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.