Sorry for the wild tangent with this post, it is not related to veganism, however I do think it is slightly tied to weight loss. If you’re not a fan of anything to do with “The time of the month”, this probably isn’t the post for you, although I will refrain from going into detail!
PMS, Pre Menstrual Syndrome. I have heard and read many things about this, ranging from it affects up to 75% of women, to the idea that it doesn’t even exist but is used as a way to keep women down.
It’s the cliche isn’t it, it’s approaching the time of the month, the woman starts getting angry, crying for no reason, can’t stop eating chocolate/junk food in general. Bloating and pain can be part of this, along with nausea and an upset stomach, it’s not really a great time, and we get to experience this every month for a large portion of our lives.
When I was younger, and until I lost quite a bit of weight, I suffered from irregular periods. Years on and off the pill, two children, and yoyo weight (right up to 19 stone), meant that I could go months without a period, once even as long as 12 months. Around the time I got my first period I also started developing depression symptoms. I had period of very low lows, feelings of complete and utter lack of self worth. This led to a couple of bouts of anti depressants, and I would seem to get better for a while but then it would rear it’s ugly head again.
I never for a moment thought this was linked to my cycle initially, until my husband mentioned that around once a month I have a breakdown. Even when we first discussed this I didn’t think it could be related as I was still going through irregular periods. But fairly regularly, around once every month or two, life would just get too much. I would have constant build up in my head of negative feelings and thoughts related to pretty much anything and anyone I had any contact with. Normal life would make me angry, bitter, and it was mostly aimed at my husband.
I would feel resentful to the point of meltdown, snide comments would slip out while inside I was hating myself and trying to stop it. Eventually he would react (I wanted him to I think on some level) and there would be an allmighty blowout. This would usually end with me crying, him asking and struggling to understand what the hell was going on. A day or two later everything would be back to normal. Until the build up started again.
This cycle has happened many many times, him joking I just need to explode occasionally. Sometimes this would lead to ongoing depression, but even when depressed much of the time I would feel normal, then extreme depression would hit, and take over my life. I began to think I had bipolar, the normalness, happiness of most of the time, and the ridiculously low (and angry) bad times. I went through years of counselling on and off after losing my parents and recognised I had a very negative inner voice which initially was running out of control, and I wasn’t even aware of it.
Talking therapy and CBT taught me to recognise this, meditation has helped even further, and there is no doubt I am no longer depressed. But still, once a month I would have some kind of emotional blow out. But now, after losing weight I have a regular period, and I could see the correlation between my moods, and my periods.
I have been using the free clue app to track my periods for around a year, and can log mood changes here too, it was undeniable. Around a week before my period it begins, it raises to a crescendo where I feel almost out of control, then the day I get my period it releases. I then have around 3 weeks of normality before I’m off into lala land again.
With this knowledge I began googling “extreme mood swings with period”, “extreme PMS ” and other search terms like this, and I found information about a syndrome known as PMDD, Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This is a recognised condition which is believed to affect 3 – 8% of all menstruating women. How could I never have heard of this before?
According to mind.org.uk the symptoms of PMDD are:
Physical and behavioural experiences:
- breast tenderness or swelling
- pain in your muscles and joints
- feeling bloated
- changes in your appetite such as overeating or having specific food cravings
- sleep problems
- finding it hard to avoid or resolve conflicts with people around you
- becoming very upset if you feel that others are rejecting you.
It looks like PMS, but the extreme versions. I can recognise I have many of these symptoms, physical and emotional. My mood swings are on another level, irritability even at minute things is huge. I have considered (not seriously) suicide, many times at this period, thinking that the best thing for all of my family would be for me to not be there. This coming from someone who is mostly happy for the rest of the time, quite an extreme jump to take. I can’t avoid conflict, in fact I am so angry I am looking for it. The conflict is irrational and completely unresolvable. I have achy boobs, bloating is so bad I don’t even weigh myself for that week (and when I have I am up 5 – 7 pounds for around 5 – 7 days). The symptoms disappear as soon as I start my period.
The whole thing is debilitating, but when I know about something I instantly feel that makes me more capable of dealing with it. I’ve not sought a diagnosis, I’m unsure how you even go about that, but looking at the list of symptoms, and with years of historical data, I feel confident in saying I suffer from this.
Last period was the first one since discovering PMDD. In the run up I joined some facebook groups for support and they have been a good resource, although many people post about really out there symptoms, in general I have found them worthwhile. Last period I prepared myself mentally, to know what to expect. With meditation I have tried to be more mindful, so I tried to be aware of my feelings, to recognise when my frustration and anger was taking over, to take a few deep breaths and ask myself whether this was something I really felt, or whether logically if this was something being exacerbated by my hormones.
I also spoke to some friends about this and was surprised to learn that one of them thought she had it too, extreme bouts of crying and generally feeling down came her way. The other friend had never heard of it.
While this month was not perfect I do feel it was better than the previous months. I spoke to my husband about all of this and he agreed it is a definite possibility, although was more concerned with how to deal with it rather than knowing it has a name.
There can be some treatment options including the pill and SSRI’s, but if I’m honest after years on and off both of these things and still having this, I feel I want to give mindfulness a try, although I can 100% understand why others feeling this would want to go down the treatment route.
I can only hope for me that knowledge is power. I have been practising meditation on and off for years but have meditated every day this year and will continue to do so. Life is too short to let something like this steal 1/4 of my month, every single month. It’s not fair on my family and husband either, so I will try my best to be rational. I feel this is something that could be affecting many others though, hence why I am writing this post. Don’t let it take over, if you think you could be suffering with PMDD, do some research, speak to your doctor, but do something. If you are interested the PMDD group which I joined on facebook can be found here.