Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

Many blessings for 2012!

Thank you for all your support in 2011.
Wishing you all a very merry New Years Eve!

Keep on keeping on!

Cat xx
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, 'press on' has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race."Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

PMDD and Me

Today, the Mind blog published a blog I wrote for them titled, PMDD and Me.

This is a really good step, as Mind currently do not cover PMDD in their list of disorders, nor have any leaflets about it.  Ladies with PMDD need to speak up.  They need to make 'the powers that be' aware of their existence, their struggles, their needs.

I hope this goes a little way towards making people listen to women with PMDD, and that women eventually get better support and help to living a better life.

You can find the blog here  Please share the link on Facebook or email...

Never stop passing on information and raising awareness, in whatever small way you can.

Cat x 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Bring on 2012!

This past month has been super busy.

Following a more spiritual path through my cycle, the benefits are amazing.  I am getting through each month pretty well.  Things still knock me off track, but I certainly don't feel as out of control as often, and I've had plenty of things to keep busy with.

My sister site - Natural Shaman, is becoming such a positive focus for my writing, and women's menstrual health.  It's nice to be able to write and talk to all women, rather than just to one specific group.  It leaves me to be very open on subject matter, and I need that right now.

I have just released a poster to help women begin to understand the energies that lie in different parts of their cycles.  It is available through the link below and on the right.  It's very exciting to have drawn an image that is now a poster, almost ready for sale!  If you want to find a different way to see your menstrual cycle then start here!

If you would like to keep up with my writing, please subscribe to my Natural Shaman Blog.  I may not cross post everything I write there, and I could use some extra followers!

Other news is that I was asked a while ago to write a blog on female mental health for Mind, the leading mental health charity for England and Wales.  I have just heard that it will be published next week!  Make sure you like Mind's page on Facebook or visit the Mind Blog.  I will post the link here too, when it's available.

Busy times... Can't wait for 2012!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Something to ponder...

Think back to when women lived in tribes, in huts, outside. In fact.. you don't always need to think back, there are places on the Earth where women still do.
Firstly, there is no sanitary products. You use rags. There are no toilets or running water. Women would come together in a moon lodge and sit to bleed together. They separate themselves because they are at their most powerful in a spiritual sense. They also separate themselves and stay in a safe place for practical reasons...
I read recently about a tale of a tribal woman, caught out, away from the village. She began bleeding. The smell of fresh blood brought wild animals. She is faced with an almost certain attack and death. She climbs a tree and uses her clothes to soak up the blood. She stays up the tree and waits....

What survival instinct is it that switches on our anger and fierceness? Makes us bitchy, crazed, raging, critical, powerful?

IF we are not safe and secure during our period, we may suffer the remnants of this ancestral survival instinct and fear for ourselves. In the wild, the smell of blood equals food for animals, women are vulnerable... We now over compensate for that vulnerability but making sure we scare off everything so we can be alone and safe...
It's like looking up at the Moon and stars and realising that our ancestors looked up at the same Moon.  Every time we bleed, we connect to every woman that has ever gone before us, we all share the same experiences, and women, ONLY women are part of this club. 
No man, no matter how strong, virile, amazing or good can bleed without dying, regularly, like a woman.  No man can ever truly understand the wisdom found in bleeding.
Women are so sacred to this planet.   ♥ 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Creating Menstrual Health Workshop with Alexandra Pope

Last Saturday, I attended a workshop run by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer. The workshop was about 'creating menstrual health' and as I have been reading The Womans Quest workbook for the past 8 months, It seemed like a good opportunity to meet the author and other women who were also interested in the menstrual cycle's energies. I feel like I am a world away from the state of mind I was in when I first contacted Alexandra... a plea from a desperate woman, to someone who might be able to understand what I was going through. We chatted via email, I downloaded the thought provoking workbook, and joined her community site.

I was around day 18 of my cycle, so heading into unstable territory, so I arranged for my partner to drive me to Fulham in London and get me to the venue. I don't cope on trains and tubes very well, especially alone and in the second half of my cycle.

The venue was beautiful. It looked like a converted church and had the most beautiful stained glass rose windows. Everyone was welcoming and open. It is always a daunting thought, meeting lots of strangers all in one go, but there was a lovely energy in the room, and as women do when they get together.. lots of chat and laughter. The whole building was beautiful, clean and calming. As we moved into our work room, yet another stunning stained glass mandala faced me.

The day consisted of a lot of chat and discussion on the menstrual cycle and where we may have issues. We explored the similarities between out menstrual phases and the seasons experienced on the Earth. I am in my element with correspondences and symbols, and loved widening my thoughts and knowledge of this divine code.

Our inner Spring, is very similar to our outer spring. This 'Springtime' represents pre-ovulation, when the fog of our period lifts and our light and energy returns. Many of us (PMDD sufferers) will call this 'one of our good weeks'. We feel like ourselves again, we have energy, we want to get on with life again. There is an innocence about this time, and it is a time we should spend nurturing our ideas and making plans. New shoots are growing, life is returning to the earth... and you.

Inner Summer relates to ovulation. The Sun is high in the sky and everything is fertile and blooming. We are 'out there'. We can be social, we can enjoy life. It is a time for manifestation. Another 'good week' for many, although this too can bring a difficult time for some. If we are not fulfilling the things we want (on the most basic bodily level this would be getting pregnant), there becomes a fear of summer's end, of missing the chance, of the wheel turning all to quickly.

Inner Autumn is pre-menstruation and is when PMDD sufferers will hit the 'bad times'. Most will start losing a grip on reality during this season. The Earth is retreating, leaves are falling, the cold winds pick up. It is an unsettled and unstable season, flitting from late balmy sunny afternoons and bright crisp mornings, to stretches of dull grey rainy days, storms and more rain. Our energy and flow begins to slow down, we get forgetful and easy to enrage. Women with PMDD need to really try and understand this season, and learn how to harvest it's fruits and develop and awareness of what is really going on inside them.

Our inner Winter is connected to our menstruation. Our whole month is connected to how well we bleed and deal with our period. Just think to days gone by, when we had to harvest as much as we could all year to just survive the winter. If we are careful and look after ourselves, we will reach the Spring. If we have been smart and resourceful, we may even reach Spring still strong and healthy, rather than starving and weak. If you allow the natural need to retreat and hibernate, if you honour and listen to what your body needs, if you get enough sleep and good food, you have the potential to reach the Spring, empowered, full of anticipation rather than dis-empowered, full of guilt and stress.

There is much more I could say about each season, in fact, I could write a couple of posts on each one!! So I will leave that there for you to digest and contemplate. I am obviously describing a cycle, but everyone's cycle may be different. They will most certainly feel different things at different times and for different reasons. Interpretation comes down to the individual, and you cannot forget the different life stories of each individual and their own reactions to each season. How do you feel about each season? Do you have favourites? How do you cope with each season?

As above, so below, As within, As without – A Witches saying.
What goes on outside us, is often a mirror to what is going on inside us. I'm sure it's no coincidence that I have a hard time through my inner Winters, and also suffer from SAD during the outer Winter. Maybe if I learn how to love the inner Wintertime, I will also heal my SAD?

We followed a guided meditation spoken by Sjanie, and stopped periodically (through each season) to write and draw down our visions. We discussed with partners our experiences and feelings.

We then got into groups and each discussed a season. The rest of the day was unpacking all the words we had thought of to describe how we feel about each season. It was very enlightening and heart warming to hear other people's stories and to feel so connected to other women. It was also re-assuring and exciting that other women understood these concepts and each and every one of us felt that we all knew it anyway. 

We have all had this potential, this inner knowledge, like a glimmering, ornate, gold box full of our inner strength and power, full of the words of our ancestors and subconscious. Alexandra and Sjanie gave us all the key to unlocking this magic box, and I'm sure that every woman there will be sharing this knowledge with anyone who would care to listen for many years to come.

There is a revelation to be had in exploring these ideas, there is a REVOLUTION to be had by every woman, to educate, to share the knowledge, to break down all the stigma and hatred that has been pointed at our menstrual cycles. To reclaim our menstruation as our sacred time, to be allowed to become whole, rather than living the half life we are all supposed to live because it is socially acceptable. As a woman, I will demand respect, from myself and others during my bleed. It is a magical thing to bleed as we do every month. We get a new chance every month to heal and learn and understand ourselves.

If you are interested in The Woman's Quest and Alexandra Pope's and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer's work, please visit these websites:

My Healing Journey

It's been a long time coming, but I finally feel like I am really figuring out the root causes of my PMDD. I have always believed that illness is as much in the mind as it is in the body, and PMDD is very much a disorder that can start in the body and create a difference in the mind... HOWEVER... it would then be just as possible for the illness to start in the mind and manifest itself in the body.
I am now 34, and since being diagnosed at the age of 27 I have tried every medication offered to me. I have dabbled with many different alternative therapies, and I now find myself out of options in the traditional sense.

Along my path I have used:
Prozac, citalopram, valium, zoladex, lithuim, copper coil, Mirena coil, St Johns wort, 5HTP, Quiet life tablets, rescue remedy, evening primrose oil, starflower oil, homeopathy, yoga, counselling, art therapy, aromatherapy, vitamins, B6, zinc, magnesium, cod liver oil, meditation, 5Rhythms dance, massage nutrition and exercise.

The past 18 months has brought about massive changes in my life. My home life has changed dramatically from one of pure hell and stress, to one that is supportive and much less stressful. My children are now that much bit older, and at 6 and 13 are at school and able to do a lot more for themselves. I have an understanding and loving partner, and a wonderful dog that gets me out of the house even when I don't really want to go out!

I have been medication free since July 2010 apart from a Mirena coil, which I then had taken out this August. I currently regularly take evening primrose and starflower oil capsules, hormonal balance vitamins and rescue remedy. I watch what I eat (but there is room for improvement) and exercise regularly.

I am 4 cycles into my medication and synthetic hormone free life, and I can honestly say I feel much more in control of my PMDD. The journey I have been on, has made me appreciate what it feels like to be free of all medications and hormonal treatments. I still have the odd crazy moment, or feel depressed and hopeless, but I am learning new ways to deal with these times AND on how to view my whole cycle.  I am learning that these are different states of mind and being, and I need to change the way I am in the world to use these changes effectively.

For the past 8 months, I have been following information and advice given in The Woman's Quest by Alexandra Pope. I have also delved into deeper research and study on female shamanism and the energy of the menstrual cycle. Last Saturday I met Alexandra during a 'Creating Menstrual Health' workshop she was holding in London. I had a really enlightening time....

On a spiritual level, I would describe my PMDD experience as having a spiritual death and rebirth every month. Just like a Shaman when they go on an inner vision journey, when they perform soul healing on their clients. This then got me thinking. What if the distress I was experiencing was because I was having a shamanic experience. What if, I am so sensitive to the psychological changes that I am actually symbolically going through a death and rebirth every month? Once I saw it this way, I wanted to embrace those times and see what I could learn from them.  Women were the original Shaman, with awesome changes flooding her body every month.  Changes to be respected and honored.

I am now learning to ride the wave. To use the different qualities I have throughout the month to benefit me, rather than hinder me. When you begin to work WITH your cycles energy, you uncover something magical and empowering. I am now excited to be blessed with having periods, and every one that comes, I learn something new. I still have some degree of fear regarding the dark times, and I also have a new fear, of how I begin to live my life when I have been so ill for so long. I am having counselling again and working on my shamanic and spiritual practice
I am reminding myself that healing is a long process, that nothing is set in stone, and that the only way to keep on getting better is to keep on learning about myself and TRUSTING that I know what is best for myself.

I no longer hate being a woman, I no longer fear my period.

You would not have heard me say that 2 years ago. For over 10 years I hated being a woman, I hated my bleed, I couldn't understand what I had done wrong, why was I being punished? I didn't understand. Despite studying and practising Paganism and The Craft (all Goddess walks of life) for many years, I still had a block and fear regarding my own feminine self and my cycle. I think I was desperately trying to find a connection to the feminine, to the Goddess, as my own natural connection had been severed.  All I have to do is re-learn and re-connect to my bleeding time, to my natural rhythm.  When I stopped my spiritual practice, I became more ill.  Disconnected from the source.
I am now actively honoring my cycle, my inner divine feminine. I am learning shaman techniques for working with 'other worlds' or my subconscious self, and I feel the inner strength again, I feel the reassurance that this is the right path for me. I have been lost for so long, and now I feel I am walking with the flow, I am learning better ways of dealing with myself, looking after myself and how to get support from those around me.  

The future doesn't look bleak any more, It looks exciting. Every cycle is a new chance to learn and change, and I want to make the most of it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A big THANK-YOU...

.. to everyone that has visited my site.  Mood and Musings has now reached over 9000 page views!

Please continue to visit often, pass on the link and share with others who may be interested.  Maybe I can hit 10,000 by Christmas!

The most popular articles have been:

What is PMDD? -
What is Dysphoria? -
Mandalas - A tool for coping with PMDD -
A PMDD Crisis Guide -

With lots of love

Cat xx

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Happy Celtic New Year!

It's the 1st of November, and the start of the Celtic New Year. Pagans celebrate this with the festival of Samhain, a time to honour our ancestors and bloodlines. It's a time for reflection and thought, a time to be still and listen to the insights we are being given.
It is also a good time to evaluate the past year, look towards the coming year and make plans.

It's been a while since I updated this blog about my personal life. My writing has been focused on creating articles and sharing my personal views and ideas, so I will now, take the chance to look back over the past year and share a little about how 2011 has been for me.

Last November, I shared my story with the local newspaper. This was a massive event for me, as to open up my life to the public was very scary! The reality was that, no-one recognised me in the street, I wasn't judged by the whole world, and life carried on as normal!

After the story came out, I started a private online Facebook support group, which grew steadily and proved to be a successful way for women to chat to other sufferers and find support, advice and friendship. Current membership is around 70 women. I also admin the PMDD-Community page, whose 'likers' now stand at over 500.

I had hoped to go on national TV with my story, however, the slot they wanted me to fill was right in the middle of January. Possibly the worst time for me as I suffer with SAD too, so I had to cancel. I am hoping it may happen in the future, when I feel strong and well enough to actually go on television!

One of the biggest challenges for me this year has been my relationship. As all women with PMDD will tell you, having and keeping a relationship is one of the hardest things to do. My partner and I have had another rocky year, splitting up and getting back together, but neither of us have given up yet, and hopefully 2012 will be a much better year for us (what was that? Wedding bells? Haha.. fingers crossed!)

The success of the support group meant that I had a steady flow of women requesting to join. The groups work because they are small, so a second group was created, to allow more women to have a sanctuary to visit everyday. I now have another group of over 60 women, all happily chatting and helping each other through the difficult times.

My desire to raise the awareness of PMDD has continued, and I wrote to and met with my MP in the summer to discuss how PMDD can become more recognised and how we could make sure it become a recognised disorder by the World Health Organisation. This is still a work in progress, and as you can understand, only being able to work on these things during my 'good' times means it's slow going. I will be sharing a blog post with more details soon. I have not stopped trying and will continue to raise these issues with ANYONE I feel can help to educate and lift the profile of PMDD.

I also became completely medication free this year! After all my negative experiences with prescription medications, I had cleared all but the Mirena coil from my being. In August, after many months of suffering agonising cramps at ovulation and menstruation I had the Mirena coil removed. Not one medical professional would even consider it was the coil giving me so much pain, even suggesting that I must have an STI, rather than admit the coil was playing a part in my trips to A&E in agonising pain. All STI tests, obviously came back clear and I have had relatively pain free periods since it's removal. It also made me realise it was having a massive effect on my feelings and moods. So I am very pleased to now be completely med free, and still surviving!

More recent achievements have been to start another new group on Facebook that solely focuses on the natural healing methods for PMDD and some exciting breakthrough's with a couple of larger UK charity organisations.

Wellbeing for Women, a charity that helps to fund women's research, will be featuring my story on their website in the next few months, which may also then go on to other publications in the UK, and the best news is that I have been asked by MIND, the UK's biggest mental health charity to be a guest blogger and start a discussion about PMDD. I am hoping they are also considering including it on their list of disorders on their website and producing an information leaflet!

Seemingly small steps, but ones I hope will help to change the awareness of this disorder for all women, to allow more research, better diagnosis and treatments. I have many more plans, and will never stop standing on my soap box on behalf of all the women still too unwell to do it themselves.

Love to all my readers!
Merry Samhain and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Facebook - A REALITY CHECK!!

Some thoughts on PMDD and Facebook....

So, those of you in their 30's, like me, remember the internet growing from an amazing idea that 'one day, everyone could have the internet in their own home', to what now seems to be something that's integral to everyone's day to day life.

I remember getting the internet for the first time. I was living with my husband and had just had my first child. In those days, I would email occasionally, download free screensavers and visit the odd website. Looking back, the internet then was like one of those huge shopping centres that open up. Full of potential, but only half the shops are occupied and going there feels like a waste of time.

Over the years, I have become more hooked, and have blogged on various sites, attempted to build and run websites and participated on online forums. Before Facebook, I would use chat rooms to meet new people online... The net then, was still quite a lonely place to be unless you had lots of real life friends online too.
After my marriage ended at the ripe old age of 25, I found myself tied to the house with a 3 year old. There was no company, not much of a social life, so blogging, chatting and uploading my artwork to various sites kept me busy. The internet became my friend, my outlet and 'hobby'.

Then came Facebook.

I was a late joiner and an even later user. I sat on Facebook not knowing what to do for about a year.... I found a few school friends, and it was nice to get in touch, but there was a reason you lost touch with around 90% of your school mates in the first place. You make friends at school because you are stuck there with them everyday.. they may live near you and share the same bus. It doesn't mean you will actually really get on that well, like them, or want to stay in touch for the rest of your lives. For some, revisiting the old school days can bring up painful emotions and memories you'd rather not be reminding of.

I was considering deleting my profile but then I searched for my half brother who I'd only ever met once, and I found him! It was through meeting my half brother and sister on Facebook that I became a fan. It was my window into their world, it was a way of staying in contact. I had a reason to stay on Facebook!
I've never been very good at staying in touch. The PMDD means there are a whole other bag of issues surrounding trust and friendships. And lets face it, before email and Facebook, how many letters did you write to stay in touch with people?  
How often did you use the phone to call up random people from your past? It all requires effort, and nowadays Facebook is the laziest option.

As a sufferer of PMDD, I was then faced with all sorts of new emotions to deal with.
I had experienced similar stuff before as a member of a busy online forum. Sometimes people would say horrible stuff, or delete you, and you are left with a weird mixture of emotions over someone you don't even know in the real world. On Facebook, this is even more prevalent.

PMDD does crazy things to your mind and perceptions. What 'normal' clear headed 'you' would shrug off, the PMDD'ing 'you', feels, like a stab in the heart. Someone deletes your friendship, deletes a comment, argues or even worse.. blocks you... it can cause a premenstrual mind to implode with all manner of negative feeling and thoughts.... then the paranoia and awkwardness sets in... do I ask why? Should I contact them? They must hate me.. I'm so horrible... etc

Facebook does provide a shoutbox to the world, and this is mostly, a good thing. Unfortunately though, during PMDD rages, outbursts or breakdowns, it can be a volatile place to be. Status messages, so commonly cause a whole string of issues. In the dysphoric PMDD state, you may post something really out of order, you may even know it's out of order, but, something pushes you to do it anyway.. YOU DONT CARE... it's gotta be said... I want everyone to know... whatever...
We then have to deal with comments back. In a PMDD rage, sometimes kind comments will enrage you further (depending on who they come from), negative comments will make you feel like crap, and some people (like other PMDD or depression sufferers you have in your friends list) might even encourage you to feel worse by joining in with your misery... None of which are beneficial to you calming down and riding the wave till the feeling subsides, in fact, all it does is aggravate the situations.

Before Facebook, addressing the world like this would not have even been possible!

You will cause yourself more pain and stress if you use Facebook statuses to share your woe's. How many people in your friends list really care? How many do you know in real life? How many do you actually really like and want to always keep in your life?

When I feel I am about to write something that is unnecessary, I will sit for a moment and consider what it says.. is it directed at someone? If it is, that's not fair... If it's something really negative.. do people really need to see it? All you are doing is perpetuating the feeling, or even worse, lighting a firework that might blow at any point, and probably up in your face, leaving you feeling really stupid, hurt, and guilty.

You are better off writing it all out and posting it to a support group, or direct to one of your more trusted friends. Striking up a conversation with someone, asking for help or sharing is far more productive then moaning to a crowd... of which only a few are even listening..

If you desperately want to post how bad you are feeling to the world, then have a little image search first.. find a picture that describes how you feel, a photograph, a drawing.. maybe you might find a quote that sums it up, or words from a poem. Share in it a different form. Help it evolve from raw, angry destructive emotion into something more beautiful and creative. Post a video of a song that describes the feeling...

Facebook is a great thing.. but you HAVE to look after yourselves. If Facebook becomes a source of more angst and problems, then it's time to get a reality check. If you can't use it without freaking out, getting upset, destroying relationships and friendships then take a break. 

If it causes you to spiral into negative thinking patterns about how unpopular you are, how much everyone hates you, how useless you are etc, then get the hell off the net and go take a walk, have a bath and bring your focus back to your real life, your real friends and family and well.. REALITY!!

We never had Facebook before... we never had to see what the girl who sat next to us in maths wore on her wedding day, we've never had hundreds of peoples lives there, in front of us, for us to compare to, scrutinise, and be jealous of. The fact that we let Facebook become such a source of emotion is worrying, and if you suffer with mental health problems, it can bring up a minefield of negative emotions. We have to be in control. No-one can monitor our use but us. No-one can turn off the computer for you and make you do something else instead. You have to take responsibility. If you are having a really bad time, and Facebook starts upsetting you... then recognise that, recognise that NOW is not a good time to be logged in. Take a break for a bit.. visit some other websites... move away from social interaction when you know there's a storm brewing.

I'm sure, most women with PMDD will know the feeling of hitting a friend with a statement that you know is gonna cause trouble. You have to remember that our bolts out of the blue, of our truth at that moment is usually a shock to others and they will obviously react accordingly (unless they REALLY know you). We are then left with a mess to clear up, or a ruined friendship and feelings of being a horrible human being.... The easiest way to avoid this, is to avoid Facebook at this time, at least, avoid posting negative status messages and learn some restraint and control when you want to share a negative state of feeling. Be creative!

Here's a little thought for you...

What if the plug to the internet was pulled tomorrow? What if you woke up and the net wasn't there? What if there was NO FACEBOOK?!!

Who would you share with? Who would you go to to talk with? What would you do with yourself?

It's good to spend time in real life! Facebook is a virtual reality... It has it's benefits, and can be a source of fun and entertainment, but it isnt REAL. It's a cyberworld of people, most of whom you haven't met, and full of unreal situations and stressors.

Look after yourself, don't let the PMDD ruin things just because the platform exists to do so. Switch off the laptop and go somewhere nice... visit someone local, bake, walk... create, spend your time differently when you feel crap... you can always take photo's of your journeys and creations and upload them when you feel better! I mean.. if it really did happen, if for what ever reason we lost our internet world tomorrow, what would you have? Who would you have?

It's good to keep a foot in the 'real world'. Pretend the internet doesn't exist for a day!

Monday, 10 October 2011

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder affects only 3-8% of women. It is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS. Almost all women suffer some kind of symptoms when their menstrual period is due. They may become snappy and grumpy, they may deal with cramps, backache or tender breasts, however, PMS sufferers can manage these symptoms effectively and their lives are not disrupted by their menstrual period.
PMDD sufferers experience many if not all possible physical symptoms, but the distinguishing factor of PMDD is the extreme swings in mood and how they feel about themselves and others.

PMDD is a cyclical disorder. It will affect a woman every single month. Most ladies with PMDD will experience physical discomfort and emotional changes that begin around a week before their period, lasting till bleeding commences. However, due to being sensitive to hormone changes, some women experience symptoms during the ovulatory phase of their cycle too.
It is thought that a women with PMDD is more sensitive to the body's naturally changing hormones. It is also thought that these changes can bring about a drop in serotonin in the brain, which can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms. Serotonin is the body's natural feel good hormones, and many PMDD sufferers experience symptoms of low serotonin.

Physical changes and symptoms can include the following:

Abdominal cramps, period pain, backache, hip pain, tender breasts, nausea and sickness, lethargy, fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, sensitivity to sound and smell, headaches, memory loss, bloating, loss or boost to libido and weight gain.

Emotional changes and symptoms can include:

Markedly depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, heightened anxiety, increased tension, sudden shifts in mood, tearfulness, overly sensitive, persistent angry or irritable outbursts, increased personal conflicts, frustration, panic attacks, persecutory delusions, racing thoughts, feeling overwhelmed or out of control, indecisiveness, and confusion.

Lifestyle changes:

Loss of interest in usual activities, unable to think clearly to make simple decisions, cancelling outings or events, hiding indoors and avoiding contact with others, damaging relationships via texts, online or verbally, losing friends, being unable to cope with usual tasks or requests, difficulty in keeping employment, difficulty focusing on studies or work.

An important note on Dysphoria.

PMDD is distinguished from PMS by the use of the word dysphoric. PMDD sufferers often describe their symptoms as a feeling of 'going mad' or 'going insane'. They feel out of control of their emotions and find their minds full of racing negative thoughts. Some say it feels like being possessed and many women will describe themselves as Jekyll and Hyde.
The dysphoria element is often overlooked yet is one of the hardest things for a woman to deal with. For a certain amount of days or weeks out of the month right before their period and/or around ovulation, a PMDD sufferer will experience a complete shift and change in being.
Dysphoric states bring about a complete change in perception for the sufferer. They may believe they are being persecuted in some way. That friends and family are fed up with them and dislike them. They may feel panic over not being believed or understood. They feel a great amount of frustration that despite whatever attempts they made during the rest of the month to 'help themselves get better' the feelings and depression are back, with full force and they are yet again caught up in the whirlwind of dysphoria.

A women with PMDD is faced with an eternal cycle of symptoms. The PMDD 'episodes' or 'states of dysphoria' will turn up without fail every month. The only thing that seems to change is the severity. Some months will pass without too much damage to relationships, work or the self, but other months will be explosive and destructive, to the sufferer and those around them.

How do you know if it's PMDD and not something else like depression?

PMDD is characterised by is cyclical nature and the fact that for at least 7-10 days of the month between periods, the woman has no symptoms. They are, for want of a better word, 'normal'. Many women call this their 'good' days or 'up' time. They can maintain relationships, cope with life, home, kids, and work. They are confident, happy and organised. They feel normal, stable and able to cope. They can go out and socialise, answer the phone and participate online. They have a clarity of mind to know what they want and can make decisions again. It really is like a black cloud has lifted and they are able to function normally again.
Depression will not lift in this way. If you suffer from depression, every day is a 'down' day or 'downtime'. PMDD sufferers may experience depression during their 'down' days, but it is a feeling that always lifts, and relief is found.

PMDD is often misdiagnosed as bi-polar disorder due to the extreme changes in mood. Bi-polar sufferers may suffer a couple of episodes a year of extreme up's or downs. These episodes can last months, but when the Bi-polar sufferer becomes stable again they are able to maintain a 'normal' life, sometimes for months, between episodes. The closest form of Bi-polar to PMDD is rapid-cycling Bi-polar, where the diagnosis is for 4 or more episodes in a year. PMDD sufferers don't get a few months between down times, they suffer every month, 12 times a year, double that if they are affected at ovulation as well.

If there is underlying depression or mental health problems, you may then experience PME, Premenstrual Exacerbation. This is a worsening of your current condition due to and during the changes in the menstrual cycle.

Basically, if you feel fine for at least 7-10 days of the month and you have no symptoms, no mood swings, no negative effects to your life, yet a week before menstruation you sink into a depression, find your self anxious and unable to leave the house, or angry with volatile outbursts, then you are probably suffering PMDD. PMDD will lift once your period starts. Some ladies will get relief right from day 1, where as some will find the black cloud lifts on day 5 or 6. One thing is for sure, all the crazy feelings and emotions will pass, and most women just hang on for dear life until their period has ended and they are back into a couple of weeks of feeling stable and happy.

I think I have PMDD, how do I get my doctor to give me a diagnosis?

For PMDD to be diagnosed, you will need to be experiencing at least 5 of the above symptoms every month. They may not always be the same symptoms every month, but currently, the diagnosis is for a combination of at least 5 symptoms. These symptoms have to be extreme enough to interfere significantly with daily life, work, relationships, studies or social activities.

You will need to chart your symptoms for at least 2 months. Charting means keeping a track of all your symptoms throughout the month to build up a picture of your up and down times. If you have PMDD you will be able to see an obvious rise in symptoms during the last part of your cycle, and maybe at ovulation.

You can find mood charts online that you can download and print off. Some websites allow you to track symptoms online, and there are many iPhone and Android apps for keeping track of your cycle. How ever you do it, make sure you can take an actually paper copy in with you to your GP. For me, printing off a chart and filling it in worked better. Simple and not usually anything more that colouring in or ticking boxes.

Visit your GP, and take along some print outs about PMDD. There are many GP's who have still never heard of PMDD. That doesn't mean that they wont want to help, so it's always worth helping your doctor get you the right diagnosis. Start a chart as soon as you can, as you will need 2-3 months worth for your doctor to diagnose you correctly.

Have a look through the links on this blog.. there is lots of information here to get you started.

World Mental Health Day


Take a moment to check out Mind's website and Time to Change....

Get educated...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Run by NAPS - The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome, PMS Awareness Week is held to try and bring PMS into the media and into discussion.

This morning, Bo, from PMS Warrior Blog, appeared on a national breakfast show called Daybreak.
You can see the video here

While PMS is a much more general condition and not as severe as PMDD, it is necessary to raise awareness.  PMS is a woman's first point of call when she realises there is a cyclical nature to her problems and mood changes.  NAPS is the only organisation in the world that tries to give information, support and a voice to sufferers of PMS and PMDD.

Please feel free to use the image above on your Facebook page to help raise awareness amongst your friends and family.  Many women suffer in silence not knowing where to turn.  NAPS is there waiting to offer support and advice.  On their website you will find a free forum, and mood chart, and by joining up as a member, you will be able to gain access to other benefits.

If you blog, please share this information to your readers.  NAPS is a charity, and need everyone to help spread the word.

Point them in this direction!  National Association of Premenstrual Syndrome -

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

SAD Alert! The Serotonin Factor

Serotonin is the body's feel good hormone. It's a neuro-transmitter and it's function depends on the region of the brain into which it is released. For example, the serotonin neurons in frontal cortex of the brain regulates cognition, memory, and perceptions. The serotonin neurons in the hippocampus regulate memory and mood. The serotonin neurons in other limbic areas such as the amygdala also regulate mood.

Low levels of serotonin are accountable for:

Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, obesity, fibromyalgia, eating disorders, chronic pain, migraines, alcohol abuse, negative thoughts, low self-esteem, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, PMS, SAD, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The following factors can cause low serotonin levels:
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame)
  • Caffeine
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Dietary deficiencies of nutrient co-factors
  • Ecstasy, Diet Pills, and certain medications
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Hormone Imbalances (thyroid, adrenal, estrogen)
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Inflammation
  • Infections
  • Poor Diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Problems converting tryptophan to Serotonin
  • Problems with Digestion
  • Stress and Anger
  • High Cortisol Levels

If you can tick a few things on this list, you are;
a) more likely to suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder
b) not helping your PMDD or PMS

When you read this, it makes some sense of the plethora of symptoms experienced in PMDD.  Low serotonin levels are almost certainly adding to the nightmare of PMDD as women with PMDD will suffer panic attacks, anxiety, and high levels of stress every month, which affect the production of serotonin. At the same time, the fluctuating hormones will mean serotonin is depleted during the second half of the cycle (luteal) phase, adding to the low serotonin symptoms.

Obviously, it is not your fault if you have a hormone imbalance, are hypoglycemic or have a genetic problem, etc, but if you smoke, eat bad foods and don't get enough exercise, you will not be helping your situation. If you would like to read about serotonin in more detail, please go here...

Serotonin and Light

Low light levels during the winter mean that your body doesn't make as much serotonin, which is triggered into production by light. Serotonin is the chemical in our body that helps us feel awake and gives us energy. Light restricts the body's production of melatonin, which does the opposite job to serotonin... it makes us sleepy and brings about a feeling of tiredness so we can rest and sleep at night. If our serotonin levels remain low, that means were are full of the opposite chemical, melatonin, hence the heavy, tired, and lethargic feelings that SAD and PMDD can bring on.

One way light is measured is by using the term 'lux'. An average indoor room lighting is around 50-200 lux, whereas, outside the light levels will be anything from 1000 to 50,000 lux. Lux refers to the intensity of light. It is thought that an average of 2500 lux is needed to keep SAD at bay and encourage serotonin production. Household lightbulbs for instance, do not have the same intensity as The Sun! And it is this light from the Sun our bodies are craving during the winter months.

There are 3 main ways to treat SAD. Light Therapy, SSRI's and Dietary changes.

Light therapy involves sitting in front of an SAD light box for a certain amount of time everyday, usually in the morning. Light boxes can be very expensive, but it can work really well for some people to combat SAD. 10 years ago, my SAD was so severe I invested in a light box. It was a huge cumbersome thing! I found it difficult to use, as sitting for an hour in front of a night is almost impossible when you have a child running around! So now you are more likely to find me outside whenever it is bright or sunny in the winter, just absorbing the sun!
Light enters the body through the skin and eyes (obviously DON'T look direct at the Sun!). Sun screen and contact lenses/glasses will not allow the body to collect what it needs, so make sure you get the light onto your bare skin and spend sometime without contact lenses or glasses outside, whenever there is a sunny spell!

SSRI's (Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) may be necessary for some people, but this should be researched and discussed with your doctor. Taking anti-depressants work for some people, but for others, working on diet and lifestyle will be just as effective. Remember, you should STILL work on these changes even if you are taking SSRI's, you will get more relief if you help your body rather than work against it.

Dietary changes:

Avoid the factors on the list above such as smoking, caffeine and lack of exercise, and incorporate more of the following into your diet.
  • complex carbohydrates 
  • chicken 
  • turkey 
  • tuna 
  • salmon 
  • kidney beans 
  • rolled oats 
  • lentils 
  • chickpeas 
  • pumpkin seeds 
  • sunflower seeds 
  • baked potato with skin 
  • tahini (sesame butter) 
  • walnuts 
  • avocado 
  • almond butter 
  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic if possible) 
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily
By eliminating foods and lifestyle choices that will make your SAD or PMDD worse, and increasing the foods above that help boost serotonin, you will have more of a chance of getting through the winter!

Here are a few other things you can do to help yourself through the winter months:  

  • Get plenty of exercise (30 minutes at least three times a week)
  • Eat regularly throughout the day.
  • Get plenty of natural sunlight 
  • Manage stress and negative emotions 
  • Get 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night 
  • Set time aside for fun and relaxation 
  • Take a multivitamin daily 
  • Prayer and Meditation

The winter is fast approaching. September in the UK is one of my favourite months. The leaves change and fall, the wind picks up, the days are changeable and the temperature drops, but we still have some lovely sunshine popping through every now and then.  October brings Halloween and November, Fireworks...  I can usually deal with winter till December  but by then I am struggling (I'm not a Christmas fan!).  I am planning on upping my serotonin levels by eating better and getting outside when ever I can. Putting lights on in the house is also a good move when the days are dreary, and getting a good nights sleep always helps my mood.

Remember, if your symptoms are really bad and you are feeling unstable, low, depressed, maybe even suicidal, PLEASE contact your doctor and get some support. Realise that it is a temporary situation and the wheel is always turning.. it wont be long till spring is here again!

SAD Alert! The dark months are coming

One of the reasons women with PMDD have such a hard time, is because the hormone fluctuations can affect the levels of serotonin in your body. Serotonin is the main factor is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can translate into winter depression, and is brought on by the lack of light available in some countries during the winter. I live in the UK and have suffered with SAD for over 10 years... quite possibly longer, but I first realised it was SAD after the birth of my first child. In retrospect, that was the same time my PMDD began to get worse.

The following information is taken form the SADA website

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated 7% of the UK population every winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February. It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter.
For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, it is a mild but debilitating condition causing discomfort but not severe suffering. We call this subsyndromal SAD or 'winter blues.' It is estimated that a further 17% of the UK population have this milder form of condition.

SADA's Symptom list is as follows:

The symptoms of SAD usually recur regularly each winter, starting between September and November and continuing until March or April.

A diagnosis can be made after three or more consecutive winters of symptoms, which may include a number of the following:

Low mood, worse than and different from normal sadness
Negative thoughts and feelings
Guilt and loss of self-esteem
Sometimes hopelessness and despair
Sometimes apathy and inability to feel 
Sleep Problems
The need to sleep more
A tendency to oversleep
Difficulty staying awake during the day and/or disturbed sleep with
very early morning wakening
Fatigue, often incapacitating, making it very difficult or impossible to carry out normal routines
Over Eating
Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods leading to an increase in weight
Cognitive Function
Difficulty with concentration and memory
The brain does not work as well, or as quickly
Social Problems
Finding it harder to be with people
Stress is harder to deal with 
Loss of Libido
Less interest in sex and physical contact
Sudden Mood Changes in Spring
Sharp change in mood
Some experience agitation and restlessness and/or a short period of
hypomania (over activity)
No dramatic mood change but a gradual loss of winter symptoms

Imagine having that for 4-6 months of the year ON TOP of the monthly PMDD hell.

If you have a worse time during the winter months, then you are probably suffering from SAD. The link between SAD and PMDD is the lack of serotonin being produced and getting to the brain, which is why SSRI's are often prescribed for PMDD and SAD.

Think back to last winter and previous winters... How do you feel during the winter months?
Do you experience more depressive episodes or angry outbursts?
Do you sleep more and have trouble getting up in the morning?
Do you feel relief when the wheel turns to spring?

For more information, please visit the following links.. and talk to your doctor or health professional if you feel you may be suffering from SAD.

Look out for my next post on low serotonin and what you can do to help your PMDD and/or SAD.

What is Dysphoria?

One of the distinct symptoms of PMDD is often overlooked. Dysphoria is the key word that differentiates PMS from PMDD. When do you know you are suffering from PMDD and not PMS? When the dysphoria takes over.... It's not called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder for nothing! describes Dysphoria as:
dys·pho·ri·a [dis-fawr-ee-uh, -fohr-] noun Pathology:
a state of dissatisfaction, anxiety, restlessness, or fidgeting.
Origin: 1835–45; < Neo-Latin < Greek dysphoría malaise, discomfort, equivalent to dys- dys- + phor ( ós ) bearing + -ia -ia              Related forms: dys·phor·ic  [dis-fawr-ik, -for-] adjective
 The Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary describes it as:

dys·pho·ria definition Function: n : a state of feeling unwell or unhappy compare EUPHORIA 

These definitions are very vague and something many people can relate to.
Wikipedia's definition is slightly more in depth:
Dysphoria (from Greek δύσφορος (dysphoros), from δυσ-, difficult, and φέρειν, to bear) is an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness (depressed mood), anxiety, irritability, or restlessness, experienced from very short periods of time up to a lifetime. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.
Dysphoria refers only to a condition of mood and may be experienced in response to ordinary life events, such as illness or grief. Additionally, it is a feature of many psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Dysphoria is usually experienced during depressive episodes, but in people with bipolar disorder, it may also be experienced during manic or hypomanic episodes. Dysphoria in the context of a mood disorder indicates a heightened risk of suicide.
Dysphoric mania, as described in the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, is "prominent depressive symptoms superimposed on manic psychosis." Symptoms include:
  • crying
  • curtailed sleep
  • racing thoughts
  • grandiosity
  • psychomotor restlessness
  • suicidal ideation
  • persecutory delusions
  • auditory hallucinations
  • indecisiveness
  • confusion

NOW we find ourselves in PMDD territory. Many women describe the dysphoria as a feeling of losing their mind, or going mad. All common sense is abandoned, things that were easy a few days ago, now become impossible. The mind is racing, sometimes tears come with the thoughts and painful emotions the dysphoria brings up.

Persecutory delusions are common. This is a feeling of paranoia, the idea that everyone hates you, that no-one believes you, that there is some conspiracy to keep help from you. That maybe you're just imagining it and are therefore a really bad person, or insane... that spiritually you deserve this and you will just have to suffer. Many PMDD sufferers feel like this at the bad times of the month, they can't believe they can't stop this, 'why can't I control it?'. These feelings of persecution can spur crazy reactions. Pushing family and friends away because you don't trust they believe you. Deleting friends on social networks, falling out and arguing with people, or simple closing the door on everyone emotionally, to keep yourself 'safe'. Hide away, they can't get you if they can't find you.... 

The other fear is that because there is no break in symptoms.. many women suffer EVERY month, sometimes twice a month. PMDD sufferers are very aware of the strain they put on the people around them. I know I personally feel like the people around me are going to get so fed up and bored of the eternal cycle that they will give up helping or trying to understand. I don't know if I could handle seeing someone I liked/loved go through this every month.

On the website, they have a page about the definition of dysphoria. What's interesting is their use of describing dysphoria as a 'state of being'.
State of being, can be interpreted as state of existence. It is YOU and how you are at the moment in time. This is why it feels like dysphoria consumes and absorbs you. It is why it feels like you will always feel/be like this, but as all sufferers repeat the mantra 'this will pass' to remind themselves this is a temporary state, it is all too easy to get lost and be unable to feel any shred of normality – or should we say, non-dysphoric state of being.

I think it is important to learn about this part of PMDD. It is the part that causes the most distress. It is the part of the disorder that clouds our capable minds, and set's us off on a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Ladies become forgetful, distracted, withdrawn, clumsy, unable to make simple decisions, hopeless, easy to anger, frustrated.... Some can't bear loud noises or anything repetitive. They will almost always, feel like they are causing this, or creating it, or are imagining the symptoms. They will always feel a ton of guilt and be reliving past emotional traumas. The dysphoria traps you, paralyses you and steals a week or two of every month from you. Every month, without fail, the dysphoria hits and women feel guilty for not being able to stop it.

How many of you have thought, read up, or discovered what dysphoria means? Learn about dysphoria, so next time you tell someone you suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, you can explain the dysphoric part. I feel that word gets ignored and is very misunderstood, yet is the key reason this disorder is SO debilitating. When your thoughts are not your own, how can you trust yourself? How can you know you are making the right decisions? How can you know who to trust on the outside if you look within and don't find yourself?

How do you interpret your dysphoria?
What aspects of dysphoria do you experience?
How do you cope with it?

Monday, 25 July 2011

I am The Sun

I am The Sun.
I love to shine! I was born to shine.
I love to spread warmth and love to everyone.
It is my job! It's our job! I love to laugh and have fun!
It is for all of us to shine and keep each other warm,
to make colour's brighter and the spirit lighter.
The only thing I want to do, is provide for you,
to sustain you... give you strength and courage.
I want to experience the world in all it's glory.
We all have a light to bring to the world...
.. but I think that if we all shone at once, we would all go blind.
Sometimes, suffocating dark clouds obscure my view.
I cant see the bright colourful world around me.
I feel lost, I can't shine, nothing gets through cloud that thick.
Sometimes there's thunder, and lightning strikes,
Sometimes, I can hear tornadoes and crying..
But I can't see, I cant help.. I CAN'T GET OUT OF THIS CLOUD!
It's wet and depressing, it's cold and bleak.
If I breath too deeply I choke from the thick air.
I just want to shine, that's all I want,
It's all I know, it's my purpose. The panic sets in
and it feels like this darkness will last forever.
I am The Sun.
The people around me, cant see my light anymore
they are mad at me for not shining, for not making them warm,
The clouds bring the rain, which the world needs too,
to cleanse and clean and nourish the earth.
But I'm invisible, and it's not my choice... all I want to do is shine.
The clouds slowly pass, and I can see again.
Sometimes I see devastation, and sometimes it's not so bad,
I always fear that I will open my eyes and find no-one there,
But I am the Sun, we are all the Sun,
and all we can do is shine brighter when the clouds have gone.
White fluffy clouds.. now, they are OK!
I like watching them pass.. a train... a bird.. a smiling face,
I like laying on the grass and watching the sky,
its a reminder that you are alive and that is a blessing
the clouds will come and go, storms WILL hit us...
but I like shining down on you and watching you play,
and in your hearts you know,
I will always return after the darkness has lifted.
Don't give up on me, I will be back,
and we will all enjoy another sunny day.
We are all The Sun.

By Cat Stone 2011

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

PMDD in the news

A new story hit the papers today, about a 41 year old woman from London called Kirsty.

The women told they're mentally ill when they are really crippled by period pain

Kirsty Baranowski stood in the middle of the road hammering on a taxi driver’s windscreen. She was incandescent with rage because he’d suddenly pulled out in front of her.

The outburst was completely out of character, but for 20 years she had been battling with violent mood swings in the run-up to her period.

‘Normally, I was mild mannered,’ says Kirsty, 41, who lives in Southfields, South-West London, with her children, Alexander, ten, and Sophia, nine.

Read more:

Other articles that have been in the papers are:

Donna from Scotland, who's story in 2009 led me back into researching and trying out GHRH injections.. She is still an inspiration, and I hear she is doing really well!

Elizabeth Freundel's story back in 2007:

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Mood charts and tracking symptoms

The only way to convince anyone you are suffering from cyclical symptoms is by filling in a mood chart. By noting your symptoms and severity, along with your menstrual cycle, it is easier to see patterns forming and for doctors to diagnose PMDD.
You have to be strict with yourself and make sure you do this EVERYDAY, or at the very least the morning after (for the day before), trying to be as accurate about how you felt as possible.

There are many free resources online, including printable mood charts. Printable worked for me as I filled it in in the evening and could keep it safe, or up on the kitchen cupboard door to remind me. It also means you automatically have something to show your doctor. I used the chart in the book by Diana Dell - The PMDD Phenomenom, as it gave me the option to fill in how bad things were too (by colouring 1, 2 or 3 boxes), so rather than just a yes or no, I could monitor slightly off moods to more intense, severe moods.

Dont be put off by charts that are called Bi-polar or depression mood charts. It's not the name that matters, but the information you track. Just find a chart that works for you.

You may want to try an online/interactive mood charts. Some require membership, but some are free. If you are at the computer a lot, then this might be a better way for you to record you moods each day. Obviously this means making sure you can print everything out to take to the doctors, and that you will always have access to a computer to keep it updated. I can't stress the importance of filling everything in EVERYDAY for at least 3 months. It's the best way for an outsider to know whats been going on up in there, and help you to diagnose your condition.

There is a very modern way of tracking your moods, if you happen to be the proud owner of an iPhone or Smartphone! Just search the app store for 'mood tracker', 'iPeriod' or 'period tracker' and take your pick! I have used Period Tracker (paid version), and it's very simple to use. It's hard to find a tracker that does all the things you want, but it worked pretty good for me. I now have an android phone and am using Womanlog, but there are many others, such as Ovuview, Pink Pad and My period and ovulation. Most have free downloads, I advise you trial the free version before you pay for one, just to make sure it works for you.

With so many options, we are spoilt for choice! There is definitely no excuse NOT to be tracking your moods and symptoms.... so, Get tracking!


PMS Symptom Tracker


Mood Tracker - Free

NAPS Interactive Mood Chart - Free, membership required.

My Monthly Cycles - Paid subscription for good resources, Limited free account.

These links are also available from the side bar of my blog.
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