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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

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?