Hello and Welcome!!

~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
Moving into the holidays, I am focusing on posts about positive things women with PMDD can do to strengthen our relationships with our loved ones.
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If you're looking for information on a particular topic, just type that word in the search box. You will then pull up all posts that include information on that subject, assuming the search box is working, which occasionally it is not. Sorry about that. I have no clue why that happens.
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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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

PMDD and Holiday Stress



Offhand, I can think of four good sources of holiday stress: family, food, finances, and expectations.  Each causes its own manner of stress, but like a toxic family with a volatile history, they all intertwine.  For example: Your family has expectations that involve your finances, either via hosting a food-laden event, traveling to a food-laden event, or simply exchanging gifts. 
Funny, but our current culture would have us believe that the more we spend, the more we care.
Is that messed up or what?  Then, of course, there are the guilt purchases.  You know, the sometimes extravagant but almost always expensive gifts you buy to convince someone how much you care when you won't be showing up in person.  Or maybe you will be there, but you'll have to leave early, or it's the only time you've seen this person since whenever, and you feel guilty about that.  Then there's the keeping-up-with-everyone-else spending. Your gift can't possibly come in at a dollar value less that the gifts "the others" are giving, or you'll look bad.  So you either buy something you can't afford, or pony up your share of a gift you didn't choose and can't afford. 
But I digress.  Above are only a few examples of generic holiday stressors.  A PMDD woman doesn't handle stress well to start with, and so when the holiday madness begins....
You can understand why all she wants is for it to be over, or at the very least, to get through it without a meltdown.
So let's stop for a minute, just stop and think.  What are all these holiday gatherings supposed to be about?  Connecting, making memories to hold you through until you see each other again, right? (Or, if you're all local, celebrating another year of life's ups and downs together.) 
But somewhere along the way, everything shifted.  Away from Jesus and family, peace and goodwill, and toward fueling a selling season that accounts for 40% of the year's retail revenue. 
Connecting more deeply with friends and family is not about two months plus of frenzied shopping to see who comes up with the biggest, best, shiniest gift.  It's about coming to the table well-rested and healthy, comfortable and caring.  It's about making eye contact (put those electronics away!!), feeling genuinely happy to see each other, and connecting in a special way...but not a deep and forever-bonding kind of way.  If you come to the party expecting that, you've fallen into the trap of unrealistic expectations, and you'll only be disappointed. 
Holiday gatherings are for having lighthearted fun and making good, positive memories.  If a heart to heart connection happens, consider it a bonus.  But don't go into the event expecting anything more than a good time.
Happy holiday gatherings are about spending time with people who share common interests, values, and beliefs.  And if that doesn't happen—which is most of the time—it's about managing to enjoy the day and company as best as you can.  In a worst case scenario, it's about keeping the peace (and your peace) for as long as you and these spiritual, mental, and emotional strangers spend time together.
Not everyone is blessed enough to have a group to gather with.  If you are, but can't stand to be around them, and absolutely, positively can not escape attending the festivities, the prevailing advice is to limit your visits to a couple of hours at a time.  If you've traveled long distance, take breaks to visit friends in the area, or maybe revisit familiar local haunts, or even show your partner or kids where you grew up.  If you don't want to do that, or don't know anyone else in town, maybe you can visit some sort of tourist attraction in the area for a break between bouts with relatives.  Or you can offer to be the gofer who runs errands.  Somebody always needs something they forgot to bring at these things.  Offer to fetch it, and use the time to regroup.  If you're not from the area, just take a walk or a drive to explore the surroundings and clear your head.  What is it with people acting as if there's something wrong with wanting to spend more than a few minutes alone?  Could it be they envy your independence? Wish they could break away from the herd as well?  Think about it.
If you have no relatives nearby, find some friends and start your own traditions. Traditions are important, but creating new traditions can be equally important.  Families no longer look the same as they did in the past--we've got single moms and dads, same sex moms and dads, bi-racial couples and children, adopted children, foster children, blended families, events where all parties and their current significant other show up, presumably for the sake of the kids—so why should family events always be the same?  Consider incorporating something new into the mix.  Maybe you can all go to church together, or to a restaurant for dinner, or to a movie or bowling after your meal.  Mix up the traditional menu but try adding something new.  Maybe even ditch the whole thing and have a theme party.
Or maybe you can agree to go to the big family shindig only every other year, or only participate on alternate holidays.  Spend one any way you want to, (whether it be by staying home or planning a ski chalet weekend) and the next by attending a family gathering.  Or schedule the family event at a different time than the true holiday.  Think of all the stress you'll avoid, not scrambling out there with all the other holiday travelers. 
But don't go at all if you know the event will only bring more pain and destruction to yourself and the family.  Family gathering time is not the time to resolve family issues, conflicts, or make major family decisions.  The discussion about your cousin's financial woes or addiction or whether or how to move someone into assisted living is NOT one you want to have at a holiday gathering.  Ditto details about selling, renting, or discarding family property.  True, it may be the only time you are all together, but the holiday celebration itself is NOT the forum for such undertakings.  Those require a separate family meeting.
Just as the holidays are stressful for all of us, most of these suggestions could apply to anyone.  To specifically address your PMDD, I'd have to return to the line of "coming to the table well-rested and healthy, comfortable and caring."  If you are feeling none of these things on the date of the event, then you are not wrong in wanting to cancel, and if you do, please do not feel guilty or accept any blame for doing so.  Would you stay home if you had the flu?  Negative moods are just as contagious and can ruin a party just as easily.
Feeling guilt and accepting blame only escalate your PMDD symptoms.  By staying away from the event, you are protecting both the event and taking care of yourself.  Nothing in this world is more important than seeing to your own health and well-being.  Especially when it comes to your mental health.
Because if you don't care enough about yourself to take care of you, believe me, nobody else will either.
Next up:  What do you do if you are the hostess?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

PMDD, the Holidays, and Relationships

Going into the holiday season, often a time of stress in general, but especially so for PMDD women, who often can not predict how we will feel or how much energy or motivation we will have from day to day, I thought I'd revisit a few posts on relationships to remind us of what's important, what's not, and what we can do about it.

Here are the links to my series of posts about all sorts of relationships, because between now and when life settles down again in January, we'll most likely be dealing with more people than we do the rest of the year combined. So feel free to bookmark this page, and refer to it as needed :)

Relationships Begin With You

Learning to Treat Yourself Like a Friend

HOW to be a Friend to Yourself

Choosing Your Friends Wisely

Choosing Your Family

How to Survive Family Gatherings

It's Not Personal, It's Just Your PMDD

Finding the Right Partner

Dealing with PMDD - Advice for Men

and, as a gentle reminder,

They Only See Our Failures

Take care, God Bless, and may your holidays be happy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Post, Cat's Story: Living with PMDD



I have suffered with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) since I was 13, but I was only diagnosed at 27. For over 10 years I had been diagnosed as depressed and in and out of community mental health departments. After stopping the Pill and having a baby at age 21, my hormones went crazy and I suffered pre and post natal depression. In the years that followed I began noticing a pattern to my moods and depression. At times, I thought I really was severely mentally ill. I always had PMS, but I realised  my worst times happened when I was due on my period. My PMS was so severe  it had begun to take over my life, wreck relationships, ruin jobs, studying, and caused me so much emotional pain I often found myself considering suicide. I would become housebound, with no social life or friends and fearful of ever making an appointment because I could never guarantee how I would be feeling.
It was only my persistence and researching that made me realise I did in fact have a mood disorder and not straightforward depression. I Googled 'mood disorders' instead of depression and discovered PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I read the only book available at that time, and began to track my moods using a chart from the book. I found a GP willing to listen, took in printed information and my charts and got the correct diagnosis of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Coming to terms with what that meant took many years, and sometimes I still struggle.
PMS is one thing, many women suffer with moodiness, anger, irritability at pre-menstruation, but my PMDD threatened to destroy everything. As a mother, I felt I wasn't well enough to look after my children, I have been unable to work and feel really separated from the rest of the world. Only 3-8% of women suffer with PMDD, the rest get through each month without disaster. It is very difficult to find people to talk to who understand what I’m experiencing when PMDD is so rare, and when menstrual problems are often seen as something to joke about or ridicule. I have often dealt with comments like 'pull yourself together' and 'get a grip', and even people denying PMDD exists.
PMDD is distinguishable by the dysphoria that is experienced. Feelings of being completely overwhelmed, spiralling thoughts, outrage, anger, frustration, anxiety and suicidal ideation coupled with the physical symptoms, which can include, bloating, IBS, tender breasts, cramps, lower back pain, lethargy, and sleep and appetite changes. I am sensitive to the changes in hormones during my cycle, and I also experience a few days of unstable moods and physical symptoms during ovulation. My PMDD does not occur once a month but twice a month, leaving on average 10-14 days of feeling like me, and the rest being spent coping with symptoms. This will continue until menopause.
I am now 34 and have tried every medication offered to me. I have discovered I am very sensitive to any type of hormone and cannot tolerate the Pill or IUD. I spent a total of 5 years on anti-depressants, which never really worked for me. They took the edge off, but didn't stop the extreme lows and outbursts. I have seen psychiatrists and gynaecologists. At one point, I went through hormone treatment to stop all my hormones and put me into a chemical menopause. This is often a route that works for PMDD sufferers, and many go on to have hysterectomies. Unfortunately, this option did not work for me, and the treatment made me very ill.
I have found that counselling has helped, along with mind techniques such as CBT, NLP and meditation. Finding support is essential. Being able to talk through the irrational thoughts can usually avert disaster. Keeping busy is also a good way to keep the mind focused, so I draw, create, paint, write and bake lots!
I am now medication free for the first time in my life. I have had to learn my cycle and I now plan things around it. I avoid busy social situations when I know it will be too much for me. Eating healthily, regular exercise and avoiding stress has also helped improve my symptoms. Making sure I continue to communicate with loved ones and work through problems, finding strength to leave the house even when I don't want to and being open and outspoken about my disorder all contribute to life feeling easier and less stressful and traumatic. Fitting into society and getting a regular job is a whole other problem. After all, who would employ someone who can only function and deal with stressful situations for 10-14 days out of every month? I focus on my children and being the best mother I can be, my writing, art, and getting through each month without trauma. 
Living with PMDD is very challenging, but I am trying to make the best of my life, for me and my children. There is always hope, the negative feelings and dysphoria will always pass. Life is a rollercoaster but as someone once said to me – you're a long time dead. Women need to speak out and stop being ashamed of suffering from PMS/PMDD. Every voice helps change the way people think and I find talking and being honest is always the best option.
You can find out more by reading my PMDD blog and check out my artwork.

Monday, October 6, 2014

PMDD and Making Hard Choices, a Guest Post by Kit



In my Voices of PMDD series, we spent the summer of 2014 hearing from women with PMDD and their partners, through blogposts describing the struggles and challenges they face monthly.  Going into fall, I'd like to focus on some solutions various women with PMDD have found.  Since every woman's PMDD is different in the symptoms she feels and the severity of those symptoms, not every suggestion regarding relief will work, but I offer these posts in the hopes that something will strike a chord somewhere, and at least put you on the path to lessening your PMDD pain, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.

Today's guest post is written by Kit, and comes filled with great wisdom, and several positive choices for feeling better.  That said, here's Kit: 

Apart from feeling a little tense/dramatic during ovulation weekend and a little teary the day before my period began, this month has been so easy. My symptoms have been getting better over the last two years. When I look back to how badly PMDD used to affect me (3 out of 4 weeks), chronically suicidal most months, I just can't believe how it is now...

Here is how I choose to live now compared to before.

BEFORE

Chose boyfriends who didn't understand, sympathise, and had their own crazy issues going on — boyfriends I chose, so I'd feel less F'd up and—ironically—more equal.

Had friends that took from me and drained me because PMDD makes it hard to create continuity of self and therefore friendships can be tricky. So when they took, drained, and crossed boundaries ... I rolled with it—thinking I should be grateful for their friendship. 

Thought of myself as having this big secret from the world that I couldn't control and was ashamed of. I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what others would think, especially when I was ill.

Shut myself away for weeks on end to protect the life I had just spent weeks building again.

Tried hormonal medications, anti-depressants, and supplements, all of which gave me side effects and changed the flavour of the PMDD to the point of not being worth it.

Worked 9-5 in a high-powered job, with a boss with questionable ethics, which made me ill via the ethical distress and stress of my workload, while spending 4 weeks a month trying to be the same person every day.

Generally believed I couldn't make a change from any of these because it would be impossible. How could I maintain my relationships, jobs, family, etc. if I tried to change all the above?

NOW

I chose a partner with understanding, tolerance and, most importantly the willingness to co-manage my PMDD with me—what a difference that one makes!

I chose a partner who is as self-aware as I am when it comes to his own journey.

My attitude is : I am a good catch; if I get ill, I am ill, if my partner started to be unsupportive I would wait until I was in my good time, and then talk from a point of grounded logic, explaining that I need someone who can give me support and understanding and that's what I deserve and if that's not him, he can leave now. 

I now offer Zero Tolerance to anyone who's going to risk making me ill by their own silliness.

I now only have friends who respect my boundaries; I phased out those that didn't.  It wasn't easy but, wow, has it made a difference in my life and in my PMDD.

I no longer have a 'secret' but I don't choose to tell others unless we're close ... I tell them what PMDD is but don't go into details. I don't care what others think. I know what I have, I know it is real. I do not need to communicate it, or hear their acceptance to accept myself. I have worked hard on accepting myself as I am, PMDD and ADHD warts and all, using the Strong Notes app.

I am still careful about planning social occasions around my bad times. I don't feel badly about saying 'No' — it's what I have to do to be kind to myself. Unnecessary stress that you choose to opt out of, no matter what others may think, can reduce your PMDD symptoms.

I am on Methylphenidate for my ADHD, and so far taking a really low amount, but it works wonders with my ADHD and could be having an effect on my PMDD, too. I would love for others to try it and see how it quiets the inner thoughts and mind tumble dryers we all get stuck in during PMDD mode. 

Using an app called Strong Notes, I send myself accepting/loving messages from my 'well self' to read on my bad days, feeding my strength back to myself on days I can't access it from within.

I have separated my 'well self' from my 'ill self' in my mind so I don't brand the 'true well me' with an ill tarnish. It helps to be sympathetic to my 'ill self' when well, and remember my 'well self' when ill. 

This is so important : I now identify when ill that how I'm feeling is real and not just my imagination.

I quit my ego stroking 9-5, 4 weeks a month job to pursue another working model that allows me to be ill when ill and kick ass when well.

I sought help from a mental health charity that supports people trying to make life work for them while struggling with a mental health problem. Successfully got a government business loan to start a business. I was honest about the PMDD and it was never even brought up as an issue.

I now believe that I am worth drastically changing my life for. I don't put myself in situations where I am stressed, and in turn my PMDD is at rest rather than flared up. I still know it's there but it's controllable.

I've read and live by Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now.

I eat foods with high nutrients but also still eat crap (sugar, etc.) when I want to, and for me it makes no difference. Food diets aren't ever as impactful as emotional diets in my opinion.

Signed up for all business/mental health support organisations to have mentors to keep me on track and to keep reminding myself that I am worth the hassle.

This is all just one story but I thought I would share it with you in case any of you are feeling ready to go on an emotional diet, too, or should I call it a MIND DETOX. I stayed in bad situations, feeling like a victim, for too long. I missed out on my teens and twenties for sure, but I am no longer going to be a victim to society's views, or the acceptance of others. 

I have PMDD. It means I must live accordingly. I choose to make my life better by taking the actions needed to protect and progress myself.

Love to you all.  I know we know each other's darkness all too well. I hope some of this helps.

K xxx

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2014



Mesothelioma
[mez-uh-thee-lee-oh-muh]

1. a malignant tumor of the covering of the lung or the lining of the pleural and abdominal cavities, often associated with exposure to asbestos.

Today I'm going to help a friend raise awareness for a little known form of cancer that anybody (not just PMDD women) can develop that has a nearly zero percent survival rate.  That's right...zero.  This is serious, ladies, and we need to understand just how serious it is.  I can't think of a better day to do this than the 10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  

Yes, mesothelioma, aka meso, which can be contracted simply by breathing the air around you—assuming that air has something in it called asbestos.

Asbestos.  We heard a lot about it a few decades back, how dangerous it is, how you should never breathe it in.  But since it was semi-sort of banned in the late 1970s we haven't heard much about it at all, except maybe on television ads for attorneys. 

Why haven't we heard about it?  Did it go away?  No, it just slipped under the radar, overshadowed by more visible threats to our health, especially those with a stronger presence in social media.

Because at present, only 2500 to 3000 new cases of meso are diagnosed per year.  Mere bullets compared to the big guns like breast cancer and heart disease.  But no less devastating to the families affected. 

And the number is getting higher each year, with diagnoses expected to peak in 2020. 

Why 2020?  Because mesothelioma takes a while to develop in your body.  30 to 40 years on average, which is why it is important to the men and women who read this blog.  If you attended grades K-12 at any time during the 1970s or 1980s, I am talking to you.

How does mesothelioma happen?  Have you ever been in a barn, or even your living room, when a shaft of sunlight streams through a window, and you see dust motes dancing in the air?  Teeny tiny particles too numerous to count, and you're breathing them in, bringing them into your body, into your lungs, with every breath you take.

(Asbestos is like that, only you can't see asbestos fibers, not without a microscope.)

We can't avoid these particles, short of perpetually wearing a mask, or holding our breath, so most of us just pretend not to notice anything but maybe how pretty the dust motes are.  We have to breathe, so what choice do we have?

None, but in some places, those teeny tiny particles floating through the air are toxic.  Innocuous places.  Places you'd never expect.  Like schools and homes and commercial buildings, especially those built before 1979.  Why?  Because the building and construction industries have used asbestos for ages for strengthening cement and plastics as well as for insulation, roofing, and fireproofing. The shipbuilding industry has used asbestos to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes. The automotive industry uses asbestos in vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads. Asbestos has also been used in ceiling and floor tiles; paints, coatings, and adhesives; and plastics.

Why?  Because it's chemical resistant and doesn't burn.  You can't destroy it, but it can destroy you.

In the late 1970s, the USA banned the use of asbestos in wallboard patching compounds and gas fireplaces because the asbestos fibers in these products could be released into the air during use. In 1989, the USA banned all new uses of asbestos; however, uses developed before 1989 are still allowed.

So asbestos is still not banned in the USA.  True, federal law requires that newly manufactured products contain no more than 1% of asbestos.  But how can you accurately measure 1% of something as teeny tiny as asbestos?  (If it's strong enough to keep a product from burning, it's strong enough to burn YOU—from the inside out.)

Here is some information (I gleaned) from www.mesothelioma.com and The National Cancer Institute: 
 
What are the health hazards of exposure to asbestos?  People may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, their communities, or their homes. If products containing asbestos are disturbed (you know, broken, cracked, scraped, removed), tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. (Like the rest of your life.)  Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can make it difficult for you to breathe, and lead to serious health problems (including death).

Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen. Although a rare form of cancer, meso is the cancer most associated with asbestos exposure. It's the number one cause of Occupational Cancer, especially among the military.  That's right, veterans are at the greatest risk of mesothelioma, in particular those in the US Navy.  

In addition to lung cancer and meso, some studies have suggested an association between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, as well as an elevated risk for cancers of the throat, kidney, esophagus, and gall bladder.

Who is at risk? Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time. Low levels of asbestos are in our air, water, and soil. But people who develop mesothelioma from asbestos are usually exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the asbestos-containing material, or through substantial environmental contact.  This can include people who work in schools and hospitals and government buildings, especially those built before 1979.  More likely to jump to mind are people in such professions as veterans, demolition workers, drywall removers, asbestos removal workers, firefighters, and automobile workers. Studies evaluating the cancer risk experienced by automobile mechanics exposed to asbestos through brake repair are limited, but the overall evidence suggests there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear. 

There is some evidence that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing meso. This risk is thought to result from exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers.

How are asbestos-related diseases detected?  Individuals who have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers on the job, through the environment, or at home via a family contact should inform their doctor about their exposure history and whether or not they experience any symptoms. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases may not become clear for many decades after the exposure, but it is particularly important to check with a doctor if any of the following symptoms develop:
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time.
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs.
  • Pain or tightening in the chest.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Swelling of the neck or face.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue or anemia
This last one, fatigue or anemia, is something PMDD women feel all too often.  Mesothelioma is on the rise in women, mostly through secondary contact with clothing or items of loved ones that have asbestos fibers on them.  I'm not usually one to subscribe to the politics of fear, but if you work in an environment where asbestos is present, or live with someone who does so and comes in contact with it regularly, please be aware of the danger it presents, and the possibility you could have more than PMDD.

For more information, please go here.  Tell Heather I sent you.

Blessings,

Liana