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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

PMDD, From One Man to Another, Part 2

How do I survive? If I'm doing all of this, what am I doing for me? Well, it's taken a long time but, I've accepted the fact that it's not about me. It's not even about her. It's about the boys. If she's in a state, I trust her to handle it. I deal with the dudes.
Don't get me wrong. I do things for me. I'm not talking about drinking or smoking or drugs (though my alcohol intake does increase on those PMDD days). For me, it's cooking. Something that has a beginning, middle, end. Something that involves the boys (so they don't bug mommy on the couch or in bed). Something that satisfies us. Something that's controllable by me. Something that's as challenging as I want to make it. Something that allows me to express myself to others. I can immerse myself in the process, pushing the stresses of the day to the side (at least temporarily).
Recently, I've been writing. I write how I'm feeling when she ups and leaves the dinner table or lashes out at me or tries to pick a fight just because she wants to argue. I keep track of the number of days she sleeps downstairs, while I deal with the boys through the night. I write lists (bucket, shopping, chores). I write quotes or words of wisdom and inspiration (to remind myself that I'm not alone...though it often feels like I am.)
My big one, though, is music. No, I don't write it or sing it or perform it. I listen to it. I have my 'mood music' to centre me. And, like her needs during her PMDD spells, what I need varies each time. It could be punk or rap or chillout or metal or classic rock or country...but when it's on, I'm in the zone, in the moment and in the mood. When I'm cooking, there's ALWAYS music on. Again, it shifts with my moods.
I'll say it: PMDD can be a selfish disorder if your partner blames every given frustration or moodiness or anxieties on it. And, trust me, it can go there. She will do what she needs to do for her when she needs to do it. Regardless of your intentions, there's very little you can do. She's been dealing with it, coping with it, handling it well before you entered the picture. She's dealt with it on her own and will continue to do so...ON HER OWN. Get over it. Seriously.
For the love of humanity, when she says to leave her alone, LEAVE HER ALONE.
When you're trying to decide what to make for supper, avoid at all costs, asking question after question after question. Stick to one simple question with a yes or no answer. Most likely, she won't eat any food anyway so it doesn't matter what you make!
Please ask her, once, "is there anything you need" or "can I get you anything" or "is there anything I can do?" - but do NOT ask every few minutes.
Be prepared. It's the scout's motto. It's important here, too. Have her comfort foods on hand: perhaps it's a particular chocolate bar (Lindt dark chocolate with hot peppers for my wife) or salty snacks (chips? nachos?) - don't be surprised if they disappear during her moments of deep darkness. Even if you wanted some, you can buy more. Again, this can lead down the road of selfishness but get over it.
This is a disorder requiring frequent, unexpected sacrifice. You're going to need to give up stuff - she may need your attention...ooooooooorrrrrrrr....she may tell you to 'get the f--- out' meaning you need to find somewhere else to be (pub? friend's place? ANYWHERE but home). The nice thing is that, if she's coming out of her state, she'll text you to come home. When you do go home, say very little. Maybe a 'how are you feeling?' but don't you dare overwhelm her with story after story about what you saw, did, or heard. It's not - and never will be - about you during these times.
One more thing. YOU. CAN'T. FIX. HER. Don't try. Don't tell her to 'go for a walk' or ask to go out for dinner or sex. Don't even consider telling her to 'get over it' or 'snap out of it' or tell her that it's nothing. It's everything. It's all consuming and all encompassing. It is a deep, dark hole that she's allowed herself to explore and it's scary as fu--. She doesn't want you down there with her. This is her own hell. You cannot and will not be her tour guide. Trust me. I've had my nuts in a sling one too many times thinking I could be the fixer...like I could be the solution to her problems. It sucks to not be able to solve a problem for her. I love my wife, but not having the tools to fix her hurts like hell. She's stronger than words can express...and it'll make you stronger the moment you accept the fact that you are not her knight in shining armor, rescuing her from a pit of despair.
So what are the solutions? There aren't any. Every month may be a different hell. Every time it rears its ugly head, it may be a different stimulus that exacerbates her anxiety. You can usually predict when the darkness may arise but be prepared for spontaneous combustion.
There are medications (my wife's on Cipralex). Does it help? Yes. Is it a cure? No. Her PMDD still comes...but not as frequently. We're down to ~8-10 days a month now. It lowers sex drive. Decreases appetite (with sporadic bouts of gorging). Ironically, it CAN increase anxiety (!) which, I thought, it was supposed to minimize...but, whatever.
There's therapy. I'm sure there is. We just haven't explored it. Yet.
There's exercise or yoga...something that centers the mind and body. But, dear man, don't suggest she work out while she's in the middle of an episode. You're likely to have a rolled up exercise mat shoved deep inside you through a very tiny orifice. 
Why don't I go out more? Because I never know when the PMDD will kick in or when the depression or anxiety will hit. I never know, going to get groceries, if I'll come home to find her on the floor. I fear leaving her with the boys on 'bad' days because I never know what to expect when I come home - will they be trying to wake her up? will she be locked in her bedroom, sobbing? will she be unleashing her fury on the boys as they wildly chase each other through the house? It's the fear of the unknown.
Don't be surprised if you slip into your own funk after a particular bout of PMDD. It's draining. It's exhausting. You'll be physically, mentally and emotionally wiped. You'll be worrying about her, questioning yourself, wishing you could do more (once you've accepted you can't), wondering if she's ok...it's a whirlwind that is uncontrollable. It keeps you on edge. She may have said something particularly hurtful or mean (just to get you going). That sucks big time. Then, when the dark clouds pass, when she's all kinds of relieved and 'nice again', you may be relieved...but you'll be mentally overwhelmed. You'll want to talk to her...and, perhaps, she'll want to share her thoughts (what you did right, what you did wrong) and that, in itself, further drains you. You don't want to hear all the things you did wrong (or didn't do at all) do you?
It sounds mean or cruel or insensitive but, guys, suck it up. Man up and accept that your wife or partner or lover has PMDD. The more you learn about her & how she handles it the better off your relationship will be. It is an ongoing process, kind of like the Hobbits on their quest for the ring. It's an adventure but one fraught with chaos, insanity, danger and doubt.
What can you do? What can you say? It's easier said than done.
When she's not in a PMDD state, (and, please, don't inundate her with all of these questions at one time!)
~Ask her what you can have on hand for her (salty? sweet? Sex & the City box set?)
~Ask what you can do to help (tell her to be specific in what she wants from you - rub her lower back, check in without saying a word, hand her a cup of tea and walk out, etc)
~Ask her what, specifically, she needs from you (a conversation afterwards? a walk? etc)
 ~If you think medication is needed, tread carefully - choosing a safe time to mention intervention is paramount.
 If asking her to seek treatment is tricky, wait until you mention 'therapy'...that's another whole kettle of fish.
There's more, I'm sure...but if you have any questions, comments, ideas, suggestions, tips or stories to share, please do so...though it may feel like you're alone, know you're not...the fact you're exploring how you can help your partner demonstrates your strength and resolve.
Well done.
The above is a guest post in two parts 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.

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