By Thalia Arias
My struggle with PMDD has been an excruciating process of self-awareness, hard work, and compassion.
Since I was in my teens, I noticed that I’d have periods of depression or anxiety, disordered sleep, and confusion. But I could never figure out that these feelings peaked a week or two before my period. Because I was living with trauma and still do, I thought I had general malaise that peaked unexpectedly.
The main way that these feelings affected my life were and still are through my relationships and self-confidence. I feel closed off, I feel angry –seething, I feel vulnerable, I overeat, I compare myself, I feel entangled with my inner critic.
Today, 10 days away from my period, I can feel my mental pattern changing. It starts off as low-grade anger and a victim-mindset. It can be hard for me to figure out how to justify my emotions when I know on some level what I’m feeling is a strong identification with my ego.
Just a year or two ago I wouldn’t have been able to feel this shift. I have come along way since then and I want to share some things that have helped me.
● Therapy – I see a therapist once a week. I was able to find my therapist through Open Path Collective and she really helps me interrupt my own patterns of thinking. I have tried three or four therapists over time and my current therapist has been my greatest help. She’s really taught me about having compassion for my own suffering and remedying anxious thoughts with true self-care. What this means for me is allowing myself to not have everything figured out, allowing myself to stop ruminating, and allowing myself to do something that brings me joy.
● Meditation and Media – It’s hard for me to meditate during this time of the month because I have a hazy brain so I try to listen to positive podcasts, talks on Insight Timer, a meditation app, and even Christian and pop music that’s very PC. It helps keep my mind out of the gutter and in a more positive space. I am challenging myself to delete my Instagram app this month because it breeds so much anxiety in me.
● Supplements – I take Magnesium and Calcium right after ovulation – so basically for half of each month. I’m currently experimenting with 5 HTP and seed cycling too, but haven’t been consistent about both. A side effect of hazy brain is forgetting to be consistent. Reminding myself that I’m fighting for my life (esp. when suicidal ideation has been and continues to be something I struggle with) helps me to keep supplements and healthy eating at the forefront of my brain.
● Eating and Exercise – Quitting coffee has helped me with anxiety tremendously. Cutting out cow’s milk has helped improve my skin. I thrive when I don’t eat as many simple carbs – and this is a hard thing for me to do. I go through periods where I exercise and then don’t, but when I’m “on,” yoga helps me tremendously and so does running. I also try not to beat myself up when I can’t finish a workout. Recently, while experiencing PMDD, I cried while on a run and went with it for a while then just stopped and walked. I think that is okay.
● Work – I’m fortunate to be able to work from home up to two days a week. I take advantage of this because there had been days in the past where I’d head to work during a PMDD episode and start crying before I even get off the train. So, being able to be home is very helpful. It also helps me have space from my coworkers. Overall, I don’t have any toxic coworkers that I work closely with but having space, in general, is helpful to me as I tend to be sensitive in all my relationships during this time. There are also many days during PMDD when I do less work so I tend to do a lot more work when I’m not experiencing PMDD symptoms.
● Partner – My partner knows I have PMDD. I tell them when I’m feeling depressed or anxious, and they typically make sure to go jogging with me or something like that at least once during that time so I feel supported. Last month, they held me while I had a crying fit over not eating breakfast. I do feel guilty about reminding them I’m not feeling well each month, so this is an area for me to improve going forward. I also find that I get suspicious of my partner’s love during this time. It’s something I’m working on. I know enough about myself to know this comes from previous trauma and not feeling safe. In general, the things that I can easily let go of during other parts of the month, feel like it’s imperative that I solve or be angry about when I’m experiencing PMDD symptoms. In a way, PMDD helps me be more truthful or pay attention to what life is teaching me. In another way, it also just causes me to be more angry, less empathetic, and downright rude.
Overall, I still have a long way to go. The things I regret the most about my PMDD are times when it’s affected my relationships – things I’ve said, commitments I’ve broken because of it. Therapy and awareness have helped me take a step back from my emotions and being reactive. In line with this, every single day I need prayer like I need water, and I either pray or write affirmations in my notebook to help myself come into alignment again and again.
Right now, I’m also electing not to use any medication. I’ve had the implanted birth control and an IUD and I didn’t like either. I’ve also taken a small dose of Zoloft which I didn’t take consistently because of the stigma I had in my mind about medication. Right now, I’m not ruling it out, I’m just using therapy and period tracking as my first line of defense and seeing where this takes me.
To everyone suffering from PMDD, I want to say: you don’t deserve to suffer, and you don’t need to feel guilty about doing things that support your wellbeing and could help save your life.
About The Warrior
Thalia believes that taking care of your mental health is a huge part of living a happy and fulfilled life. She is a communications professional who works in Boston and loves books, movies, and yoga.