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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

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. 


  1. I'm so glad I came across this, and that it's such a recent post! So for years and years now I've suffered horrendously in the week before my ToTM. It used to be heavy depression, which would last for several days. Then I would get cramps so bad I couldn't function properly, followed by intense headaches that would last anywhere between one day and a week. I've seen doctors about everything except the mood swings (which in recent years bounce between depression and the most terrible temper tantrums. This afternoon I repeatedly kicked a lampost, shouted, then cried because the bus I was waiting for was late), and have had no help at all with the headaches. They did test me for endo, twice, and I was cleared both times, so they just stopped bothering with me. I'm on the pill, which is supposed to help, and we've tried me on 4 different ones to see if it aids the headaches. It hasn't. For some reason, I got away lightly last month, which virtually no mood swings, no cramps, and only a mild headache for two days. I'm not due for a week but my temper is vicious at the moment. I threw a bottle of water across the room, nearly hitting my cat, because I dropped something while looking for a bottle of tablets on the side table. It's ridiculous and I have NO idea what to do but I am very much alone because nobody I know suffers like this. It was nice to read that I'm not the only one (although I am sorry you suffer so badly).

    1. Hi Vikki, sorry it's taken me so long to respond; I didn't realize people were commenting on my guest posts! You're definitely not alone. Hope things are better for you.

  2. I was diagnosed with PMDD. Read everything I could find online. Then I found this blog post. Then I realized that I do have PMDD. These words you wrote were like you stole them from me. Not one medical information website describes PMDD the way you do. Now I am 100% sure I have PMDD. I have seen 3 doctors since diagnosis, and they only PMDD the way that the internet does.They do not know how to help me. Thank you for this post! Now I know what doctors have been misdagnosing for almost 7 years!

    1. I'm both extremely glad that my description has served you well and sad that any of us have to go through this. Thanks for commenting. Good luck!

  3. Hi, WOW WOW WOW!!
    I am 39, been suffering from what I always thought was Pms since teenage years, exactly 2 weeks before my period my boobs hurt immensely, I'm like "oh god here we go again" it's like a switch has been turned on (or off) within me precisely at that moment, then the next two weeks is just meyhem! I am so short tempered and irritable, extremely lethargic, incapable of remembering things. Some days I don't want to get out of bed, I dont feel suicidal per say each month but I have been there before... overwhelm and despair I would say describes how i mostly feel during the dreaded 2 weeks.
    To complicate things further, I have just been diagnosed with ADHD and take stimulant medication to help me focus and concentrate, the thing is... I am still absolutely useless whilst leading up to my period.. it's the thing that led me to this blog. I've just had a total lightbulb moment!
    I would love to hear from anyone with similar issues and what can I do to help myself?? I've never taken anything for symptoms.
    Thank you so much! I wish I had found this year's ago 😭