By Jennifer Abbott
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly!
This is my journey with PMDD and how I have learned to embrace what it is trying to teach me. I hope that I can reach women out there that truly struggle with this disorder and provide some peace and clarity.
I have been dealing with symptoms of headaches, fatigue, moodiness, overeating, and personality changes, including destructive behavior and thought patterns, since I was 15. At that point, my mother put me on birth control thinking it would regulate me. Even when it made things worse, I told myself it was the only way. I would still go to doctor after doctor and tell them my problems. I was diagnosed with depression and was put on antidepressants and painkillers for a week out of the month.
The first time I became pregnant was when I was 22 and was actually on birth control at the time. I felt the best I had ever felt. Others thought I was weird because they said pregnancy made them feel horrible, but I felt great! Consistent, energetic…pregnancy suited me very well, and I never thought anything about it. Later on, I realized it was because I wasn’t having a period and my body was making the necessary hormones it needed to carry a baby full term. Now I know that one of the major issues for me with PMDD is the drop in the hormone, progesterone.
Six months after having my first child, the problems returned and seemed to get worse. I would start dissociating and become full of rage in the two weeks before my period. My periods were always VERY consistent. I actually could tell where I was in my cycle by how I was feeling, how tired I was, what I wanted to eat, how soft my hair was, how much weight I was gaining, and how I responded to criticism. I would always call into work during these times and could never keep a job because of it. I always had to make up some excuse, but it never made sense to any employer because I would work so hard and would be on time and was a hard worker these other weeks but then almost a different person the other half. It took a toll on me because I felt I could never really accomplish anything for very long without messing it up. I developed a very pessimistic attitude toward life and felt hopeless for a productive future. I had so many goals, desires, and skills, but I couldn’t really start any path because, in my mind, I knew my period would come and mess it up. The worst part was that no one understood. No one could fix me. Everyone told me, “I have complete control…” I almost developed what I feel may have been PTSD about my period coming on. I stopped taking birth control after my first child because when I started taking it again, it made me very angry. I just dealt with the ebb and flow of it.
Four years after having my child and going to countless doctors and spending thousands of dollars on blood tests, scans, etc., I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid is overactive. At this point, I still had not put together that hormones play a role in your menstrual cycle. All I knew was that I always had an UP week when I could accomplish ANYTHING! When I told doctors about this UP week, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on medications. None of these medications worked because they made me feel trapped inside myself. I could barely move and felt more depressed than I did before taking them. In my heart, I knew I was not bipolar. After being diagnosed with the thyroid disorder, I was sent to an endocrinologist where they put me on a medication to slow my thyroid down. I can’t recall if it really made me feel better or not because it just didn’t work. My levels stayed the same and eventually I was told to have my thyroid irradiated which would consist of me taking a pill that contained radioactive iodine to basically kill my thyroid gland. I was told that irradiating it would cure me of all my problems and I would just have to take one pill every day for the rest of my life. They told me it would be simple! Because I didn’t know anything about this gland and didn’t really have a good support system, I went along with it because the only words I heard would, I would feel better!
Fast forward a little, I ended up wanting a divorce from my husband and from then on became a completely different person in my thoughts and feelings. I felt that I was growing more and more spiritual, but I had no idea that the next 10 years of my life would be the most trying, contain the most hardship, but also allow me to experience inner growth, self-love, more children and ultimately inner peace and freedom.
Even though I was now living on my own, I was still struggling with the wave coming each month. It was tough to sustain a consistent life pattern for myself and then to switch from days having my child and not having my child. I managed to get a job with a very understanding boss who again, was very grateful for my work when I was working but understood once a month I would call out. This still did not help in my finances because I wouldn’t get paid for these days and it limited me from ever advancing in any job or career. I went to hormone doctors and spent more and more money. Mind you, I was still having massive difficulties with my thyroid not being regulated and would not stay consistent. No one would understand and help me. I was constantly being referred to mental health doctors which did not help me. I had lost my mother when I was 21, and my father passed away the year after I got divorced. I felt very alone and hopeless, and I started going in a downward cycle.
At this point, I accepted this is how I would live, and I would never be happy. My thoughts were never positive, and I was manifesting nothing but hardship in my life. I met a good man who loved me very much but for some reason, every month I would become what he said was a “monster” and I always expected him just to accept me that way and not take it personally. He left me because he said I was too negative. His words were, “when things are good, they are really really good, and when things are bad, they are really really bad.”
Three years later, I met another man and within a short amount of time we had three children together (twin boys and a little boy). I had more and more issues, so this was the first time I decided to try acupuncture and diet changes, expressing to him that I would just be overly sensitive during this time and to please just be compassionate. I started going to church, praying every day. I would write down the phases of the cycles, research what foods to eat and to avoid, what supplements to take, I became almost obsessed with tracking my hormones on certain days. He said he tried very hard but the things that would come out of my mouth, he just could not ignore, and I didn’t understand why two weeks out of the month I felt completely different than the other two. I was finally diagnosed with PMDD by my OBGYN, and she also found from a blood test that my progesterone was very low so she put me on progesterone which actually made me depressed and more fertile. I never could understand why I was so imbalanced hormonally but my hormones balanced perfectly when I became pregnant. Moving on, still, nothing was working. My fiancé left me and again, I was alone, now taking care of 4 children. I just didn’t understand why this was happening. I wanted to get a hysterectomy, I wanted the periods to stop. I was determined to end this cycle. Through my struggle, I found my path to overcome PMDD.
I think the key with overcoming PMDD is to embrace it and not reject it. Move into it and recognize what it is trying to tell you. I could go much further in detail on HOW I came to this point, and if given the opportunity, I would love to share in detail precisely what I tried and how I have come to live a peaceful life WITH PMDD. I even recognized that my cycle was in line with the moon cycle and how if we are attuned to the moon and the flow of the earth, we would understand that we, just like the moon, go through a cycle every month. During each phase of the moon, just like the phases of the menstrual cycle, different things occur, and there are different times to reflect and rest. This is the very reason our energies fluctuate during our cycles.
What I learned from this massive hardship in my life, because I truly love this man, was that I HAD to ACCEPT the feelings that were coming. No, he was not the right man for me at that time and no, the situations that I was in before were not the right situations for me. But I believe PMDD is actually a way our bodies tell us to process and release that which does not serve us and blocked emotions that we have not fully let go of. These emotions were hidden way underneath, and some times, I could tolerate them or just not let them bother me, but during the PMDD phase, I had no tolerance or patience for allowing certain things in my life. The more and more I realized this and decided to heal the feelings that would come up every month and mostly heal the parts of me that were the reason for the thoughts, the PMDD started getting better and better. It was easier to manage and regulate and became shorter and shorter. My periods even became less heavy, no pain, and just there as if they were just part of everyday life. I do get one day a cycle where I am very anxious, but I tell myself it’s okay, not to read into it and it will pass. I know not to make decisions during this time. This time is for me to relax, go inward and just be.
I feel that diet, rest, self-compassion, self-love, and patience with ourselves is an integral part of our healing. I also started teaching Kundalini Yoga which I will say has been the TOOL for curing my PMDD. It’s really a combination. When you begin to love yourself, you begin to get rid of the things that don’t serve you and naturally start tending to the inner need, the soul need which connects to the body and creates harmony and balance. Now, I have incorporated self-care, slowing down, more rest, a nutritious diet, meditation, kundalini yoga, reading, and homeopathic medicines. I listen to my body; not my thoughts. If I have a thought, I thank it and release it, but do not dwell on it. I thank the thought for coming up, see if it is something I need to ponder, then I let it go. If I feel it is going to get stuck or I want to obsess about it, I try transcendental meditation which actually helps me shift my focus. It all comes down to mindfulness. The period is a beautiful thing and a time where we get to renew ourselves and shed the old and manifest the new. If it is viewed this way as a tool for renewal, we can actually use it to our advantage and be grateful that we get to cleanse ourselves monthly.
Now, I have two jobs, and I’m seeking my Masters in Holistic Nutrition, starting a health and wellness coaching business, teach Yoga, became certified in Reiki healing and my thyroid is normal, and nothing falls apart. I found a doctor who truly understands me and trusts that I know my body and allows me the freedom to make choices when it comes to my healing. Sure, I have days of anxiety and impatience before my period, but I allow it to flow and I change the pace that day. I do not get mad at myself and worry about the worst possible outcome to happen. I tell myself it’s probably not a good day to make a decision or pick up the phone. I forgive myself for this which I feel is very important in healing as well. This is a day of self-care and today, I need just to allow my body to do what It needs to and I will be compassionate and patient with it. Changing my thoughts and choosing a different, more positive outcome has truly been my blessing for curing my PMDD.
In a spiritual sense, I feel like PMDD is only debilitating when we don’t love ourselves unconditionally. If I can say I have found any cure, it is that. When we don’t love ourselves unconditionally and listen to what our body is trying to tell us, we get stressed out which actually produces the stress hormone, cortisol which can wreak havoc on hormones and create an imbalance. But when we take the time to listen to ourselves, love ourselves unconditionally, and practice self-care, we create the perfect balance and harmony within our bodies, we eat natural foods, we are kind to ourselves and others, and our body naturally heals itself and rids itself of blocked emotions and toxins. Healing childhood traumas was also a significant part of my recovery process from PMDD. I had childhood memories that kept popping up, but I didn’t really know why. I tried to imagine what I may have felt during those times and mostly it was fear. When I healed the hurts by going back to that memory and changing the outcome or telling the scared little girl that it is ok, I was triggered less and could take on new experiences without the paranoia, worry, and distrust that comes with PMDD. I was truly living in the past, I never let go of it. When our period comes, we are to shed the old and welcome the new, but if we don’t truly do that, we get stuck, and until we release it, it will keep coming back to haunt us, hence PMDD. Again, it all starts with ourselves, and it starts from our very core beliefs about ourselves and our old behaviors that need to be retrained with new healthy ones. I am not saying that you will never have issues with changes during your period, but it’s how we adapt and think about those changes that are a natural part of our living process and a way to heal from PMDD.
About the Warrior
My name is Jennifer, I am 38 years old and have a passion for creativity, art, nature, cooking
*Image Credit: Agnes Cecile