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It never, ever fails.
Each month for about two weeks I get agitated easily and cry at the drop of the hat. I stand in front of the mirror and say “whoa, all of a sudden I’m so round and somft, do I need to cut back on the pizza or something??”
Those are just some of the annoying but manageable symptoms of PMS.
And then there are some months where I fall apart completely. I end up having a mini-depressive episode where everything hurts my feelings. I scream and cry for no reason. Extreme anxiety grips me out of no where.
I also get insomnia and unexplained rage. At worst, I even have feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
But then I have my period and everything’s fine (well relatively fine).
What the Heck?
I know right!?
It’s actually pretty mind-blowing to feel like wanting to die one day and being totally fine the next. 0/10 do not recommend.
It’s all pretty much due to PMDD or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Something that makes my life a living hell for roughly 7-14 days of every month. It’s a hard thing to deal with PMDD, where I feel depressed and uncharacteristically angry.
If any of this sounds like you – you might also have to deal with PMDD. The best thing to do is to talk to your therapist, psychiatrist, and gynecologist (wouldn’t it be great if they were all the same person!) about your symptoms.
The second best thing you can do is get educated! So I’ve set up a little guide on what you can do to self care and deal with PMDD like a boss <3
Check it out!!
What is PMDD?
PMDD is thought to be caused by a lack of Serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating sleep, digestion, and mood. In general, folx who menstruate experience a severe drop in Serotonin 1 to 2 week prior to their period. That’s part of what causes regular PMS.
But for people who already struggle to have enough Serotonin, like myself, this can mean much more than PMS. It can throw them into a depressive episode.
Even with an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor), I still experience severe PMDD symptoms. So around the last two weeks of my cycle I try to take extra good care of myself. These steps don’t make the symptoms go away, but they do help me deal.
5 Self-Care Tips to Deal With PMDD
1. I Track my Cycle and React Accordingly:
Y’all -this is for my benefit as well as those around me.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flown off the handle at my husband and then looked at my Flo App and said “ooooooh period in 5 days, that’s why I want to slap him upside the head.”
Your cycle is actually going on constantly, just in 6 different phases throughout the 28-30 days. Different hormones are in play in each of the 4 key phases (Menstrual, Follicular, Ovulatory, and Luteal). So it’s a really good idea to know what phase you’re in. This will help you know what to expect hormone-wise.
I know one week before my period I’m going to have the lowest Serotonin (click here to read about Serotonin Deficiency during PMS).
This is primetime for me to have insomnia, poor digestion, and depressive episodes.
So, by charting my cycle, I can pinpoint when to adjust my daily routine. This makes life easier for me (and my husband :P).
Knowing I’m in that phase helps me know when to start taking a little higher dose of my SSRI. I only recommend doing this if you’ve talked to your doctor about it first. But it really helps my mood swings from getting out of hand.
I’ve personally used the apps Flo and Clue to track my menses. If those don’t fit your fancy, there are a ton out there to try. You can also just use a calendar. IMO the apps are more handy because of the educational component they provide as well as the reminders they give you.
2. I Stay Away From Situations That are Likely to Trigger Me
Because of PTSD and OCD I’m triggered by a lot of environmental factors. Usually, I can calmly handle those triggers (for the most part) and separate them from reality.
But the last week of my cycle, all bets are off. Going out with friends during that time is a nightmare.
Alcohol, close quarters, and being stuck because I carpooled makes it all worse.
So long story short, when friends invite me out during a time I’m dealing with PMDD, I say NO.
Or I go and I don’t drink (and I drive myself).
I also avoid squabbles with my husband during this time because they can turn into huge, nasty fights easily.
I know, I know – it’s super hard not to fight when all you want to do is scream and cry. But it’s during those times we walk away from each other and come back to it when I can be calm.
3. I try not to be so Hard on Myself
Speaking of fighting. It’s pretty inevitable that it’s going to happen – more so when I can’t control myself emotionally due to the hormones throwing a rager in my uterus.
So when I’ve had a really hard week and unexpectedly flip my shit. I remind myself that I’m not Gandhi. I’m going to mess up.
My husband knows this too – he’s really great at separating the real me from the emotional mess me. But even then it’s hard and he gets hurt feelings.
But we try to let those hurt feelings go as quickly as they come. This is because we both know it’s not really me speaking. Even at my worst I don’t usually do anything other than cry and convince myself he doesn’t love me, no violence or unkindness.
And if I do slip up and say something unkind, I apologize when I’m “emotionally sober” and work on doing better next time.
So forgive yourself and work to learn from it. Remember, it’s not you driving, it’s the disorder.
4. I get Some Extra Support to Help me Deal with PMDD
This is a great strategy for me, especially when the hopelessness part of PMDD hits hard.
I’m on at least three different supportive Facebook groups where I can vent to some very kind people as well as an in person group I go to weekly.
I make double sure to go to group the week before my period because it lets me get a lot of those pent up feelings out.
I also go out of my way to vent to understanding friends and family. My practice is to tell them up-front I’m not in a good emotional place so I might react oddly to things I’d normally be okay with.
It’s great because then, they’re not expecting me to be happy and I feel free to just be a sad angry lump and tell them how I really feel. Very therapeutic!
5. I Lump. (I Let Myself be Lazy)
During the week before my period, I become a lump. I drink a lot of chamomile tea, I snuggle my cats, I don’t expect myself to solve all of the world’s problems. (Just some of them).
I exclusively wear leggings and fuzzy socks and hide under blankets on the worst days. I write, I read, and interact with positive social media. I make a concerted effort make sure I eat proper meals and not just carbs (if I can).
I also get some light exercise by walking, stretching, going out to pool to bask in that Vitamin D for a minute but nothing as intense as I’d do the rest of the month. I meditate and do my favorite Yin Yoga asanas.
If the dishes need to be done, I rinse them and put them in the dishwasher instead of hand-washing. If the apartment needs to be cleaned, I get a small easy task done first and see if I want to keep going. If I have writing to be done, I just write and say “hey” that’s good enough.”
Basically, I repeat this phrase: All you can do is all you can do and that’s all you can do.
So just being restive is a huge help to me. Since I don’t have the high expectations I usually have for myself, it’s easier for me not to be ashamed if I have a down day where I end up in bed for most of it.
And That’s a Wrap Folks!
Thanks for reading! I hope these tips help you out when your cycle hi-jacks your mental health.
Remember, when you have to deal with PMDD, it’s best to go easy with yourself. Your body works hard trying to create life every month (only to be thwarted). You work hard too, even with all the cramps, pain, discomfort, and unpleasantness. It’s okay to take a rest. You deserve it!
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