Tuesday, March 1, 2011

warning: TMI ahead

This post might be considered a little TMI (too much information), so if you are fainthearted, you might want to stop now.  Let me clue you in to the topic...hormones.  Yep...if you are a male reading this, you might just want to run screaming now; and it's okay if you do...I understand.  In fact, I want to run, screaming from myself!

Which is why I think it might actually be important and helpful to some of you if I share the struggle I find myself in.  I originally thought that I shouldn't do a post about this, because in my struggle, I have yet to really find a solution, and so I thought it might be premature to talk about it.  But then last night, in a book I was reading (on a completely unrelated subject), the author addressed writing on a topic that you have yet to master.  He said "I've come to realize there's a certain advantage to writing as a fellow pilgrim instead of as a master....I've had enough experience to know its profound significance...Yet I'm still enough of a novice to fully appreciate the formidable challenges...".  And so, though I don't really have a lot of answers yet, I've decided to share with you what I am learning about PMDD (PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).  I may have actually posted about this a few years ago (I can't really remember) when I first learned of this condition and began to wonder if I had it.  If so, I apologize for repeating myself.  :)

PMDD is sort of like PMS in overdrive.  The symptoms are pretty much the same, but to a much increased intensity.  One source described it as "the difference between having a headache and a full-blown migraine". You can find lots of information about PMDD online and in books, but here is a pretty comprehensive list of diagnostic criteria - symptoms that, if you have at least 5 or more of these during most of your cycles throughout the course of a year, that can indicate PMDD:

1.  Markedly Depressed Mood
2.  Marked Anxiety or Tension
3.  Marked Affective Lability (split-second shifts in mood/emotions; i.e. laughing one minute, crying the next)
4.  Persistent and Marked Anger or Increased Interpersonal Conflicts
5.  Decreased Interest in Usual Activities
6.  Subjective Sense of Difficulty in Concentrating
7.  Lethargy, Fatigue, Marked Lack of Energy
8.  Marked Change in Appetite, Overeating or Food Cravings
9.  Hypersomnia or Insomnia
10.  A Subjective Sense of Feeling Overwhelmed or Out of Control
11.  Physical Symptoms, such as breast tenderness or swelling, headaches, joint or muscle pain, bloating and weight gain.
I would say that I consistently experience at least 9 of them.  I have found that on my worst days of PMDD, the symptoms are enough to keep me from being able to function at all, and feeling like I am completely out of control of myself.  The emotional and physical rollercoaster makes me want to find a dark cave somewhere and just go to sleep til it passes.  And ironically, therein lies the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, for me.  At least I know that it WILL pass.  This is another sure sign (and a positive one!) that this struggle is PMDD (and not something like regular depresssion) - the symptoms DO go away...almost immediately for me when good 'ol "Aunt Flo" arrives.  Within, literally, the first 24 hours (usually) I feel like a different person.  A much better, more likeable, SANE person!

The symptoms that seem to completely overtake me are, in my opinion, fairly uncharacteristic for me.  Some, for example, are that I feel completely unsocial, and want to hide from all people, friends and family alike.  (And frankly, they want to hide from me too!!)  I take offense at almost everything, even though part of me screams to myself "You are being completely irrational!!"  I am extremely lethargic, barely able to make myself function - as in, get dressed, and care for my family.  (Not that I don't have a lazy day now and then, but overall, I think I'm pretty much of a go-getter.)  I often have headaches and/or intense back pain, among other physical symptoms, including weight gain.  I feel like it takes every ounce of my energy just to 'hold it together'. 

And for the most part, I have tried not to talk about it, because I feel like a whiny baby if/when I do.  Overall, I am very healthy, as is my family (with the exception of the viruses we've battled this winter!), and I am blessed with a generally wonderful life.  Truly, in the grand scheme of things, what is one week per month, right?  Well, actually one week a month is about 1/4 of your life!  And it's a very intense quarter that I don't want to spend doing stupid, or even destructive things.  (Gone unchecked, I can say some really hurtful things during this one week; and it's not fun spending the next three cleaning up the fallout.) And until someone mentioned it to me, (thanks Auntie Linda!) I had never heard of such a thing.  PMS, yes...but that to me always meant a few days of being a little crankier...not a full blown rage boiling below the surface, and erupting for no apparent reason.  Yeah, there's definitely a difference.  And so, if it helps someone to know the craziness I'm dealing with, then great.  I'm struggling with it anyway, why not help someone else out if I can, right?  :)

And so, I've begun searching with earnest how to deal with this.  Realizing, this too, is something I need to be intentional about.  There are things I can do to ease this condition, but it requires knowledge and effort.  Research AND action.  I actually did look into it some a few years ago when I noticed the intensity I was experiencing.  I found it could be helped somewhat by changes in diet, and things like getting consistent exercise.  For a while I was very conscious of those things, and I really felt it did improve.  But then, after a while, I slowly started to forget about those things, and just fell back to my old ways.  I need to return to cutting back on caffeine, avoiding lots of refined sugars, faithfully taking vitamins, including B's and Omega 3's.  I truly believe all those things (oh, and don't forget exercise...ugh) really did help bring the symptoms to a manageable level for me.  (Certainly, for others this condition is so severe that actual medical treatment is really necessary.  And available!  So if this is you, please, don't just write it off, like I have for so long, and seek some help!!)  And so, I'm committing to re-doubling my efforts to get this thing under control.  And, at the risk of sounding like a whiny baby...sharing my journey with you. 

Sorry if it's TMI.  :)


Anonymous said...

Jess...I read this just before getting Sophia ready for school. Not that I struggle with the same, but for me....peri-menopausal, severe hot flashes(day and night), depression, clotting periods etc. My midwife last year suggested homeopathic remedy....silent, relaxing quiet time-15min./day(a discipline for me), 30min./day excercise, 15-20lb weight loss, healthy/organic eating....and guess what. 10months of absolutely NO symptoms. NOt saying that will help with PMDD as I have 2 friends with it...but it does help a bit. You're in my prayers!-kate

Zoanna said...

Wow. We're very much alike. I could say that I had all 11. But I think some of it is unresolved issues that are only HEIGHTENED and magnified (intensified is the best word) during certain time. I'm hoping my surgery helps some, but we'll see.

One thing that really helps is getting out in the SUN. Just 15 minutes of Vitamin D soaking into the skin has a calming effect. NOt that this winter offered too many 15 minute sunny warmth, but now that it's spring, it's certainly time to do that. Housebound with Stuffy air=bad mood for me. Ironically I don't WANT to do what's good for me when I'm in 'that' PMDD frame of mind, so it's really a matter of crying out for grace, "God, make me want to be wise--to get sunshine, to get alone, to shut my mouth, to take a hot bath, to read Psalms--something, anything!" and He is faithful. It's not a formula, but it is a helpful grace to say, "Lord, I'm out of control. Please, I beg You, come to me and be my balm."