Entry 1: “Hell Week”

Surviving Hell Week is no joke for a PMDD warrior! 

One minute I am happy, the next, I am crying uncontrollably and feel like not wanting to be here. This never ending cycle of painful cramps, bloating, fatigue, insomnia and suicidal ideation are just a few of the many symptoms that make it difficult for me to live a normal life. It’s unpredictable. It’s chaotic. It’s progress.

Life with PMDD is like an ongoing battle of confronting the darkness within and having the strength to pull yourself out of it. Don’t get me wrong, having a strong support system and healthy lifestyle helps, but it can only go so far. It’s about practicing self care and being kind to yourself! I mean, just knowing that I’ve survived one hell week before, it gives me enough reassurance that I can do it again. I believe it is the amount of work you put in preparation before the next hell weeks that will make the difference in how you cope with such symptoms when it arrives. So, I would recommend doing some research and finding out what resources and approaches work best for you.

Each cycle is different. The way I have coped with some symptoms may be effective during one cycle, but for another, it may not. Despite the inconsistency, one thing is for sure. I’ve learned that by monitoring my thoughts, behaviors and what I eat have, it helps keep my symptoms on check.  Self awareness is key!

Take negative self talk for an example- once I can identify it, I acknowledge that it’s a red flag that I need to take a step back, take a deep breathe and reevaluate my feelings. I ask myself if it’s true then I tell myself at least two affirmations and remind myself that everything will be okay. Dealing with my escape fixation is another tough one. I realized that this unhealthy coping mechanism is a result on how I react to particular stressors that make me feel depressed, hopeless and irritable. If I don’t remove myself from the hostile environment, then that’s when my anxiety kicks in. So, whenever those unwanted emotions arise, I choose healthy habits like drawing, meditation, Zumba, running, reading a book, traveling to eating new food.

*Last Thoughts: Hell week is challenging for me because I don’t take medication for my symptoms due to a family history of mental illness. Even though I was prescribed Prozac, I decided to take Trazadone when needed for my insomnia and a holistic approach.

Entry 5: PMDD at Work

From experiencing days of horrible migraines, fatigue, bloating, nauseousness, breast tenderness to muscle pain, I’ve come to accept that the severity of my PMDD physical symptoms are unpredictable before each cycle. After years of inconsistency, I am still undergoing many trails & errors to figure out multiple treatment alternatives that works best for me.

Learning how to cope with such symptoms seems manageable for the most part, but for some reason, it’s a continuous struggle at work. Not only is it hard to concentrate and focus with my tasks, but when I cry uncontrollably, I’ve noticed the amount of times I ended up going back and forth to the bathroom! Whenever I feel such disabling symptoms, I do my best and not force myself or else my anxiety worsens. So, I either leave work early or call out sick before my shift starts. My attendance and coping skills with PMDD at the workplace needs improvement, but I’m in the process of working with our HR so they can accommodate my needs. Here’s some tips that will help-

*Note: Not all women experience the same physical symptoms each cycle*

Unlike PMS, I noticed that women with PMDD have described their physical, emotional and mental experiences as PMS on steroids. I believe that there’s a lot of misunderstandings regarding the difference because I’ve been told numerous “That’s just PMS. You’re overreacting. That’s just an excuse. Does that mean I have PMDD too?” What a lot of people don’t understand that women with PMS only experience at most for example 3 PMS symptoms whereas women with PMDD experience at least 5 PMS symptoms + 1 mood disorder. There’s a major difference. In addition, PMDD affects your daily activities, threatens the person’s mental wellbeing & overall function.

I wish that it was only PMS, but it’s more than what you think! Coping with PMDD symptoms require more effort in pulling oneself up from such detrimental and disabling symptoms. It’s about surviving “hell week” and making sure one survives!

To my fellow PMDD Warriors, which physical symptoms do you experience during hell week? Can you relate?

**Here’s some helpful links!

Entry 4: Human Connection

Inhale positivity. Exhale negativity.

Post after post, I realized how much negative energy and discomforting thoughts I was carrying in my heart when people were expressing their feelings and opinions on Facebook.

I thought that being in a support group with people who are experiencing similar symptoms would be uplifting, but I found myself being more depressed than I should be. It’s just me. Please don’t get me wrong, I connected well and shared my experience but I don’t know why it triggers me feeling hopeless. Maybe it’s because I feel like there isn’t anything physically I could do to help make them feel more at ease.

Rather than being heavily influenced by external factors, I realized that I needed to keep focusing on the positive posts & uplifting messages! Hands down, the people are amazing and I appreciate their different perspectives & advice but it’s at my best interest to only read selected posts at the moment that make me feel good. I mean, I’ll continue helping others, however, I can but will keep in mind not to compromise my well being.

It’s just my nature to empathize but I lack the knowledge in not taking things personally. My emotions are not in alignment and I feel sensitive regarding the topics brought up. It’s one of those moments when time is needed to heal my inner wounds first so I can get stronger.

I need human interaction.

Entry 3: Lonely Me

Just one of those nights with me, myself and I…

Isolating oneself and making space for some “Me Time” seems ideal after a long week at work in the city (San Francisco) and being surrounded by people. However, it has become a challenge lately as it reminds me how lonely I truly am. Years of spending alone time and educating myself about PMDD just doesn’t feel suffice. I have come to a point when I experience these horrifying symptoms, I remain quiet because of the feeling that others will not understand.

Living with these PMDD symptoms eat me up and no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise, I seem to find myself not content. For example, I am currently in a support group with other people affected by PMDD, but it doesn’t feel enough due to the lack of conversing face to face. The positive feedback, suggestions and thoughts are greatly appreciated, however,  there are times I just look it as words and no human connection has been made. Just like 12 step programs out there, I feel like there should be meetings for people struggling with PMDD and other reproductive mood disorders!

Okay, enough of this negativity. No more feeling disconnected. No more complaining.

It’s time to find a solution to this problem!

Entry 2: Back to Normal

Free from all the madness, for now!

After weeks of emotional instability and physical pain, it feels good to laugh again. It feels nice to socialize instead of flaking out last minute because of my anxiety. It feels amazing to regain my energy and concentration at work. It’s like all the negativity inside disappeared and things are at ease. It definitely feels like a huge accomplishment knowing that you’ve survived the cycle, transitioning back to normal and able to yourself again.

Having PMDD symptoms is like a heavy load of negativity that drags you down and disables you to do daily activities. Despite your coping skills, it puts a pause on your life. You can’t function like normal people. It requires your full attention to take care of your inner demons before doing anything or else you risk the possibility of getting trapped in the chaos. Trust me, it’s not ‘just PMS’. It’s the extreme form of PMS and the symptoms are so severe that sufferers like me need to do whatever we can do to protect our well-being and not allowing PMDD to threaten our relationships.

Once my menstrual cycle starts, the PMDD symptoms subside and all the suffering ends temporarily. The depressive thoughts & physical discomfort that weighed me now have lifted. For a couple of weeks, I have a moment to feel carefree in the right mindset. It is also at this time when I prepare again for the next hell weeks!

Creating back up plans is a must! I’ve found it helpful to schedule at least 1morning of alone time away from the distractions so I can figure out what has helped me during those dark times and reevaluate my past mistakes. The more activities, resources and support I have, it brings more awareness to myself and others. Coping with the PMDD symptoms get easier when I familiarize myself with effective solutions.

Whenever I feel like giving up, I turn to my affirmation box because it brings me comfort. It gives me hope that the struggles will pass and snaps me out of the negative thinking. “Breathe in the positive vibes. Soak in the love. It’s okay not to be okay. Forgive yourself. We live and we learn.” Repeating these short phrases, mantras and affirmations helped boost my self esteem and reassure that everything will be okay.

*Last thoughts: By reflecting on my behaviors during hell week and appreciating the present moment, it brings me more self awareness. Just keep making improvements and do what it takes to be the best version of yourself.