The Perfect Storm of PMDD
Guest Blog Post by Liana, from www.LivingWithPMDD.com
Unfortunately, I’m one of those atypical types who has my PMDD served up in three different courses, which is one big reason it took me so long to get diagnosed. All the sites and information said specifically that for it to be PMDD, all symptoms must abate at the onset of menses, or when your period begins.
But mine never did. Mine came in three separate stages. Which I finally learned is possible as well. God knew I’d been living it long enough—but to see it actually mentioned in a book? Finally I could go to my doctor in confidence and get diagnosed.
I often compare my symptoms of PMDD to the course of a hurricane. Prior to the onset of my period is the building storm, the wind and the rain, with symptoms of irritability, edginess, an inexplicable, almost ravenous hunger, and cravings for salt and three specific foods—cheese, chocolate, and oranges. I have yet to figure out why, although occasionally I get glimmers of understanding and I am sure I will find the answer some day. But for now it’s enough to know that that’s what I crave, and when I find myself reaching for nothing but those three things, I know a storm is about to blow in.
On my pre-period days I also get jittery, clumsy, confused, and distracted, unable to focus on any one task for any length of time. My handwriting even changes. Usually, it’s comfortable, loose, flowing. When I’m having an episode of PMDD, it’s spiky, jerky, and messy. At times it looks like the handwriting of a much older woman. I’m always startled to see it come out that way, but not totally surprised, because as I’m writing, my hand doesn’t seem to work properly—which might also account for my tendency to drop things more than usual during those periods of time.
Anyway, the unfamiliar handwriting is generally one clue that something is happening in my brain. My typing is also affected. I have a friend who pointed out that I don’t bother to capitalize in my emails when I am having an episode of PMDD and I don’t do a lot of smiley faces. It’s as if to do either would take too much effort.
So in my case first comes the storm of irritability, anger, and rage. Snapping out at the drop of a hat. Lashing out at someone who didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, but just struck me as wrong. Feeling under attack and wanting to hit someone, anyone. Just give me a chance. Not a reason, but a chance. I call these my wanting to “drink, smoke, and be bad” days. Impulsive behavior does its best to take over, and I can fully understand in those days why some women go out and do completely irresponsible things they later regret. I’ve felt like doing so more times than I can count, and have complete empathy for those who give in to these bizarre urges. If I didn’t have a core of responsibility inside me that keeps me anchored in good times and bad, I would go out and do the same.
Usually the worst thing I ever did was go shopping and buy all sorts of things I didn’t need or never wore. If I were to look at my credit card statements for those time periods I’m sure I would see a pattern of spending that coincides with the pre-menstrual portion of my PMDD episodes. Fortunately, now I understand what is happening and stay home on those days instead of going shopping. Because inevitably the bill would come, and I would wonder why on earth I had done such a thing.
When I worked as an analyst for the government, on my pre-menstrual days I would suddenly notice that I hadn’t received a response on this project or the other, and would call up the parties in question and remind them I was waiting to hear from them. On any other day it wouldn’t have bothered me. People get busy, people go on vacation, people have priorities, people forget. In the overall scheme of things, my projects were never that vital. Most of the time, I was tolerant and flexible.
But on a PMDD day, everyone I came across was either incompetent or personally holding me back from untold success. I might not rant at them directly–after all, even on my worst days I knew you catch more flies with honey than vinegar–but I would complain to anyone else who would listen about how I seemed to be the only person around who could get things done and do them right. I had no tolerance for even the slightest delay or mistake. On those days, you didn’t want to mess with me.
Then my period would come and I’d be miserable in a new way for a couple of days. Cramps, backaches, and pain that sometimes radiated as far down as my knees, and made me feel like I wanted to throw up. Breathing hurt. I would lie very still, hot pack pressed to my lower abdomen, which felt like someone was slowly trying to pull my insides out with a three pronged gardening tool. Every single month. That, if you want to believe it, was the eye of the hurricane. The first two days of my period.
Then the sadness kicked in. On Day Three. Always on Day Three. If it was going to come, that would be the day. It didn’t always come, still doesn’t. Now I know it has to do with whether I release an egg or not that month. No egg, no sadness. Woo hoo! Party time.
Not quite. But at least it’s a lot more pleasant around here when the sadness doesn’t come. Because when it does, I’m tired all the time, my head feels like it has an iron band around it, I sigh incessantly, big, deep sighs like the weight of the world is on my shoulders—and for me, it is. Most everything looks hopeless, every good idea I had during the month goes to s***, I want to weep at every turn, you don’t dare tell me a joke or tease me, and I spend a lot of time wondering why I even bother.
During this phase of my PMDD, I used to beat myself up incessantly over the people I had snapped out at the week before. Now, at least, I don’t do that any more. I know I didn’t mean it, and in most cases it doesn’t get that far anymore, because I have a much deeper awareness of what is going on and can catch myself in counterproductive behavior.
Now, when I catch myself starting to snap out, I apologize and explain I am having a bad day. Most of my friends know what that means. If the person isn’t my friend, it’s okay to leave it at an apology without an explanation. By all means, if at all possible, never ruin a perfectly good apology with an explanation. You don’t need to justify yourself or your behavior. You just need to acknowledge it, apologize for it if the incident warrants an apology, and move on.
But back then, as I said, I would beat myself up incessantly. Which only intensified my sadness and made me feel like a totally worthless human being. My friends couldn’t possibly be my friends. They wouldn’t be my friends if they knew the real me. How would I ever find anybody to love me if I was so impossible to be around. Yada yada yada. You know how it goes.
The bottom line is the first part of my personal hurricane is the moody, bitchy, out of control part. Then would come the eye of pain and two days of solid pain but surprisingly clear thinking. Fortunately, now, as I begin to enter menopause, it’s just the clear thinking part, and a huge surge of positive energy. It’s a definite reprieve in the storm.
Then the sadness comes. The first D in PMDD. My depression. Or The Fog, as I call it. Back then it was devastating. How could anybody not hate me? Now I am able to separate myself from it and while it is still not pleasant, I know I am not my depression. I rest, relax, take it easy, spend time reading or listening to music or doing something quiet and non-demanding, secure in the knowledge that it will pass. I do what I can to help it pass sooner. I take walks, take naps, eat right and take supplements. I do not allow my negative thoughts to take over. In fact, I smile at them, knowing I know better. God does love me and so do the people in my life. My ideas are good ones and I am full of creativity. I am strong, capable, and competent. Just running a little slower than usual today. Just a tad off my stride. It will pass and I will be fine.
And I am.
One day The Fog lifts, and its back to the torrid pace of my life as usual—until the next wave of cravings and irritability hits.
Guest blogger Liana of www.LivingWithPMDD.com.