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...
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