You can find the intro to this guide HERE.
This is an easy 'realm' to understand. It's the one we are most aware of.
This is where PMDD is manifesting in most cases. There are many theories, from an imbalance or sensitivity to hormones, to a bug that lives in your system called H-Pylori. One thing that is common, is that it is hormonal, cyclical and very hard to treat. Treatment is different for all women, and many have to try various medications and treatments before they find one that works.
Physical symptoms of PMDD are much like that of PMS. Bloating, painful breasts, cramps, heavy bleeding, back ache, digestive problems and insomnia, to name a few. Tiredness and lethargy is also a big problem, some days, it is hard to even get out of bed.
Weight problems can occur due to the imbalance in hormones, sporadic eating habits and lack of exercise. Acne is another troublesome physical symptom. I for one get new spots every time I ovulate or menstruate. These spots are hard, painful and more like boils. They take ages to clear up and often leave scars.
To start treating the physical symptoms (and in turn, improving your general well being) a plan of action should be devised. In it's most simple form, you should have a check-list that covers your body's basic needs. Maybe you can see it as a tool kit.
We can actually take charge of this aspect quite easily. We can change what we eat and how much exercise we do. We have control over that. It is well known that exercise helps to relieve stress, keep the body healthy and can relieve cramps. It is easy to feel out of control when you suffer from PMDD, so by taking control over this aspect of your health, you can feel more in control of yourself in general. Sometimes, leaving the house before you blow is a good option. A brisk walk round the block will help you calm down, think, and work off some of that pent up energy. I'm sure most PMDD women go around like a coiled spring, just waiting to ping. This is energy waiting to come out. You could use it in a healthy way, or you can wait for the volcano to blow, inevitably hurting those around you with words or your own actions. Punching pillows helps... although in my house, (and I'm not proud of it) I am chief door slammer. It's the pent up energy that turns into rage. If you don't release this energy you will feel anger, you will feel rage, you will feel like fighting.
Try and incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine. Getting outside really helps, maybe for a walk or bike ride. Join a Yoga class. This is the best way to learn to relax too, and become more sensitive to your body and what it's telling you. If nothing else, stick on your favourite album and dance and sing round the living room!
A special mention here goes to Stress. We underestimate how much stress can affect our body. Stress is not just in your head, stress affects every cell of your body. When we get stressed, our body reacts, putting a strain on our adrenal glands. In genuine situations, this reaction (known as fight or flight) can save our lives. When we are constantly stressing ourselves sick over our illness, weight, money, kids... we are abusing those reactions and leaving our bodies exhausted. Stress puts added pressure onto our hearts and can tie our stomach up in knots leading to erratic eating habits and IBS. You can overwork your adrenal glands, so they become so tired they don't function properly. This is when you health will really suffer and you will more than likely hit rock bottom. Your immune system will be lower, your 'feel good' hormones (serotonin), will be depleted and you will feel lethargic and depressed. Physical activity has been proven to help relieve stress, and should be a regular part of your tool kit.
Food and water.
The next simple tool to keeping our moods stable is eating, and drinking water. If I feel myself spiralling out of control, or I've just screamed at the kids for leaving a toy in the wrong place, I have to immediately check whether I have eaten that day. Our moods get worse if we don't eat. Obviously, try and make healthy choices, but it's better to eat than not, so if all you can manage is a piece of toast with jam, then do it. The aim is to try and keep yourself topped up with energy. Little and often is good, and will help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Dehydration is another problem. If we aren't remembering to eat, we probably aren't drinking enough either. Tea and coffee and alcohol all dehydrates the body. Dehydration leads to mood swings, headaches and fatigue. This in turn can lead to more digestive issues such as constipation.
If we try and run on empty all day, we are setting ourselves up for a screaming rage at teatime, or a sobbing wreck at bedtime. We don't even expect our cars to go far with no fuel in the tank, but are quite happy to do it to our own bodies.
Sleep and rest.
Rest and relaxation should be the next tool in the tool kit. PMDD sufferers can have irregular sleeping patterns. Depending on what part of your cycle you are in, you may feel overwhelmed with tiredness and want to sleep all day, when at other times you cant sleep at all.
Getting plenty of sleep is essential to maintaining a stable mood. If you go to bed at 2am, and are then up for work or the school run at 7am you are going to be tired, whether you have PMDD or not, but add PMDD into that mix and you will have one very grumpy lady. You are more likely to snap, rant, cry, blow your top or worse, if you are tired. If you cant sleep, it is still important to rest your body. Try a long hot bath, meditation, or just lie down and watch a film or listen to music.
Maybe you like to read, or sew, or paint. Taking time for yourself and indulging in your favourite past time will help you relax. It is easy to deny yourself these little things, to write them off as unimportant, and say, 'how can I possibly deserve to sit here and enjoy myself when I'm such an awful person' or ' I cant take time out for myself, what about the washing up.. cooking tea... etc' If you like.. I'll give you permission! In fact, even better... I'll prescribe it!
Get out into natural light. The winter brings S.A.D. Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you are already sensitive to hormones, stress etc, you may find the winter becomes a hard time of the year. Low levels of light takes it's toll on energy levels and you may find yourself more depressed in the winter. If it's really severe, on top of the PMDD, you may find it hard to get up, stay awake in the daytime, or your depression and anxiety can worsen. Light boxes work well, but if you can't afford one, just make sure you get out in any sunshine (when we get it), put lights on in the house, and be kind to yourself. It is easy to assume your PMDD is getting worse in the winter, but it's more likely to be the added darkness of S.A.D.
OK, so why would this be on the list? Because it's a physical activity. It anchors thoughts down on paper. Thoughts are like air, they flit and change. Writing things down, gets things out of you head and into the physical world. Keeping a diary, writing lists or post it notes helps you to keep track of your mind. Sometimes, making a plan on paper, is the difference to a day saved, or a day lost. Making lists will help you organise. Crossing off stuff on the list will give you a feeling of achievement. EVEN IF that list is nothing more than..
- brush teeth
- take kids to school
- wash up dishes
- go for a walk
- have a shower
You will find you get more done by having a reminder list.
It is good to write out your feelings. If you feel weird about other people reading them, then keep a diary for yourself. If you feel you can share with other sufferers, even if it's under a false name, you should think about setting up a blog. Writing get things out of our system. The physical activity of sitting and focussing, helps us to become calmer.
If you suffer with PMDD you will know all about self destruction. My ability to cope with symptoms fluctuates. When I hit a low, and get ill, I forget about all the things I 'should' do. I spiral out of control and turn inwards. I become self-hating, self-destructing and down right cruel and hard on myself. Sometimes, holding onto sanity becomes too much in itself, and I let go. I free fall, I become some caught up in myself, I cant think about others. I can get really depressed and suicidal. I don't eat. I survive. I pass every hour in the day, waiting for bed, so I can try and start a fresh the next day. If I really want to hurt myself, I'll drink. Alcohol is not my friend, but I'll drink, because I hate myself, everyone must hate me, I want to hurt myself, I don't want this life, everything is wrong, why am I like this? I hate you.. and you.. why did I have kids? I'm a rubbish mother, I don't deserve them... Sound familiar? It will if you have PMDD.
Self destructive behaviour helps no-one. It's the thoughts in your head that create this spiral. I will talk about the mental/thinking realm in my next post.
Physical self destruction is something you can control. If you know you will drink yourself silly, then stay away from the bottle. If you are suicidal, then stay away from dangers, risks.. like driving for instance.
Remember that not eating or drinking, not looking after yourself, not allowing yourself rest time can all lead to a worsening of PMDD symptoms. You are in control of that. You must look after yourself. Don't allow yourself to self destruct. There is always tomorrow, the feelings will pass, and you will need your body to be there for you.
If you are feeling suicidal and have no-one to talk to, there is always the Samaritans here in UK on 08457 909090 or in the US call 1-800-SUICIDE. Or if you are a member of my Facebook group, there will always be someone around to help you through the bad days..
Next post... The Mental realm of thoughts and PMDD.