a better you…all month long.

Friday, December 8, 2017

PMDD Symptom Play by Play Number 2

The following guest post was written by the blogger Cheekyminx. With her permission, several of her posts about PMDD are being featured on this blog. To find out more about her work as a PMDD Advocate, please visit her Facebook page, PMDD Life Support.
I did promise to write another PMDD symptom play by play, and since my symptoms just kicked in today, I thought now would be as good a time as any to bare my "hormotional" soul. This isn't easy. In fact, it sucks. It's dreadfully intimate, questionably revealing, and even harder to admit. But I am committing. So here we go...
8 Days Out
So what changed in me that I knew that symptoms had kicked in anyway? Well, I felt constipated and bloated today (first time since last cycle), I started pulling my hair out (not intentionally...my fingers just go to my hair and when I pull them away, my hair follows!), and most importantly, I feel just plain flippin' irritated for no extraordinary reason about EVERYTHING. I feel somewhat hair-triggerable, if you will. So I'm starting to avoid the things that trigger me (being everything, meaning isolated myself). I have to add that this month has been an incredibly stressful one already with plenty of relationship tensions. I was already irritable, but it felt different than it does today. I wish I could explain it. There is an accompanying intolerance now that wasn't there before...an inability to censor. My diplomacy skills are fading. Many say that PMDD magnifies what is already there. If that's true, this month ought to be a "real blast".
7 Days Out
I just flipped out over my husband saying, "don't worry", when I couldn't find how to reverse an action he told me to take in some software, messing up my work view. I did warn him my symptoms were coming on.
So are men really that stupid? Don't ever effing tell me how to feel! And certainly DO NOT belittle my frustrations with your petty sentiments of projection. YOU "don't worry"! I'm frustrated. Deal with it! Ouch! Okay, last two nights...a touch of insomnia. Today, RAGE! I think I could pick up this 20-ton glass desk and hurl it out the window like it was made of cardboard! There is a jittery tension just underneath my skin accompanied by an overwhelming desire to be alone in the house...for the rest of my life. I have ghost cramps too. That's what I call cramps that arrive before my period.
6 Days Out
6 days? I don't know if I can last another six days. Today was rough. I cried this morning. I cried this afternoon. I cried tonight. I'm feeling incredibly insecure, let down by and estranged from everyone in my life, anxious, grumpy, and deeply sad. I have wished that I would simply die. Since that's unlikely, I just vegetate with Netflix until bedtime with grateful anticipation of the total unconsciousness it brings...and hope I never wake up.
5 Days Out
Didn't sleep well last night, ironically. In fact, I was ruminating in a way that only comes on with PMDD...a hateful, angry way. I swear, I don't know where this shit comes from. I seem to manufacture it in spite of my desire for peace. Each time I woke in the night, I pounded my pillow and cursed bitterly. This morning, I did my best to isolate myself. I tried to be on my best behavior too, bearing in mind today's best bore more resemblance to a caged animal than to a somewhat decent human. Despite my PMDD Tourette's, a lovely symptom where pure shit just gushes from my lips, I managed to hold-back on some of my impulses to push and stomp. With every bite of my tongue, a part of me celebrated the tiny victory (quite alone...as it was evident to no one but me) while in the next moment I was unbridled...judging, criticizing, blaming, fed up with the same old crap...emotionally abusing my husband while at the same time hearing in some vague and distant background all the kinder things I wish I was saying instead. They were too remote for access. They were a distant land. I wanted to run to my room, to be safe, to protect not only myself but him--the only measure I have at my disposal...isolation. It was too late. His deepest wounds were activated, his own mind becoming the same enemy mine had become to me. It would seem PMDD can be contagious, even without the hormones. My husband reacted and in turn became the emotional abuser, taunting me, drilling me, pressing me, driving me to tears with his own screams of how crazy I am, how uncaring, how hopeless, telling me nothing my PMDD mind hasn't already been telling me, but reinforcing it in a way that broke and battered my already damaged spirit. He threatened me...with quitting, with walking out. He's promised that so many times, and today, I wish he'd follow through. That same distant part of me was proud of him for speaking up for himself in the only way he knew how...not for how he did it, though. How he did it hurt. I must admit today, I had suicidal thoughts. I had world-destroying thoughts. And I cried and heaved, shook and crouched in a corner, desperate to be free of this storm inside of me and the external manifestations of it. Emotionally spent, I listened to a looping recording of a mantra about 20 times which calmed my suspiciously empty mind. I can't believe I'm writing this.
4 Days Out
After yesterday, I'm really emotionally exhausted and kind of blank. I've lost a day. I thought it was Thursday but it's only Wednesday. That's been happening a lot, but I don't relate it to PMDD. It's living in the middle of nowhere! There's nothing I want to do...or feel or think. Despite needing some groceries, I can't make myself go. I feel like the remnants of a bird that has burned in flames but has yet to arise once more from the ashes. I continue my deluge of mantra listening. And I eat chocolate. I know my situation is complex. I have many marks against me right now. To be honest, I probably have some form of PTSD after two years of the worst stress of my life which I admit at least half of it I took on willingly, arrogantly even, in addition to being peri-menopausal and PMDD. I also have no grounding, having moved to a foreign country where I cannot speak the language and where my support network is still fairly non-existent. I had a massage therapist when I could afford her, and now, I have a talk therapist who I will have my first session with tomorrow (Thursday. Not today, Wednesday.) It's a trade-off. There's the recent passing of my mother, too. It's a lot to cope with. Add "relationshit" to the mix, and it's tough to tease apart the symptoms of PMDD from the disaster that is my life. So everything just swirls together into a big complicated mess. Charting saves the day and preserves what little sanity I have left by revealing an intensity of symptoms at certain times of the month. I will persevere. I am resilient. I am determined, too. And in moments, I am remembering who I am.
3 Days Out
This morning, every bone hurts. It was very difficult to get myself up and moving. I would love a massage, but I don't have the funds for one. Yin yoga will have to suffice. My symptoms were less today, which historically, has happened...things can actually mellow before the actual onset of my period. Although, usually without fail, I blow out the day before. We'll soon know...
2 Days Out
Last night, I slept 12 hours!! Pretty typical right before. My dreams were very bizarre. My hair continues to fall, and I had ghost cramps again. Another thing that's started today is a weird head-to-toe itchiness; I've heard other women complain of this too, so I'm no longer surprised. When provoked earlier, I quite easily lost my cool outwardly, but overall, in my head, I feel more stable today, so I'd have to relate any emotional symptoms to other things in my life and not necessarily PMDD. Or maybe I'll start early. The cramps are a good indication I might.
1 Day Out
Surprise! Guess what's here, sparing me an extra day of misery and uncertainty? How am I feeling? The first thing I noticed was the intense ache from head to toe as I pulled myself out of bed at a fairly human time of day. I feel about 20 years older in body. Add a headache and the typical cramping in my lower gut, too. But I can handle the physical symptoms; they are kind of a joy after the week I've had. Emotionally, I feel tentative (as the rest of my life is still incredibly challenging). But I don't feel that uncontrollable sense of building blood-level tension that prompts me to catastrophize and explode (not that I couldn't given the right stimulus...but that I don't feel that "hair-trigger" thing). My mind is also quieter. When I woke this morning, from a dream about pastries and cookies, my first thought wasn't "Oh, fuck, I'm still here; shit, shit, shit!", it was more like, "I'm up." There was no punching of pillows or immediate tears. How do I explain it? It's like an equilibrium, a balancing out. A relief! So can I count on a few days of relief? Or will something fluctuate and turn me mental again? Sometimes, on day 5 or 6, I rebound into "crazy-land" for a day. Sometimes, I'm okay until I ovulate. It's difficult not knowing. It's difficult not knowing, too, whether outside circumstances will inflict traumas that bring the stormy inner waters back to the surface. I hope not. I need some peace. I need some rest. My problems are all still there. My relationship is still falling apart. I still live in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. I'm still dealing with loss and grief and change of massive proportions and living an unrecognizable life. Somehow, somehow, there's something accessible now that feels like strength, like resilience, like patience, and even serenity. Holy crap! Did I just feel myself smile?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

PMDD Symptom Play by Play Number 1

The following guest post was written by the blogger Cheekyminx. With her permission, several of her posts about PMDD are being featured on this blog. To find out more about her work as a PMDD Advocate, please visit her Facebook page, PMDD Life Support.

Talking and writing openly about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is something I'm compelled to do, both for myself, other women, and the people who love us. I'm trying to understand myself and this very complicated phenomenon that seems to slip and shift into unrecognizable forms within a recognizable framework every month. Since learning about PMDD, I am now free to witness the cyclical changes taking place in my body and mind with some objectivity. As my body becomes more and more sensitive to the hormones surging through it, I'm less fearful about why I'm suddenly losing control, wondering how much worse it will get. It's easier to pay attention to the process, fascinated and taking notes.
Truly, as hard as it is to understand, things can be very different month to month. What I've done here is journal some of my symptoms in the days leading up to one period a few months ago. Were I to do this monthly, no doubt the expression of symptoms could be different each time. Typically, women begin to experience symptoms 14 to 11 days out from menstruation. The actual period tends to bring relief either instantly or within a couple of days. But again, this is only generally speaking. What I have garnered on the forums and from my own experience is there are exceptions to this rule, and a woman should not rule out PMDD just because she doesn't fit some erroneous profile that was originally established on a very small base of women. And if, like me, your hormones are in flux anyway due to perimenopause, you might indeed be a bit all over the symptom map!
With 11 days to go...The first thing I notice is an almost instant loss of my sense of humor. It was there one second, gone the next. My husband noticed it since we had been laughing for days prior. It isn't that things have ceased being humorous so much as that I have stopped being able to find humor in them. Even my face feels like it has forgotten how to move upward into a smile. The next thing I finally notice is growing fatigue. In fact, I'd slept 12 hours for two nights in three days. This is an absurdly long amount for me to sleep. I didn't even wake to relieve my bladder which is a common occurrence during a night of much less sleep. I gave into this need for sleep instead of fighting it off, and I think it did me a world of good. I also notice my body feeling colder. I wear a sweater and my hands ache with cold even though the temperature isn't that different from weeks prior. Then there's the hunger. I'd probably be eating all day long if I could. The menu? Salty chips, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, and butter on all manner of cakey-bready things. Unfortunately, the baker where we used to get our organic sourdough stopped taking orders, so I'm left with unfulfilled pangs and cravings for hot buttered toast or French toast. When it comes to food, I know I can't give into every craving anyway. I'd be the size of a buffalo. So, I balance things as best I can eating oat crackers and high-quality chocolate along with the grapefruit and parsley juice and salad and fruit. For the weeks leading up to this time, I was making banana shakes using almond milk, including the spices turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon...each known to alleviate various PMDD symptoms like depression. I've also started taking magnesium which is supposed to help with symptoms. We'll see if I notice anything.
With 6 or 7 days to go...I felt like I was doing better this time around contrasted with last month. Is it the spices? The magnesium? Luck? I've noticed that, generally, I have good months and bad months. This makes the whole concept of PMDD even harder to understand and, for some, to believe. And yet, other women express the same experience. Some say every third period is the worst. I seem to have three on, three off...way off. Will this be a good month? Weepiness has set in and my legs are starting to feel like two leaden logs, so maybe it is too soon to tell. (Note from Liana: this good month/bad month pattern has been explained by whether or not the woman is ovulating.  If  you ovulate, you will experience PMDD symptoms.  As we enter perimenopause, we have fewer and fewer ovulations.  No ovulation = no symptoms.)
5 days and my mind is off and racing. I can't stop over-analyzing, over-thinking, and over-compensating. Some who know me might say I'm always like that. Okay, so, imagine that ramped up by 10. I've become afraid of the world, and what were merely challenges have become insurmountable obstacles. My husband is doing his best to distract me and also to listen to me without himself becoming depressed and defeated. Somehow, I've managed to regain my sense of humor, and this is really saving the day. Squirrel! 
4-2 days: Could I actually get through this month without losing it completely? I've had three social obligations in the last three days, and though as an introvert I'm feeling the drain, it isn't debilitating. The fact that I could even be social just a few days before my period is somewhat of a miracle.
1 day to go and everything I thought I'd managed to escape this cycle has come down full-force. The internal pressure I feel...how to describe it...has increased dramatically, making me very antsy...agitated. I feel like a combustible material. Pour the wrong remark over me and I will blow up.
So what happened next? I was attempting to control an out-of-hand ant problem (yes, ironic...me being antsy and all). My husband was pressuring me to leave for grocery shopping because the stores would close soon. He wasn't helping or taking part in what I saw as a near-disaster. Yes, I realize ants are not a near-disaster, but PMDD magnifies everything by about 1000. Couldn't he see what I was dealing with? I became furious.
So my husband asks, "Why are you acting like an asshole?"
Wrong move. That was it. The end of marital bliss. I may well have been an asshole, but I didn't need anyone pointing it out to me, thank you very much. I tore the shopping list in two, gave him his half and wished him luck. Despite wanting to call a truce in the market, I couldn't bring myself to do it because of the way he was now behaving...like an asshole.
The thing is, if I act like a big-enough asshole, then eventually, so does my husband. And then, we're lost. We're lost for an hour, a day, a week...hard to tell. But I know I can't engage with him AT ALL if he's also going to be a two-year old. And then I hate him because he doesn't have a "hormotional" excuse and could be making all this so much easier for us both.  (emphasis added)
Why couldn't he just have grabbed me, hugged me, and told me the ants were a little problem and that if I could just walk away I would feel better? Herein lies the greatest PMDD difficulty for me and countless others. Our behavior becomes exceedingly difficult if not impossible to control. (Liana adds: and once we have reached that tipping point, we are literally unable to go back, to retreat, to regain control.  All our efforts to soften our PMDD symptoms (meditation, herbs, vitamins, exercise, rest, nutrition, mantras, art or music therapy) are done in an effort to not reach that tipping point.  Because once we have, all is lost for that day or that PMDD episode. This is what most people do not understand.  We can't stop, once the emotional cascade begins.)
We're not doing it to be difficult. We're not doing it because we like throwing tantrums. We don't even get any pleasure out of it. Well, maybe some do. I don't. Mostly, I see a madwoman taking over my body and wonder how on earth to reach her, calm her, and love her. It is no easier for our significant others who try desperately to understand us as we're suddenly shooting daggers at them when five minutes ago they could do no wrong.
My husband and I talk about this stuff when we can. When I'm back to my old self again and after he's recovered, we talk about this funny thing called PMDD. We strategize and decide we can handle it. We make-up and go about our lives...laughing, loving, sometimes bugging each other, but getting over it. But then, when it rolls around again, it seems neither one of us remembers what to do. It's a common amnesia.
When I can, I will do another symptom play by play post. In the meantime, have you noticed similar symptoms in your own or a loved one's life?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day - PMDD

This from the Gia Allemand Foundation:
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay and this year's #WorldMentalHealthDay focuses on mental health in the workplace. Coping with PMDD in any aspect of your life is a challenge. Dealing with PMDD at work can be especially difficult.
Maintaining a business demeanor when you are experiencing violent mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and often physical pain related to PMDD can seem an impossible thing to do. You may find that you need to be absent from work while your PMDD symptoms are at their most severe. You may wonder if you can do that without losing your job. Thankfully, in the United States, there are some measures you can take to ensure that you can take the time off work that you need in order to cope with your PMDD symptoms without losing your job.
For more information, and for access to valuable tools that may be helpful to you in your journey no matter were you live, please visit this Gia Allemand Foundation page.
Liana adds:  Remember, PMDD is an explanation, not an excuse, and is something that happens to you that you don't have any control over it happening. The only thing you can control is how you respond to your PMDD.  Just know you are not crazy, and that you are never alone.  Even though, I know, it totally feels like you are.  But you are not.  Help is available.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Take a Minute, Change a Life

2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. The day was first recognised in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10. For more information, please visit this page.
To quote from the IASP site, because I couldn't say it better myself: "Life is precious and sometimes precarious. Taking a minute to reach out to someone – a complete stranger or close family member or friend – can change the course of their life.
No one has to have all the answers
People are often reluctant to intervene, even if they are quite concerned about someone. There are many reasons for this, not least that they fear they will not know what to say. It is important to remember, however, that there is no hard and fast formula. Individuals who have come through an episode of severe suicidal thinking often say that they were not looking for specific advice, but that compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for them and point them towards recovery.
Another factor that deters people from starting the conversation is that they worry that they may make the situation worse. Again, this hesitation is understandable; broaching the topic of suicide is difficult and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone can put the idea into their head or trigger the act.
The evidence suggests that this is not the case. Being caring and listening with a non-judgmental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it." (Bold added by Liana.)
Be bold today, and every day. Reach out to someone in need.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

PMDD: Suddenly it All Makes Sense

Now I know why!
I know why two weeks out of every month I am waiting to feel like myself again. I know why for two weeks I suddenly don’t give a crap about anything I was excited or cared about in the weeks before. I know why I feel contempt for everyone and everything when I recently felt so in love with it all. I know why I suddenly doubt my abilities and talents. I know why I isolate myself on certain days…when I just know I’m not going to be able to accomplish the simplest of tasks without getting irritated or downright angry. I know why I am afraid to schedule anything in advance, lest whatever I have to do falls on a day when I am incapable of behaving reasonably. I know why hateful thoughts become so insistent and pervasive despite the fact that just two weeks ago, I was 100% certain I had finally transcended them all. I know why I can’t stand to be touched, when just last week, I couldn’t get or give enough hugs. I know why I suddenly feel so disconnected from my friends, doubt their friendships, and suddenly want to walk out on my husband.
In my quest to understand, I’ve been given plenty of opinions. I’ve heard some labels, and some I even tried to make fit. But in the end, I knew they didn’t. I knew I wasn’t “bipolar”. I knew I wasn’t “borderline” or “mood disordered” (even though that’s still the involuntary category in which I’m pegged). I knew I wasn’t “just imagining things” either. Nor was it the whole story that I was “just hormonal”. Something inside me had changed in the last couple of years and something was happening throughout my menstrual cycle to make me feel like two completely different people. Only recently, it had gotten much worse.
The Fighting Bell Rings
In one corner: a woman full of radiance and quick to smile. She can be so full of love inside herself to the point of bursting. She is centered and enthusiastic, bright and cheerful, optimistic and strong. She’s not perfect, of course, but she’s so okay with that. She’s on top of her thoughts and more than willing to be alive. She is excited about projects and new ventures…even if they are challenging. Anything seems possible…anything reasonable, that is. (She isn’t about to jump off a building or into traffic.) She believes in an abundant universe and that she has something to offer the world. She enjoys the company of others and lives to laugh, create, and feel gratitude. She would never dream of hurting herself or anyone else. She may have bad days, but she recovers quickly.
In the opposite corner: a bedraggled, wild-haired psycho who has to apply every ounce of her will to not lash out…though she eventually does, usually by imploding on herself or exploding at those closest to her. She is the wily animal who shudders at her own hateful attitude as she mourns the loss of her other self. She is the one who simply CAN’T control anything. She is full of shame for her inability to control herself. After all, hasn’t she learned anything? She cannot forgive or forget. Everything is the end of the world. She stomps to feel she exists, yet the very force of her enraged feelings lifts her off the ground. There is no justice, no joy, no purpose, and no comfort to give or receive. All is bullshit. She isolates to protect herself and others from this “thing” that has overtaken her, but life pokes and prods all the same.
Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, talks about the pain body in his work which comes close to matching the insane being that shows up in my mirror every month. There’s also this idea in spiritual circles about embracing and integrating the shadow-self. I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of doing that. It’s powerful stuff, but I don’t think it is the whole story for me. Always favoring the holistic over the quick fix, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different teachings in my quest for well-being. But none of them have satisfied this itch under my skin that what I was dealing with wasn’t just some egoist resistance on my part, wasn’t just some weakness in my character, lack of awareness in my being, or deep wounding from childhood . In fact, I have LOADS of awareness and more strength than a lot of people. So, something wasn’t jiving.
Something else is going on. Whatever it is, this pain body feels universal…not personal…yet it attacks in a personal way for sure. It isn’t a permanent state of being but it is one that, when I’m in it, feels like the only state of being I will ever know. Sometimes, it turns on a dime…a cruel word, a task gone wrong, a frustration or irritation that sends ever-widening ripples of tension out into my environment…but, and here’s the key, only at certain times within my cycle.
What I’ve discovered is the term PMDD or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Though I don’t agree with a lot of the psychological/medical establishment bullshit (excuse my language…but let’s call it what it is) behind it, it has come closer than anything else I’ve ever encountered to explain what’s been happening increasingly so with me since going through a period of intense and prolonged stress.
I feel like I have to start by saying that I’m not interested in excuses for bad behavior. I’m not looking for a convenient explanation for bouts of anger or anxiety or anything else. I’m not trying to protect my identity as a “got my act together--no problems here” person, nor am I holding my shadow aspects in a closet of denial. I’m not interested in using the label of PMDD to explain away or justify crazy-making, just as I’ve never been interested in the label of “depression” to explain away unexamined pain and the absolutely natural waves of ups and downs that society would rather call a disease than a sign of being human in the world in which we live. What interests me about PMDD is that elements of it actually fit and explains myself to myself.  What fascinates me is that there are other women who feel like I do…that it is a real phenomenon to be examined and explored. It is a real phenomenon to be healed.
I’ve joined a couple of online PMDD groups, and what I’m noticing is that a lot of women feel they have no choice but to treat PMDD with very toxic antidepressants and hormone-related treatments that further disturb the delicate balance of the body. Some even decide to remove a part of their bodies, having hysterectomies, and are overjoyed with the results. I know many women get absolutely ill with vomiting. Why is the newly established “disorder” which was recognized in 2013 seem to be increasingly prevalent? I have my own theories circling around my head…the poisoning of our food supply perhaps or our increasing exposure to radiation and toxins. Who knows?
For me, it is mostly a mood challenge though I also get headaches, stomach aches, sleep disturbance, and other physical manifestations. Nothing like vomiting, thankfully. I feel incredibly blessed by and grateful for the management tools I’ve found that are side-effect free and have a great deal of sympathy for those who are buying into the system of big pharma (whose sole interest is to get everyone on their drugs regardless of whether it actually helps or even does more harm than good) and a patriarchal medical system (with a track-record of locking women away for their complaints). We can be products of the system that would call us “mentally disordered” offering us only what they deem as the answer or we can access inner qualities we can cultivate to cope and turn to more natural therapies until we discover what combination works for us. I know what my choice will always be. And that means that sometimes, I choose to live with a very difficult, very challenging state of being with very little outside assistance at my disposal. So be it.
Not just regarding treatment, PMDD is a hot topic of debate. In addition to being controversial in the medical community, there is, as with all conditions, a lot of general ignorance around PMDD. As I mentioned, it’s only been acknowledged since 2013. Right away, people assume it is PMS with a different name or an excuse for why a woman suddenly gets bitchy, tired or crampy. Or they draw other ill-informed conclusions. One woman made the mistake of sharing her condition with her employer to be told they feared she posed a threat to either herself or coworkers at work. I suspect there are people in their employ at far greater risk of flying off the handle, the ones they’d least suspect. Others are told, even by well-meaning friends, that it is all in the head and are told to chill out or get over it or try some quick fix. Clearly, those who don’t experience it are not in a position to offer advice!
Here’s the thing about PMDD. We may think about bludgeoning judgmental, self-righteous ignoramuses who think they know all the answers, but we tend not to act on it. Good thing, because there are plenty of them around.
Just as I have been (unprofessionally) mislabeled before discovering what is known as PMDD, I am sure there are women ascribing their behavior to PMDD when it truly belongs in another camp altogether. Supposedly, 40% of women who seek treatment for PMDD may have either what is known as PME (premenstrual exacerbation) or even an underlying mood disorder such as bipolar. It’s complicated. Of course, the professionals will continue to debate if any of this is real or not, some kind of anti-female rhetoric or not, or whether it is a mental disorder or not. This just muddies the waters, but what’s to be done? Human beings are intricate and unknowable and this “dis-ease” is extremely complicated because there are so many variables! In the meantime, there are those of us who live the spectrum. There are those of us who know.
Speaking of the spectrum…
There is PMS, the catchall that pertains to the mild, acute fluctuations of mood, irritability, fatigue, appetite changes, and cramping that affect 30 to 80% of menstruating women. It may be uncomfortable, but it is not generally debilitating.
There is PME. This is when a condition from which a woman suffers, such as asthma or an eating disorder, is worsened during PMS. So, PMS disappears after one’s period whereas PME symptoms merely improve.
Now there is PMDD which affects 3-9% of menstruating women. (With a female population of over 3 billion on the planet, 3-9% of those with periods is no small number!) With PMDD, the symptoms associated with PMS become debilitating and can include: depression or hopelessness, anxiousness, irritability, low energy, lack of interest, sleep and focus disturbance, loss of control and feelings of overwhelm, and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms tend to intensify as a woman nears her period and finally begin to abate a few days into her period. Women with PMDD generally feel themselves again for 7 – 10 days after their menses before entering the cycle again.
I’m not crazy about another label…another diagnosis…especially one categorized as a depressive disorder which, to me, shows very little understanding of the scope of symptoms different women have. I’m not crazy about listening to “experts” tell me about myself and never have been. What I am interested in is knowing my own truth for myself, suffering less, finding ways to cope and relate, and living as fully as I can. And I want to help other women reeling with this monthly curse and feeling that they are robbed of half of their lives to do the same.
Do I believe in PMDD? Not as boxed-in psychological babble and checklists, certainly. I’ll never see a doctor for it myself. But it is a condition with which I resonate with unquestionable certainty. I’ve charted my cycles. I know when “the shift” is about to occur. I know when it is over. I know it is linked to my cycle. I know the changes I feel are described by other women who think they have PMDD, too. I know the challenges such changes bring and the impact they have on my life. I know my perspective goes out the window. I know some months are worse than others. And I totally relate to the increasing amplification of symptoms as I near my period and that feeling of complete and utter relief when suddenly the sun is shining again a day into it.
Maybe we need another word for it…one not bound up with so much baloney…one immune to the twisted machinations of men who hate women and women who hate themselves. I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: this is my experience. Maybe it won’t be mine in two years. Maybe it wasn’t mine two year ago. But it is mine now. Bravely facing that self and being open about it with others going through the same experience is crucial. There is power in numbers, and we’ll learn more by exploring this together. If nothing else, maybe the diagnosis of PMDD will simply prove to be a means for women to talk about what being alive as a women today is like for them. That itself is a relief.

Liana's note:  The above guest post was written by the blogger Cheekyminx. With her permission, several of her posts about PMDD are featured on this blog. In the meantime, to find out more about her work as a PMDD Advocate, please visit her Facebook page, PMDD Life Support. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

CIZE Does Matter - A PMDD Exercise Challenge

For todayʼs guest post, please welcome The Healthy Hackress.  Her PMDD thread will be ongoing, and I will be happy to post updates here, but if you don't want to wait for me, please follow her journey with PMDD and exercise either on her Facebook page or blog.  She also has a lot of great ideas for—What else?—healthy hacks!  Well worth checking into, even if you donʼt have PMDD.
Recently I was diagnosed with PMDD. Here is my journey from diagnosis, to treatment and more importantly, how Cize by Shaun T gave me my life back.
According to research, PMDD affects 2-10% of women during their reproductive years. It’s common. Very common – but misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Thousands of women right now feel at a loss and don’t truly understand why they don’t feel “normal” or worse, why their life literally falls apart starting two weeks prior to their cycle. Isolation, fear and shame are all too familiar feelings of women suffering from PMDD. I am one of them. Do these symptoms seem familiar? Is it you or someone you love?
PMDD is a mood-based hormone disorder that is cyclic and reoccurring. Sounds like a death sentence, right? Imagine, every single month you know “ITʼS” coming. You’re not sure why but two weeks prior your cycle you’re all over the place. It's like ADD meets Bi-Polar for a 2 week fling, then they break up…until next month. You’re clingy. You’re crying one minute, screaming the next, then sitting quietly, unsure of WHAT just happened. Feeling a bit like Norman Bates with those “episodes.”
Seriously – that’s PMDD. If you have a significant other and they haven’t left you already (because, PMDD truly affects all relationships) – then you’re lucky. They feel it too – but they don’t understand.
You don’t need to wait for a medical professional to confirm a diagnosis of PMDD – it’s self- diagnosable. You track your symptoms and report to your doctor. This is a great tracker that you can use from The National Association for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder [now known as the Gia Allemand Foundation]. Basically, track how you’re feeling before, during, and after your cycle (anxiety, mood swings, irritability, sleep issues, etc). Your doctor is going to ask you to do this – so, if you go in already prepared you’re that much further ahead. This process took me 10 LONG months. Each month I tracked my symptoms so when I went to the doctor they couldn’t turn me away and just tell me, “Everything is normal.”  If you’re living with someone or have close friends/family – ask them to track for, or along with you. When you’re in “IT” – it’s very difficult to emotionally and mentally report back. Having someone point certain behaviors out can be hard – what I mean is, someone is going to tell you the RIGHT thing at the WRONG time – because, you’re not mentally/emotionally grounded. Try to remember – you NEED to hear it. Their unbiased observation is going to provide necessary data for yourself and doctor when treating YOUR PMDD.
Once I had all my data I made that initial appointment and received confirmation that Yes, “It’s PMDD.ˮ Finally, things fell into place and I could breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing I wasn’t crazy. Finally, someone was listening, and everything I had felt was real & important. I had done my research going in. I knew how PMDD was treated. I had questions on top of questions. I needed answers. After all, my children needed their mother and I needed myself. They started me on Yaz—reportedly the only over the counter birth control approved for PMDD. Yes, I know—bad reviews, lawsuits, etc.—BUT, when you’re in the Pits of Hell in the middle of a fight between Bi-Polar and ADD—you’ll try anything to destroy their toxic relationship. I tried Yaz. After my 2nd week both myself and my husband noticed a huge difference. I was less spacey – more clear in my thoughts and finally felt as if I had control. Did I still have anxiety at times? Sure, but mentally/emotionally I could WORK through it opposed to the constant feeling of drowning. Did I have irrational thoughts? Yes, but I was able to work through them. Yaz gave me some mental clarity back. Unfortunately, I developed an irregular heart rate at 145 – even when at rest. Physically, I was breaking down. After an ER visit and a couple visits to the Dr. – I came off of Yaz.
Then I tried Zoloft. *sigh* If you know me – I’m ALL natural—from giving birth naturally to treating headaches with almonds. I’m not huge on medication unless it’s NEEDED. “Well,ˮ I said to myself, “I have to try everything so I know at the end of the day – I did my best.ˮ  3 days later I caught myself staring out my window watching birds & not caring that I was sitting there staring out a window – Kathy Bates from Misery anyone? The things that once made me laugh no longer put a smile on my face. I wasn’t OK with that. I knew I wasn’t ME – bubbly, personable, caring – I wasn’t me. I was only on 25mg and that’s not even the therapeutic recommended dose of 50mg for Zoloft. I then safely decreased (with the support of my Dr.) to 12.5 and discontinued it. Wasn’t for me. That isn’t to say that someone else may not greatly benefit from SSRI’s.
Currently I’m on a different form of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) – Continuous Birth Control, which would halt the dramatic changes in hormones and provide balance. I will need to report back on this as this is my newest form of treatment. Along with the birth control I’m taking a Vitamin B Complex, Daily Multi for Women – I Prefer Rainbow. Natural. Plant based. Also, I’ve added 2 TBSP of Ground Flax Seed to my oatmeal in the morning. According to research, Flax Seed can mimic the female hormone Estrogen and provide other benefits such as relief from Depression. In my search for Vitamins and Minerals that could/would provide potential relief from PMDD – I came across some great work by Dr. Mark Hyman – He’s truly fantastic. I’m a Certified PLATE by Zumba Instructor and he provided some of the training. Here is a great article he wrote with vitamins and remedies in helping to relieve PMS/PMDD.
Now, you ask “Why does Cize Matter Again?” I woke up one morning very early. I couldn’t sleep and was just DONE with doctors not knowing how to help. Done with being turned away. Done with being told “Everything is normal.ˮ I was just done. From one failed medication to another I had it and wanted/needed to take control back. Then I watched the infomercial for Cize. I asked my husband to get it for me because I was willing to try anything to get my new self and leave my old self behind. He did. I was nervous and hesitant. After all, I had tried Insanity and Shaun T delivered. He kicked my A$$ and that felt good. This time around I knew I needed something a bit more “me” – this was it. Cize gave me that. From the minute I played the first day I was hooked. Losing weight and becoming a size 5 was no longer relevant. Waking up everyday knowing I could beat my anxiety became my goal.
Each day it became easier. I felt a bit better. I still had the PMDD symptoms – but mentally, I felt stronger than ever. Shaun T will never truly understand what he helped me get back. I’m in week 4 and I feel better. I look forward to my routines with him because I know he’s right there telling me, “You got this.” I know missing a day isn’t acceptable. Each day Cize is my Zoloft, except I don't suffer from any side effects – like staring out a window for 20 minutes or losing the ability to laugh at everything that once brought a smile to my face.
Some women may need some additional SSRI as a support. Please don't take my experience as true for everyone. Don't be ashamed. Each and every woman needs to find THEIR treatment because PMDD for one is VASTLY different for another.  Listen to your body and remember – doctors aren’t always right. Be your own doctor and researcher. Keep a journal of symptoms and never, ever – stop fighting.
This thread will be ongoing. I will keep everyone posted on my 60 day Cize challenge that I intend on making a routine for the rest of my life. Each day I laugh more, feel the fight harder and see the results I’ve been looking for all along. Mental and emotional health are far more important than your physical appearance. That will come in time. Nourish your soul and show yourself everyday that you matter – release those feel-good hormones because exercise and movement is truly the first line of treatment for any disorder.
Don't be ashamed to share your story, ask questions and or seek support. If it isn’t a fight and doesn’t hurt getting it, it isn’t worth it. Fight hard. Remember, it isn’t about the scale, it’s about how you feel!
If you know someone presenting with PMDD symptoms. Reach out. Don’t push them away. Be a support. Share this blog. The biggest and most deficient need of women suffering from PMDD is support. The National Association for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder provides great support.
Thank you Shaun T for being there & giving me the strength to fight back.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friends and Family Guide to PMDD -- Things NOT to Say

The following guest post was written by the blogger Cheekyminx. With her permission, several of her posts about PMDD are being featured on this blog. To find out more about her work as a PMDD Advocate, please visit her Facebook page, PMDD Life Support.
This post is for friends and family who want to be supportive of a woman with #PMDD. Here, we've covered things you should NEVER say, out of compassion. No doubt many of you may feel that it doesn’t matter what you say; it’s going to be wrong.
Sure enough, a couple of women responded to our question about what not to say by affirming that everything ticks them off at certain times of the month, so for some of you, your feelings may be justified.
Still, certain words can be hurtful, or even triggering, for a woman grappling with PMDD, whether or not she’s having symptoms. We don’t want to be stigmatized when we’re feeling good nor punched when we’re already down. While it is true that ultimately, our responses to any comments are our responsibility, not yours, those of you wanting to be more understanding towards us might want to abstain from the following phrases.
Once again, we asked women on various PMDD forums for their input. Once again, many of them reported very similar comments as annoying, offensive, or triggering. We’ve analyzed and categorized them to show the types of comments that are counterproductive; there could be many more variations under each heading. Statements in parentheses represent the internal thoughts shared by women on the forums. Depending on how these comments are delivered (and the level of your frustration when delivering them!), they can simply be insensitive or invalidating, or downright cruel and abusive. Do any of these sound like you sometimes?

Self-Anointed Diagnostician
“Is your PMDD here again?” or “Are you on your period?” (as if that explains away legitimate complaints)
“Is it that time again?”
“You must be: bi-polar, borderline, psycho, sick…” or “You need: professional help/to be committed.”
“Oh!!! You got your period then??”
“You are: crazy,  mental, nuts…”
“Did you take your tablets today?” or “Have you taken your meds? Maybe you should take 2!”

Just Get Over It
“Calm down!” or “Just control it!” or “Relax.”
“Your being dramatic; it’s not that big a deal,” or “You’re overreacting,” or “You’re just PMS-ing.”
“You’re so problematic… Why don’t you control yourself?”
“You’re being ridiculous! Are you mad?”
“Be rational. It doesn’t make sense to get so upset over something so small.”
“Stop bitching,” or “Stop being a bitch,” or “Just stop!”
“It will pass.” (Yes, I know. But right now, I need understanding. I feel like shit!)

Now What?
“What is wrong with you now?” or “What’s wrong now?”
“You were fine a few minutes ago,” or “Suddenly you’re in a bad mood?”
“Christ, here we go again!”
"Great. Now what are we supposed to do?"

Please Explain the Inexplicable
 “Why are you: depressed, sad, angry, mad…?”
“Is everything okay?”
“Why can’t you explain what’s wrong?”
“Are you mad at me?” (if only it was as simple as being “mad at you”)

Just Harsh
 “Same old excuse!”
“PMDD isn’t legitimate.”
“You are possessed!”
“You’re just lazy.”
“I can’t stand to be around you,” or “I can’t stand you when you’re like this.” (Great, that makes two of us!)

As I’ve said before, each of us is unique, so use this list to start a conversation with your partner/friend/sibling/daughter/girlfriend/wife during the good days. This way, when the bad days roll around, everyone is prepared…well, as prepared as possible anyway.
In summary, please don’t tell us to “calm down”, “get over it”, or “cheer up”. You’ll only be asking for a fight. If we could calm down and get over it, we’d already be calmed down and over it. Please do not call us “mental” or “crazy” or any other derogatory term related to our mental health. And for God’s sake, do not go around diagnosing us with mental disorders we don’t have. We may very well be acting like we’re nuts, but believe me…we are aware of this and DON’T need the reminder.
Finally, remember that we’re human. And like all humans, we still get angry and have a full range of emotions even when we don’t have PMDD. So please don’t blame everything on PMDD. We can’t. You shouldn’t be allowed to either. .
So, what do you think? Have we got it covered or is there something YOU would like to never hear again?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

An Open Letter to Partners of Women with PMDD

Today I'm honored to host a guest post by Chef Jay, who has decided to help raise PMDD awareness by starting a blog for men about PMDD.  You can find his original post, and others, here. 

Dearest Partners of Women with PMDD,

First of all, let me be clear. This letter does not come with answers or solutions. This is not a "be all & end all" to the chaos of PMDD. Every situation for every woman is different. Ergo (a word not used often enough), no household is the same. After many conversations and emails with men and women around the world, I've realized a few common traits, however. There are similar feelings, circumstances, emotions, issues and experiences...this letter addresses and recognizes them. This note recognizes the real, true emotions and thoughts emanating from the souls of men (and women) coping with a partner with PMDD. This is not a happy letter to make everyone feel better...it's one that draws attention to the mindset reality of living with PMDD. This isn't about me. It's about all of us.

I know you.

You're tired. Exhausted. You feel drained of all energy - emotional, physical, spiritual. Perhaps you feel absolutely nothing at all. You're like a zombie, going through the motions every day. But you're used to it...it's who you've become. You don't like it - you wish you had more energy and lust for life - but you give yourself a daily pep talk to survive the day, praying that today might be better...and you're not even the one with PMDD.

You are constantly on edge. You never know when her hurricane will hit. Predicting how one day to the next will transpire is fruitless. Hour to hour, day to day...hell, even minute to minute, is a pointless exercise. You see her, you love her, you feel for her but you wonder, "What else can I do?" - you've already tried everything!

You've thought about divorce. You've thought about having an affair. You've questioned your life choices...and those thoughts scare the hell out of you. So why do you stay? Why do you remain committed in a relationship that causes you stress and, most likely, shaves years off your life? Perhaps it's because of the words, "...in sickness and health...'til death do us part..." or maybe you're a glutton for punishment or feel, deep down, you can fix her or save her. Possibly, you fear what she'd do if you left. If you have kids, my guess is, you're there for them, more than her.

You've probably heard from her, more times than can count, that she "needs to do (this) or (that) because it might help" - this may include taking a course, going for a run, spending a day or two at the spa, getting massages, nights out with her girlfriends, binge watching Sex & the City or Supernatural, spending a few days here and there away from you (and the kids)...but can you do the same? No. Can you just take off for a few hours and have the day just for you? Probably not. Deep down, you wonder, could she handle the kids for 3 days without me? Your/my gut says no. The time you have out of the house is, most likely, spent getting groceries and doing things that need to be done to make the house and your life a little better.

You don't get enough downtime and, when you do have the opportunity to sit back and chill, your mind's still racing. Most likely, you just want to watch something pointless or mindless, have a beer and fall asleep. The thought of watching a show that has deep thoughts, intellectual content or educational information further stresses you out because your mind can't relax...there's no shut off switch to settle your brain.

You probably don't hear "Thank you" or "I love you" nearly often enough...and, as for, physical expressions of love? Not so much. (Or, at least, not like it used to be). But when SHE wants it, you must provide! Perhaps sex - or any form of intimacy - feels like a chore...another task to complete. Or perhaps, when it finally happens - a moment together, both of you in a positive, awake state of mind - it's a relief...an opportunity to forget about the trials of tribulations of the past few days.

You say words but may not mean them...or they don't have the same feeling behind them like they used to: "I love you" - perhaps it's said so she can hear the words but, your feeling behind them is different. "It'll be okay" - knowing, deep down, it'll get better for her but not for you. Her diatribes, constant needs, argumentative statements, vitriolic, mean words...you'll remember them and hold onto them and think of them all too often. You'll start to believe them - or, at minimum, question who you are based on her hurtful words. You say, "I'm here for you" but, perhaps deep down, you wish at that moment, you weren't. "

You question everything & constantly overthink. When you're sitting on the porch with her, having your coffee or glass of wine, and you hear her sigh heavily, you wonder if that's a sign of impending doom - something dark on her mind, or a coping mechanism to calm herself...or maybe she's just relaxing for the first time in awhile. In any case, you don't ask because "is everything okay?" or "what're you thinking?" or "something wrong?" might set off a chain of events you don't want to deal with.

You constantly look for ways to control your environment - from the way you schedule your day to what you cook for supper or how you organize things around the house. More often than not, when she's in her state, decisions are a further stress and amplify her anxiety. What do you do? You make all the decisions, thinking that'll make life easier for her. Yet, unfortunately, it doesn't often work out that way. Perhaps it's her response of "you should've asked/told me" or "why didn't you let me know?" or "if you loved me you'd have..." Friends may say, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" but, to you, it had to be done. Survival instinct kicks in and you do what you need to do.

On the good days, when she's positive, upbeat, full of energy, revitalized, you struggle to enjoy the moment...you don't know how long it'll last...you fear the bubble popping...you're still on edge and, most likely, get down on yourself for not being fully present with her. Even when you know you SHOULD be enjoying yourself, you can't.

You're not fully present on a good day. You're not fully present when you're supposed to be having fun or enjoying life. But you ARE fully present when you're surrounded by her chaos, negativity, anger, frustration and darkness. Think about that for a moment:

You're only fully alive when you're being torn down, when your life force is being given to someone else, when every moment of your day is spent making sure your partner (and your household) lives to see another day.

You probably mutter or mumble under your breath as you walk away from her...things you wish you could say out loud but, knowing the damage they'd do to both of you, respecting her mental state, you keep it to yourself, tucking it deep inside where the feelings fester and ferment. Maybe those words of resentment will go away...or, maybe they've established a symbiotic relationship with your soul. These periods of resentment...they grow in number as the years go on...your thought process dips its toes into the murky waters of ire more frequently and easily.

You're constantly seeking an outlet for your tension. Nothing seems to work. Perhaps you go to the gym but, for some reason, you cut your workout short because you're worried about her...or you're too stressed to even relax to workout fully. Or, maybe, you go for a pint with your mates but, you're not fully present...your mind is elsewhere, wondering if she's okay. And you cut your night short because you know you need your energy to deal with the next day.

You feel guilty when you do something for you. Whether a ball game or buying something online, you wonder how she'll react or what she'll think or if she'll resent your 'selfish' ways. So you begin doing less and less for yourself, channeling your energy into your family and her.

If you have kids, you wonder what they'll remember about life in the house, growing up. Will they remember how Mommy hardly slept in the same bed as Daddy? Will they remember how Daddy would always wake them up in the morning, get them dressed, make them breakfast, pack their lunches, cook supper, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, get the groceries? Or will they remember that Daddy didn't have enough time to play with them because of everything he did to make the house function?

You cry. Sometimes there are tears streaming down your face or sometimes you're crying on the inside. But, regardless, you're sad. You're upset - at yourself, at her, at a higher power, at anyone, at no one - yet you keep it to yourself. It's your burden. Perhaps you feel like you asked for this. Perhaps you believe this is your own private challenge. Know you're not alone. There are people out there to help. People are there for you. They want to help...they're waiting at your doorstep...it's up to you to let them in.

This letter is part vent, part affirmation. Maybe you've had some (or all) of these thoughts. Maybe you can't relate at all. In any case, you aren't alone. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, strength builds from pain. For whatever your reasons, your resolve to remain committed to someone struggling with the very fabric of being, is powerful. While my words may not be enough, you are a great person, standing beside someone who needs you more than words. You may not hear it enough or feel it or even believe it but your presence is an amazing gift - not only to her but to the universe. You make her world - and the world around you - a better place.