Hello and Welcome!!

~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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Living with PMDD - Realize, Relief, Repeat

[Living With PMDD]
By: Danni Hanna
When you REALIZE it’s time, it’s already too late
Being engulfed in its flame is always your fate
Depression sets in.. in its bi monthly routine
Next comes the anxiety and the fatigue
Panic attacks make their appearance
And the joys in life make their disappearance
Suicidal thoughts fill your brain
But you know soon enough you’ll be off this train
The train runs on an endless track
Circling, circling, circling back
Exercise, medication, eating right
Won’t help you win this fight
Two weeks free, two weeks trapped
Two separate identities on constant relapse
One identity starving for control
The other is on an easy stroll
Career and relationship changes fill the void of sleepless nights
But freedom is coming into sight
The day of RELIEF has arrived
As per usual, right on time
An exchange of pain occurs in an instant
From mental to physical, it’s always consistent
Anxiety and depression leave your side
Feelings of comfort and amusement fill your mind
Quickly forgetting the two weeks of hell
You become trapped within its spell
You never seek help
Because this is the best you’ve ever felt
Unaware you’re still riding the train
Two weeks pass by and the hormones enter your brain
Once again the exchange has been made
Those joyous feelings briskly fade
So go ahead and take a seat
The journey of this train is about to REPEAT

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.