Coping with PMDD is not easy and our approaches to it are as unique as us. Here I share my top five tips to help you manage PMDD, so please take what you need and leave the rest.
When my mental health nurse looked me in the eyes and mused “this sounds like it could be PMDD” my initial reaction was well what the hell is that? Closely followed by a tentative maybe we’re finally getting somewhere.
After my appointment it felt like I’d jumped into a pool on the hottest day of the year and someone had handed me the perfect iced margarita, only for me to step out into the midday sun, take a tumble and be left to fend for myself in a vast desert of nothingness.
I found myself endlessly googling PMDD in the days and weeks afterwards; trying to put together the pieces of this incomplete and seemingly impossible puzzle. I came to realise that I didn’t understand my body at all and I most certainly didn’t understand the changes we go through when we have a menstrual cycle.
The more I learned, the more empowered I felt.
It didn’t make it any less awful to experience every month but it helped me to understand that I have a wild reaction to totally normal hormonal shifts. That’s why my top tip is to do your research: understand what PMDD is and how it impacts YOU. We all experience PMDD in our own way and there is so much comfort to be found in the PMDD community, but through tracking, journaling and therapy, I’ve been able to identify key areas for support.
Tracking is crucial to getting a PMDD diagnosis, but it can be tempting to stop once you’ve got it. Trust me though: it becomes more important than ever. Not only does tracking allow us to notice subtle patterns and changes in our cycles, it allows us to see how effective a treatment plan is.
Let’s be clear about one thing here: I am not a stick to measure yourself by. I do not claim to be perfect or have all of the answers (if only!!). Sometimes I stop tracking; sometimes I just forget and sometimes I just cannot be bothered to do it. What I find is that when I do track, I’m more in tune with my body and I’m better able to look after myself or to communicate my needs to those who might be around to support me.
If you’re new to tracking then there are loads of resources available to you. Check out Me v PMDD, which is an app created by a PMDD wonder for PMDD wonders, try a printable tracker (a quick google search of PMDD tracker usually brings the goods!) or just use a calendar/notepad.
There is no right way to track – as long as you can identify patterns, notice changes and check in with yourself, you’re doing it right.
You might be thinking ‘well, duh!’ but this one isn’t as straightforward as it seems. There are a myriad of ways to treat PMDD and what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa! I wanted to include this in my top tips because it can be so disheartening to try a treatment option for it not to work – I’ve been there. I get it. That does not mean that the right treatment isn’t out there waiting for you though: it is, so please keep going.
Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for PMDD but successful treatment for PMDD can include any of, or a mixture of, the following options: lifestyle changes, oral contraceptives, SSRIs, therapy, GNRH analogues (the chemical menopause), an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) with (for some) a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
My hope is that one day we will know more about PMDD but until we get there, please know that you aren’t alone on this journey.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Usually I’m someone who can talk about my feelings all day long but somehow PMDD paralyses me. I feel trapped in my own mind; in those moments there’s a small part of me that knows that if I could express the thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing, it would take some of their power away. I can’t though.
Over time I’ve come up with a code word so that when I’m having particularly intrusive thoughts I can just say it to my husband. It helps him to keep me safe and though it isn’t a conversation as such, it’s a way that I can talk to him without going into the thoughts that paralyse me.
Another tool in my PMDD toolkit is community. Sharing my experiences with others who have been there is incredibly healing for me. Whether it’s Luna Hub member chats, friendships I’ve forged with PMDD wonders on Instagram or elsewhere, one thing is consistent: talking to people with PMDD validates my experience, makes me feel less alone and gives me strength and comfort. It’s not just me either, we hear it time and time again from Luna Hub members and it fills our hearts.
Of course, community isn’t some magic cure. It is a source of support and relief, though! And if you find it tough to communicate during PMDD, perhaps you can find community when you’re in the better part of your cycle. From my experience just knowing they’re out there somewhere is magic in itself.
Give Yourself Grace
I’ve saved the best for last!
If your PMDD is anything like mine, you’ll have a lot of inner negative talk. No one can hurt me like I hurt myself in a PMDD episode. Here are a few things that I’ve done to cultivate some self-kindness while living with PMDD. Another gentle reminder to take what you need and leave what you don’t. You are the expert in you!
- Write a letter to yourself when you’re feeling good
Ask your friends or family to tell you things they admire or love about you – keep the list pinned somewhere that you’ll see it when PMDD strikes
- Give yourself permission to be imperfect:
“Sometimes I can’t …… and that’s ok because …..”
Here’s an example from me:
“Sometimes I can’t brush my teeth or shower and that’s ok because I’m human. On those days the strongest thing I can do is to wrap myself up in a blanket and take it a minute at a time.”