In 1989, I woke up hemorrhaging. I was 17 weeks pregnant.
In 1991, I gave birth to an almost 9lb baby. He's now a healthy 6 foot 6 almost 25 year old. Joseph.
In 1993, I gave birth to another baby with a rare chromosome disorder. Donovan.
In 1997, I had surgery to remove a 6lb Tumor. Growth from the emergency c-section from Donovan's birth.
It was a few years after all of the above that my PMS transformed into a PMDD diagnosis in a 6 months study at the University of Pennsylvania
What IS PMDD?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS but are severe enough to interfere with work, social activities, and relationships.
How Common Is PMDD?
PMDD occurs in 2% to 10% of menstruating women.
Mood: mood swings, sadness, anger, anxiety, hopelessness, or panic attack
Sleep: excess sleepiness or insomnia
Behavioral: irritability or crying
Also common: bloating, change in appetite, depression, diminished interest in usual activities, economic or social dysfunction due to symptoms, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, food craving, headache, increased sensitivity to rejection, lack of concentration, muscle aches, self-critical thoughts, water retention, or weight gain
By Day 21, I became easily sad, weepy, irritated, depressed and angry. It did not take much.
For 8 hours prior to my period -I felt an incredible euphoria.
Once I did get my period-I felt like myself again...but only for the next 14 days.
Clock work. Month after month. Year after year. If nothing else, the consistency of my cycle has been remarkable.
I needed him to know my mood swings had absolutely nothing to do with him. Therefore, I needed to have open conversations with him. As a divorced mother alone with a young impressionable boy, I wanted him to be free from my supposed "mental disorder." It seemed very critical because at such a young age, he already experienced his brother's death, and his parents divorce. The last thing I needed in my life was this diagnosis. It was most inconvenient.
The 50/50 -7 days with Dad, 7 Days with Mom-was perfect from this perspective.
When you are diagnosed with a mental disorder you can't help but not want it to land on your own child. No one ever understood that. People just judge you sometimes, and that is all.
It may not have been possible for him to have these imbalances from a biological standpoint, however, my behavior and way of being and handling moments would stay with him his entire life.
Sort of like those humans who grow up with their parents who have never had a drink but they grew up with parent's who were "Dry Drunks." There is sobriety, and then there is just not drinking. Sobriety requires continuous growth. Just not drinking isn't really sobriety-the behaviors remain the same and a child experiences these things. The impact is there, regardless. I saw my disorder in a similar way. I felt very responsible, yet alone. I knew no one in my 2 to 10%. Support just wasn't there at the time.
My theory was this: I had the power to create changes in my own mind body and spirit the best I could with the information that I had at any given time. I was very driven by self-improvement. Yet, self-improvement in this area did not come easy for me
I'm not really one of those people who needs everybody to be miserable because she's miserable. In fact, I much prefer to go into my moon lodge and if I know I'm out of alignment within my own mental capacity to handle certain personalities that had a tendency to challenge me, I would decline invitations where and when I could just to not contaminate others.
I don't like to contaminate people with my yuck. But life work and relationships don't stop just because your hormonally challenged.
And it almost feels impossible to spend 14 days every month trying so hard to do the best you can...
Maybe not both weeks but most definitely one week a month to a few days and because the world does not stop just because you have this going on. People weren't very helpful or understanding. No one gave a shit, really.
Inside of the rising of women becoming more forceful and masculine in the working world. This was the time when PMS was considered bullshit, an excuse and unacceptable figment of a woman's imagination. Unfortunately, mostly by other women. There was a lot of shame laid upon us hormonally challenged women who used our hormones as excuses. You know, we were holding women back somehow. Suck it up, put your big girl panties on, stick a tampon in and get your ass to work. That didn't help me at all. Not really
Being diagnosed with something that only 2 to 10% of the female population is diagnosed with makes you feel quite frankly, like an alien. Alone. I felt very alone a few weeks a month...every month...year after year.
It usually felt a little softer when men didn't understand. But wowza....did it ever feel like a total betrayal whenever a woman said to me "It's all in your head."
IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Yes a mental disorder would be located in the brain -thank you for reminding me of something that happens to me every month like clockwork. Now that you've gifted me with your incredible wisdom....
....let me take the time to share with you everything that I've done, tried and put myself through just to help myself get better. As the 6 month study was only the beginning. Let me also share how I will go above and beyond and try my very best to stay away from you when day 21 arrives because I don't want to argue, fight, cry -or contaminate you. But you probably won't believe me or even listen when I try to tell you my truth.
This way...when you tell me "it's all in my head" The judgement that you're throwing at me will be replaced by empathy, information, education and most of all compassion.
In addition to this, because I'm so kind hearted, upbeat and positive, your biggest cheerleader...when day 21 rolls around-chances are great you will feel something is off with me.
Even if it's a subtle energy.
You will feel that and ask me what's wrong. If we are close, I've probably already taken the time to educate you on my condition, disorder, illness or whatever you want to call it. So I will just say, nothing is wrong I am just PMSing.
It's really not that bad for you, not by a long shot. In fact, all you have to do is be cool when I share my boundaries or even just leave me be and all is well. You have the liberty, the freedom and the right to walk away from me. I don't have that luxury. What's "all in my head," remains in my head no matter what you do.
But you know, when people do not have, believe or know anything about this, no matter how much you try your best to educate someone on the reality that lives in you...people could really care less.
That's just how it was in the 90's.
We women were not supposed to talk about it. There was so much shame around the topic of hormonal imbalances in general, let alone PMDD. To this very day, hardly anyone even knows what the hell PMDD even is, they have never heard of it before. It's that 2 to 10% thing
In our culture, I have a mental illness
In other cultures, what I have is an opportunity to embrace and have reverence for my own nature.
You see how this works?
I needed these other things too:
TO Give myself permission to rest
TO Give myself permission to grieve
TO Give myself permission to be fully me
TO Allow the wisdom and nourishment of my cycle to guide me instead of trying to block it, change it, medicate it or listen to those who really had absolutely no clue what the hell they were talking about.
And one more very important thing
I'm in mid-life now..I'm beginning to feel small shifts and there is deeper more intense fatigue now.
Now, I just allow my body to be where it is. I honor it instead of trying to fit into life as others need it to be...I create my life to match me and my truth. This has made a profound difference. I still feel the PMDD and I really do need a few days a month with a lighter schedule. I give this to myself now and I'm happy about that. And by doing so, I've somehow managed to be able to exist in "the real world."
Turns out, men actually are perfectly capable of handling PMS and they are completely capable of remembering and honoring me in ways I would have never dreamed of and wouldn't have known.. had I stayed in my marriage.
I have men in my life now who are so present to me, if I am off even slightly in my responses or shares..they will gently ask me where I am in my cycle. These men have big fancy jobs, full lives and everything else, what's different about them is: Their relationship to what it means to be connected to people.
The first time this happened, I cried. I cried because I was so happy that I was being seen, heard and known in this way. That there was....room for me too.
I understand how very dramatic that all sounds... but remember...2 to 10% of us..have this. It is dramatic in that 21-28 day time frame. Any weird or twisted fear can come flying to the surface and completely disappear once you bleed. It's wild, I know. I get how weird this all sounds but that's how it's been....
This was happening to me a lot. I was being confronted consistently regarding just how neurotic I had become in worrying so much about how my mood was going to be the cause of pain for others.
I was walking around with this big worry on my shoulders, sharing as much as I could about how bad it is to be around me when I am in day 21- day 28.
Men are actually seriously cool and totally great.
When you need to be alone or need several minutes alone because that's just what you need...these guys are more than happy to honor that. And I have to say, leave me alone when I need to be left alone..and my kindness replenishes very quickly and all of a sudden I feel all warm and fuzzy and my desire shifts. Suddenly, I'm ready to connect.
I really wish I could have handled some things better but I really couldn't. And most of this is my internal dialogue vs how I treated them.
As an example: When I need alone time or silence, I am doing that to be able to get my kindness back in alignment. My mother-in-law was such a generous woman. She was also very much alive and vocal from the moment she opened her eyes until the moment her head reached the pillow. Her whole desire was to give and serve and give more. And she just wanted to talk. But I needed what I needed.
One time, I went to hide in the basement because I just needed a moment alone. She came down and jokingly said "Don't be anti-social." What she wanted was connection with me. She was loving...But her words hurt me because I was actually trying to catch my breath so that I could be social in kindness. This is the same woman who took excellent care of me when I went to the dentist. She also made me home made mashed potatoes too! I really loved her. I just needed to be alone at times.
When my husband and I got married, as we were planning the date to Jamaica, I begged him for a date change. I explained I didn't want to be in day 21-28. I shared the benefit of going on a trip with me on other days.
I can't ever ask anyone who gets married to plan their wedding around my cycle, that would be totally weird....but this was my wedding. It felt right and it was really important to me on so many levels. I wanted to be at my absolute optimal body, mind and spirit.
But my husband was not willing to change the date, he wasn't willing to postpone the trip or work with me. He wouldn't do it and he had about 5 logical, rational and practical reasons that he saw as more important than something like my hormones. There is a side of me that is very logical, rational and practical as well, but this felt really strange.
The day of our wedding, I was at the height of my PMDD. It was day 27. I'm telling you, the struggle was real. I couldn't shake it. The whole day I felt ugly on the inside because I couldn't find my joy, I couldn't find my kindness, it wasn't there. I was very tired. I felt sad and I felt guilty for feeling sad. I felt angry that he couldn't wait, just a week later. That he needed what he needed with no regard for what would make me feel so good.
Most of all I felt angry at myself for what I was about to to. But somewhere in the day, I looked at him and I just felt love. I was there, we were getting married and I felt love. An overwhelming sense of joy. I woke up the next day...with my period.
In this regard, it seems fair to say -all is fair in love and war. When you know this and you say "I do" anyway... You are forced to take responsibility and swallow a very bitter pill. I'm not a big fan of "should have," but sometimes it does feel right. And in this case it does feel right to say, my feeling good in my own skin on my wedding day should have mattered. It should have mattered to ME.
And in very real ways, my husband was good to me in other places. He was very good to me in other places. Our connection wasn't really black/white....good/bad...it was more like a swirling of marble. All of it.
That was over a decade ago. My life is so very different now. I am so very different now. My mental disorder/illness/condition-no longer feels like a disorder or illness. What it feels like is a natural guidance system telling me when to slow down, when to honor myself and how to honor myself all month long so when day 21 does come (as old as I am, my system is still running like clock work) I can flow through it.
It's deeper and stronger somehow. The change is more intense for a day or two, but yet, somehow softer. I've become a little more elegant about it. I like this. I like this mid-life thing very much.
The more I allow the laws of my own nature to breath...the less I feel like I have a hormonally charged "mental illness."
While it's unfortunate that I didn't learn this all sooner...That's the way it goes sometimes.
It's incredible what being 5000 miles away and 15 months out of a marriage can do in terms of self discovery. It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows, although here in Hawaii it really is all sunshine and rainbows...
the real work in creating my life as I want it, has had a lot of detours, twists and turns in it. I'm learning so much about myself in the oddest spaces and places.
Mostly, on this topic. Do I have PMDD or was I just living against my own nature?