Friday, September 18, 2015

How to Survive PMS: Part Three

This is an interview that I conducted with my mother via email. I particularly wanted to ask her about PMS because she has an extreme form called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. From what I now know about my mom this functioned like a severe mental and physical handicap. I never realised how completely this syndrome permeated my mother's life until the last couple years. Things which were simple and normal for most mothers, like packing a lunch for each child or baking cookies on a regular basis, were made difficult and overwhelming to her on account of PMDD. 
Here is her interview! 

Were you aware that your experience of PMS was different than other young women your age? How long did it take before you began to realise that your experience of PMS was so different?
Dear Lucy Rose and the Bloggees,

Several answers occur to me now:  I was not aware that there existed a medical diagnosis for the more extreme form of PMS that I have until my GP told me. It is or was called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD.

TMI: Too Many Initials. Too Much Information.

I was then in my thirties and had three children.
(By the way, I need to do some googling, but I'm not sure PMDD is still listed as an official medical diagnosis.)

In my teens, when I nearly failed to graduate from high school due to too many absences, I never said to myself: Your problem is worse than most girls. I only said, "You, Sharon, are failing to handle what other girls handle."

But I didn't have any idea of how other girls were managing. Nobody I knew talked about it, especially my friends. They were mostly boys. We talked about Star Trek and Larry Niven's RINGWORLD universe. Only Alien Ovulation Issues--AOI--would have interested them.

How do you think that your life has been different on account of PMS? 

I felt like I got knocked down, but didn't get up again fast enough. It was difficult to be consistent with any obligations, especially work and school. I functioned in my home, as an adult woman, because I married a Saint. I know we are all saints who believe in Christ Jesus, but I mean the old-fashioned Capitalized kind--the kind who qualify for stained glass.

I used my productive week and my normal week to organize my life and to connect with people and then tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Your dad the Saint kept track of the days with me, better than I did!  He helped out on bad days and good. He listened to me.

For a long time, we kept up a running Boggle tournament to see if my brain functioned markedly worse during the bad weeks. The results were sometimes striking in the short term, but inconclusive over many years.

What accommodations did you discover to make PMS less crippling?
1. Marry a Saint

2. Let go of guilt. Easier said than done:  Let God love me anyway and realize that the world will not end if I don't show up once or twice.

3. Keep order. Order created in the up-times prevents despair after the down-times. Order makes it possible to say, "Well. That was a doozy," and get on with it.

4. Read comforting, comfortable things. I read and re-read The Moffats, Anthony Trollope, Little House books, Nine Princes in Amber..... And saved my more academic interests and more challenging books for later. Guilt-free!  A good book is a good book.

5. I am thankful for predictability. --How much worse not to know WHEN!

6. I made sure you took naps. I couldn't always lie down or tune out when you were little, but I could read many stories and take naps when you did. The Nap is a sacred time. If I snapped at you, I made sure I said, "I'm sorry. Mama is a crabby Mama today. I love you."

7. I prayed a lot. I asked forgiveness a lot. The most humbling thing was receiving or being open to God's love when I had to miss an event or when I failed at something. My troubles were a constant reminder of my frailty and His grace.

8. A low dose of an SSRI (like Prozac), with permission from my doctor to take it when I needed it. This was  given once I had shown that it didn't cause me big problems. The Pill also helped for a while in college, and I wish I had taken it longer. I had to drop out for a year. The Pill is safer now. 

9. Exercise helps.

Do you have any advice for ladies who have are having a hard time on a regular basis?
The things we fail to live up to when our hormones are raging--courtesy, organization, attendance, happiness, kindness and clear-thinking--are huge values in American culture and in any life of faith. We have to receive the unmerited favor of our Creator during those times when we can receive it neither from our hyper-critical selves nor from the Establishment. This problem is not fixed. This is not wonderful. This is hard. Women are competitive; in need of help and grace from one another.

Any concluding thoughts?
Number One: Menopause happens.
Number Two: Maybe it is AOI.

I love you, too, Lucy Rose Abigail. Sorry for the tricky genes. Nanoo.


Thank you for that beautiful interview, Mom. I am sorry that my readers have now experienced your wonderful writing. Now they don't want to read any more of my writing. They only want you. 

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