Hello and Welcome!!

~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
The Voices of PMDD series continues, moving into fall with posts about positive things people with PMDD can do to strengthen our relationships with our loved ones. We are all hurting, and if any of 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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2014


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.



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.