Monday, January 21, 2013

A Face of PMS/PMDD

First, a little weekend update.... Then I'll get into the meat of this post.

Due to hour cuts at work I spent all day Friday working for my Dad. I kept busy trying to provide some organization to his chaotic mess of a filing system. I also cleaned. Seriously..I MOPPED FLOORS. I don't do that at work. Janitorial work is not even close to anything on my resume. I'm pretty sure I used a bit much floor cleaner because the smell of pine started to go to my head. After working, I went to my cousin's and worked out with her (I brought Turbofire).  By the time I got home, I was too tired to post.

I actually accomplished what I wanted to this weekend; or most of it. On Saturday I painted my bathroom; which meant I washed all the walls and then started painting. I didn't finish it and quite frankly I'm a bit too afraid to tackle the ceiling on my own. I'm messy.  I'll need back-up to ensure that it's not a huge disaster. The walls were enough... There's paint all over. If I try my hand at the ceiling, I'll mess up the walls and will enter into a vicious cycle of painting and re-paining.  I think I'd do better in a larger room.... My bathroom is just not big enough. I also did a little laundry and cleaning, and went to my friend's wine tasting during the evening. I'd have probably finished the bathroom (minus the ceiling) but had to get over to her house for that (oh darn! haha!).

Yesterday I managed to put together a bookshelf, cleaned a little bit of stuff out of my kitchen cabinets, and decorated the shelf. It's become my little "bar" area.  I used my wine glasses as decorations on the shelves (along with pictures and a few candles). The bottom is full of various bottles of wine and such. The shelf is not perfect and I know I screwed up in a couple places, but it's sturdy and standing. I'm pretty proud of my accomplishment. If only my painting skills were "that good." That was about all I did... Other than be a slave to PMS/PMDD - tired, various pains, light headed episodes (probably due to anemia because someone's not been good about taking her vitamin lately), crazy appetite/binge eating, oh yes...It was a day. How I accomplished anything, I do not know!

I know I've written before about experiencing PMS/PMDD but I don't think I've ever really gotten very in depth with it. I'm honestly not even sure I'll post this when I finish. I hope that I will because I think it's important to let other women know that they're not alone in their struggle. It's very easy to make some things public and very hard to make other things public. No one wants to write about the "bad" things about themselves...Not in all that much detail anyway. I've made general statements that it turns me into a "crazy person" but what does that really mean?

From judging on what I've read I'm 99% certain I have PMDD. I have all the PMS symptoms, but at times (most months) it interferes with my daily life... That's one huge difference between PMDD and PMS. PMDD has severe impact on a person's daily life - work, relationships, well-being, whatever area it may be for them, that month. That happens to me. I've never been officially diagnosed, but that's because I've never brought it up with my doctor. For the purposes of this post, I'll be referring to it as PMS/PMDD just because I have not had an actual diagnosis...and I could be wrong. Maybe I'm interpreting the symptoms as being worse than they are.
I'm going to write a personal account of what I go through more months than not. I write with hesitation because I'm afraid that someone will read this who doesn't understand it and will not take time to understand, or at least learn about, it. There's such a stigma surrounding anything that could be deemed a mental health issue, as this is. Being a professional in the mental health field sometimes makes those things more difficult to accept (within ourselves). 

I don't agree that this should be labeled a mental disorder. I feel that, although there are mental characteristics, it's more of a physical disorder. A change in hormone levels is responsible. It only happens once a month, and sometimes it's mild.  There are just as many physical symptoms as there are mental symptoms. Yet, PMDD is viewed as a mental disorder. I highly doubt that a mental disorder will cause certain physical ailments that accompany PMDD.  Severe cramps? That's all my uterus, thanks. PMDD is classified as "depressive disorder, not otherwise specified."  I get that PMDD and Major Depression have a lot of common features but PMDD is due to hormonal changes.... I'm as angry and irrational as much as I suffer from fluid retention and cramps. Maybe it's because I don't want that stigma attached to me, but I just don't agree with it being classified as a mental illness.

PMDD is awful. I cannot imagine how people who really do have Major Depression get through life. Medication, perhaps? Support? Counseling? All of the above? I couldn't imagine getting through it without anything.  Just a small glimpse of how it can really effect a life makes me feel for people who make it - on a more personal level. I deal with the craziness for a matter of days and I want to close myself off from the world - mostly to spare others from me!

Actually, it's only at certain moments. My mood swings are so major that I'm totally fine one minute and then one person pissing me off can totally change my mood - toward them. I can be angry at one person but totally normal with someone else. Unless it's directed at someone, I usually keep my emotions to myself.  Usually my anger comes out when I'm provoked; in even the slightest way. Sometimes it only takes a look or one phrase and I'm angry.  An hour later I could be crying about it. Most people I'm totally fine with, but when someone gets under my skin, that's it.

I do feel bad about it later. I hate being hurtful and I know I can be. Sometimes I honestly can only describe myself as wicked. I have a mean streak and when I get mad, I'm mad. If someone upsets me, it's like I want to make them even more upset. Yeah, that makes me sound crazy...Huh? It's completely irrational and illogical. I feel out of control and like I'm not even myself.  When the way I've behaved catches up with me I feel horrible; like the worst person ever.

I'm much more sensitive; particularly to rejection. If I feel unimportant to someone or don't get the attention from them that I feel I deserve, I get angry. And I don't hesitate to let them know it. Sometimes instead of expressing my feelings in a normal, healthy way, I pick fights or start "drama." I push buttons. It's kind of like "oh, you made me feel like crap... Guess what, now you can feel bad too." Sadly when I do this it's to people I care about. The good thing is that those are the people who really love me. They understand when I'm acting like a child. They know that's not the real me. They do their best to handle it. I cannot count the number of times I've been a complete brat to my parents (was much worse when I was a teen). But they're my parents... No matter how bratty and awful I acted, they still loved me. They never walked away from me. After everything would blow up, and I'd feel bad about it, I'd cry and apologize. They were always there to wipe away the tears and comfort me, even though I'd just been completely rotten toward them. That's unconditional love.

Man...I was such a hormonal girl! I'm sure I was worse back then, which makes me feel that my parents could possibly qualify for Sainthood just for putting up with my crap.

Now that I'm an adult it's not as easy finding that kind of love. Friends don't have to be your friends. I guess parents don't have to be parents either, but I'm lucky to have great parents and I don't need to worry about that. Take relationships for example... With irrational behavior many guys would say, "you're crazy" and walk away.  In my opinion if someone is like that, then he probably wasn't willing to learn and understand it anyway. That's not unconditional love.

Unconditional love will come from the person who stands by you no matter what. Even if they have to drag you to the doctor, help you find a support group, or anything else... They'll show love because they'll want to help you. You can yell, scream, and in your eyes they cannot do anything right, but they won't leave. They might back off and give you space (which sometimes fuels my fire more than anything else - I cannot stand being ignored). This often contributes to my feelings of anxiety. Sometimes I am more anxious before anything happens because I'm so afraid that something bad will happen (like someone leaving me).

Sometimes you can be downright awful to this person and no matter what, they stay. They do everything right and deal with you getting through it, and when you're ready to cry and apologize, they're there. I honestly believe that when you find someone who can handle all of your crazy crap (within reason; don't stay with someone who beats you up, cheats, and treats you badly all the time) and still be there at the end of the day... That's it. That's one way of them showing that their love for you is real.

Some of it is maturity, too...I think. A guy who isn't as mature will fight back, get angry with you, stop talking to you, and not even bother to take the time to understand what you're going through. Or maybe his unwillingness to learn about it, and support you just shows that it isn't real love.  If does walk away during those dark times, you might feel angry at first. Later on though, the realization that not only did he leave, but he didn't really love you (enough?) to learn about what you deal with, will sink in... And then not only will you be dealing with PMS/PMDD emotions, you'll be dealing with emotions because you've seen that you never really meant what you thought you did to someone else. 

PMS/PMDD + heartbreak? Watch out world!!!

Those good people though... Your family, your friends and significant others who love you enough to stay through it all - be thankful for them.  It takes someone who really loves you to understand that sometimes you're consumed by something that makes you behave differently. They wait for it to pass and they love you anyway. They stand by your side. And frequently those friends are so amazing and supportive that they'll do whatever they can to understand why you're so angry at whomever did whatever to make you that way. They'll support you. They might tell you that you're acting crazy; maybe not right away but maybe when it's safe.  No matter what though, they're there for you.

Those people are the ones who keep me going when I'm in a horrible mood. Sometimes I just have to think about a hug from one of them, or someone's smiling face, and I feel better. And at the end of the day, I know that I'd stand by them through all of their craziness (whatever that may be) too. When you love people, you love them... All of them; their flaws as well as the good things about them. You love them enough to work through whatever it is that's causing difficulties.

I feel so lucky and happy that I have people in my life who love me, no matter what. I can't imagine my life without those people!!

And that's only part of (my) PMS/PMDD...

I'm not only angry and depressed but I can become very selfish. And if things don't go my way, or I feel rejected or ignored then the anger intensifies. When I say anger, I mean that I say mean things... That's mostly how my anger comes out. Sometimes it overwhelms me and I cry.  I'm not a violent person... I don't show anger by lashing out physically. My words are nasty enough.

Then I feel bad and I cry. Sometimes I feel alone (and don't reach out because I WANT to be alone). I don't care about what is happening around me (hello, depression). It's funny because as nasty as I am to other people, I'm hypersensitive and my feelings get hurt very easily.

Then there's the binge eating which is two-fold... One, I binge eat because of emotions or even for what appears to be no reason at all (boredom?).  And second, I eat a lot because I am physically hungry. Sometimes it's like I am so ravenous that I cannot get full. I actually have an increased appetite and feel hunger.

I'd say that covers the emotional part of it, which is probably the biggest problem for me.

As far as the physical symptoms... I feel tired. Totally run-down. My motivation is gone (partly emotional too). I retain water horribly. One month I gained ten pounds- of water weight. FYI, the scale can really mess me up during this time because a "gain" will make me feel worse when I'm sensitive. Then there are things like headaches, body aches and pains, cramps, and breast tenderness and swelling. Sometimes I feel really light-headed but this may be related more to my anemia (and forgetting to take my vitamin). I also have insomnia. I am either up a lot during the night or can't fall asleep. Sometimes it's both. At times it doesn't seem like my body wants or needs the sleep - I can function normally, for a while anyway. Eventually it catches up with me and the fatigue sets in.

PMDD is, to me, best described as the wicked older sister of PMS.  The symptoms are worse; more intense and persistent. It will interfere with your daily life.  

I'm a nice person; generally happy, positive, and loving. I work hard, I'm dedicated and motivated, I'm successful... Then once a month this demon creeps in and takes over my brain (or so it seems). I can be okay, normal, with some people and not with others. I try hard to fight it but there's a loss of control there and sometimes I just can't stop it. I'd probably be better off with a prescription or Xanax or something to help chill me out but I haven't come out and asked for one yet. I don't want to have to take it.

I try to control it on my own. I try to watch for symptoms and manage them. I even warn people about what might come. It is not something that's easily controlled, but I try. So hard. Sometimes it's like fighting it. I have to find my inner strength and do what I can.  Sometimes I make it through parts. I feel really successful when I complete a workout or have a healthy (and/or binge-free) day of eating. There are days I have to push really hard to do it, but I do. I have to take it one day at a time and focus on small successes.  I think it's important to do that... Celebrate your successes, no matter how small (in anything really).  I think that it's helpful to work on modifying your own behavior. I'm aware of mine and at times I can control it but at other times I can't.

PMDD Quiz - This is just a quiz to review symptoms that MIGHT be PMDD. The best thing to do is to take the quiz and share the results with your physician. Talk to him or her about it more in-depth. If your physician is unfamiliar with it, seek out a professional who is - another doctor, a therapist.

PMDD Symptom Tracker - Sharing something like this with your physician would also be beneficial. Then they can see the patterns in your symptoms, as well as how significant they are. I've read it's best to track symptoms (daily; not just when they're worse) for three months.

Most days of the month my symptoms would be "none" or "mild" at most.

That's my story. I'm one of many people who experience some kind of monthly hormonal changes. Some people have PMS and some have PMDD.  PMDD is more severe than PMS, but PMS isn't something to blow off.  There are jokes about it and sometimes if a woman is a little crankier than normal people are quick to say "it must be PMS. PMS/PMDD is really not something to joke about. It's something significant to those of us who live with it.

Have a good Monday... I'm determined to make mine good!

XOXO

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