The Honesty Debate – Authenticity While Living With P.M.D.D.

Within the last 3 months I have changed jobs, gone through a breakup and moved to a new city. My last post was me trying to stay above water. This one is to let those who read this know that I made it through to the other side.

A few friends of mine have partners with mental health issues or with disabilities. We often have conversations about their feeling the need to be a less authentic version of themselves in order to hold space for the individual they love. My friends feel the need to go out less or speak and hold themselves differently to properly convey their ideas in a safe way.

I outwardly encourage autonomy but I know what it is to want to perpetuate a relationship with someone who is not carrying their share of the emotional labor. When those of us with mental health complexities are our most authentic selves, do we then require those around us to be less so?

I am 30 years old and have been married (and divorced) twice. I am officially THAT person. Obviously I find myself questioning the losses in my life. Can we have life long relationships when our mental health creates controversy? Asking the people in our lives to hold space for the somewhat volatile nature associated with PMDD feels like a lot. My symptoms often mimic Borderline Personality Disorder or essentially crippling panic that every partner I have will leave. There also seem to be some somewhat abrasive problem solving techniques when I’m feeling vulnerable. I’m working on the last part, but the first (crippling panic) feels well founded most days given the circumstances.

It takes a reasonable amount of emotional labor to maintain a relationship with people like me. We need partners who are capable of establishing and kindly asserting safe boundaries for themselves. Boundaries are useless if you do not communicate them effectively. Self-care is something that our partners must learn but do individuals who have their shit together genuinely want to engage in a relationship that they have to have more aggressive boundaries?

I have come to the conclusion that until I figure out what I need, it is important that my romantic interactions maintain a certain fluidity. Whatever form that takes.

Have a partner with mental health issues? Leave a comment and let me know how you and your partner manage your dynamic.


xo Sarah

Perfecting The Art of Self-Analysis

This cup of coffee is not doing the job for which it was intended but I think it is important for me to start writing again. This post will be a bit more “stream of conscious” than filled with purpose. Narcissism and self-analysis is all that I have in me right now. Sleep is sporadic.  My brain is determined to make me re-live a painful experience that happened six years ago and it is starting to effect day to day life.

I think being back home in Virginia triggered some sensory stuff that I was not prepared for. Because of this, I have not been eating like I should. I have been waking up at 6 am after drinking to make myself sleep and my brain instantly turns to my stressors.

Lately I have been feeling like I lack substance. I work. I sleep. I eat. I exist solely for the benefit of those around me (ie: my kids, my job.) When I told a close friend about this idea he scoffed at me as he often does when I get existential and said, “Substance isn’t real.” The concept is comforting but the more I think about this idea and work to create a life full of experiences and lacking regret… the more time I spend in my big chair with a glass of red wine watching Queer Eye.

This blog is a perfect example. There have been partially written pieces in my drafts folder for months now that I cannot make myself finish.   A determination exists to prove that despite this ridiculous thing that my brain does once a month,  I have thoughts, ideas and goals that matter. Who am I trying to prove this to? I am not superman. I obviously have limits and capacities. They just keep getting overshadowed by the potential that I have convinced myself I must have to keep this life from being a waste.

I am tired. I think it is time to take a look at my self-care routine again. Spending more time with people who want to get out and do things that are fun was helping. They do not need alcohol and terrible food to enjoy themselves. The presence of mind does not always exist to create these circumstances for myself. Simply being in their orbit has helped bring a lot of balance to my life.

It may be time to start looking into a therapist again. I cannot rely on others for my own self-care. It is not their job to take care of me when I do not have the presence of mind to choose the vegan option, put that bottle of wine back on the shelf or get more exercise. Every dark day I have,  I cannot flood their text messages with how lackluster I find this existence to be.

I know it is important for me to take ownership of this. Rationalizing the effort required to take care of myself would not be quite so difficult I think if it all didn’t feel so futile. Another month.  Another dream. Another bad day. Another therapist appointment. I want to fix this so I can move on to the life I was meant to live but are we owed anything by this universe that we live in? There are individuals suffering much more than I.

I suppose I will take it one day at at time and celebrate my tiny victories.

“That’s all there is. There isn’t anymore.”

Mental Health- My FAQ’s

I was in the middle of research for another post when PMDD hit… so I’m going to grab some sour patch kids, put on some pop music and share something I wrote a few months ago that resonates with me today.

Mental Health. – My Frequently Asked Questions. 

Is poor mental health self-absorption?

Or lack of self-care?

Am I really sick?

Or could I just work harder at being sane?

Can you work at being sane?

Are feelings pliable under the influence of a strong hand?

When you brain lies to you, what feelings do you trust?

Can you put each thought into a box, wrap it tightly and open it at will?

Someone forgot to teach me about boxes.

My heart is a pile of al dente pasta.

Messy. Messy. Messy.

If a thought is understood I can clean it up.

If I can put all of my feelings into those boxes maybe people will stay.

People like predictable and compartmentalized people.

Is anyone predictable and compartmentalized?

Are we all just big piles of emotional pasta?

Are some people just better at keeping the red sauce off of their white shirts than I am?

“Is there no way out of the mind?”**

**Quote by Sylvia Plath


Things Your Partner With PMDD Wants You to Know

Have you ever seen one of the tv episodes where the evil doppelgänger traps the protagonist in a closet and walks around doing and saying horrible things to everyone in the town? PMDD feels like that. No one can understand why the person is acting so weird. They probably have a reputation for instability,  not finishing what they start or periodically saying somewhat outlandish things.  If you love someone who suffers from PMDD, here are a few things that you need to know:

1. We Have Just as Hard of a Time Figuring This Out As You Do: 

The idea of a chronic illness is foreign for most. What is it to never be able to slam a door shut on something that brings you pain? If you’re a control freak like me, this part of the diagnosis seems to be the most difficult to swallow. It’s the idea of the perpetual cycle of instability-> pain-> guilt I afflict on my family and friends that often leads me into my spiral of suicidal ideations.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to explain my dysphoria. I blamed my religion, my family ,myself, and even my choice to have kids. I was blaming everyone around me and when it came down to it, nothing ever really seemed to fit. When the PMDD diagnosis fell into place like the final number on a life long Sudoku puzzle, it was like I could breathe again. If you’ve chosen to be a part of our lives, we ask a little patience.

2. We Don’t Hate You. We Need Love.

You know all of those things your partner or friend said when they were in the middle of their dysphoria? That’s their insecurities talking. What is your partner’s love language? Learn it. I know it sounds impossible, but something you’ll need to do to make this work is to show them love when they’re dysphoric. Even if that means giving them some personal space or taking some for yourself.

They’re more than likely terrified that this disease is making you hate them. An actual symptom of this disease is broken relationships. You wouldn’t get angry at someone with arthritis in their knees for walking slowly. PMDD is a chronic disorder with no known cure. Learning to separate your friend or partner’s dysphoria from their personality by using a period tracker or keeping a watch on their symptoms can help you understand their words and actions as what they are. Symptoms of a disorder they’re trying to figure out. When I asked a group of PMDD sufferers what they want most from their friends and family,  many wanted to be remembered as they truly are during their dysphoria. Help your friend or partner by remembering the person you love, and looking past their dysphoria

3. Anxiety and Depression Exist Outside of Ovulation

PMDD is a cyclical prison that sufferers are subjected to without their consent.

Orange is the New Black protagonist, Piper Kernan said,

“You spend a lot of time thinking about how awful the prison is rather than envisioning your future.”

During ovulation, those who suffer with it do and say things that aren’t natural to their personalities. They know that these actions are hurtful or frustrating and they see the effects on the people around them. Because of this, there is typically a significant amount of guilt. This causes insecurities and anxiety between their period and ovulation. It gives sufferers a feeling like we can never quite meet societal expectations. We worry about committing to outside engagements like parties for fear that we’ll end up in the bathroom trying to calm down. I’ve put off going back to school for years in fear that I’d make it through a semester or two and then have yet another really bad month and stop everything.

Like many others with chronic diseases, PMDD can be debilitating. Encouraging your friend or partner that you’ll be there during the bathroom crying at parties or will help them stay on target in school will help them live a more fulfilling life. This confidence will help them maintain stability when suicidal ideations are strongest.

4. A PMDD Sufferers Biggest Fear Is that You’ll Get Tired and Leave

No want wants to hear about how getting out of bed every single day is a purposeful maneuver. No one wants to know how hard it is for you to hold down a job because of your panic attacks in the bathroom at work. Pain makes people cringe. People with chronic disorders do too.

Divorce is incredibly common for people with PMDD. Often we struggle with vulnerability and trust. I’m so aware of my mood swings that most of my humor is self-deprecating. I would rather put myself down before you have the chance to. I’ve had a few friends get so fed up with it that they stopped me mid-sentence and told me to say something nice about myself.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who suffers from PMDD, they will most likely need more consistent and purposeful affirmation than other people you’ve dated. Your partner or friend knows that this is hard for you. They may not demand diamonds or spend hours on their makeup but most are high maintenance in the emotion department and that can be a lot of work for partners. If you choose to maintain a relationship with a person with PMDD, let your partner or friend know that you’re in this for the long haul by actively making an effort to understand this about them. I hold most friends at arms length for fear that they will hit their capacity for crazy and disconnect. Feeling like there is something consistent and stable to anchor to during the storms will help lessen the monthly damage. I promise.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

A personal dealing with PMDD must decide every single month if their life is worth living. A stable support system can help them make the right choice one month at a time.