Suffering from PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) for the past 5-6 years, has made me acutely aware that I needed to make certain changes in my life to help improve both the debilitating symptoms of the disorder, and my overall health. Symptoms of this disorder include but are not limited to:
- Extreme Fatigue
- Body aches and pains
- Cramps (like menstrual cramps)
- Brain Fog – can’t focus or concentrate on normal every-day tasks
- Overall feeling of hopelessness or helplessness
- Weight gain or loss
- Craving Carbohydrates and Sugar
I suffer from all the symptoms listed above. Thanks to conventional medication, the monthly rage is under control, but it is not completely gone. I sometimes feel like I’m about to lose all self- control especially when I’m driving. I curse at anything and everything that crosses my path and the look on my face is that of someone you really don’t want to mess with.
Most people don’t understand that as sufferers we don’t want to act this way. In fact, we don’t act this way when we’re not suffering from these symptoms. It is out of our control. The guilt we feel after the episode of rage has passed is very real. The number of apologies we hand out to those around us, is very real. The feeling of worthlessness, “I’m a terrible person,” “I’m a horrible mother,” is also very real.
What Does One Do?
For a long time now I have just been accepting these symptoms monthly; taking my prescribed medications but not doing anything extra to alleviate them. It wasn’t until my father suddenly passed away in March of this year, that I decided to take a more active role in my own therapy. There were things I needed to get done help myself and not leave my overall well-being up to doctors and medication.
Changes Needed to be Made
I knew I had to make certain changes in my lifestyle and I knew it would not be easy. Although I welcome change, I am, as most people are, a creature of habit. I knew it would not be easy but I felt I had no choice. Among these changes were:
- Start seeing a new Psychiatrist: I had not been seeing a psychiatrist since I stopped going to one I had for many, many years. It had been about a year and I was getting my medication from my primary doctor. I needed the talk therapy as well.
- Start going to physical therapy: I had been experiencing terrible lower back pain for a little over a year that were getting progressively worst. They had gotten so bad that I could not walk at a fast pace, and I could barely stand up to wash the dishes.
- Start exercising: When you suffer from PMDD symptoms you are taken over by extreme fatigue. You feel very lethargic and sleepy. The last thing you’re thinking about is exercise because all you want to do is sleep. I knew this would be a tough change to make.
I started seeing a new psychiatrist a little after my father passed away. I knew right away that the relationship would work because she was very insistent on taking a holistic approach to my therapy. We would not just deal with the PMDD symptoms but also the underlying depression, nutrition, cognitive therapy and physical fitness. Her office was also at walking distance from my job which was convenient so that I could keep all my appointments.
Side Note: I have gained 50 lbs. since being diagnosed, mainly due to the craving of carbs and sweets and the side effects of medication. I have always been a slim person, even after having my two children. The weight gain became a main huge issue and cause for more depression, especially during PMDD, therefore, it had to be addressed in therapy as well.
Through benefits provided by my job, I started physical therapy. The location was also very convenient, only a couple of blocks from work. I knew keeping my appointments would not be a problem. When you’re a single mom like me, distance becomes a main concern for everything you do because of the strict schedule with the kids. I began therapy twice a week for my lower back pain. The sessions are excruciatingly painful and I don’t look forward to going but they have helped, so I must keep going.
I saw an advertisement on Instagram for a personal trainer who was offering a 3-week free weight-training challenge. I jumped on it right away. The Trainer is a woman, and runs the group for women only. The challenge is designed for women who want to exercise with free weights but who are not looking to drop 20-30 pounds in 3 weeks or quick-fix. You don’t follow a diet, only mindful eating and you do the daily exercises at your own pace according to what you can handle. You are held accountable via a Facebook group where you must check in daily and report your workout, water and protein intake etc.
I have also done the following to help me with my moods.
- Joined 2 Facebook groups for PMDD sufferers:
- The Gia Allemand Foundation
- PMDD and Mental Health Support Group
These are both private groups for women only. Their help has been invaluable and I have never felt more understood. It is very tough dealing with a disorder that affects your moods because you must convince people of what you’re going through. Half the time they either don’t believe you or they minimize what you’re feeling which is very frustrating. I felt very lonely until I joined these groups and I urge anyone going through this to join one.
- I started a blog. There were many reasons for starting it but one major one was so I can use it as a creative outlet as well as to tell my story. I want to create awareness and help all those women who are still suffering in silence or who don’t even know what they are suffering from.
- I enlisted the services of a nutritionist who also suffers from PMDD. This is very helpful because I have someone helping me that knows and understands what I go through monthly. I don’t have to convince her how I feel or why I can’t do certain things because she knows first-hand. She has put me on a few supplements to help with symptoms but also to help with overall digestive health.
- I have found PMDD related accounts on Instagram and have become involved with them to help spread awareness:
The women behind these accounts are incredible and I consider them pioneers for what they are doing not just for themselves but for the rest of us who fight this disorder monthly.
There is No Quick Fix
PMDD has no cure and there is no quick fix. Conventional medicines such as antidepressants and birth control are trial and error. It may take months or years for someone to find the right medication for them. Natural supplements are known to help but it’s a very slow process in which you must exercise a ton of patience. The only known effective end-all treatment is either a partial of full hysterectomy. Depending on a woman’s age, and whether she has had children or not, this may or may not be an option. Once you have the surgery you go straight into menopause and you can’t have children.
I am a 45-year-old single mom to a boy 12 and a girl 10. I work full time at a very demanding job and I had every excuse in the book to lay on my couch (which I still do sometimes, because must) and let this disorder take over my life. I made a choice. I decided that I was not going to rob me of 2 weeks a month anymore. Every month is still a struggle but at least now, I don’t feel powerless.
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