One More Time… With Feelings.

Is This a Fancy or a Feeling?

Before my PMDD diagnosis, my self-esteem was in tiny pieces all over everyone else’s floor. Who am I? Love me! I couldn’t figure out why I was being so irrational and if that was because of who I was spending my time with, or if I was just as screwed up as people seemed to think. After my diagnosis, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was just my opinionated personality and which attributes were caused by the PMDD. When you’re dysphoric, it all seems rational.

PMDD comes in a variety of flavors; as many as exist on the personality spectrum. To better understand what aspects of your sometimes less “enjoyable” actions are part of your personality and what is genuinely PMDD, exploring your personality a bit can help. The New York Times wrote an article on the better personality tests out there. There are books upon books about these personality types. Educate yourself. Facts will build your confidence and lessen the post-ovulation tsunami of guilt we all know and love. Isabel Briggs Myers said, “Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your heart’s desire.” 

Seeing a therapist that can help you define which ideas are less logical and which are more significant is ALWAYS worthwhile. You can ask them to help develop coping mechanisms that are beneficial as opposed to the choices that can harm you or others.

Coping Mechanisms

Having a more technical or analytical approach to PMDD is a coping mechanism for me. I know that I’m erratic at times and so I tell myself, if I can wrap these ideas neatly in a box to share with potential friends, I will sound more sane. The goal, motivating those around me to be more tolerant. It works until I insult them in a panic of dysphoria, accusing them of being a womanizing jerk. Then the potential friend wonders what happened to the rational girl they’ve been friends with for 6 months. I’m working on a balance.

I know it seems helpless but there are ways to manage without a hysterectomy. Self care is mandatory. Making sure your body is running on all cylinders will help to alleviate some of the more manageable symptoms. For example: While you’re ovulating, exercise or cutting back on caffeine can help lessen anxiety and avoiding alcohol can help with managing some of the inevitable depression. You’re already stuck with it. Why make it worse with substances?

What fills your emotional gas tank? Reading a book? Taking a bath? Yoga or taking the dog on a long, quiet walk? Put the kids in front of their favorite movie with a snack and take care of yourself. They’ll live with a little bit of tv time but will you live without it? Justifying self care is especially difficult for parents, but you MUST take that time.

Talking about your symptoms will always alleviate some of your suffering. There are multiple support groups on the internet, including Facebook groups like PMDD Mom’s. Finding other people who know that your intention is not to hurt those around you gives you hope in the really dark moments. These people are also all willing to talk you through your monthly spiral when some of your non-suffering friends start to get a little tired of hearing about it.

If diet and exercise don’t help, try talking to your therapist or primary care physician about your SSRI options. They can refer you to a psychiatrist if you need to explore more complex options like more controlled anti-anxiety medications, and Adderall or Vyvance to help with some of the short term inability to concentrate.

Your health and happiness is valuable. Nothing you have said or done during your dysphoria deprives you of that right. Your life is valuable. If you’re reading this, you’re probably fixating and overwhelmed. Breathe in through your nose.. now out through your mouth.

Say this out loud, “It is all going to be ok. It isn’t hopeless. I just have to keep going.” If you can’t do this, and are genuinely considering suicide,  please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

You’re not alone my friend. Remember that.

Love and Light,

Sarah

The Diagnosis

For years I’ve been labeled as “the one who says what she thinks,” or “highly sensitive” as my mother likes to say. I am an INFJ (Myers Briggs) so I am naturally a problem-solving-brooder with excessive feelings pretty much about anything. But the two weeks surrounding my period, my body turns the volume all the way up. I have Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

Scientists know little about PMDD other than the fact that it is genetic and that those who have been diagnosed have cells that react differently to sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. The rather long list of symptoms include: severe mood swings, suicidal ideations, and a variety of others that exist in tandem with their body’s natural hormonal fluctuations. One of the few true solutions is to remove the uterus and ovaries in an attempt to significantly reduce the monthly symptoms. Unfortunately, a hysterectomy is a dangerous surgery with many possible complications.

The women I have spoken to find this daunting. One even said:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never going to get better. I’m never going to be ‘normal.’”

Most of these people born with uteruses live, marry, and have kids before ever hearing of the disease. Their relationships crumbling under the weight of their erratic behavior, most go to doctors in a panic. An incredible 15% of people with PMDD succeed at committing suicide. Many, many others make attempts and end up hospitalized.

I was diagnosed with PMDD after my hospitalization for what was essentially a nervous breakdown. I was living with my in-laws. I was going to school online full time. My partner and I had two young children in our home and we had just moved from Virginia to North Carolina. My one year old wasn’t sleeping. My partner and I were having problems and my sweet 4 year old just wanted to be loved.

I was seeing a therapist weekly for treatment in regards to a sexual assault I had experienced two years before and a history of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. On multiple medications, it would seem like I was getting better for a while and then two weeks later I would spiral. I was getting A’s in all of my classes and keeping my mother in law’s house as clean as possible with two kids but the pressure was mounting.

At an appointment for birth control I was told that I was pregnant but my hormone levels were off and after further testing, it was determined that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized embryo gets lodged in your fallopian tube and begins to grow there. I was given a shot to dissolve the pregnancy and sent home. A few days later I collapsed at home with my in-laws and the kids. After being taken to the hospital, I was told that I was bleeding internally because the pregnancy had ruptured my fallopian tube. My fallopian tube was surgically removed. This created a major hormonal shift and I began having symptoms similar to the severe postpartum depression I had experienced with both of my other children. Everything the kids did was too much. My partner could look at me adoringly and I would assume he thought I was disgusting. To be fair, he’s not a very expressive guy but he doesn’t think I’m disgusting.

One day, I just couldn’t take it anymore. The kids were being what seemed to be excessively difficult and I just snapped. I locked myself in my bedroom and called my therapist sobbing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to live anymore. She suggested that I go to the hospital and let them know that I needed to check into their psych unit for a few days for suicidal ideations. She thought that it would give me a much needed break from my life and also allow me to work more intensely on my medications and coping mechanisms.

After staying 4 days, I was put on heavy medications. The strong anti-anxiety meds like Klonopin made me not care if I lived or died. My partner caught me trying to swallow the rest of the bottle that I had on hand and shoved his finger down my throat. It took a while, but one day the patient advocate at my doctors office called to discuss my decline. She expressed her kind frustration that I had been doing so well and couldn’t figure out what had happened. Agreeing and frustrated I said, “You know, I never needed this medication when I was pregnant. Too bad I really don’t want anymore kids.”

That triggered an immediate response. She asked if I had ever heard of a disease called PMDD. Most people’s hormones stabilize when they’re pregnant which could be why my symptoms lessened so much when I was.  She scheduled an appointment for me to see my regular doctor to discuss this possibility and a few days later, I was officially diagnosed with the disorder. They decided to take me off of all of my medications and start me on an IUD (Nexplanon) to regulate my hormones. It has greatly lessened my symptoms and, through diet and self-care are I’ve been able to maintain without being on medications. This may change.

As this blog is still in it’s moulding stages, I welcome your own stories and experiences. It is important to me that people suffering with this chronic disease know that they are not alone and that there is hope.

I’ve started this blog is to share my story and the stories of others who live with PMDD. It is my goal to share my diet, self-care techniques and to talk about the things that people with PMDD or their loved ones care about. I look forward to hearing your feedback and I love topic suggestions. I will do my best to use gender inclusive terms but I do apologize if I slip.

 

Love and Light,

Sarah