Tuesday, 17 December 2013

This is not the end.

It's been a while since I've written a blog, and there are many reasons for this. Life stuff takes over sometimes and attention needs to be elsewhere, but alongside this, I have been coming to some very different conclusions about my own PMDD. I have mentioned before about how hard it is to explain and express all the things that have changed within me since I started this blog, and I have felt a real inner conflict for many months now.

Some of the things I have learned means my view of PMDD has changed massively. When I started this blog, and began sharing my story and understandings, I was in a dark place. This was due to many things alongside PMDD. PMDD was not solely responsible for my life feeling too hard to bear. I can look back and see that now, but when you are caught up in the daily drama, it's easy to feel like PMDD is to blame for all of life's shortcomings. In 5 years, my life has changed dramatically, and in those years I have found friends, fellow sufferers and other people like me.

When I say 'other people like me' I mean those who also have PMDD, but are choosing to work spiritually with it rather than continue down the route of believing that we need to be 'fixed' or that there is something inherently wrong with us.

I no longer believe there is anything wrong with me. The past 5 years have taken me to the depths of despair, but they have also been so valuable. PMDD has actually been the most powerful guide I could have had. I know many readers may think I've lost the plot, or that maybe, I could never have really suffered with PMDD to begin with, and that's fine. You can judge me however you like.

I come across a lot of women through the PMDD community page, and many want a 'cure'. Many want a magic tablet to make everything better. They want labels and recognition for that label. PMDD is just a label. It's the label doctors give to a woman who is sensitive to the hormonal changes in the body, and when those hormonal changes create a string of infinite symptoms that becomes life destroying. Some people want it to be a mental disorder, some want it to be an endocrine disorder and some believe it originates in the gut. I shared an article recently about PMDD being labelled a mental disorder, and someone commented saying that if it was all in the mind then how did it a hysterectomy cure her? Thing is, the brain controls everything, it controls the production of hormones, and it is affected by hormones. Hysterectomy is the ultimate off switch. The brain no longer needs to tell the body to make those hormones. Having a hysterectomy may be the most successful way of treating PMDD to date, but it is an extreme measure to take, especially if you want children and haven't been able to conceive. So it may be effective, but is it the best way? Swapping PMDD for early menopause has never been something I have wanted to do. I know a few women who have had their PMDD 'cured' by means of hysterectomy, some have had other problems occur, some haven't, but on the most part, I hear many women say they are glad to have had it done, and I for one am happy that they are no longer suffering and have a chance at a new life without PMDD. There are many different views on the causes of PMDD. The only I would like to say for certain is it is a imbalance in the body and mind which can have devastating effects.

We all need more research to be done. Its almost 2014 and we still don't fully understand the workings of the female body, we don't know why hormones create such illusions and dysphoria in the brain. We don't know the root cause of PMDD (if there is one). There is research being done, all be it a few small studies here and there, but still not enough is known. The doctors don't understand it, and there are very few specialists. I'd like to point out that we are talking about the medical realm right now, so when I say doctors and specialists, I mean the people conventionally trained in conventional medicine. Doctors, more often than not, want to help, but they are in the dark too. They have drugs that are unlicensed for PMDD but treat conditions similar to PMDD, so that's what we get. They try, but always remember that the doctors are just ONE aspect or avenue to healing, and often, they are working with pharmaceutical companies pushing their products, getting people reliant on yet another expensive drug. They will look at PMDD ONE way, and often dismiss others.

Turning my back on medication was the best thing I ever did. Saying away from the health services unless absolutely necessary. This is my story, my reality, I am not suggesting anyone do the same. This is what's ended up silencing me so often. How do I share my healing and this amazing transition when it is so personal to me?

I think that people have their own realities and most tend to stay within certain ideals. If it is your belief that taking a pill can cure you, then maybe you will find peace or ways to manage PMDD by using medication. If your belief is that removing your womb will cure the problem then you are more likely to go for that option when your symptoms are out of control. If you believe that talking therapy and mind techniques such as CBT is the way then you may find that successful for you. You also have to factor in what 'pay offs' there are with each belief. Medication will most likely come with side effects. Surgery might mean HRT. Talking therapies may not help physical symptoms.

My belief is that my body can create illness. That the mind and body are closely interlinked and often, an illness in the body is connected to, maybe even created by the brain. If my dis-ease in the body is stemming from dis-ease in the brain then surely, healing the brain can heal the body? By healing the brain, or re-training the brain, we can break out of the cyclical patterns that PMDD can put us in. My life 5 years ago was chaotic (it still is.. but in a good way nowadays) There were many things going on that would make the sanest and strongest of women cry and feel like life wasn't worth living.

PMDD almost responds to how well you are living your life. For me, being really unwell is a measure of the stress in my life at that moment. I've spent 3 years observing my moods and monthly cycles. I am not free of mood swings, manic craziness and deep depression, but I am free of almost all of the negative self beliefs I held about myself, the extra nastiness that clings onto you after an 'episode'. I don't spend days beating myself up, telling myself how shit I am, convincing myself I am not loved or wanted like I used to. I get up, take a deep breath and get on with life again. I've manage to reduce the drama of PMDD. I'm learning how to communicate better, how to avert disaster by using the right words. Things that seem so simple, yet these simple things really have changed my life.

5 years ago I didn't really have any hopes for the future, I didn't know where I was going, what I wanted. Two young children and a mood disorder that seemed to ruin everything. I hated life. I guess it's something that all young mums go through at some point. The feeling like you'll never have a career, that the things you are interested in are at the bottom of the pile of importance. I was also in a terrible relationship and hadn't dealt with all my childhood stuff. Add PMDD symptoms at their worst and BAM, there I was. Now, it seems logical looking back, that my symptoms were at their worst because of the state my life was in, but you don't know when your are in that moment that this is the worst moment you'll ever have, or that things will even change. You get locked into a belief that things will stay the same forever, but that is the only thing of absolute certainty, everything changes, nothing stays the same.

I now live day to day with my 'PMDD'. On the most part I am fine, although I have noticed I seem to have 2 almighty crashes a year around spring and autumn, which corresponds to pre-ovulation (spring) and pre-menstruation (autumn). The only other times I crash is when life gets really stressful. Stress is relative. What I can cope with is different to what another can cope with. Life has been tough this year and I have had to test my methods against some really challenging situations. Thankfully, I came through it all, I survived, and any women PMDD or not, would have felt the pressure. When the darkness or craziness hits, I hold on. I know it will pass, I use the things I know will help me.

All this change however does mean saying goodbye to certain things. Blogging about my PMDD helped through the worst times. Writing articles and researching helped develop my understanding and open my mind to new ideas. Meeting so many lovely women through the blog and on Facebook has been the best return for the hours spent.

I now feel like I am well enough to start building a career, and wheels have been in motion for a while. PMDD and depression can mean you spend long periods of time looking at your life and working out what it is you want to do. I realised that I want my life to be about creating, about art, about teaching and living a mindful life. I don't want to spend my hours anymore focusing on PMDD in a way that pleases the masses. I don't want to have to try and explain myself to people who don't really care.
I worry that I will upset people, because my views have changed. I started a campaign to get PMDD recognised, because for that medical world, it NEEDS to be, but at the same time, I no longer want to carry the label. I use the label for society's sake, to give them something they can understand, but my inner belief is not that I have some terrible disorder that I have no control over. I have something that not many people can begin to comprehend. I have something that can actually be very useful to me.

Running the groups on FB and interacting with people on the community page can be really stressful. It takes my time and focus away from the positive things in my life, so these days I tend to limit my participation. I often feel bad for this, but I have to let go and move on. I find few people ready to even contemplate the possibility that they have the power to control and manage PMDD without meds, anything that I post that isn't mainstream gets jumped on, and my motives questioned. I have only ever been a Sharer Of Information! I share more things I have no personal interest in than things that I believe in... and this is where things have to change. I can't even stand the name of this blog anymore! MY PMDD! HA! I even claimed it as mine... well it isn't any longer.

I have to find my voice within the alternative PMDD realm and find the others like me. I have plans, but there is still some way to go, and my main priority is my art, spirituality and teaching. Thats what I want to spend my time on. I can no longer spend time on projects that feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall. For now, I am in control and that means we go full steam ahead on projects. My cyclical energy still means I have downtime every month, but y'know, I think I'm healthier for it, and there are certainly less battles. I will write here occasionally, but the PMDD Awareness site is going to be taken down. I did it because I could, and because I thought it was needed and helpful, but I cannot maintain it and promote it. Anything I do from now on with regard to PMDD is gonna be a reflection of my beliefs and experiences, for other women out there who want to try managing their moods in an alternative way. This blog will stay as is and I may update from time to time to let you know about any new projects I may have in the future, but essentially, this is the end of an era.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.. Thank you for all the support you've all given me over the years, I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for each and every interaction I ever had through this blog and Facebook.

As always... thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Introducing Emma, Michelle, Amanda and The PMDD Project

Emma is active in helping to raise awareness of PMDD and has been brave enough to start creating vlogs about her experiences with PMDD.  She recently featured in her local newspaper in Sussex County NJ Herald sharing her story and plans to start a local PMDD group.  Emma also runs a support group on Facebook called PMDD Survivors.

Click below to watch the first in the series.

Michelle has been writing about her PMDD for a while now, and has been a trusted friend of mine for a while. She writes with humour and honesty over at her blog www.whyamihappy.blogspot.com and has also started creating video blogs as part of the PMDD project. Visit her Facebook page here

Amanda is the founder of Flurt! magazine and creator of The PMDD Project.  She has worked really hard to raise awareness of PMDD and feminist issues in Canada.  Amanda plans to use the videos created as part of The PMDD Project to create a documentary about PMDD.  To find out more, watch the vlog below or visit the YouTube page.  Find The PMDD Project on Facebook.

It's so wonderful to see more women step forward and help raise awareness... It's not easy putting yourself out there, as I know only too well, so every women brave enough to tell their story in an attempt to help others deserves a round of applause in my book! Maybe one day I might be brave enough to talk to a camera! until then go and give these lovely ladies a visit... and remember to say hi!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Long summer...

So it's been a while since I've written.. Life stuff, and awesome summer weather took me away from the computer.  I've been painting and studying, completing my PTTLS certificate (for adult and post 16 teaching) and am currently studying to become a meditation teacher.

Real life, positive things, visions of the future... PLUS the meditation really helps... I mean.. REALLY helps.

This year has been challenging as well as productive, and I have just come out of a big breakdown.  I'm sure this is triggered by the change in season...  I'm feeling a bit better, and I might share the drama's of last week at some point, but right now I'm just trying to forget it.  Pick myself up, brush myself off and get on.

Just today, one of my lovely support group members let me know that she has nominated me for a WEGO Health Activist award... Thank you! This is the lovely message I received today...

"I admire Cat Hawkins immensely. She has strength, courage, creativity and the kindness and caring in abundance. That she should to give all of us a safe haven is beyond belief, when we all know that she suffers in the same way we do. In nominating her, I just want to show my gratitude and appreciation. In times of extreme need it is her groups that I turn to first. If you feel the same then please also take some time out of your day to nominate Cat."

I'm honoured... especially as the groups were started to fill a desperate need of my own to meet other sufferers, and my blog was simply a place to offload and share information, and even more so as my participation and blog writing has taken a back seat this year. I'm glad that what is out there is still helping, but the groups couldn't continue without help from admins and the amazing support each member gives to one another... So thank you too! to the women who continue to use the group and help others, and the ladies who help me keep things ticking over! ♥


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Friday night creation...

We sometimes play this in the support groups... it often get's us giggling...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

**Participants required for a UK PMDD study**

Jenna Hardie is currently undertaking a study looking into the effects of PMDD in the workplace. She would like to hear from women who have been diagnosed with PMDD and have experience of a workplace environment.
It consists of an 1 hour interview either done over Skype or telephone so it does not involve you leaving your home. There is no reimbursement for taking part but it is a chance for women to tell their stories of how living and working with PMDD has affected their every day lives.

The study has received full ethical approval from Northumbria University in Newcastle.

A message from Jenna:
I understand that PMDD is a very emotional an stressful disorder but would really appreciate if anyone would like to help me out. There is also a chance that this study will get published and hopefully people will start learning more about what you ladies go through each month. If anyone is interested please email me on jenna_h1986@yahoo.co.uk
If you are interested and would like more information, please email Jenna at jenna_h1986@yahoo.co.uk.

Friday, 7 June 2013

PMS Free Now

I was contacted by a lady called Pennie who has devised a healing program to ease or eliminate PMS and PMDD symptoms.  I visited the website www.pmsfreenow.com to find a simple site with a video and adverts for more video's coming soon.  It's the sort of site I would probably skip thinking it's a scam, but as Pennie had contacted me personally, briefly sharing that she had suffered with PMDD in the past, I felt I should watch it before I made any judgements.

It was good!  Pennie gives sound advice and brings forward considerations that all women should be aware of when they are suffering with PMD or PMDD.  There is somewhere you can sign up to receive the other videos (I forget where, but I know I did as I got a few emails from Pennie's website over the next few days) all of which are free, and full of things you may not have considered looking at with regard to your PMDD symptoms.

Now, the way I saw it, was this was obviously leading into a paid program or service, and as someone who has been surfing the web for years, it had the distinct vibe that this would be pricey.  I also wanted to know more about Pennie.  Who was she?  what were her credentials?  I certainly wouldn't ever want to be promoting anything scam-like.  So me being me, emailed her direct and said that I would share her website with all of you, if she wrote us a blog about how PMS Free Now came to be.

My mind was working along the lines of the fact that maybe others out there had missed some good advice or a chance to work with a specialised program by being a little put off by the lack of personal info about Pennie and her journey, and to me, knowing the person and the website is legit is pretty top priority.  Anyway, Pennie is lovely and was very happy to share a blog with us.

Learning to Trust a Failing Body.

It was my 20th birthday and I found myself lying on my bed crying. Why? I had NO idea.
I just knew that it felt like my life was over and that I could not stop crying.
It made no sense. My life at that point was exciting and fun and this particular day I was super excited about hosting a big party later that night and I had looked forward to this day for several weeks. Still, a few hours before the guests were to arrive I was swallowed by this big black hole and I did not have a clue what was going on.

This is the first specific memory I have from PMS/PMDD. However, when I finally a few years later was beginning to understand what was happening to me I could see that the signs and symptoms were there long before that. I used to think of these days as "Tooth Brushing Days". Why? Because brushing my teeth was about the most advanced task I could take on those days without becoming completely overwhelmed and crumble to pieces. That was of course if I did not look into the bathroom mirror - if I did, I would see this awful reflection of myself and break down in tears and even the tooth brushing would too difficult to complete.
Over the years these random (top secret) Tooth Brush Days evolved into (still top secret)recurring Tooth Brush Weeks. Extreme mood swings, self loathing, crying spells that would last for days...Looking back now I do not know how I managed. I guess you do because you have to. And, I saw no other option but to keep trying: trying to cope with the symptoms and trying to find a way to beat them.

I tried everything under the sun: hormones in various different shapes and forms, anti-depressants, different herbs/ supplements/ vitamins, meditation, hair analysis, blood analysis, Ayur-vedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure, acupuncture, special diets, detoxifications & cleanses, exercises, Qi Gong and yoga. And, lots of other things too. Nothing seemed to work.
Deep down I wanted to trust my body. I wanted to trust its wisdom and its healing intelligence that I on some level knew was there. However, it felt like my body was broken and therefore could not do its job and therefore could not be trusted. I felt betrayed by my own body. And, I constantly felt like I let myself down by not coming up with a solution.

This battle went on for almost twenty years. Luckily I found the strength to keep going because one day I did find what I had been searching for all those years: the tools I needed to heal my body and my life! The tools that were able to transform my life were Muscle Testing and Energy Medicine. 
With the help of Muscle Testing I could finally figure out why my body was failing every month. I discovered that my body was NOT broken. And, I discovered it was on my side - it was working 24/7 - just like me - to try and heal! However, there were so many things in the way. Things I was not aware of, both physical and non-physical things, were blocking my body from healing. Old traumas, emotions and beliefs disrupted my energy field and kept my body in a non-healing state. Also, a massive fungal infection plus a number of energy toxins were constantly destabilising my hormones. With some diet adjustments, some other life style changes - and with the help of the gentle techniques of modern Energy Medicine - these blocks were not hard to overcome and sure enough, when they were gone, so was my PMS/PMDD. My dream had finally come true. 

A few years later I am still living my dream: I am able to enjoy life in a way that I could only dream of before and I am so grateful for this. However, no matter how fantastic it feels when your dreams come true there are always room for new dreams. My new dream is to help women who are still struggling with PMS/PMDD - to offer them hope and to provide them with the tools they need in order to heal. 

I know we all have our own journey's to make and your journey may be very different from mine. However, by sharing our stories we can spread hope and ideas to each other. If you want to know more about some of the things I learned on my journey you are welcome to check out my website: www.pmsfreenow.com. And, wherever your journey takes you - I wish you all the best.

Pennie Kristiansson

We all struggle with the medical profession, some of us spend a small fortune visiting specialists, buying supplements etc, some of us prefer not to take medication and go the alternative drug free route.  What Pennie is offering is akin to seeing a PMDD Specialist, only the tools she uses are very different to those Gynaecologists in London.  Now, I couldn't afford a private specialist, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't afford what Pennie is offering, however, I have to remember that not everyone is as skint as me!  and in the name of sharing information and introducing you to other ways to combat PMDD, I felt it was my duty to share this with you.  The PMS Free Now videos are free and worth a watch, even if you think that you know everything there is to know.  You might not!

Give the video's a watch.  Check out Pennie's other site www.thenovaplace.com Womens Holistic Health Centre and head over to her Facebook page www.facebook.com/PennieKristiansson and give her a like.  She is after all a PMDD survivor,  a success story! and is trying to help others overcome their symptoms too.  What she's offering might not be for you, but go show your support anyway... and go check out her free videos!  what have you got to lose!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Wonderful Women's Day

I have very kindly been asked to talk about PMDD at a local Wonderful Women's Day.

The whole day is incorporating lots of activities, including an opportunity to experience Miranda Gray's Womb blessing in the company of others, AND a viewing of the film 'Things we don't talk about'.

If you live in the Hampshire area, why don't you come along!

For more details about activities please click the following links.

Miranda Gray's Womb Blessing http://www.wombblessing.com/
(You must register with Miranda to receive the womb blessing, chose 12 noon as the time if you are coming along on the day)

'Things we don't talk about' - Red Tent Movie http://www.redtentmovie.com/
(Admission to film only will be at 5.30pm with a suggested donation of £7)

Event run and organised by The Dreadess http://www.thedreadess.com/#/wonderful-womens-day/4576189163

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Micro blog!

Been really busy. 
Life has been like a little girl with a curl.
Been developing my meditation practice, it's going well.  It's inspired me to teach meditation so I enrolled on a course... or two, yes, I enrolled on two courses, a PTLLS certificate and a meditation teacher certificate.  New career here I come...
Having to write essays and homework along with all the usual stuff.
Had a nightmare weekend (days 24-25) but I recovered swiftly and day 28 became day 1 today!  YES! (urgh cramps...)
I'm off camping soon... come rain or bloody shine, need a night or two under the stars.
Lots of art work to do, good stuff in the pipeline. 
Building the PMDDAUK website, trying to maintain momentum. Dealing with PMDD queries and stories.  Lot's of ideas, too little time.
Started learning kundalini yoga.  IT'S FANTASTIC.  Possibly my favourite way to spend an hour.
Learning lots of chants and mudras.
Loving life.  Working hard.  Taking the highs with the lows.. still losing my mind occasionally, but there's too much to lose now.. too much to do, to build to grow...

Sending love to all of you... 
Remember... (always)... It will pass.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Breaking Stigmatism

I was asked by the author, Tricia, if I would participate in an interview for her Tumblr Blog called Breaking Stigmatism.

Breaking Stigmatism blog shares stories that help others to shake off the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  It was really lovely to be asked, and it was nice having a chance to think and write about my blog and what it has achieved.

Image from heroesinrecovery.com

The only way to break stigma down, to change the views of others is to be open and honest.  The Mental Health Foundation states that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some kind of mental illness in the course of a year, women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem, and that mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorders in Britain.  Looking at those statistics, it is very likely that someone you know will have faced similar challenges and issues, even if it's not caused by the same thing.  When we stop thinking that we are the only one suffering, we can realise that we are not alone. 

If we act like we are stigmatised, if we hide, worried what the world around us may think, we simply fuel the stigma fire.  Stand up, tell it how it is for you, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Read the full interview HERE.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Birthing Pain.

Lots of new things have happened recently.  The PMDD Community page I have been an admin of for the past two years was handed over to me with full control.  This meant that I now had the control to try and make it more active and spend a little more time on it.  I have taken on new admins and am sharing the work load over there as the priority for me is my new website and maintaining this blog.

With the launch of the new website www.pmddawareness.co.uk, amd PMDD Awareness month, I have been really busy.  Couple that with Easter holidays and work being done around the house, life has been a bit hectic.

In birthing these new projects, these new ideas, I came across some people who wanted to bring it all down.  It was a shock, and to be honest, ruined my Easter with the family.  Taking abuse on Facebook from people you've tried to help is not nice.  Being publicly slagged off when you've trusted someone is also uncalled for.  Seeing someone ripping off your ideas, using my images and then having the audacity to accuse me of things I haven't done.  I have been dealing with a ton of anxiety and stress with it all and it did almost break me.

I ended up thinking... right.. I'll go offline.  I'll throw in the towel and forget about PMDD Awareness UK.  I'll go private again.  I'll withdraw.

I started thinking about birth.  The project I've been planning for over 6 months has now just been 'birthed'.  What happens in the birth process?  There is pain.  There is doubt.  There is fear.

PMDD Awareness UK is my baby.  Someone was threatening that, making me feel like I shouldn't be doing it, that I am a bad person.  But it was about to be out there.. I had already announced it would be going live.  Can you stop labour? Can you push a baby back in?  Can you say NO, I don't want this when the head has already come out?

It's taken me days to shake the negative feelings and thoughts.  I'm in a part of my cycle when it's more difficult coping with stressful situations.  I am never gonna get this person to see what happened from my side.  It may have been a PMDD outburst, but that's no excuse for abusing privileges and getting nasty, accusing me of things I simply haven't done and getting others to get involved.

I almost took the site down.  I almost gave up.

But how can that be right?  Why should I give up on all I have done because of one person who has taken a dislike to me.  I get more messages of support and thanks than one persons hatred. 

So, no...  I'm staying put.  I DO have my limits at what I can contribute to the PMDD 'cause'  and I am pretty much there.  The next step is up to others.  I was also accused the week of being egotistical and 'wanting it all for myself'.  That is ludicrous.  To move forward with raising awareness is up to each and every sufferer and their families out there.  I've pretty much done all I can do. 

My blog will always be here for me to share with you things in my life, and the PMDD Awareness site will stay as an online presence for PMDD in the UK.  Providing links to groups, organisations, information and encouraging others to do what they can.  I still have a few things I wish to achieve with regard to PMDD in the UK but this is where I pretty much hit my limit.  Maintaining two PMDD related websites and the groups along with the other things going on in my life... other projects and life paths I wish to follow is more than enough for someone with PMDD to cope with.  I could have never imagined I would get a hold of my PMDD enough to achieve any of it, but at some point, I have to start spending my time on the things that heal me.

Thank you to all my friends who supported me through this last weekend.  I really couldn't do this without the support of you all...

Friday, 29 March 2013

New PMDD Website now LIVE!


Six months in the creation (slow and steady wins the race) and here it is!


Go check it out!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

To my friends...

(written to the friends close to me in real life and on Facebook...  wanted to share here with a wider audience and explain why I have been a bit quiet with posts, and why I may not have responded to messages/emails recently)
The whole month of March has been a struggle. This past week being (hopefully) the lowest I could get.
Lots of you, my friends, have been worried, and I feel terrible for worrying you or causing any of you upset. This guilt often means I start to spiral inwards even more, and the negative feelings grow. It has been a long time since I have written like this, but I feel it's the only way to try and help myself, and others, understand.
As most of you know, I have a mood/hormone disorder... at least, that's how you will understand it in the 'normal' way. The label Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder is something I am trying to move away from, but it's the easier label to give when trying to explain what I go through. It's medical. It's a real disorder. No one knows what causes it or how best to treat it. It's still not widely known about, or should I say, it's widely misdiagnosed as bipolar, borderline personality disorder, depression... Many sufferers feel schizophrenic, although, unlike schizophrenia, we rarely lose all concept of one personality in favour of the other, but rather stay in state of transition, the battle, the fight between two aspects of the self. We also tend to remain consciously aware of all our actions even when we feel like we have no control over them. PMDD cycles are monthly and therefore, when the symptoms are particularly bad, they can really take their toll on your physical and mental health.
So I have that going on... I hit challenging times almost every month, but since coming off all medications etc I have got a much better hold on this. I have learned how to manage my month, my LIFE, around it. I know my energy changes and fluctuates. There are better times of the month for socialising and times when I have to hide away. I know my cycle well, and can predict when I will have enough energy to go out and be social and when I will be struggling with tiredness and need to rest.
This week however, I was not at a point in my cycle when I should be going through this stuff. Day 7 is usually a time of increasing energy, busy-ness, lots of ideas and planning.. becoming more social etc I had had a particularly crap cycle anyway, coupled with my birthday, which this year I was really not up for celebrating.. the 'depression' had started right back then. The negativity swallowed me up. I couldn't see the point in trying. I was easily angered, wound up, hurt, upset... I did a lot of shouting and stamping about. When these times happen, it's like I have left my body and am outside watching everything unfold. I upset my children... I pushed my man away. I rejected my friends offers of help. The negative thoughts tell me that it's all false. No one really wants to help. Everyone is judging. People think I am weird, a pain in the ass, over dramatic... it's like I can hear all the sighs of everyone when they see another negative status message. Even with lots of PMDD friends around, who I know will understand, I can't connect. I can't talk.
It's like being bound, gagged, blindfolded and thrown into a pit of terror. We would call this dysphoria, which is commonly known to include persecutory feelings and suicidal tendencies.
For 4 days I barely ate a thing. I went from not being able to get out of bed despite sleeping for hours and hours, to being unable to sleep and staying up all night. I couldn't deal with the kids. By the end of the week they were both avoiding me and trying to stay out of my way. Rhiannon doing an amazing job of being a stand in mum for Fae while I am emotionally unavailable. All of it kills me emotionally.. I do and say things I normally wouldn't. It makes me feel like a terrible person...
I've had uncontrollable flashbacks to times in my life when I was going through hell, all the emotions from those times surface. I rid myself of one thought only to be bombarded with more negative imagery and feelings. Feelings of panic and palpitations which can last all day. Fear of having to leave the house and face anyone was too much and I spent a lot of time in the dark, in my bedroom. Thoughts of escaping... running away... hurting myself. I did not get the usual suicidal feelings this time, but the desire to destroy, cause myself pain were very strong. THAT'S when keeping yourself locked away in a bedroom is a good idea. My mind was taking me to all sorts of crazy places. Should I cut off all my dreads? should I destroy the last painting I created? I could burn myself, crash the car, find something sharp... drink a bottle of vodka... (yes to me, alcohol is a form of self destruction.. it makes me ill and so would achieve the desired result). All I have to do is hang on until it passes. Wait, till the demon leaves me. Try and get through without letting any of these impulses take over. It's not easy, and as yet, I haven't figured out what I should do in these situations. What I need is a place to go while going through it all, away from my friends and family.. but it's not likely to ever be possible, so hey, you just gotta do what you can. My body has been curled up and tense all week, the pain in my back and shoulders from the tension is awful. The exhaustion from the endless thoughts and visions knocks me for six.
So, if it's happening out of cycle, at a time when I would not expect it, then I have to look at what else is going on. I follow a shamanic path. I always have, although when I was younger it took the form of witchcraft. Moving on from the restrictions and rules that are set when following such belief systems, led me to where I am now. As a woman, my cycle is shamanic in itself. Every woman has a direct connection to the Earth and the Moon. The menstrual cycle echoes the seasons of the year in it's energetic changes and also follows the phases of the moon. We are currently entering Spring. Pre ovulation. It's a transition time. The Spring Equinox this week symbolises this. A time when the Sun and the Moon are in balance, but also, a time when one half of the world welcomes in Spring and the other half kisses goodbye to Summer and is seeing in the Autumn. A duality, a time of balance and extremes all at the same time. Confusing eh?
I digress. In following a shamanic path, in dedicating myself to it, in stepping deeper into the mysteries I have to allow the necessary shifts to occur within me. Thing is, you don't get an email telling you you are about to go through another shamanic healing process... To be honest, I wasn't overly familiar with shamanic initiatory illness and it's symptoms until now, but the more I look at what is going on right now, the more it makes sense. I could just call it a breakdown, a PMDD episode that has arisen due to the stresses and strains of life, the terrible British weather and SAD, but that is almost dismissing the importance of these happenings (It does make it easier for others to understand, especially those who think shamanism etc is a load of bollox). The healing that follows the darkest times are invaluable... IF you can develop an understanding of why it's happened.
LOOK at the symptoms for shamanic initiatory illness... (these can also be symptoms of coming off psychiatric meds or the rising of the kundalini)
Shaking, vibration, altered states of consciousness ranging from comatose to euphoric, extremely long periods of insomnia or hypersomnia, inability to tolerate eating, food cravings, headaches, nausea and vomiting, nightmares, suicidality, pain, heart palpitations, fear of going crazy, feeling tormented, terror, being bed-ridden, agitation, weakness, cognitive confusion, seizures, muscular rigidity, tingling, impaired vision, hearing unusual sounds, seeing lights, other hallucinations or visions, obsessive or impulsive behavior, rages, crying jags, severe depression, vertigo, seeming drunk without taking any substance, exhaustion, chills, heat, sweating, tendency to withdrawal and agoraphobia.
I can tick off many of the above and have just experienced them. There is much documented about how shamans view schizophrenia and episodes like the one I have just described. In fact such things as schizophrenia do not exist in shamanic tribes. Shamans would view these things as a spirit trying to contact the living world, or a possession of a body by a spirit. Likewise, PMS or PMDD would not exist in these circles either. Women's menstruation was seen as a very powerful thing, and an essential part of their (and the tribe's) spiritual well being. Menstruation, itself, is an altered state of being/consciousness. You can read more about how shaman's deal with mental illness in the following link. It's an amazing article. http://www.jaysongaddis.com/2010/11/the-shamanic-view-of-mental-illness/
I can't say for sure that this is some kind of shamanic thing going on... but I also don't class myself as truly mentally ill. I am also not a flaky character that can't deal with the things life throws at her, as I have gone through a whole heap of difficult situations and life traumas over the years and am still here to tell the tale. My counselor, a few sessions in, told me she is amazed I am still here. My reply, is always... my kids keep me here. They are the reason I continue to live out my life on this planet... that and the fact that I have been blessed with a life, so really, I better make the most of it, however alien the world seems, and however difficult this particular life seems to be. Life, now, is actually better that it has ever been.. a gorgeous, loving and understanding husband, better relationships with family and friends, two amazing children and my art, my writing, the wonderful web, and a future that hopefully holds some great things.
About 15 years ago, during another challenging time of my life, my tarot teacher once said to me 'The hardest steel is tempered in the hottest fire'. That has stuck with me ever since. To be strong, to understand another person's pain, to feel empathy, to be able to help, heal, you need to undergo it yourself. I never consciously asked for this path, it just is... I find most of my life is 'out of my hands' these days. I rely on my instinct, on catching the wave and feeling the flow. I guess that with that comes the storms that turn the boat over, throw you into the water and leave you fighting for your life. What I wish though is that it didn't affect my family and friendships so much. 
So I'm doing my best. To understand, to learn, to develop and grow. I wanted to share all this stuff as I do freak out some times and think that everyone must think I am completely nuts, or just a depressive personality with no joy or fun, but that's not the case. I'm just different, and dealing with some really weird shit that no body gave me a manual for! Thank you to everyone who contacted me with kind words and who offered the hand of support. I'm sorry I couldn't accept, and especially sorry if my actions or words hurt or upset anyone...
I'm still 'coming round', settling down. It takes a while to flush out the adrenaline and anxiety, it takes even longer to get rid of the guilt and the feeling of embarrassment and shame, but writing this, focusing on some art will help, and hopefully I will re-integrate what I've learned through all this and next time wont be so bad... I have no idea how many of these I need to go through, but I couldn't actually begin to count the times that this sort of thing has happened. The last time was 6 months ago at the Autumn Equinox (pattern? who knows!)
Love to you all, and thank you for being a friend, in whatever capacity... (cyber, real life.. it's all the same)
Cat xx

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

NAPS Study Day

National Association for Pre menstrual Syndrome (NAPS)
Study Day on Women's Health - 1st March 2013

Women and their Hormones

I was very kindly invited along to the recent NAPS Study day on Women's Health in Southampton. As a PMS Lay Champion, PMDD sufferer and Health Activist I was permitted to attend the event which is usually only for medical professionals and trainee's. It was an amazing opportunity for me to get a window into what goes on behind the scenes and a perfect opportunity to share with others and let them know what happens at these things!  Thankfully, I was in the ovulatory phase of my cycle, and so was able to attend. Had the conference been held a week later, I may not have made it!

The venue (The Hub Theatre in Southampton) was very nice. Bright, clean and welcoming. It was really lovely to meet Jackie, the CEO of NAPS, as we had spoken via email quite a few times. I was a bit nervous, but after a coffee and a chat with Jackie, It felt good to be there.

Talks started with Mr Nick Panay, Consultant Gynaecologist and the Chairman of NAPS. After an introduction to the day and NAPS, he went on to talk us all through the NAPS guidelines on the management of PMS. These guidelines are available for £5 from the NAPS website and provide a very useful tool for GP's and patients when devising plans for managing PMS. Nick touched on the history of PMS, quoting Hippocrates and that the first time anyone made any connections between PMS and cyclical ovarian activity was in 1873 by Henry Maudsley. In the 19th century many called it 'Menstrual madness' and believed it was brought on by women reading serious books or playing music! By 1931 the term Pre Menstrual Tension was coined and in 1953, Dalton and Greene introduced the term Pre Menstrual Syndrome. In 1957 Katharina Dalton set up the first ever PMS clinic. The National Association of Pre menstrual Syndrome was founded by Dalton in 1983 and 5 years later, Professor John Studd discovered that menstruation was not an essential feature of PMS and began to use the term Ovarian Cycle Syndrome. Despite the recognition in the medical profession, the stereotypes, myths and taboos that surround menstruation continue to this day, with negative articles in women's magazines still being published. You would have thought that with all the research and support from medical professionals that this would no longer happen, but unfortunately PMS is still the butt of many jokes and is not taken seriously by the general population.

Mr Panay's talk was followed by Dr Carrie Sadler (GP and Associate Specialist in Reproductive health) and Ms Annie Hawkins (O+G Locum Consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital) who shared results taken from the Southampton Women's Survey and the NAPS Survey 2011. It was interesting to know that such a study had taken place. The Southampton Women's Survey started in the 1990's and interviewed over 12000 non pregnant women and included questions about PMS. The survey also followed these women through pregnancy and the development of their children. The most interesting conclusion was that women were less likely to have symptoms if they had been educated about the effects of the menstrual cycle and how to manage their symptoms. It was also noted that stress was a major factor in the severity of symptoms. Both surveys showed the need for more research and funding for raising awareness.

I would like to see more education for teenage girls in schools. If we educated our daughters about the menstrual cycle and how to see the early warning signs that their menstrual cycle may be becoming troublesome, I think we could reduce the incidences of extreme PMS or PMDD. Girls learn the basic bodily functions in school, and how to deal with having a period, but who talks to them about how they might FEEL? From personal experience, many women are unaware of what a detrimental effect the menstrual cycle can have on their mental health and well being and many who suffer from PMDD feel like they are actually 'going mad' or suffering from a severe mental health problem. If these women had known that the menstrual cycle CAN cause such severe problems I think we could see more women taking more control of their own bodies and cyclical problems, maybe even 'nipping it in the bud' before PMS (which can be treated relatively easily) develops into an extreme disorder. Stress is the main enemy of women who suffer from PMS, PMDD, fertility problems and sexual problems. This point was re-iterated many times throughout all the lectures.

Next up was Dr Alain Gregoire, (Consultant Psychiatrist at Southampton) talking about giving good ante-natal and post natal care. Dr Gregoire was an entertaining animated speaker who introduced us to a variety of facts regarding the research done on the effects of depression in pregnancy and how it can affect the child later on in life. He also noted that despite the research proving that mothers pre disposed to depression were highly likely to have problems post natally, that very little was in place to support these mothers. It made me realise that the doctors and specialists are probably just as frustrated with the way things are here in the UK as the patients themselves, and that many are working hard to change things. They are limited by funding, lack of research and all the red tape that surrounds working within the medical profession.

Ms Dani Singer, Adult Psychotherapist, London talked about the psychological aspects of premature ovarian sufficiency and highlighted the need for sensitive labelling of such disorders. Using words such as failure or dysfunction can create a negative reaction in the patient and lead to a misunderstanding of the problem itself. Labels are not always helpful to the condition. I had noted that Mr Nick Panay had mentioned that PMDD was the American term for Extreme PMS, and in the UK, doctors prefer the term Extreme PMS. I know from the women I have spoken to with PMDD, that to be associated with PMS is to almost disregard how bad PMDD episodes can be. If you tell someone you have Extreme PMS, then the main thing they hear is PMS and as we know, that is rarely taken seriously, so I do feel that a distinction should be made between PMS and it's extreme form. Many women relate to the dysphoric element of the description PMDD, and I feel it should have it's own name.. after all, it is currently described in the draft for the ICD 11 as 'a distinct clinical entity'.

Diet and the Menstrual Cycle was the topic presented by Ms Amanda Moore, Nutritionist, London. This was a fantastic talk highlighting the benefits of a healthy, low GI diet and it's positive effects on pre menstrual symptoms. You can devise nutrition plans depending on the symptoms presented. If you have more physical problems, foods to help support those bodily functions may help relieve symptoms, if it's more psychological, then foods can be prescribed to help with brain health and function. I think many women could do a lot more to help fight their PMS symptoms if they were more aware of what was good and bad to eat (although the bad is obvious in most cases!) The talk made me realise that I need to start getting more oily fish in my diet! Twice a week please! It also confirmed my thoughts that people in the UK can suffer greatly from a lack of vitamin D, which in turn reduces our serotonin levels. In some cases this can develop into Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can mean women with PMS/PMDD can suffer much more during the winter months in the UK.

The debate of the day was supposed to be between Professor John Studd (Professor of Gynaecology, London PMS and Menopause Centre) and Ms Claudine Domoney (Consultant O+G, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital). The topic – HRT can be taken forever. Unfortunately, Professor Studd was unable to attend, so we were all entertained by Claudine presenting both sides of the debate with an occasional comment from Nick Panay! It was very interesting and Claudine provided some much needed light relief after an intense morning of lectures. It was concluded that the newer bio-identical forms of HRT are safe for continuous use as they work in very small doses, and if an individual is happy with their medication there is no real reason to stop. What was also enlightening was hearing the frustrations of doctors who have had certain HRT medications discontinued.. often for no other reason than profitability to the drug company. It highlighted again that the doctors really do try to do their best, but are often restricted by the price of medications and are at the mercy of the drug companies that make and supply them.

After a brief break for lunch, we were back into the theatre for a discussion on contraception with Gilly Andrews, Clinical Nurse Specialist, London. It was amazing to hear about the advances in the contraceptive pill and the different types of pill coming onto the market. It was also explained that the reasons certain brands of pill are available abroad but not in the UK are because our own health authorities refuse to allow them to be prescribed over here. This is often down to the cost of the medications, or concerns over safety. If you are considering contraception and suffer from PMS, ask your GP or Family Planning Clinic for details of the newer contraceptive pills, such as Yasmin and Qlaira, and products such as the Nuvaring.

The afternoon talks moved away from the subject of PMS. Ms Claudine Domoney and Ms Annie Hawkins looked at sexual problems in women and how to diagnose correctly by taking into account other factors such as stress and background. Mr Tim Hillard, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Poole Hospital discussed pelvic floor disorders and the best way to help patients, including some really effective methods of treatment and Mr Michael Dooley, Consultant Gynaecologist and Medical Director from The Poundbury Clinic talked about fertility and the menopause, including what effects fertility and ways of dealing with infertility.

The day had been fascinating. It had been a pleasure to meet Nick Panay and the people behind the scenes at NAPS. Although I am no longer going down a medical or surgical route for managing my PMDD, I am very grateful for the work that all these specialists are doing. It had been said at the start of the day, that often, the first thing a patient does when they meet a specialist who understands their condition is shed some tears. I know that feeling well. I have met only a few medical professionals in my life who have taken me seriously, who have helped me and supported me. It was their understanding and belief that helped me to come to terms with what was going on, that it WAS real and there was an explanation. It enabled me to (eventually) become strong enough to do what I am doing now, which believe me, is not what I'd had in mind!

The next step for me is the launch of PMDD Awareness UK and an awareness month in April. The new website is almost ready and I am looking for women who would like to share their story/write about a certain aspect of PMDD. There will be ideas on the website of how you can help raise more awareness of PMS and PMDD, and ways that you can contribute to the website. Email me direct at pmddawareness@live.com if you would like to contribute to the website..

Thank you to NAPS and Mr Nick Panay for letting me peep through the window into the medical world, and for supporting my work so far. I hope that one day I might be able to stand at the front of the room and share my story, to give GP's and students a real life account of what PMS/PMDD really feels like, from my own personal story and from the stories I have read of hundreds of other PMDD sufferers over the years. If you ever get a spare slot, give me a call!

By Cat Hawkins

Mother, Artist, Writer, PMS Lay Champion, PMDD Blogger, Facebook Support Group Owner
Founder of PMDD Awareness UK – A grass-roots organisation with a mission to change the way the UK views menstrual health problems. Promoting a positive menstrual outlook.

(All personal views expressed are my own.  An edited version of my report can be found in the NAPS February bulletin  www.pms.org)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Where I am with things now...

The following is part of a message I wrote to my new UK support group...  I thought I'd share here too.

When I started the support groups I was very active in all of them.  I was still struggling with my PMDD and needed the valuable words of support and advice that you can find in the group, however, life moves on and my struggles are far more under my control and I am beginning to focus my time on other things.  What this means is although I am the group owner, I may not be in here and posting all the time.  I will always respond to anything I'm tagged in, but I unfortunately don't have the time I used to have to dedicate to the groups.  There was one point in my life when my PMDD groups were the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing at night!  I have always seen the need to create a UK group, so this, I think, will be the last group I set up!

I have been writing my blog for about 6 years and writing has my saviour so many times.  Go back a few years and you can read my posts from when I was at my worst, right up to now where I tend to focus my writing into creating more positive articles and blogs.  It has proved quite popular and I thank the Goddess for ever comment that keeps me writing.  I get lots of emails and inbox messages for people looking for help.  It would be impossible for me to help and support everyone, but what I can do is create a space where you can do it for each other.

I have lived with this since I was 13, and have tried many medications, birth controls, IUD's etc but the only thing that worked for me was changing the way I saw my period. I began working with the natural ups and downs.  I learned to deal better with stress and I make sure I avoid stressful situations.  Looking after myself, honouring what having a powerful connection to the cycle means has helped turn things around for me. I do not believe in medications.  I do not believe this incurable.  I see PMDD as a severe imbalance within the system, with many factors contributing to the overall list of symptoms.  It's a whole mix up of low serotonin, adrenal fatigue, excess hormones or lack of, sensitivity to the hormonal changes, not enough healthy food and exercise, lack of sleep, traumatic situations, childhood baggage, unhealthy relationships, being over worked, and negative though patterns etc etc... possibly mixed up with some depression and other health conditions you may have, and possibly brought on by some kind of reaction to hormonal medication, pregnancy, or underlying problem in the sex organs.

I now manage my PMDD and life so that I rarely suffer the severe symptoms.  I'm not free of it, but neither would I want to be.  PMDD makes me look at my life and the things I am doing.  It stops me from taking on more than I can handle.  It makes me streamline my friendships so that I only have people around me who I trust and who understand me.  It has led me to become strong and there is nothing better than PMDD to teach you how to 'not sweat the small stuff'.  I have achieved this through stopping all meds and birth control, getting lots of counseling, moving on from bad relationships and stressful friendships, and becoming more aware of my cycle.  I use spiritual views and ideas to get me through, concepts about the menstrual cycle that I connected with in a spiritual way.  It's made me be more honest and open with those around me.  It makes me ask for help when I need it. 

My menstrual cycle has become a source of inspiration for me and I no longer fear it.  I know the cycle.  I know MY cycle.  I rest when I need to, I work hard when I can.  I see my life, much like a circus act.  I'm the plate spinner.  I get one going, then my mood changes, so I set another one spinning... I keep going till there are things to do no matter what mood I'm in, so I focus on those things in turn as my mood changes.  Sometimes I drop all the plates, and after a rant, rest or cry, I start picking them back up and get spinning again.


One thing I have realised is that I will never be able to work a normal 9-5.  I cannot fit into the schedules of the outside world, so I will no longer strive to.  It has always been my plan to run my own business or go self employed, so that is now where I see myself heading.  One step at a time, always chipping away.  I used to think I would never get anywhere, locked into the crazy cycles, but now I see a path where before there was none.  

By meeting others and realising I was not alone I broke the first chain.  By learning from others and never giving up, never closing my mind to new possibilities I have got this far and so can you.  No matter what path you follow, whether it's meds, hormones, lifestyle, spirituality, alternative treatments or surgery, you will hopefully find someone else in the same boat who can relate, and who can offer support.  We should always be accepting of other peoples choices and remember that what may have worked for us may not work for someone else.  We can always offer a word of support even if we don't fully relate...

Currently, I am building a new website to launch PMDD Awareness UK.  I am hoping this will become a base for PMDD news and campaigns in the UK.  I am also hoping that women will join in in raising awareness, and the website will eventually provide posters to download, and info sheets to give to GP's.  I am also looking at creating a mood chart, downloadable from the website.  There are no organisations working solely for PMDD in the UK.  NAPS do a great job in working on behalf of women with PMDD, and I liase with them regarding PMDD Awareness issues.  They are still our only official organisation and a great place to get info and help.  They are also all set up for that kind of thing, so me, with my PMDD Awareness UK plans will need to continue to ask women to step forward, join the tribe and help try and change things.  You know that saying.. 'if you want something done...' well WE need something done about the state of PMDD and how it is dealt with, WE need to be prepared to write a letter or put up a poster...  It may only seem like small steps, but that's all we need to get started.  It's better than no steps at all! If you haven't liked the PMDD Awareness UK page, please come and do so www.facebook.com/pmddawarenessuk

Lots of love to you all! I wouldn't have got here if it hadn't been for these groups and the readers comments and messages on my blog! all of which have supported me along my journey, so thank you!

If you would like to join my new UK Facebook support group, and you currently live in the UK, please follow this link!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukpmddsupport/

Friday, 22 February 2013

New Posters available!

Finally!  After lots of work the Menstrual Cycle Visual Guide is now available for sale!

A4, printed on heavy FSC paper, this provides a handy visual guide to the menstrual cycle.  Useful for education purposes and to aid personal understanding of the cycle.

Single posters are £8 (price includes worldwide shipping) but are cheaper when purchased as part of a pack or as a multiple poster purchase.

Just go my my POSTER SHOP to browse the poster packs available!

Every poster sold helps me to keep doing what I'm doing!  I have never charged for anything I've created, written or shared, I have never asked for donations.  If you would like to show your support then buying a poster is one way to do that!  and, I hope, the posters will help you and the people around you too!

Many blessings xx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Available for sale SOON!


Prints of 'The Menstrual Cycle - A Visual Guide' should be available for sale early Feb! 

It took longer than expected to get the image ready for printing (image for web is different to the quality needed for printing). It will be A4 in size, available for sale on it's own and in a special offer package with my other poster 'The Secret Feminine Energy of the Menstrual Cycle'.

As soon as I know more I will let you know. Feel free to register your interest below if you would like to purchase. Price to be confirmed but will be around £8 with free shipping ♥


Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Menstrual Cycle - A Visual Guide

It never ceases to amaze me how many women don't really know what is going in inside their bodies during the menstrual cycle, or how to chart their cycle.  I don't mean that in an unkind way, it's just an observation.  Knowledge is the best tool you can have, and if you suffer with PMDD you need to do a bit of reading and get some of that valuable knowledge under you belt.  It will help as you try and figure out what happens at what point of your cycle, and having an idea of the physical changes inside you can really help.

Over the years I have come across videos and charts which have helped me to understand the changes my body goes through.  That understanding, in turn, led me to look for ways to support the changes rather than fight against them.  Timing and planning things around the different energies is now second nature.  Knowing my limits at each point of the cycle has really helped me live with PMDD.  I have the odd breakdown, but I am much more in control on a regular basis during all points of my cyclical changes.  That to me is like winning the lottery.

I decided to create a chart just for PMDD/PMS sufferers to refer to.  It shows the fluctuations in hormones, the physical changes, and the energetic/emotional changes.  Hopefully it will give you a good idea as to what is happening in side you when all hell breaks loose!  It also has key words to give you a feel for the natural energy of each phase..

I will go into the seasonal correspondences in another post, but it's quite easy to connect with.  Our energy grows after our period, peaks at ovulation and then slowly wanes until we bleed again. You can see this cycle happen in nature every year.  We have like a mini years worth of seasons in one month!  I have blogged about these theories before, you can find some of them here and here.  I also created a poster about these energies which you can find here -  http://naturalshaman.blogspot.co.uk/p/energy-cycle-poster.html.

We get all stressed out about feeling low, tired or crabby, but if we are pre menstrual or hitting ovulation there is a simple explanation!  Hormonal changes!  If you are still having trouble during the times when the hormones level out and are not finding yourself feeling better, then maybe there are other issues at play.  PMDD will drag you down during pre menstruation and in some cases, at ovulation too.  You should always feel better at each point between to two, but if you are not, you may need to look at whether your unhappiness/frustration is coming from a depression, an unsuitable job, an unhappy relationship, a past trauma or issue that hasn't been resolved.  PMDD plays a huge part in our emotional wellbeing, but it's not the only factor.  Stress and unresolved issues can add to the pressure and make an uncontrollable outburst more likely.

Here is the chart.  It clearly shows the fluctuations and changes the body goes through.  I have added where the PMDD crisis points are, along with the seasons of the year and key words that can give you an idea of the energies present during each phase.  Hopefully it is simple enough to understand, and below, is a written explanation.  Again, I hope I have written it in such a way that it is easy to understand.  I have read many a medical site that uses such technical words that it gets too complicated to understand!

To chart your periods, you start counting on the first day of bleeding.  That is day 1.  You keep counting until you bleed again and the again, the first day of bleeding becomes day 1.  Mark it on a calendar or use an app to keep track of your period.  This helps you to plan around your period by not taking on too much during the times that could be challenging.  I often count forward and also mark day 7, 14, 21 and 28.   That then gives me a quick view of where I will be emotionally and physically throughout the month.  Lots of cycles are longer or shorter, and that is normal.  28 days is just the average.  Ovulation always occurs around 14 days before your period, so if you have a short cycle, say, 21 days, you will ovulate on day 7.. if it is a longer cycle, say 32 days, you will ovulate around day 18.  It IS possible to ovulate twice in a month and to not ovulate at all.

The menstrual cycle is split into 3 phases, follicular, ovulation and luteal. The first phase is the follicular phase and corresponds to when the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone, produced in the brain) sends signals to the ovary to ripen and produce and egg.. This then produces more estrogen from the ovaries to enable the egg to ripen.. At ovulation, increasing estrogen levels from the maturing follicles cause the LH, luteinizing hormone, to surge, which releases the egg. The corpus luteum (a solid body of cells) is left behind at ovulation. The corpus luteum excretes progesterone and small amounts of estrogen and causes the womb lining to thicken in preparation for the egg. This is called the luteal phase. It prepares the body for pregnancy. During the luteal phase, estrogen drops quite rapidly and will fluctuate until your period. At the same time, progesterone is rising. It spikes around day 21, and then drops off rapidly. When the egg is not fertilised, the corpus luteum dies and stops producing progesterone and estrogen, this allows the womb to shed it's lining and cleanse the uterus.

The other hormones involved are those that are produced in the brain that send signals to the ovaries.  Gonadotropic hormones come from the pituitary glad in the brain.  They are controlled by GnRH frequencies that send out pulses to regulate the production of gonadotropic hormones.  In men, this pulse is contstant and steady.  In women, the frequencies change throughout the cycle which is what gives us a cycle that changes and fluctuates.  The change in frequency is what sends out the right amount of gonadotropic hormones to our ovaries to trigger the stages of the menstrual cycle.

The basal body temperature can help clearly indicate ovulation and is important for those trying to conceive or who use the fertility awareness method of contraception.  By orally taking your temperature every morning as soon as you wake (before even getting out of bed) and keeping a record, you will see a drop in temperature at ovulation and then it will rise from around 36.4°F to 36.7°F.  Other signs of ovulation is the consistency of cervical mucus.  At ovulation, this mucus will be fluid and watery.  Some women can tell they are ovulating just by how wet or moist they get.  This fluid helps sperm to swim more easily into the womb.  After ovulation, the cervical mucus will get thicker and more sticky.  This is much harder for the sperm to swim through, which helps with contraception.  For more info on the fertility awareness method and charting temperature, take a look at TCOYF.  Some women do also experience pain at ovulation.  Stabbing sharp pains on either the left or right side can signify which ovary you are ovulating from!  They are known as mittelschmerz.

By having even a basic understanding of the physiology of the menstrual cycle, you can get to grips with why we experience these changes in mind and body.  This is the physical process, but we all know that these changes DO have a significant effect on our mental health, moods and wellbeing. 
When you really learn and come to terms with the fact that our bodily processes are pretty much out of our hands.. meaning, we cannot stop them, (unless we control them with birth control/hormone therapy or hysterectomy) but we can start to look at ways of how to live and work WITH them.  Of course, we can influence our bodily functions.  By eating and sleeping right, exercising and staying away from stress we can encourage a healthier system... 
Never underestimate stress.  Stress can knock out these physical rhythms, causing the cycle to become off balance.  This can lead to irregular periods, changes in cycle length, missing or late periods and all manner of emotional symptoms.

I have produced an alternate version of this chart to share on Facebook, and may look at getting some printed for those who would like a hard copy to stick up at home...  If you are interested in buying a copy, please message me via my Facebook page or use my Kontactr box. 

Chart is for illustrative purposes only and includes the main factors responsible for the menstrual cycle.  There are obviously other smaller players on the menstrual stage, but for the purposes of PMDD education, I have focused on the star performers!
If you choose to download and share, please link back to me and do not remove my copyright from the image.  Please contact me if you wish to re blog, so I can give you a shout out in return!  Thank you. xx

© Cat Hawkins 2012 - Art and design by chaoticat.com.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Positive or Negative?

There has been some chat in the support group recently about positivity and negativity.  Support groups (and I mean any, not just mine) can be negative places and I mean negative in that most of what is discussed originates from a post that may be very negatively worded.

I started the groups on Facebook mainly because that was where I met other sufferers, for the first time, only a lot of the time I found myself not feeling comfortable sharing on an open wall for all to see.  Hence my closed groups were born.  This meant for me and many others that we had somewhere to write about our problems and worries, somewhere to rant and vent.  This often avoided the same rants or venting on personal pages, allowing people to seek help from an audience that completely understood why that person was having issues.  The problem with ranting to friends or in front of family is that quite often they do not really understand PMDD and therefore can assume all manner of things about the PMDD sufferer.

Lots of valuable information is shared in the groups, and over the past 2 years I have seen women find treatments and paths that have helped them manage their PMDD and lives to the point of leaving the groups never to return.   Some leave and come back after realising they are not quite ready to go it alone.  Having access to a group of women who completely understand really helps to transform the way you see PMDD, the way you see yourself and the world around you.

I have tried to make the groups a positive place, and many women post lots of positive messages, or update us on the good days as well as the bad, however, many feel they should not share the good days for fear of upsetting those on bad days.  Some may wonder if we are all just dwelling on it too much and keeping ourselves in a space of pain and hurt.  The way I see it is we all need support to find our path.  Some ladies may find that just a few kind words can transform their day, but the only way they are going to get a response is to share the negative situation they find themselves in.  Some ladies may only need the support of a group for a couple of months, some may need a couple of years.  This difference is because we are all unique and are at various points on our healing paths.

I think it's OK to have a space that absorbs all the negative.  Writing things down is known to be a good way to transform thoughts into something more tangible, real.  That way we can then release them.  I used to worry and dislike the way the Facebook wall works.  I was used to forums where you could go back on old posts and comments, and I could see (and still do) some really useful ways a forum could work, aside from the fact people wouldn't have to repeat themselves or have the same discussion over and over, and women could also look back and see how far they've come, or find past posts easier.  Unfortunately, the FB wall doesn't lend itself to this very well... it's a dumping ground.  The good thing about this however, is we are NOT reminded of the bad days all the time, the past is the past and is rarely brought back up for re-discussion.  This is good with regard to PMDD as we have these crazy, dark moments, but they are not us.. they may be typed up, posted, talked about and then are lost to the wall and we move on.

Each and every individual needs to take responsibility for themselves and their own healing, whether that includes meds or not.  I have always said the groups should not be a stress to anyone, and that if the negativity in the group is something that is causing you problems then you may need to take a break from the group (just like in life, really).  Many women only visit the group when they need to rant, or some may visit if they see a cry for help and they are strong enough to post a reply.  The support groups as they are work because they are really for one thing only, and that is to talk with other sufferers and find some understanding and sympathy.

What I would like to highlight though, is the power of negative words.  I think this is something all people should consider, but maybe women with PMDD more so.   

Last year, in our house, we tried The Big Apple Experiment.  You cut an apple in half and place it in identical glass, airtight jars, and then over the coming week/s you love one half and hate the other.

It was VERY easy to hate the hate half of the apple.  There was no trouble with finding hateful, hurtful things to say to that half of the apple.  My husband and I could rant at it for a while before running out of things to say, yet, when it came to saying lovely things to the other half, we all found it harder.  It even felt OK to hate, but when we tried to say loving things, it was not easy to find the words and we'd feel uncomfortable about expressing it.  What does that say about us?  Why do we not feel comfortable with speaking words of love and happiness?

Over the coming weeks we continued to talk to each half of the apple every day and the results were amazing.

You may be hugely skeptical, and if you are, I urge you to try it!  It's a great thing to do with the children to teach them about how their words can affect others, but it's also an eye opener as to what we may be doing to ourselves when we talk negatively about ourselves.  There is a lot of self hatred that goes on within PMDD groups, and of course, others will always give a hug and some reassuring words, but just LOOK at what you are potentially doing to yourself with negative words and thoughts.  These ideas, as mentioned in the video above, come from Masuru Emoto's work, which some of you may like to take a look at, and I also found another video!

It is good to rid yourself of negative emotions, we know that, however, when we see what that negativity can do to us and the people around us I think we all need to be more selective with our words, especially with the things we say to ourselves.  It's not about being all fluffy bunny and irritatingly positive all the time, but maybe finding more positive ways to look at things, and watching what you SAY and think.  Words have a massive impact on us, much more that we really realise.

As always, in the name of balance, I am also sharing a link with you which explores why positive thinking is NOT necessarily always good for you!  It's all great food for thought, and hopefully, somewhere in all this mornings ramblings, you may find something that helps you! http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-and-personal-mastery/201004/why-positive-thinking-is-bad-you

The most important change I have made in my life with PMDD is that things are not BAD or GOOD.. POSITIVE or NEGATIVE... there are gifts to be found in the darkest of moments, there is positivity to be found even in the most awful situations.  I do not have good and bad weeks anymore, I have better weeks and more challenging weeks, or high energy weeks and low energy weeks.  I no longer allow myself to get sucked into self hatred and speaking terrible things at myself in the mirror.  I also curb what I say about others, knowing that that negative energy could find them and cause more rifts and friction.  In many spiritual traditions there is a Law of Three, or Threefold law.  That which you give out comes back to you 3 times over.  Some call it Karma.  If you give out positivity, you get back more positivity, and the same works for negativity.

So, in summary, there is a place for the support groups.  Somewhere to rant, rage, hate, let off steam, expel anger and meet others who can understand and share their experiences without judgement, however each and every one of us is responsible for their own lives, happiness, healing and well being.  No one can cure you, no one can save you, no one can make it all better with the swish of a wand, but we all have the ability to make life easier for ourselves, to break bad habits and try and see ourselves and situations from a different perspective.   

When I was at Uni, there was a lad who only drew in red.  Everything he did was created in red.  He was a bit worried about it, as he didn't want to lose marks.  The tutor was brilliant and said something that stuck with me ever since.. He said that the lad should go with it.. just work in red until the desire to work in red has gone.  At some point in the future he will get fed up with red and change to a different colour, but there was no point in trying to force it.  That's how I see the groups.  Women need it for a certain amount of time, they need a space to moan and offload, but that wont necessarily last forever, and in time, they will change the colour, or add colours, until they are off painting with all the colours the world has to offer.

Draw in red for a while, if that's what you need...  one day, you will change the colour, you will move on, you will change...  You may feel at the bottom of a deep dark pit, that everything you say is negative and then that in turn fuels MORE negativity, you may feel there is no way out, that you will always be like this, but you wont...  Nothing ever stays the same!


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