Hello and Welcome!!

~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
This summer here on the blog I'm hosting a dialogue, so to speak, between women with PMDD and various partners, about what goes on during an episode of PMDD. Titled The Voices of PMDD, and presented with many thanks to their respective authors, I plan to alternate these guest posts--PMDD woman, partner, PMDD woman, partner--in the hopes of giving each side a glimpse into the mind and heart of the other. The posts are random, and none of these people know each other. But we are all hurting, and if these posts can help you in any way to open up to your partner,
or bring a new measure of peace into your relationship,
then perhaps some healing can begin.
On the more analytical side, 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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Voices of PMDD, Bearing our Crosses

My marriage of 15 years is one in which my wife has only in the last five years realized that this "might be PMS," and only discovered the identity of PMDD in the last two years.  In hindsight, I can see elements of PMS or PMDD even in our dating relationship but over the years we both attributed those elements to something more akin to an assertive personality.

After the birth of our last child, a time that coincided with some family financial distress, she began losing her ability to hold on to reality.  Whatever the first cause, I am losing my ability to hang on too.

Her statements speak of great, deep darkness.  She can see no hope.  She speaks of a switch that goes off and on but she is often unable to identify that it is on PMDD for several days.  By then much damage has been done.

As honestly as I can assess the situation, I am not an "unsupportive" husband.  I have learned, however, that support is not usually offering solutions.  She mostly needs someone to listen and be present with her.  Being present, though, means reminding her by my mere presence of the multiplicity of faults and results in my being berated and hearing about how I have made everything hopeless. 

I try to serve but in these times everything is wrong including what I might choose to do to help.  I have gotten to the point where my mind is swimming and I cannot focus on anything much at all in or out of PMDD time.  She has a switch, I do not.  She goes back to normal and wonders why I am so moody.  In her better times, she is sympathetic and apologetic.

We are both working on it.  She is trying to find solutions; I am trying to stay close as long as possible and take as many blows as I can without crumbling.  We are both bearing our crosses.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Voices of PMDD, A Guest Post on Shattered Dreams

Continuing with my Summer of 2014 Voices of PMDD series, here is a post written in 2012 by a woman with PMDD that addresses the reality that what you see/experience of PMDD from the outside, as a partner, friend, colleague, or family member, is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the devastation that is going on inside the mind, body, heart and spirit of a woman with PMDD.  
Aside and apart from the episodes of PMDD themselves, there is no way on earth to measure/account for/quantify the cost of the shattered hopes and dreams of PMDD women (and our loved ones) due to our PMDD.  The fallout from these broken dreams is something a woman with PMDD has to deal with every single day of her life--not just during an episode.  The weight of our perceived failures, while staggeringly heavy when we are not in the PMDD zone, can prove unbearable during an episode.  This, I believe, is a good part of what leads to suicidal thinking. 

That said, I give you "The Hidden Injury of PMDD"

“I wanted to quit because I was suffering. That is not a good enough reason.” – Ted Corbitt
I almost decided not to write about PMDD.  The thought of sharing what is considered a mental weakness leads to an automatic assumption that I am a little off my rocker.
No one intentionally judges someone with bi-polar disorder or depression.  It is a slight shrinking away from the unknown and the unstable.  PMDD is similar to being bi-polar.  The difference is the consistency.  PMDD will hit every two weeks like clockwork.  About every third cycle, in my case, it is so severe I have to talk myself out of suicide.  My muscles and joints hurt so bad I feel my bones will crumble if I move too fast. Typing hurts.  Rolling over hurts.  The sadness is so deep there is no hope, no joy, no future.  It is only darkness for days and days.  And right as the pain is going to consume my mind and body, my cycle begins and the world is turned upright again as if the previous two weeks never happened.

It is vicious.  It is destructive.  It is painful and it is never ending.

I am told by those around me I am outgoing, extroverted and can do anything I set my mind to to. That is until they see me fall and wonder what happened.

I was just as confused until September 2011, when it became clear there was a pattern to the insanity.

My husband and I were in the middle of trying to start a photography and real estate business when it became clear we were facing something much bigger than we could have ever imagined.  I would soon discover my ambitions would be pulled out from under me like a ugly, worn out rug.

Up until then, I had hope I would one day shake whatever it was that tripped me up so much.   We thought it was connected to the abuse from my childhood or maybe my walk with God was really weak or maybe I was just a weak person in general.  Maybe, just maybe, if I tried harder, or prayed harder or exercised harder or ate better or something!!!!!  There had to be something I was doing wrong.

After we narrowed the diagnosis, I began facing the fact, I couldn’t do everything I dreamed of doing….and that pain is another post entirely.

I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea the symptoms grew worse and worse as you get older.  It made sense though, as I was moving into my 40’s, why the intensity was growing.
Friends only see me when I can leave the house. I venture out when I have energy and drive. This causes so much confusion when I meet new people.  I am vibrant and joyful at first and when I am pressured into social situations during the “luteal” phase, they see a quiet, sad often “sick” stranger they don’t recognize.

I can’t imagine how it is interpreted.

I cancel coffee dates, go two weeks without answering my phone, drop out of obligations I make during my good weeks.  I’ve since learned the crash will come and I have no business volunteering, working, serving or reaching out to anyone.

I’ve lost jobs, quit jobs, started and quit businesses, started and quit homeschooling over and over, lost friends, went on uncontrolled spending sprees, started arguments and walked away from relationships to save them from myself.

I wish at times, I had a physical ailment.  A limp, a scar, a broken bone or even cancer.  At least then, when someone met me they would have evidence of my disease.  They would be able empathize and process the injury in their own mind.

Instead, the injury is inside my mind.  It is not visible unless you live under the same roof.
It is hidden behind a mask I wear everywhere I go.  I can’t escape from the betrayal of my mind and body every month.  It is always taunting me…always waiting silently to paralyze me yet again and destroy everything I begin to build.

I’ve learned not to build anymore.  That is what hurts the most.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Chemical Sensitivities and PMDD

 Over the years I've become increasingly more sensitive to chemicals, fragrances, and any kind of scented products, be they cat litter, candles, or cosmetics.  If a product has a petroleum base and a name that is clearly made up--such as Ocean Breeze or Home Made Apple Pie--I need to stay as far away from it as possible.  I first discovered this over twenty years ago when a woman walked into the office where I worked and offered to sell me knock-off versions of expensive perfumes and proceeded to spritz them all over the place.  She left without a sale as I instantly developed a massive headache that lasted the rest of the afternoon. 
My list of substances to avoid grew from there.  Wood smoke, treated lumber, paraffin candles, any kind of scented candles or room deodorizers, home cleaning products, paints and stains, body lotions, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and eventually, even the real brands of premium perfume. I now can't go to the mall, pet store, electronics store, furniture store, home improvement store or beauty shop without taking a Benadryl.  I need to stay out of the cleaning products, pet supplies, paint, tire, shoe, furniture, and home accents aisles in discount and department stores. 
As for seasonal items like the Christmas aisle with its scented pine cones and stuff?  Forget it.  Neither can I visit used book stores anymore, without succumbing to the smell of mold and must.
Recently, we uncovered water damage to a house we bought three months ago and have yet to move into.  My husband wants to strip the wallpaper, re-paint and re-carpet the house, then air it out before I move in.  The last house I moved into eight years ago was new.  I moved in early February and by mid-April was so sick I collapsed.  It took another two months to recover, once I discovered problem:  off gasses from the building materials such as my carpet, vinyl, and laminate flooring (didn't help that this was winter and my floors are heated), paint, kitchen counters and cabinetry.  I thought I was just getting older.  I did a lot of the move myself, moving one mile down the road from my previous house, one carload at a time.  Eventually I was sleeping all the time, but unable to get any rest.  My mind became so foggy I couldn't get much of anything right.  I recall my boss asking, "Liana, what is wrong with you?" 
A recovering perfectionist, I rarely made mistakes, and suddenly I was making them all the time.  I was sitting at my desk, staring dumbly at no doubt my latest mistake on the computer screen, and I remember telling her, speaking very slowly because it was hard to form the words in my mind, "I...don't...know...all I want...to do...is sleep."  I called the builder to ask if there could be a reason I was so tired and fuzzy-minded all the time, and he suggested it was because I had no curtains and was getting too much light in the house.  Turned out all I needed to do was open the windows.  My super energy efficient house was trapping all these off-gasses inside with me, and I was breathing them over and over and over again.  Within a week the house was cleared out, and I was on the road to recovery.
But yesterday I took a trip down memory lane.  Due to the water damage in our new home, my husband and I had to go door shopping.  We also had an appointment to speak with a kitchen designer for a remodeling project.  To price doors, we stopped at another builders supply store on the way.  The salesman was wearing such strong cologne I had to stand at least 15 feet away from him while he spoke with my husband.  As we left, I told my husband I suddenly had the urge to eat anything and everything in sight, which is something that happens when I get hormonal prior to my period.  The thing was, we had just eaten breakfast before leaving for the builders supply store, so I knew I wasn't hungry. 
It was a combination of the man's cologne and the smell of new building materials making me feel like I was starving.
We got to the second builders supply store, where we had the appointment.  Halfway through, my husband said, "Your face and neck are turning bright red."  The store was filled with carpet and flooring samples, tiles, and kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.  My husband left to get me a diet soda, which for some reason I have yet to discern, always cuts my reaction to various substances. When he returned, I took a Benadryl, which also helped to ease my symptoms somewhat.  But by the time we had been in the store an hour and a half, even with taking the Benadryl and drinking the diet soda--it has to be diet for this to work for me--my fingers started swelling and tingling.  By the time we left, my wrists were tingling.  It usually moves up my arm and into my shoulders if I don't take a Benadryl and/or remove myself from the situation.  But once it starts tingling, I know it will get painful very soon, as my insides will swell up and press on the meridian nerves in my arms.  I had this constantly when I was pregnant, so much so that nightly I would sit in my rocking chair with my big belly and cry from the sheer pain of it.
(Pop quiz. What happens when you are pregnant?  You are an estrogen factory.)
So we wrapped up that appointment and headed for the paint store, to get sample cards of the color we had chosen for the kitchen.  I was not in the store three minutes before I noticed I was firmly massaging my arms, something I do when my body gets stressed from chemical exposure and starts to hurt.  I didn't smell a thing, but then I don't need to smell anything before my body reacts.  I discovered this one night when leading a faith sharing group at a friend's house.  She knew I couldn't be around burning candles, but the moment I walked into her house, the words "Something's wrong" blurted out of my mouth.  No one heard me, and I took my regular seat on the floor in front of the couch, as due to back problems I cannot sit on soft furniture. I saw no candles in the room, but as the meeting progressed, my head started to spin and pound and first my hands, then arms, then whole body began to ache until the pain felt like it was deep in my bones and all I wanted to do was curl up in a fetal position and cry. 
If I hadn't been leading the meeting, I would have left.  Finally, I asked my hostess, "Are you sure you didn't burn any candles in here before we came tonight?" and she swore she hadn't.  I said, "Well something's wrong with me and I can't figure it out."  Did you do any special cleaning for the meeting?  "No," she said, "all I did was spray the couch with Febreeze." 
The same couch I had been sitting on the floor leaning up against all night.
My intuition knew something was wrong the moment I entered the room.  My mouth even blurted it out.  I didn't smell a thing, but my body reacted instantly and painfully.  To this day I cannot be anywhere near Febreeze.  I wince just watching the commercials, people spraying it all over their homes, laundry, and cars.
But back to our shopping trip.  After the kitchen design appointment, my husband stopped at two more building materials stores to check prices.  I did not go inside.  I was feeling a bit battered by then.  After he came out of the first store, instead of turning the car around and leaving, he made a circle by driving thorough the warehouse, where contractors pick up loads of lumber.  I groaned inside as the fan system in our air conditioned car pulled in the scent of all that treated lumber.  After we visited the second store, and then the paint store, I announced, "We're going to get something to eat.  Right now."  We went to a sub shop, and I wolfed that baby down so fast you would think I hadn't eaten in three days.  Thank God it wasn't our first date or my husband would have wondered about this woman who eats like a Doberman. 
As soon as I finished my sub, my husband says..."There she is.  My wife is back again."  During the appointment and shopping stops, I had become listless and withdrawn, my energy sapped.  I could barely focus on the choices they wanted me to make.  I just wanted to get out of there.  I had chosen that store because the woman and I had worked together before twice.  We hadn't seen each other in nine years though, and since then, I'd entered perimenopause.  She was tall and thin and stylishly dressed, while I was feeling fat and puffy, dim-witted and inadequate.  Afterward, I determined (in my building-materials-chemical buzzed mind) that I was a failure in life and wouldn't return to that store ever again because the differences between us threw into stark relief her success and my failures.
Hello?  I'm now descending into a full-blown case of PMDD.  My insecurities are rising, and my mind is starting to go irrational.  By now every word my husband speaks is starting to irritate me, so I withdraw even further into myself and look out the window and keep my mouth shut, because I know if I open it, I will explode with anger and resentment and he will get this shell shocked look on his face.  
We get home, and all I want to do is go to my computer, where behind the veil of the internet, I can answer questions about PMDD and help people to understand the disorder and feel like I am making a difference in someone's life.  I need this feeling in this moment to feel any sense of self-worth. 
This is how badly these building materials chemicals have distorted my thinking processes. 
Instead, I ask my husband if he wants to go for a walk.  Maybe the fresh air will clear my head and make me feel better, because by now I ache all over and just want to go to bed and curl up under the covers and cry. 
Instead, we pass a few lawns freshly treated with pesticide, and I come home feeling worse than ever.
The evening is a loss.  The only option for me is to take another Benadryl and go to bed. 
Where it turns out I cannot sleep, my mind is so agitated and upset.  I can't stop thinking about how insecure and inadequate I felt during my kitchen design appointment.  How overwhelmed I was by the whole process.  That is not me.  I have designed and built two houses and remodeled two others.  I can do this stuff in my sleep.  But inundated by the scent of building materials, I lost my self-confidence and sense of self-worth, and in essence brought on an episode of PMDD. 
If I hadn't turned red and my husband hadn't noticed it, I would never have known what happened. 
If this had happened years ago (and maybe it did, I've simply forgotten), I would never have known what happened.  Instead, I would have spent a few hours looking at building materials, chosen the cabinets, tile, flooring and paint for what promises to be a beautiful kitchen, and come home feeling overwhelmed, worthless, insecure, sad, angry, frustrated, combative, weepy, and ravenous, and never understood why.  That, in turn would have made me wonder if I was crazy.  Here I am, getting everything I want, and yet all I want to do is snap my husband's head off.  I want to lash out at him so badly I hurt from containing all my rage inside. 
Or so I think.  In reality, my body is being chemically disrupted by what are called xenoestrogens, and they are playing havoc with my hormones, and that is f*****g with my brain.
So the next time you're out shopping and come home feeling any of the above, or visit a friend's house who uses petroleum-based cleaning products, candles and/or air fresheners and come home feeling weird and moody--know that it is not you.  It is the chemicals in the air around you messing with your mood and mind.  They may also be making you feel physically miserable, which brings on that endless loop of negative thoughts we're all so familiar with, which in turn makes us feel sad and/or angry.
Look around you.  Look in your home.  Do you use these sorts of petroleum-based products?  Are you unknowingly making yourself sick?  Some women report that they feel like they are in the PMDD zone all of the time.  Sometimes this is due to perimenopause, but it could also be due to what you touch and breathe in all day.   Do you work in an auto parts store?  A furniture store where most of the items are made of particleboard? At the mall?  A lumber yard?  A kitchen and bath store?  An electronics store?  Do you clean houses for a living?  Are you a flight attendant?  Did you just move your office into a new building or remodel your home?  Are you a cashier and handle thermal paper receipts all day?
There are any number of options for how and where you can be exposed to these xenoestrogens that wreak havoc on your hormones.  Awareness is the key.
But most of all, when you start acting all funky and not like yourself at all...look around you for a possible reason.  Did you just buy tires and sit in the waiting room while they were put on?  THINK about this. Think about where you go and what you do.
I bet that suddenly a few things will start to make a lot more sense.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Voices of PMDD, A Partner's Perspective on Seeking Treatment

I have to start with thanking everyone for reading my last post. It was great to know that my post hit a chord with so many.
Liana asked me an interesting question – does my partner know she suffers from PMDD?
The simple answer is yes, but I think she subconsciously would prefer to forget that PMDD-driven events happen. One of my greatest struggles has been the lack of empathy received during and after PMDD episodes – just part of the PMDD zone, I guess.
How black have I been?
I wrote the following during one of our PMDD episodes:

Do I care anymore?
I don’t like being hurt, but it is also pointless being in a relationship where I don’t get what I need. This can only lead to frustration. I am being made to feel worthless every month. As I’ve been warned, that comes with a substantial mental health cost. There is only so much you can put up with, and I think I am there now.
So, plan from here? I’m an exhausted man. I’ll just avoid her, and give myself space to think about if I can handle things any more. There is no point trying to directly reconcile, as she will just want to fight.

One of the pieces of feedback I received from my prior post was asking what we had done to try and treat the PMDD. I couldn’t fit everything into my prior post, so I thought I’d cover it here.
My partner has found it challenging to seek clinical help – to do so requires her to speak to outsiders regarding the details of her moods etc., that she knows are challenging (you are making me shove pills down my throat/they are making me fat/you are making me tell strangers about how crazy I am).
I completely understand...and yet, I
definitely end up with a sense of hopelessness - if she had diabetes, there would be no doubt she'd be accepting of medical help. 
However, with my support and encouragement, we have certainly explored this space.
We first went down the SSRI route. I’ve no doubt this helped, but the side effects became frustrating for both of us.
We sought specialist assistance after that and some hormone type medications were prescribed, one of which was Cyproterone, but it was really a disaster. We only lasted a couple of months – the side effects were horrific. The most accurate description would be that she was in the PMDD zone for two solid months. It is almost impossible to describe how awful you end up feeling as a partner when she is constantly angry and you can't do anything right.  You end up suffering from sleep deprivation from wondering just what has gone so horribly wrong in your relationship. What makes it even worse is she has no ability to understand the impact her behavior is having on you - there is absolutely no empathy. 
I ended up as a burnt out mess.
Where are we today? We are retrying vitamin type supplements, as well as making diet changes. Caffeine seems to be a bit of a problem – one of the many tips we’ve picked up from the Rushing Woman’s Syndrome eBook, which describes the “biochemical and emotional effects of constantly being in a rush, and the health consequences that urgency elicits.ˮ
So things are quite calm at the moment – and my own blackness has gone. Until the next time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Voices of PMDD, A Guest Post by Alice

I have a demon living in my head, and it is a part of me. There are two of me existing in the same space. We share the same face, the same experiences and the same memories, yet one half of me is a rational and pleasant person to be around, and the other is living a crazy, illogical and chaotic existence. 
The sensible and sane version of me feels weak and small, and powerless to resist the overwhelming and destructive demon that can only be caged for 10 days of the month.
I have a fear that builds within me on day 8 of my cycle. I sit and wait for the demon to come crawling into my headspace and start making a mockery of me. The moment I open my eyes of day 10, the paranoia starts rumbling in my solar plexus. It starts as a vibration, then rumbles into a deep thunder roll, before bringing a brain fog down over my eyes. My ears are open, but I cannot hear. My eyes are open, but I am blind. My hands are strong, but my body is weak.  I am aware of this happening to me, but I have been removed from my body and I am watching myself from above. I am screaming at myself to stop, breathe and take heed, but I cannot make myself hear. I begin to live the next two and a half weeks behind a think pane of frosted glass. I see and hear the evil bubbling up in my throat, ready to come blurting out. Some days I can gather my strength and control the demon and suppress it, but others I am overpowered and subdued.
When the demon is released, I feel it creeping out the crown of my head. I feel a cold, slimy gel like substance slide down over my face. My eyes get heavy. The muscles in my face drop, and feel sad. The corners of my mouth droop, and the tone is lost in my neck. My eyelids are heavy and downcast, and my soul retreats. My shoulders slump, and I become a hunched shell of a woman. My breathing slows and my abdomen tenses and flops at the same time. My legs are heavy and my shoes feel like they have lead soles.
Then the anger sets it. The demon steps into my shoes and grows tall. It stretches its limbs and cracks its knuckles ready for battle. It starts to look for a fight. The anger simmers in my chest, using my heart as a power source. I feel it spreading out. A burning rage runs through my veins. A chemical fuelled fire that burns so hot. I am now in the cage. I cannot get free. I watch this demon take over my body. I scream, shout, and destroy everyone and everything around me. I hit myself and slap my face. I scratch myself and tell myself I am stupid, pathetic and don’t deserve to exist. I am evil and utterly disgusting. I hate myself. I am a vile creature, not worthy of love, not worthy of being called a person, not worthy of life. I wish that I had the courage to end it all, but I don’t really want to die. I just want to be free.
I collapse in a heap, exhausted. My life is in tatters around me. I have told my husband to leave and have cried and begged for forgiveness. I want him to touch me and then I want him to hurt me and then I want to be alone.
The next day finally arrives and I am so exhausted I cannot move. The demon is sleeping. For now. I hurt. Every muscle and joint in my body is excruciating. My pelvis is mobile and I can feel each bone grinding. Every step is an effort. I cannot think how I will make it through the day. I force myself out of bed because if I don’t I never will. I feel like my back will split open and my hips will fall out of their sockets.
I am riddled with guilt.  I hate myself and am filled is embarrassment and disgrace. I have humiliated myself and all of those around me by seeking to destroy every relationship that is there to protect me. I have spat in the face of love and kicked it when it was down. I deserve to be in the gutter. I did not deserve to wake up today. Everyone would be better off if I had never opened my eyes again. The demon would be dead. I would be gone from everyone’s life. Their suffering would be over. My pain would end. I no longer have the strength to think about this anymore, so I allow the brain fog to be my shield.
I spend the day trying to apologise, but each time I do it becomes less and less valid and more meaningless. I am a liability. I cannot be relied upon to be stable. I scared my husband, my one true love. I made a mockery of our marriage.
Then the cravings start. I have to have food! I don’t care what food, but it must be now and it must be good. The pain in my stomach is unbearable. It feels like I haven’t eaten for a month. I could cut off my arm and eat it. I need sugar. I need carbs. I need starchy and stodgy food. Give it to me now or I will kill you!
I know I should do the washing up, clean the bathroom, vacuum the house, wash my hair, brush my teeth and change my underwear. But I do not care. I cannot move off the sofa. I will do it another day. I will do it later. Anything but do it now.  I try to overcome this lethargy by writing a list, but I get distracted, I get tired, I get frustrated. I panic. I freeze. I cannot breathe. My heart will explode. I am going to die if I do not hide under the blanket and suck my thumb.
I go to bed. The tears roll down my face. They are warm and soothing. The demon runs over me and claims me for its own. The sobbing is uncontrollable but feels so good. I sleep.
I wait for my period to come. I wait for the release. The flow of blood that drains my anger, drains my anxiety, my despair and my hatred from my body. I am cleansed. I am released from my cage.  The walls of my cage are stripped away as my womb cries with relief. I can breathe fresh air. I can feel the touch of my husband. I can laugh again.
The demon is a hot, fierce animal that lives within me. Only it is me. I am the demon. My greatest fear is that this will always be a part of me. I fear that I will fight this demon until I take my last breath. I fear that it will take away everything that is precious to me and leave me a shadow of the woman I could be. I will not let it win. I cannot let it win. This is not who I was born to be. I can be great, I can be wonderful, I can be beautiful.
I have PMDD, it does not have me. I am beautiful. One day I will believe this.