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Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD, (no, it's not PMS!) is best defined as a hormonal sensitivity that causes intense, often life-disabling mental and physical symptoms every month in women with the condition. Learn more at the Gia Allemand Foundation.
So you suspect or maybe even your doctor has diagnosed you with PMDD. Now what? Sure it is a relief to know you aren't crazy. You don't behave the way you do just to make other people or yourself miserable. There really is something going on on a biochemical level that can't be helped.
Well...can't be helped much. But there are some things you can do. It won't be easy. It won't happen over night or even in a year. But there will be marked improvements with consistent effort if measured realistically.
I recently saw a meme on Facebook for the acronym MEDS: meditation,
exercise, diet, and sleep. It sounds so simple. It sounds ridiculous, too, when you have dropped to the kitchen floor from pure exhaustion and can't stop crying for no reason while your thoughts turn to detestation of everything you loved five seconds ago. But just hang with me while I explain just how truly powerful this can be, because each of these all weigh in so heavily on how we feel.
In the first place, there is no question that stress compounds everything we go through, so stress management is essential, creating supportive environments in all aspects of life as much as is possible. MEDS can help us do that.
And in the second place, each of the aspects of MEDS can be tailored to the individual, so there's no reason to believe you won't be able to create a combination that is supportive for you...not someone else...you!
With each passing cycle, our minds go whack, so we have to learn tools and practice skills to develop the witness. The benefits of regular meditation are well-studied, but notice the key word is "regular". It's important to develop a practice and do it all the time, whether you feel great or not. Here's the thing; it can take any number of shapes, be that sitting still and counting breaths, in a very traditional sense, or simply stopping all activity and watching your thoughts for twenty minutes during the day. Give your mind time to unwind, unkink, and slow down. Give yourself space to notice what you are thinking, whether it's true, and whether it is harmful or helpful.
In the event that you are in the midst of a terrible mind storm full of painful and uncontrollable tirades of thought, try listening to or reciting a mantra. You can't think two thoughts at once, so if you can get your mind to groove with a mantra, you might give yourself enough of a brief oasis to return to life with a quieter mind.
Other mind training skills such as Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) can also be beneficial as can Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT, another tool to help us deal with those overwhelming states that arise. Nothing works all the time, but the more we have in our toolbox, the better position we are in to find something that does the trick in that moment. If we can't give ourselves an inch of space to doubt the "end of the world" or self-hating thought, and all those judgments that others project onto us (and that we project onto others!), feeling better remains an out-of-reach dream.
I don't think any doubts remain as to the necessity of some form of exercise for health and well-being. Of course, the thing with PMDD is that sometimes, it's the last thing we want to do. I know some women get defensive about exercise, thinking that if they don't run a daily marathon, they aren't living up to this goal. But as with meditation, there are all kinds of exercises, from the most gentle to the hot and rigorous. So know your body, know and honor your energy and move from there. If you are languishing and can't even get our of your jammies, then stretch some muscles in bed. If your rage is up, find a good channel for that. I love kundalini yoga for anger management!! But when I don't have the energy for it, I turn to yin yoga or somatic yoga instead. If I had a pool, I suspect swimming would feel divine too, from time to time. The point is to move the body. The way you do it doesn't matter as long as it feels right.
Maybe the most unpopular aspect of MEDS is the "D" for diet because sometimes, food is the only comfort available to us. Give us our tub of ice cream or give us death! We can indulge when we must, but the rest of the time, we must do our best to eat well and create better habits.
Some things are obvious. We needs lots of quality water. It helps wash the body of toxins and contributes to our energy levels. Certain things just aren't healthy for anybody: sugar-laden sodas; those easy-to-reach-for, easy-to-crave packaged fake foods; exposure to plastics from cans and bottles, which wreck havoc on hormones, etc. We just can't afford to blow-out our nervous and endocrine systems with foods and drinks that overstimulate.
Of course change is unlikely to happen overnight, but the power is still very much in our hands as to what goes down our throats. Commit to slowly implementing changes and learning about new ways to support your loyal body throughout the month. Then if you go overboard when you feel out of control, you don't have to judge yourself for it.
I was going through chocolate bars like nobody's business, but I wasn't happy about the white sugar and soy products they contained, so I recently learned to make my own much more healthy and far more delicious chocolate with coconut oil, maple, and cacao. Mmm!!!
Diet concerns everything we ingest. This can include pharmaceuticals and natural medicines such as herbs too. If we want to take as natural an approach as possible, we have to give alternatives time to work! A pill might be quicker and easier in the short run but stop working and have lasting side-effects in the long run, so we have to educate ourselves and not just follow someone else's orders. Again, we have to be willing to understand what is causing us more harm than good and what options might be available. This isn't anyone else's decision. It's yours!
And there are so many things available! We just have to become aware of them and try them for ourselves. We also have to be careful not to get too excited when something works one month and then feel disappointed when it seems not to the next month. We have to be patient. Regardless of what we are taking medicinally, if we eat right and well, we're going to feel better overall.
Here's some important advice that bears emphasis: honor your reality! I think a lot of what makes our symptoms worse is that we're trying so hard not to have them...to still function in a life and world that waits for no woman's hormonal adjustments. If you can move from wanting to live up to other people's expectations (or your own) of who you should be and let your body dictate the truth of you in the moment, we can break out of that hopeless pattern.
That means if we need to sleep 12 hours, we try to work things out so we can. Sleep deprivation, when self-afflicted, is an absolute no-no. When it happens as a result of our hormones, it's out of our hands. Best to roll with it. But why is it that when we are exhausted, we think we shouldn't be? Why do we push ourselves to be just as productive at the times we need rest or judge ourselves when we simply have to crash?
We are not machines. Our bodies have a natural rhythm all their own. If you need to sleep in the middle of the day or for three days in a row, it isn't because you are lazy; it's because you are frickin' exhausted!
We spend so much of our lives in bed. Make your bedroom a sanctuary that supports restful sleep. Unplug every device. Cover LED lights with tape. Wear earplugs. Whatever it takes.
PMDD is a near lifelong war. The only way we're ever gonna win is if we get honest with ourselves and make the changes we have to make. We have to choose whether we're victims or warriors. Victims ignore their own needs or make excuses about why their needs can't be met. They don't pay any attention to the wisdom of their own bodies and repeat bad habits over and over. Warriors lean into the truth and cut a path to create what they need for themselves. They don't give in and they don't give up. They are resilient.
You are resilient!
I should mention that what is out of our control remains out of our control, and part of being a warrior is knowing that self-judgment and blame doesn't help matters either!
Be kind to yourselves, warrior-women!