PMS (or any emotional distress) and coping skills…

I wrote this over a year ago. It’s good to revisit as I continue my struggle with PMS—having a hard time again this month and all I wrote in March of 2007 still holds true. Change comes slow sometimes. Everything talked about here can be used for any mood disorder as well:

So I’m just about on the tail end of my odyssey through PMS this month. I’ve been experimenting philosophically on ways to deal with it, as it seems impossible to get symptom free through diet and nutrition alone though in time my doctor thinks it may abate. I’ve had a monstrous time this month and yet I feel more optimistic about handling it than I ever have. It seems to be a sort of gateway to spirituality for me. This is new as I was shut down to my spirituality until quite recently–once I got passed a point in my withdrawals and stopped being so numb it started coming back to me. I was very spiritual in my early adulthood and, in fact, majored in religious studies as an undergrad. Once I began taking meds, my spirituality came to a crashing halt. I became a miserable, and hopeless atheist. (I’m not suggesting atheists need be miserable or hopeless–not in the least bit–that is simply how it was for me–it was part of my depression and numbness caused by the drugs–I am by nature a spiritual being, as I am now discovering again)

In any case I’m tackling my PMS with concepts that could be considered “spiritual,” but they certainly don’t have to be, anyone could adopt them as coping strategies. The coping skills I’m learning are in the context of reading somewhat spiritual material. First as I talked about in this post, I use the concept of Radical Acceptance. Now I’m borrowing from a book I’ve recently read, “The Seat of the Soul.” It suggests and it really came home to me that we choose our behavior at any given moment. I may feel like a radical bitch, but I don’t have to behave like one. This is a liberating thought for me. And it seems to be working. I just have to stop and think and take responsibility for my actions. If I stay conscious, I don’t have to act out.

Acting out was the biggest problem during PMS each month. I would lash out at my husband for no good reason and he would react with equal or greater force. Neither of us were behaving nicely, but I was always the one triggering it. We rarely argue when I’m not suffering from PMS. So anyway, lately I’ve been trying to stay conscious and simply feel the anger and hostility and come out with calm, rational, peaceful statements. No snapping. I CAN be responsible for what I say and do, even if I feel like shit….it’s working and I’m feeling empowered. Even at some of the worst dips in mood state, I felt a sense of power and optimism this month. Pain is inevitable, suffering is not. (didn’t someone say something like that?)

This comes back to the post I wrote about this woman, also look here for another “dumb ass disorder” excuse. These are people blaming their “disorder” for their bad behavior. I refuse to let my impulses dictate the way that I behave. And when I do lapse in that goal, I take responsibility and don’t blame my disorder. I spent years blaming my disorder, even while learning not to act out, but as I begin to refuse to blame my hormones for my behavior I free myself up to refuse to be a victim. How else can I expect to recover? And I do fully expect to recover!

I might add—this is back to today in July of 2008— I’ve begun to meditate daily. This is especially helpful when I’m overwhelmed by the panoply of difficult emotions that the PMS brings for me. I sit and do energy breaths and I meditate while deeply accepting my feelings, whatever they are. I revel in them even. To truly feel our most unpleasant emotions actually feels good. We struggle most of our lives avoiding them, but in deep meditation allowing them to be completely felt and experienced is invigorating and liberating and it makes them much less scary. All you have to do is breath and feel.

7 thoughts on “PMS (or any emotional distress) and coping skills…

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  1. I’ve been off meds for over 16 months. I was on them for 10 years constantly, and before that I was on them for 9 years when I wasn’t pregnant or breastfeeding.
    I had no knowledge about tapering when I went off them. I took three months to taper. Now I realize it should have taken closer to two years. I would prefer not to have to work right now, but my disability check and welfare check will not stretch all the way without the extra income.
    I would like to do as you say, decide that I am not going to say things that should remain thoughts, and not say them. I actually thought I wasn’t going to break that shoe clasp by throwing it; I was in the warehouse, thinking I was out of customers’ eyesight. My coworker was the first one to toss it, albeit lightly, into the air and onto the floor. I said, “Ooh, can I throw it too?” Then I threw it ultra-hard. When I went onto the sales floor, the customers’ eyes seemed to tell me that they were alarmed. Yeah. I agree that that will get me in trouble.
    As for withdrawl symptoms being a possibility, I think I am in withdrawl, and I understand that it can take up to two years to get over withdrawl symptoms and side effects when one has been on meds for years. It’s been very difficult for me, and I’ve had trouble feeling like going to this job, but I have actually held it longer than I have ever held any previous job. I haven’t been criticized so far for my behavior, and this is the closest I have come to doing something problematic. I did try to take care of myself by telling my bosses and coworkers that I was not feeling well, and going home and resting. I’m just looking forward to developing more of a healthy boundary between what I think and feel, and what comes out of my mouth and how hard I toss something.

  2. Martha,
    Medication certainly makes some people worse in many ways including making them more agitated which might cause worse out of control behavior…

    the thing is your current behavior will get you in trouble as well.

    You need to be proactive and find ways to take care of yourself.

    DECIDE that you will not act out. And with that decision start making plans on how to care for yourself better.

    Diet, meditation, exercise are places to start. Some people find therapy helpful and some don’t…

    How long have you been off meds? Is it possible you’re having a withdrawal reaction?

    I would like to recommend a couple of yahoo groups where you can learn about diet and nutrition.

    But I also know that you need to seek answers for yourself.

  3. I started getting weird at work today. I had to go home. I was cussing under my breath, and I threw a shoe on the floor so hard it broke the shoe-lace clasp (I sell shoes.) The clasp is replaceable and free at the store at which I work. But I feel ashamed and afraid I’m going to lose another job because of lack of self-control. This definitely gets worse during pms. Everything does. But I think I said more out-of-control things more often when I was medicated.

  4. I had really bad PMS last week, so thanks for posting this. It’s nice knowing that I’m not such a freak. I didn’t act out this time, but a couple months ago, I wound up shouting at my boyfriend in the middle of the bra section at Sears. I think that’s the second time I’ve ever yelled at him… it’s so not like me.

  5. Cricket,
    I absolutely do my share of hiding. When I meditate in order to really feel all the feelings…I close myself in my room. And I especially do that meditation more often the worse I feel.

    j12, a reader, said something on another post regarding PMS….she said:

    We “fall apart” every month physically and emotionally (for many of us) for a purpose. I think it’s so that we can literally release some real emotions.

    I think that’s absolutely true…everything I feel during this time is legitimate but exaggerated. I want to learn from it. And we have to be gentle with ourselves. If you can manage to hide as you call it I think that can be good—just do something good for yourself while hiding….

    I realize you’re a mom and can’t always have the luxury of hiding…

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