Tag Archives: perimenopause

Perimenopausal Fun: How to Know When Low-Dose Estrogen is NOT for you

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I’ve written a handful of posts dedicated to women’s health and those posts receive the most traffic and comments from internet searches (and likely from Russian bots). This tells me I’m on to something. The one that receives the most traffic is a post dedicated to “PMDD”: pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. 

Wondering about that third word, are you? It means the opposite of “euphoria.” Disorders can’t be cured. So this one has to be addressed and managed. I feel as though I am cured from it, but I know that I am not…

My style is glib at times, but my intensity and interest in this subject is real because being a cisgendered female is hard. I won’t go into my sentiments surrounding the appropriation of my gender by cisgendered males because frankly I don’t have the required bandwidth nor the belief system to fully engage. To me, men feeling as though they are missing out on being a woman and who get to forgo the hips and the breasts expanding, and the periods (missed or on time), and the unwanted advances and leers of horny old men are out to lunch. I’ll trade a week and you can go through it all — you can:

  • put on a training bra in the dark or in a locker room,
  • deal with feminine hygiene (maybe even in a public bathroom or, say, totally unprepared at your violin lesson for your first time as a WOMAN),
  • barter your lunch for three tylenol to abate your cramps and risk suspension or expulsion from school because of it,
  • birth one of my kids,
  • fight off a drunken asshole’s overtures at a keg party… or
  • sit on a couch waiting for your ride home when your date cools off because you won’t sleep with him… or worse.

Go for it.

I also would be willing to bet that most men who want to appropriate my gender wouldn’t have the stones to endure a week of perimenopause.

This is becoming political… my apologies, but I feel I had to say something.

This post is about females and the shit we go through in our middle-life stages.

First: get an app on your smartphone or keep meticulous records. I use “PLog”: https://itunes.apple.com/app/period-log-free-menstrual/id494474881?mt=8 

With that said, one year ago, well into the end of my ninth year of perimenopause (which is the purgatory between getting your periods every month or so and all the emotions and physical symptoms that come along) and the time of life when all that shit stops, I was suffering. My moods were all over the place, yet I didn’t really dial in to them… I just sort of noticed them, “that was rude of me to say…” I’d say to myself. Or, “Since when do you do things like that?” I’m still there.

The weird thing about perimenopause to menopause is that it’s not a pause. A pause implies a restart. And your cycles don’t stop like a machine would stop, say if you turn off your car’s engine. Short of an oophorectomy, it’s believed to be a “pause” of your “menses.” Let’s be honest here too: it’s not at all a ‘pause,’ it’s a full-on shut down, so even the nomenclature is screwed up here. I’m guessing a man invented the word:

The answer to this mystery is found in the origin of the word. In 1821 a French physician named de Gardanne first coined the term menopause when he published his book “De la ménopause, ou de l’âge critique des femmes” using the term menopause to describe the phase in a woman’s life.

YES! It was a man! Merci, dude! I don’t speak French, but I’m seeing blah french blah french blahcritique” and “des femmes” which is never a good combination.

For menopause, things shut down like a forest fire which starts out slowly because someone didn’t put out a campfire. Or because of the climate or winds or a cigarette was tossed out a window… Then it smolders a bit and it gets oxygen… and it spreads to dry grasses or pine needles (which are basically small vats of kerosene because there is so much oil in them) and then a few yards in one direction and then an acre and then an entire forest, and then a national park…  But that’s fire.

For women, it’s much more subtle, but the experiences can feel similar. Just like some fires are “controlled burns” or a “small forest fire,” the clinical definition of menopause requires that a woman’s periods must stop for a full year.

For me, last year about this time, I was desperate for help. And based on the condition I’m in today, I’m nowhere near that year of cessation.

First: what the fuck is going on?

Borrowing from my immediately previous post, this graphic explains is what’s going on:

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I’m 49 now. I started on this circus clown car ride (the middle graph) 10 years ago. Any day can be like that middle graph for me. Sometimes it is an entire day that feels like that.

The changes in hormonal levels as women age cause the following symptoms (lifted word for word from the Mayo Clinic site which is much more reputable than webmd, so take a breath, my comments in red):

Symptoms

Throughout the menopausal transition, some subtle — and some not-so-subtle — changes in your body may take place. You might experience:

  • Irregular periods. As ovulation becomes more unpredictable, the length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light to heavy, and you may skip some periods. Oh? If you have a persistent (what do you mean, ‘persistent’? like a child, “momcanihaveacookie?momcanihaveacookie?” persistent?) change (vague, object!) of seven days or more in the length of your menstrual cycle, you may be in early perimenopause (early?! ARE YOU %)(!@&_%@ kidding me?! EARLY?!). If you have a space of 60 days or more between periods, you’re likely in late perimenopause. <– not me, not yet. I’m still in this hang time. 

  • Hot flashes and sleep problems. Hot flashes are common during perimenopause (I have been spared the recognizable hot flashes, mostly and so far). The intensity, length and frequency vary. Sleep problems are often due to hot flashes or night sweats (DING! now we’re talking: the intensity of my night sweats for 10 years have rivaled those of my immediate postpartum weeks when the hormones females use to create and sustain life inside the uterus and the rest of her own body, which is effing exhausted from the process, but it’s really only just the beginning), but sometimes sleep becomes unpredictable even without them. <–OMAIGAAAD! I would literally trade all of my Cap’n Crunch for just ONE NIGHT of uninterrupted sleep. I realize the flip phrase, “I’m so tired I could take hostages” is no longer in vogue, but my kids get it.  

  • Mood changes. Mood swings, irritability or increased risk of depression may happen during perimenopause. The cause of these symptoms may (y’think?!) be sleep disruption associated with hot flashes (fuck yes). Mood changes (muuuuahhhahaahaaaaaa boooohooowoohaaaaaaaa… waah… grrr… what? me? grr… your mother sews socks in hell… ) may also be caused by factors not (NOT?!) related to the hormonal changes of perimenopause (um: no, highly doubtful).

  • Vaginal and bladder problems. (Oh what fun it is to ride…) When estrogen levels diminish, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making (you feel as though your privates have been replaced by 03-grade sand paper and generic brand tissues – or so I’ve heard) intercourse painful. Low estrogen may also leave you more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections (thankfully not there yet: word to the wise, ladies from my doctor: PEE IMMEDIATELY after sex, not in the bed, but y’know, within a few minutes as your urethra needs to flush itself) . Loss of tissue tone may contribute to urinary incontinence. Do those kegels and pelvic floor exercises! Yoga! Find your psoas muscle (no, it’s not a sex muscle).

  • Decreasing fertility. As ovulation becomes irregular, your ability to conceive decreases. However, as long as you’re having periods, pregnancy is still possible. If you wish to avoid pregnancy, use birth control until you’ve had no periods for 12 months (and even then: watch it. I have friends who’ve welcomed a new member into the family thinking they were good to go).

  • Changes in sexual function. During perimenopause, sexual arousal and desire may change (and not just a little… ). But if you had satisfactory sexual intimacy before menopause, this will likely continue through perimenopause and beyond. (Stay in communication with your partner. That’s the important part… so smoke signals from the other wing of the house are always a good idea, that way your man will know when it’s safe to approach.)

  • Loss of bone. With declining estrogen levels, you start to lose bone more quickly than you replace it, increasing your risk of osteoporosis — a disease that causes fragile bones. This is JUST as important and really, a serious issue. Watch the caffeine intake, take moderate walks for resistance exercise, use weights (even low weights) to maintain your bone mass health.

  • Changing cholesterol levels. Declining estrogen levels may lead to unfavorable changes in your blood cholesterol levels, including an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol — which contributes to an increased risk of heart disease. My mom’s went through the roof as she aged; mine has always been about 157 so I need to keep an eye on it. That said, Mom ate cheese like you read about (I just read about eating cheese) and indulged in lots of sedentary, unhealthy behaviors and addictions and basically no did not exercise ever / at all / ever / constantly / never. At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — decreases in many women as they age, which also increases the risk of heart disease (you can encourage your HDL levels through exercise and diet. My mom died of a massive cardiac arrest — not a heart attack which (broken down by me) is a major incident and spasm of the heart muscles — but the cessation of electricity to flow to her heart causing her heart to no longer function; coming back from a CA, for a woman in her condition [not good at all] would have been a divine miracle).

More from the Mayo Clinic site includes:

When to see a doctor

Some women seek medical attention for their perimenopausal symptoms. But others either tolerate the changes or simply don’t experience symptoms severe enough to need attention. Because symptoms may be subtle and come on gradually (like a thief in the night), you may not realize at first that they’re all connected to the same thing — rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, another key female hormone.

If you have symptoms that interfere with your life or well-being, such as hot flashes, mood swings or changes in sexual function that concern you, see your doctor.

This is where it gets fun for me. Because I went to my doctor. She put me on a low-dose birth control pill, “Lo-Estrin 1/20” because of my complaints:

Wanting to punch people, exhaustion, brain fog, emotional projection, confusion, inability to take a joke, complete viper-like mood swings, appetite disruption, back aches, headaches (which I simply never get), sleep disruption, fantasies of running off to Cabo (still never found a cure for that).  

I took the pill. For the first cycle, it’s 21 days of the drug. Within two days, I felt like I was 26 again: super able, focused, interested in sex, I had an appetite for food, I was sleeping like a dog (that’s a good thing because we all know babies don’t sleep) and other stuff. I felt great. As is the case in a standard birth control pack, on the first Sunday of the fourth week, you take a sugar pill (or just skip a week and start back up on Sunday with the new pack) and that starts a period. 

I did that. 

Halfway through my second cycle on the pill, when I was supposed to be “ovulating” I started to spot. I made a note. It lasted five days. On the first Sunday of the fourth week, I took my sugar pill to begin the standard pill-induced menses.

On Tuesday, I began to have thoughts that can be best described as sympathetic to suicidal ideation. I’m not kidding. 

I practice mindfulness (it’s how I’ve avoided becoming an alcoholic or other addict). I have spent years on a therapists’ couch so I understand emotions, and I get how powerful they are. Being a writer I was able to back out of this “sympathetic interest” and write a script, in my head, or a narrative about a woman who resembled me (but was taller, natch, and blonde) and my station in life who woke up and decided she didn’t want to live anymore. 

The depths of this transient depression were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, maybe I can equate it to the loss and ineffable grief I felt after I was dumped by a boyfriend, with whom I thought I would spend the rest of my life, when I was in college. Maybe. It was deeper than the grief I felt after my mother died — but maybe it was just faster and more intense. My grief surrounding my mother’s death lasted months and wavered in intensity. This moment hit me hard and fast. Out of nowhere. One minute I was pouring my coffee and the next minute I thought of suicide. 

I knew what was up. I did the math: this is a new deep and ugly feeling. I’m taking this pill, this is supposed to be my period, and I have PMDD but it’s under control…

So I grabbed my dogs and we took a very brisk walk for an hour. Charlie was all about it, but poor Murphy, who was 8 at the time, was frequently looking up at me and saying, “Can we take a break now? Please?” I was so grateful for their company. They kept me present. I have said twice to myself that my dogs are keeping me alive and this was the second of those times. The first time was when Murphy vocally persuaded a man, whose intensity and energy was palpable from 50 yards, to turn and cross the street away from us. Murphy is a golden retriever, he doesn’t bark warnings to humans; it’s not part of his breeding.  

Halfway through the walk, I started to feel better. I worked out the scene and projected it on to a false character. I put her through her paces from ideation to the moments of and the grief of her surviving loved ones and the days, weeks, holidays and life’s milestone moments which would undoubtedly follow because LGO: life goes on.

After I worked all that out, I did take a break in my walk and I called my doctor. I told her assistant what was up and she asked me if I needed emergency assistance and I told her I was ok. That I was outside. That I had no weapons or agents of harm with me. That the sun was on my face and my dogs were by my side and I was ok, really. Because I was and I thanked her for her concern, but I was calling to let her know what was going on because it was really scary when it first started. I asked, “Should I take the real pills now instead? Should I continue with the sugar pills?” (I felt like the patients who took L.Dopa in Awakenings; I didn’t want to stop the pill!) 

She relayed my message to my physician who said back to the assistant, “Tell her to stop the Lo-Estrin and call us after her periods stop for a year…” That doctor, is Joanne Herrmann, MD, and I don’t think I’ll be crossing her threshold any time soon. I understand it was a game of “Operator” going on, and you can call me weird and codependent, maybe, but if I had a patient who told me what I told her assistant, I’d be calling back that patient myself. She certainly practiced Primum non nocere. I guess.     

Later that day, I had lunch with a friend and I told her everything that happened. She listened intently; but I think I scare people because I’m so vivid and in-tune with how I’m doing. That was the last time I saw her.

Since that last pill, I’ve gained a new respect for estrogen and progesterone. I’ve learned that any time I’m feeling shitty and allowing it and noting it is a good thing because it means the process is still happening. It means I’m here.

I had a very high-level understanding of the phrase “mood swings” until that day. The take-away: investigate your options. Lo-Estrin 1/20 might work for you… just be ready for those sugar pill days.  

Causes

As you go through the menopausal transition, your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone rises and falls. Many of the changes you experience during perimenopause are a result of decreasing estrogen.

Risk factors

Menopause is a normal phase in life. But it may occur earlier in some women than in others. Although not always conclusive, some evidence suggests that certain factors may make it more likely that you start perimenopause at an earlier age, including:

  • Smoking. The onset of menopause occurs one to two years earlier in women who smoke than in women who don’t smoke.
  • Family history. Women with a family history of early menopause may experience early menopause themselves.
  • Cancer treatment. Treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or pelvic radiation therapy has been linked to early menopause.
  • Hysterectomy. A hysterectomy that removes your uterus, but not your ovaries, usually doesn’t cause menopause. Although you no longer have periods, your ovaries still produce estrogen. But such surgery may cause menopause to occur earlier than average. Also, if you have one ovary removed, the remaining ovary might stop working sooner than expected.

Complications

Irregular periods are a hallmark of perimenopause. Most of the time this is normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, see your doctor if:

  • Bleeding is extremely heavy — you’re changing tampons or pads every hour or two for two or more hours
  • Bleeding lasts longer than seven days
  • Bleeding occurs between periods
  • Periods regularly occur less than 21 days apart <– that’s one I will now begin to keep an eye on

Signs such as these may mean there’s a problem with your reproductive system that requires diagnosis and treatment.

So this is all good, and I’m thankful for it. But the bottom line for all of us in this situation is symptoms and how we manage them.

About three years ago, Dr. Herrmann suggested I take something called “Brisdelle” which is a subclinical / super low-dose (7mg) of Prozac. The idea is that it will calm you down enough to sleep at night and abate next-day anxiety which is increased because of night sweats which happens because you’re anxious…? I’m still a little fuzzy on that. So I tried it for four days. It made me feel like I was a narcoleptic game show host. I stopped after a week. Some people have doubted my claim, that the drug needs to be in my system for six weeks before it takes full metabolic effect.

Mmmmmkay. Survey says….?! Znnngngzzzgngn! Where are you from, little lady….? Znnnngngngnnnznzzng.

I take herbal supplements: Estroven AM and Estroven PM; they help. Maybe they’re doing an insanely bang-up job and I have no idea because I’ve been taking them for about a year. Before that I took something called “Herbal Equilibrium” but Dr. Herrmann told me to stop taking it because she doesn’t believe in supplements… well, she believed in that Lo-Estrin 1/20 enough to prescribe it and it made me very sad, so maybe she’s wrong.

But we address problems by understanding what they’re made of. In this situation we need to dial in: WHAT does estrogen do??? Since we all know how we got here, thanks estrogen, we need to know what is going on and what estrogen regulates because it’s super subtle stuff.

A year ago, I did not know that estrogen played a major role in digestion. Did you?

I did not know that estrogen is involved in the sleep process and the release of other hormones which help us get a good rest. Did you?

So I went back to the web, and I blew off Webmd again and went straight the alma mater of one of my besties’: Northwestern University, for help. This page and its title, “How Hormone Depletion Affects You” was exactly what I was looking for. It will have all the information about WHAT estrogen and progesterone mean to you and why this crazy circus clown car is in your life.

Here we are ladies:

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That feels about right…? Doesn’t it?

Oddly, I am comforted by that image.

It tells me, “Sigh. Finally. Someone out there understands. I’ll have that Nescafé International Coffee now… Vienna Font Brick Caramel please… yes, I’ll wait… ”

The paragraph accompanying that DaVinci -esque image does a great job of introducing content that I simply can’t improve upon (for many reasons, the foremost of which is because I’m not a doctor), and it will behoove you to read it and learn about what is going on because all I can do is commiserate with you:

Hormones are the messengers in the body that travel through the blood stream to start, stop, speed up or slow down your physical and chemical functions and processes across all body systems. Your ovaries are the source of estrogen and progesterone, the two key hormones that control the reproductive system, including the menstrual cycle and fertility in women. You are born with all the eggs you will ever have. The eggs are in the follicles, which are found in the ovaries. During menopause, the number of ovarian follicles declines and the ovaries become less responsive to the two other hormones involved in reproduction—Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). As your ovaries age and release fewer hormones, FSH and LH can no longer perform their usual functions to regulate your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These inevitable changes in your hormones and natural decline of estrogen levels during menopause can significantly affect your health for years to come. Click on the bars next to diagram to discover how estrogen depletion can affect each part of your body.

We’ve got this, sisters. Keep the conversation going.

Thank you.

 

 

New Year’s Intention & Perimenopause

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It has been almost seven months since I last posted here.

I can not say I don’t know where the time has gone, because I actually do know where a great deal of the time / bandwidth has gone.

It has gone toward my new year’s intention: practicing non-attachment. Non-attachment to expectations, to people, to projects, to myself. It’s really hard…  and it’s like a paradox: who says when you’ve achieved non-attachment? Is it ok to be non-attached to your non-attachment? Does that count? And what is the balance? (I’ve likely already failed.)

It has gone toward me applying my best intentions toward practicing detachment from my eldest son’s college experiences. He is doing well, learning lessons that only life can give. Learning academically of course, and doing quite well, but he is learning things in the way that I wanted for him to learn: that you can’t unring a bell.

It has gone toward a near-obsession with the American political landscape. I believe it was around the time that I last posted here that our official presidential candidates were nominated. I won’t go into details or great depth here as this blog is my refuge from those energies, but I will say that I believe I’m finally coming out of the fog from all those days.

It has gone toward a reinvestment of myself into my yoga teaching. I have almost doubled my adult teaching gigs and dropped two children’s yoga gigs. It was both difficult and easy to make those decisions. A part of me wants to help children and teach / inspire them but I have to let go of the notion that I am going to make a difference for some of them. We are all here on this planet in a season which matches our mission(s). I have realized that my mission here is to not try to appeal to all people and those people needn’t appeal to me. The doubling of my teaching time has had an effect on my body: it’s tired. I have learned that I needn’t demonstrate nearly as often as I used to and while I’m physically relieved from wear and tear, I’m a bit bummed about it because some of my teaching cues come from being actually in the pose with the yogis.

It has gone toward hands-on mothering of two sons rather than three. While my eldest still needs me in a philosophical sense, he doesn’t need me to make him dinner, to wake him, to take him for haircuts or dentist appointments. My younger boys still need me for that and believe it or not: the reduction in demand does take some getting used to and head counting. It’s almost the reversal of “Did I leave the baby in the carseat in the front hall?”

It has gone toward not writing. I sure do miss it.

It has not gone toward my laundry practice.

My husband turned 50, and that was a low-key big deal here. I gave him a nifty band for his Apple Watch and took him out to dinner with our younger two sons, his brother and his wife. Connor later snuck home with his girlfriend to surprise his dad with some favorite gelato and a cozy fun time was had by all.

I turned 49. I unfriended some people on Facebook who no longer contribute to the fullness of my life. One is a relative. I am really ok with this decision. The entrenched victim narrative surrounding this person’s every behavior had corrupted our visit over summer to such an extent that when I made the choice, it was not a Newtonian reaction. In fact, I paused for several weeks. I can say confidently though that the distancing from this and the other persons has resulted in stability, actually. I’m tired of feeling as though my every thought was being monitored. And I was tired of monitoring them… (if we are going to be honest here…).  I hope everyone is doing well, but I don’t care enough to ask. Sometimes you just have to close the door, y’know.

I am experiencing shitty perimenopause on a daily basis. This hormonal experience is not for the psychotic… because it already has moments of psychosis and sleep deprivation and knee-jerk reactivity built in. Do you see the middle graph? (Don’t even fucking look at the first one or the last one until you look at the middle one first.) That second / middle graph has been my life for the last 10 years. I started perimenopause when I was 39 and it was all cute and curiosity at first: “Oh, I wonder how long that badger will live in our yard?” but after five years, it has been nothing short of a fucking mystery and I don’t know how much longer I must endure its caprice and coquettish ways.

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This is not my personal pattern, but one from NIH or something like that (I give up trying to divine the exact source and so should you:  I’ve had that graph for at least a year).

Let’s look again at that middle graph which ostensibly covers a six-month period and copy it 20 times and run it linearly (as in a timeline) to cover a 10-year period and then you will have a SNAPSHOT of WHAT MY LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE.

I look at that graph, like it’s yearbook. And I suppose it is to a certain exent…

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Those premenopause years: from BIRTH to my 39th year, were all: Let’s go to the beach, then the movie and then dancing and frolic all in light-colored and white clothing, go to camp, learn to swim, play an instrument, have a crush, lose a friend, gain a friend, watch your parents fight … then one day in puberty do those things in those clothes except for XYZ days… and then let’s learn to drive, go on a trip, play some soccer, go for a run, fall in love, dance in the rain… pause….. then let’s have some friends over, and go to a mall, fall out of love, lose a friend again, gain another friend, stare at cute guys, go to college, apply for a job ….buy a car… get a place …. pause….. then let’s take a cooking course, stare at more cute guys … maybe date one… then marry one and then buy a house, have kids …. pause…. another kid (or years go by) ….

Then in my 39th year, this….

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I’m flying without radar here and as you can see, from that graph above, that flight plan is fucked up. Would you get on that plane? Go ahead, look at it again… it’s worth the laugh. And that’s what most of this has shown me: that I have to laugh. That’s not to say that I can’t cry (because I do, believe me) but crying over this (that image above) is unnecessary.

I’m not looking for a trophy or a badge or a pat on the back. I’m looking for an end to this stage of my life.

My mother is dead, and she was the only woman (just like her paternal aunt was the only woman in two generations) in her sibling pool, so I don’t have an aunt. And her being gone means there’s no soft-focus “Summer’s Eve” moment for me when I could walk down a misty, dusky beach with her (not that there ever was that kind of vibe to our relationship) and gently query her for finite honesty about her cycles and her reproductive history… that would require things she could not deliver.

The fun part about all this is that in order to be considered a member in the postmenopausal populace:

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you must be without a period (that bleeding stage) for at least a year. I have to say, I can’t help but see all those flat lines as… shitty. The very hormones that I’ve grown accustomed to, estrogen and progesterone, are leaving me at the party. No, they are taking the party away and leaving me there to clean up after the party.

But I’m nowhere near that, yet the eggs I’m spitting out are likely capable of creating life that would not be sustainable. I like to think my eggs, if they could be an emoji, would be this one:

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Let’s see… what else… I learned that I have two basal cell carcinomas scheduled for removal in a couple months. It’s the glorious results of misspent younger days under the sun with my then bestie whose parents were Puerto Rican and Greek. I am 71% Irish (thanks, big bro for getting the Ancestry.com DNA test). This friend would invite me over to her house and I’d go. I’d wear my royal blue with black piping one-piece LaBlanca swimsuit. We would “lay out” under the Virginia sun, in July, covered in baby oil and USE A SPRAY MISTER TO KEEP US SHINY! and she’d walk away like a Bain de Soliel model and I’d need paramedics to carry me away on a stretcher because I could not move my smooth muscle tissue beneath the exoskeleton I’d created in those four short hours in her backyard.

I joined a new studio to teach yoga (I touched on this earlier) and I’m really enjoying it. The owner feels like someone I’ve known all my life and I’m grateful to help her further her dream of providing a haven in the community to practice yoga, learn pilates, build strength and sometimes, just sit and be.

I directed a 660-boat rowing regatta the first weekend in November. The weather was sublime and glorious. I was in my element of serving people as well as protecting and reestablishing the brand of our rowing club after a couple years of inconsistency. I have offered to do it again for this fall. People think I’m crazy, but they’re right. But I’m really good at it — I am in a zone when I’m managing chaos with a smile on my face. (That was a scary sentence.)  I walked almost nine miles that first day. The second day was almost six. I was utterly wiped out. But I was really gratified too because it was such a rewarding experience. I bought myself some expensive Adidas shoes a week later.

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I do need a megaphone sometimes; it didn’t cut through the fog, but it helped me keep the coxswain’s attention.

 

The next night I taught yoga and two days later, still riding the regatta wave, we all woke to some really historic news: a woman was NOT elected president of the United States and instead, a man who strategically went after the electoral college (so: with an actual plan to win, not a hope to win) votes, attained more of them than the other people running for office. That was an ASTONISHING DAY for me. The night before, we had my brother and his wife and kids over. My dad too, to watch the election and just sort of huddle as if preparing for an apocalypse. We used the hot tub and had a really lovely night. My brother left around 10:30, glued to his iPhone. I decided at 11 that I was going to bed; I had to teach yoga the next morning. Some of the results weren’t in yet and the west coast had only recently begun to get later tallies. I remember clearly still that my husband came up to me to gently wake me the next morning in the pre-dawn darkness. He said, “It’s unbelievable. Trump won.” I was mildly shocked. I didn’t like Clinton, but I honestly thought she would win. I voted for Johnson.

I taught three yoga classes, as I always do on Wednesdays, and I witnessed a three-generational fog in those classes. In the morning, I teach women my age and they were all … quiet, sort of blown away. In the early afternoon, I teach mostly seniors or people older than I am and they were all subdued. The children I usually teach on the afternoons were simply stoic. Little girls openly cried in front of me, “My mother said a bad man is going to be our president…”

I felt as though I HAD to openly discuss the election because they were so affected and because they are children and are not savvy to the nuances I employed in my earlier classes. One of the little girls, who is usually a game show host in my classes, who likes to co-opt what I teach and preempt me as much as possible asked to stay in “child’s pose” the ENTIRE class. She didn’t even want to play “musical mats” (which can usually get any kiddo out of a funk).

I don’t have an inflated sense of who I am to these people, but in a sense, especially for the first class, this was likely the first social gathering of their day. I didn’t feel compelled to speak to the election, but I also wasn’t ok with ignoring it. I can’t remember what pearls of wisdom I may have imparted other than to suggest what I always do: “Whatever you’re feeling is OK.”

On Christmas Eve, we went to dinner at a restaurant in Georgetown. The buildings are historic and their floors are uneven. I slipped down the steps but managed to stop my fall by grasping one of the spindles on the landing I was escaping. I had just taught a power vinyasa that morning, so I was still “worked” from that but I did hear a snap. I didn’t tear my rotator cuff, but I definitely strained it. I believe the “snap” was from the heel of one of my brand-new Frye Boots smacking the riser as I stopped my fall.

When I returned to the table, after announcing to the numerous wide-eyed diners and the freaked-out expression of the maitre’d rushing to my aid, “I’m good, I’m a yoga instructor!” (I do NOT know why I said that other than to spare myself some embarrassment [it didn’t work] but more likely shame [ditto] and more likely to spare any discomfort on the part of the restaurant staff), I had immediate tingling in my arm, and almost near-immediate numbness. I raised my arm above my head, I did some classy yoga moves with it at the table (with some wincing, so I knew the nerve was OK) and the sensation returned within five minutes. I could move my arm on its own.

That night was the last time I colored my hair. (Nice transition, huh?) I’d been dancing around the concept for awhile, but I’d like to see how I look with my natural hair color and I’d like to spend the rest of my life not sweating my roots coming in. So far, so good. I don’t have the chutzpah that some people have: going cold turkey, so that’s not happening. I am getting a chemically assisted transition or detox. My tactic has been to wear my hair pulled off my face as often as possible because it shows people what’s coming in and what to expect. It also helps me deal with the choice, which if I can say so myself, is pretty damned gutsy. I don’t believe that I need to adhere to an unattainable standard based on artifice. I’ve long struggled with my own “lie” of coloring my hair while being someone who is SO WHOLLY INTERESTED and devoted to alignment and truth.

To spur me on, I joined a Facebook group “Gray and Proud” which is a supportive and empowering collection of humans (mostly women) who know that this choice “to be the way we were born” can be hard. I do not mean to imply that I know the struggles of those who’ve chosen to live a cloistered life because of fear of coming out as their true selves, but I do believe I share a kinship with them. We are all afraid of being judged and sometimes, truth scares people. Sometimes, people like to live their lives and their narratives. I’m cool with that. Sometimes other peoples’ truths upset another person’s narrative. Well, that’s not the other person’s problem.

The previous time I tried to go gray I was 36 (I’ve been coloring since I was 20) and it didn’t look right. I wasn’t feeling quite as confident and as “fuck it” as I have been lately. Don’t get me wrong, “fuck it” does not mean I’m “letting myself go”; “fuck it” means I’m letting you and your standards go.

It means I’m trying to walk my intention for the year. I’ll post pics on my progress, but not yet; there’s really not much to see here.

The dogs are doing great: Charlie, now three, and mellowing a bit is a sweet and loyal boy. He still barks at things that are not there and tries to take down Murphy at every chance he has when Murphy is standing up (which isn’t terribly frequent these days as he’s now nine, AND he’s a dog).

Well, there is always lots more to say, but I’m at almost 2900 words and I’m a little tired. It’s nice to be back. I’ll come back sooner, I promise. Feel free to drop me a line in the comments and let me know how you’re doing.

Thank you.

Because You Can’t Make this Shit Up. #Customer #Service #humor #insurance

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I went to my gynecologist for her annual spelunking appointment and she wrote me a new prescription today to help with (men, you can come back in a paragraph if you want) my hormone-induced perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, bloating which mimics the USS Dallas (as seen in “Hunt for the Red October”) spontaneous melodrama, night sweats, in-the-basement reason forgetfulness, brain fog, insomnia, inability to make sandwiches, and laundry neglect (that last one’s a gimme).

The medication is relatively new, so I’m relatively freaked out about it. There isn’t too much data on it. It’s a super low-dosage cousin of some rather storied and potent shit out there, so I’m not sure I’m dedicated to the cause yet. I mean, what’s (sorry men, I lied, come back in another paragraph) wrong with some really heavy cramps, ennui, intense bleeding, possible anemia (isn’t the harpie look in this year?), totally inconsistent period arrival and the occasional urge for solace by digging a hole to China under a crescent moon with my bite guard?

Other than Flonase and antibiotics for the occasional lapse of taking my Flonase, I don’t take many prescriptions. I like to go the herbal route. The supplement route. The what-the-fuck-is-in-this?, but-at-least-it’s-not-linked-to-inducing-suicidal-thoughts route. It might not always be efficacious, but I also believe in the placebo effect.

So today, because of this new script, I called my insurance company to learn the ropes about costs and copays and deductibles. Before I got too deep into the details, my very helpful Aetna rep told me I needed to call CVS / CareMark whose wizards would know the answers to all my prescription-based questions.

This is how that call went…

CareMark: Thank you for calling CareMark, may I have the member ID?

Me: Hi, this is Molly Field. I’m calling to find out cost and copay details for a new prescription. The ID number is  1234567.

CareMark: Who do you work for? >slurp<

Me: Uh, myself. My kids. I don’t have a job that provides insurance. I’m a … yoga teacher…?

CareMark:  Are you Daniel?

Me: No. I’m me. I’m his —

CareMark: Why are you calling about Daniel? Are you calling on his behalf?

Me: No. I’m calling on my behalf. My name —

CareMark: Why do I have Daniel’s information then? >clichslurk<

Me: You asked me for the account number.

CareMark: Who is this?

Me: I’m his wife. He’s my husband. I’m calling on my own behalf for me about … me.

CareMark: What is your name and date of birth?

Me: (relieved: now we are getting somewhere.) My name is Molly Field my date of birth is ___ ___ 1829.

CareMark: Ok. Why are you calling? >slurk<

Me: sigh. To get cost information on our policy and how much a new prescription will cost… When I dropped it —

CareMark: What is your account number?

Me: I just gave it to you and it seemed to confuse —

CareMark: Account number please. >skicch< I can’t look up anything without that… Do I have your consent…

Me: Yes. You have my consent. The account number will give you … it’s 1234567.

CareMark: Am I speaking to the spouse?

Me: Yes. On my own behalf about medication prescribed for me.

CareMark: How may I assist you?

Me: Ok. I’d like to know cost and copay information about a medication called STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS.

CareMark: That’s the 7.5mg dosage, correct? >skicch.<

Me: (after memorizing the promotional crate it came home in, complete with two obscured magnets to keep it closed, what the what is this? a Michael Kors bag?? Now I know where the money is being spent by this pharma) Yes, 7.5.

CareMark: A 90-daysupplyis$97. Untilyoumeetyourdeductible. >skich.<

Me: What is the deductible?

CareMark: Thereareseveraldeductiblelevelsonyourplan. >slurp.< Oneis25anotheris35andthefamilyis65. Per year. >clitch<

Me: (what the fuck is that sound?) Ok. So what’s the copay?

CareMark: What are you talking about? What copay?  >shlink<

Me: (irked and confused and super curious about what’s in her mouth) Ok. You just said … if I’m following you, why would I pay the full $97 for the 90-day supply seeing as how I’d met at least one of the deductibles you mentioned? I mean, even at the 65, I’d only need to pay, what… $32 and so then, what would the copay be after that?

CareMark: You >sklurk< wouldn’t have met the deductible.

Me: But you said the deductible was three levels. You said “25 and 35 and 65.” Those are the figures you gave me. So if I pay $97 for a 90-day supply, I would have already met the deductible. Yes?

CareMark: >slurp< No. Nowhere near the deductible.

Me: (slamming face with desk, wondering about the need for this medication when all I think we need to do is rid ourselves of idiots at call centers) But … that’s close to $400. A three-refill 90-day script, which is what I was given, will cost … $388, way beyond the deductible you quoted me. You just said, “25, 35 and 65 are the deductible levels…”

CareMark: (audible groan) >querlk< HUNDRED. TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED, THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED. SIXTY FIVE HUNDRED.  (you freaking idiot.) That’s your deDUCTible levels.

Me: (oh hell NO you didn’t…) HUNDRED?! As in Twenty-five hundred dollars for a deductible? Is THAT what you meant? (CareMark Mistress of the Dark is >sklerking< in the background…)

You said “twenty-five, thirty-five and sixty-five” and didn’t say “hundred” after any of those figures. So naturally, I thought you were talking about an entirely different denomination… >pausing to listen< Um, (with obvious bitter disgust) are you eating something? Because I can’t unders–

CareMark: >pause< No. I am not eating any — I am SUCKING on a COUGH DROP. I am SICK today. >SLERK SKECK CRUNCH<

Me: >pause.< Oh. I ask if you’re eating something because I’m having a hard time understanding you. You aren’t speaking clearly. And, that you left out of that deductible information by a factor of one-hundred.

So, then, yes, doing the math that I understand now, I would not meet the deductible. That’s fine. It is what it is.

Now, since CareMark has been our prescription program provider for several years, can you tell me what my family’s history was last year on what we paid for prescriptions so I can get a sense of whether or not we even came close to meeting those deductibles? You know, so I can get a ballpark on —

CareMark Viper from Hell: You want a WHAT? >sklerk< From WHEN?

Me: (fuck you; you work for me) I’d like to know if you can provide me with a … report, yes, a report of what we paid last year for prescriptions so that I can understand how that shaped up… I know some systems won’t give access to data so maybe you need to transfer me (please o please o please transfer me…), but I’m just looking for a snapshot, if you will, of how much we paid —

CareMark succubus: I don’t know what YOU’RE talking >slurk< about, but I can give >sklech< a COST REPORT (you moron) of your prescriptions from last year. I can send it to you …

Me: (incredulous) Mmmmmm Nnnnnooooo. That won’t be necessary; you don’t need to print it out and mail it to me, I’m just looking for a quick-and-dirty here (still trying to be niccccce….) so that I can .. can you just look at it and tell me?

(envisioning bats pipping and fluttering about her head; her face slack, with green from the reflecting the screen) Is there a screen you can click on? Do you have that (carefully choosing my words) ca-pa-bil-i-ty on your sys-tem that will show you that his-tor-ic in-for-ma-tion so you can just tell me the cost report from reading it on your screen? (SMILING a TOOTHY GRIN but with narrowed eyes.) 

CareMark demon: (likely hunched over one of those ancient monolithic IBM 8600 desktop computers we used to call “machines” back in the 90s) You didn’t meet it. >slerk< You didn’t reach your deductible last year.

Me: (oddly proud that we didn’t need that insurance but pissed we paid for coverage for it) Oh. Did we come close? I mean, would have this addition of this STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS last year, hypothetically of course, would it achieved the deductible? (at this point, i’m not sure of why i’m asking about any of this; something about this woman made me want to pick at her though…)

CareMark: No. >sklerrrrk<

Me: Ok. Well, that’s that. (sincerely) Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.

CLICK.

Me: hello?

She hung up on me. Not a “Thank you for calling CareMark and giving me a job to do and keeping my wages coming in…” or “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” or, I don’t know, “Good bye.”

I think she needs the medicine more than I do.

So then I called Aetna and told them what happened to me. They took a full report.

You’re allowed to be sick. You’re allowed to sklerk on a lozenge. But you’re not allowed to be viperous. You’re just not.

Here’s the final thing: I’m a big girl, I’m healthy, I’m happy and living a very wonderful and stable life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this puff adder would somehow meet up on that phone line with someone who’s really in need. Maybe a mother of an infant with a blood infection; a father who’s son is in rehab, y’know: PEOPLE. I was concerned that she would affect a person who’s rattled, whose spouse just had a stroke, or who needs to know about his or her new health plan and that this agent would treat that rattled spouse or parent or patient so horribly that the day would be ruined. 

Truth be told, I thought of my father, who’s 84 now, and if he needed to call CareMark to ask about his prescription benefits. I thought about my mother-in-law, who’s 29, and considered her situation with that agent and I decided I couldn’t let it go. 

So I called CareMark later on and spoke with management. The manager I spoke with was mortified by Elvira’s behavior and grateful that I called back. 

CareMark redeemed itself to me on that second phone call. It turns out it’s not a “deductible,” it’s a Maximum Allowable Benefit (MAB), which is the exact opposite of a deductible. A deductible is threshold you must meet by paying into it, and  it would eventually reduce your out-of-pocket expenses as you go forward. When you reach your deductible, your costs go down. The MAB is an already established account, with funds already in it, that when you buy your medication, that sum is deducted. When you run out of the MAB, you pay more. It’s like a bet the insurance is taking, that you will try to meet. 

I don’t know how that rep has stayed employed.

Why am I in the basement and what am I looking for down here? Geez, I hope it’s not for the laundry.

Thank you.

For the Ladies – Living and Thriving with #PMDD

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This post is for anyone who is a woman or knows and loves one. I am 45 and started experiencing hormonal changes about five years ago. Most of the changes were benign to slightly annoying. They started with foggy thinking, crying at a baby shampoo commercials, then included night sweats and very dry facial skin about a week before my periods and left me very confused for a while until I started to pay attention to it all.

Let me start by saying this: anyone who doubts the power of hormonal surges, falls, bounces or whatever, needs to have their head examined. The very substances and chemicals responsible for creating physical changes and menses in young women; deeper voices, chest and facial hair on young men and the ability to create and grow another human baby are some truly powerful shit. They are responsible for good moods and bad moods, heart and brain health and just about everything under our human suns. If your wife, sister, girlfriend, mother, aunt, boss, secretary, teacher, nun, crossing guard, neighbor says she’s having a bad day or that she’s PMSing, take her seriously and offer her a simple kindness. What I’m writing about, Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, PMDD, is like… PMS on meth.

Some people in my life suggest that when I get like this with both of you, that I am exposing myself to undue commentary or even sensationalizing my situation to garner sympathy. Nothing could be further from the truth EVER. I don’t need to tell anyone any of this. I am doing this because I hope to share a sliver of my life to allow someone, anyone out there; maybe someone you know if it’s not yourself, some semblance of hope when confronting this extremely desperate time of hormonal fluctuation. I don’t care if people look at me as though I have three heads; at times I probably did…

About a year after the night sweats, I began to experience only what I can describe as unpredictable intense rage within days of getting my period. The kind of rage that makes the harpies in a Dracula movie look like the Andrew Sisters.

Harpies.

The Andrew Sisters.
Well, maybe this isn’t such a good comparison. They don’t look too mellow. But they do look nice…

All my life I’d been very fortunate in the female department: I had crampless periods, no bloating or headaches or backaches. Even after having my boys, I continued to be a non-PMS woman. The only symptom with my periods I ever got after having babies was aches and tightness in my hamstrings and a need to sit down until the ibuprofen kicked in. Because I’d never experience any typical PMS symptoms into this new phase of sweats and chills, I didn’t make the connection for about 18 months. It wasn’t until I lost my mind on our dog, fell apart emotionally in the basement during a workout and other weirdness that I started to watch for patterns.

Hold up: when I talk about night sweats, you guys need to understand something if you don’t already know about this. By night sweats I don’t mean getting a little hot and having to kick off the covers. I mean this: getting so freakin’ sweaty that you are drenched and you have soaked through your pajamas. If you have had kids, I’m talking about night sweats on a scale to mimic post-partum night sweats. The kind that wakes you ONLY because you are now chilled to the bone after the ignition. Your sleep is disrupted for about three to four nights in a row. So not only when you get your period are you cranky from the hormones, you are fucking homicidal because you can’t sleep.

You still with me?

Another interruption: during the first two years of the night sweats, I started to take bio-identical hormonal drops that my doctor gave me. I would add them to my tea in the morning and at night. They worked well, until they didn’t anymore. After about a year, I had to increase the dosage and the number of times I took them and that helped. It wasn’t until I was practically mainlining the stuff that I realized it wasn’t working any more. So at this point, I was aware of the night sweats, but nothing else.

Back to the rages.

Most of these rages I wouldn’t be able to recall; they were like micro psychoses. I didn’t hurt anyone physically and I pray not emotionally, but I know I caused some damage to my children and our dog, likely in the form of their being terrified, unsure of who I was and nervous about trusting me. This is a horrible sensation: to be aware that your children are on their guard around you.

The only episode I sort of recall before I started to actively do some investigating was when my husband intervened one evening when he came home from work. He found me screaming, yelling, flailing and snarling over our beautiful then 10-year-old son who was cowering with his back to a corner, his hands were covering his head and his ears, and he wore expression of absolute terror on his face. His little legs were drawn into his body, like a ball. I remember feeling like I was 10 feet tall; my vision was strangely altered, like how a fish-eye lens works. I probably had flames coming out of my mouth and smoke pluming from my ears.

This.

I don’t remember anything about the episode, what set me off, what it was about, if I had touched him (which he tells me I hadn’t) or what I said to him (he can’t remember or chooses not to say, he’s very tender). I remember being told by my husband that he dashed into the room, pulled me away from our son and that I shoved him back about five feet and that he caught  himself on a door jamb. Mr. Grass Oil is no wallflower: he is very athletic and weighs about 190 and is 5’10”.  Although I’m in shape, I have never been able to tackle him in play or jest, he’s like a wall. He told me he sent me out of the room and I do remember telling him something elegant and articulate like “Fuck you!” and that I was probably gnashing and snarling. My husband is a peach. Anyone who says that to him deserves a kick in the butt.

I don’t know where I went next, I don’t know what happened other than to say I was completely beside myself with rage, and a  sensation that can only be described as profound and gut-wrenching feelings of being unseen and unheard. Several hours later, I got my period, a couple days early, and the rage was gone. Although I was emotionally and outwardly lighter, internally I was crushed with confusion and woe. That episode had been perhaps the fifth involving our children, but gratefully they were not in succession.

My feelings of being unseen and unheard hails from being an Adult Child of Alcoholics (ACOA) and because of this, they might be more profound than yours. Very often, we ACOAs were denied attention by our parents in favor of their addictions and diseases. Look, I’m 45. I’m not gonna harp (ha! harp) on my parents and their stuff. The fact is that I know there is a correlation between PMDD and ACOA women. Medical experts also suggest that PMDD sufferers are adult child survivors of physical or sexual abuse and that keeping in all that rage directed at others is what can cause the unconscious hormonal rage releases. Whatever the cause, it’s real and people need to give women a break.

Onward.

Fast forward three months to the final time I had a PMDD episode and didn’t know it. I was on a beautiful vacation with my children and husband and other family members whom I love very much. I love them so much I’m not going to tell you who they are. Being in close quarters and attached at the hip for a few days in a row is fine, but it can get to grow on people. On the penultimate day of our togetherness, one of these people and I had exchanged a couple jabs, and I was sorta tired of it because I felt like I had mostly been the recipient, just due to old behavioral habits and family dynamic patterns. A final jab had been given and while most people who witnessed it believed it was uncool, I treated it as though it were possibly the. most. horrible. thing. that. had. ever. been. said. to. me. in all of my years of existence.

I stewed.

I stewed. Omigaaaad, did I stew. I behaved like a baby at the evening’s celebratory dinner for my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. I was such a pill that I left early. Even though this person and I weren’t really speaking (at least I wasn’t) I still had never been so insulted in my whole life. The next morning, I insisted in a summit on the beach with this person. Apparently I became a shrew. I do remember spewing a torrent of epithets at this person, you know, on an open beach slightly after nine in the morning on the day of their departure.  Totally rational, right?

The conversation — in fact this person, who is smarter than everyone on this planet put together, said that words failed when trying to describe the interaction — was jointless, mostly one way (mine), jagged and abusive. This person conceded to their wrong doings on the beach and apologized for the jabs, but apparently I wasn’t listening.

This is Lucy from Dracula. I was not Lucy, nor was I lucid. But her demeanor feels familiar.

We broke off on the beach with my teeth dripping blood and innards of a gull in my hands. (Joke.) But I was still screaming and swearing.

This person was insanely important to me and I was still blind with rage when I watched their car drive away. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I didn’t want to be left holding the bag for our disagreement. After all, I was provoked. Whatever. I was told by this person and its spouse to leave them alone and not contact them again. My treatment had been deplorable and disproportionate to what I had deemed to be the provocation. I was consumed with sadness. I thought I had lost those people forever. That night, my period came: three days early. Even with my vigilance, there was no way to have predicted the hormonal and mood changes. So not only was my body clock jacked up, my hormones were basically holding me hostage. The following days of my vacation were absolute hell for me. I couldn’t eat, sleep or really function outside of thinking of how horribly I had treated these people.  I felt betrayed by my body.

I called my therapist and she suggested that it might be hormonal and I agreed, but didn’t really buy it. It wasn’t until I talked to my husband and other family members that I was able to put together patterns.

When my family and I returned from the vacation, I got online and went to the library and called people and finally found a resource to help me. My husband in the meantime was having conversations that I wasn’t aware of to mitigate the damage and to keep my valued people abreast of what I was doing to address the problem. I felt as small as a flea on an elephant. Finally, my research hit pay-dirt. I took a quiz online and self-diagnosed with PMDD. What is PMDD?

Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition in which a woman has severe depression symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation. The symptoms of PMDD are more severe than those seen with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

PMS refers to a wide range of physical or emotional symptoms that typically occur about 5 to 11 days before a woman starts her monthly menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually stop when or shortly after her period begins. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004461/)

another resource http://www.pmdd-community.com

and a link to a Facebook chat hosted by Dr. Northrup: https://www.facebook.com/DrChristianeNorthrup/posts/10151180624930029  – a Facebook account is required.

After that self-diagnosis, I called my gynecologist for a phone consult. She asked me to come in and we talked about it. She confirmed my suspicions and said that I should watch what I eat, get rest and plenty of exercise before my period. I said, “My periods are all over the map, I have severely affected a personal relationship that I value very much and if running three miles every day and doing yoga twice a week in classes doesn’t count as exercise, I’m not sure what else you can suggest. I have a very balanced diet and I love sleep. What else do you have for me?”

Apparently nothing.

I went back online and I started to dig and I remembered hearing Christiane Northrup, MD, on a talk show about female changes a few months before. Northrup is a fantastic pro-women and amazing obstetrician and physician who has written many books about women’s health, menopause, perimenopause, female health. She has said of PMS and PMDD, that “they are the bill for the previous month’s experiences,” meaning that if you were good to yourself health and spirit -wise, you would have a relatively uneventful period; but if you denied yourself, put yourself last, didn’t take care of yourself and other similar behaviors, your period would be painful or challenging.

After digging a little more, I discovered Women to Women, which turned out to be a company that Dr. Northrup co-founded. I searched their site for PMDD and took their quiz even though I knew the answer. I called their nurses and signed up for their program which included fish oil and a daily vitamin and calcium supplements — things I was already taking and I was taking even more of the fish oil than they sent. Along with those supplements, they also sent me me bio-identical herbal supplements on a monthly basis called “Herbal Equilibrium” and I take them every day without fail. Five days before my period, I double up through my cycle’s third day. The supplements have SAVED ME. Within one cycle, the PMDD rage symptoms were gone, my periods were more regular and the night sweats were reduced. If you don’t buy from them, call their support line anyway, their nurses can help you with questions.

Northrup has a cohort, Dr. Mona Lisa Schulz who is a medical intuitive: she has a medical degree in treating and diagnosing brain trauma and brain injury and she’s also a gifted psychic. Drs. Northrup and Schulz have a set of CDs called “Intuitive Listening” based on their discussions about female health and how the spiritual or emotional directly affects the physical. A quick example: a woman has had terrible back pain for years. Her husband lost his job about four years prior, just as she was launching her own business as an entrepreneur. Her husband suffered from major depression as a result of his job loss and she ends up going back to work in a job she hated. Along with the back pain, she is beginning to suffer from adrenal failure, experience massive fatigue and has weakness in her legs. Dr. Schulz diagnosed her with some ailments and then said something along these lines: “Your back is literally breaking and your legs are giving out because you are spiritually carrying your husband around and you have been, against your will, for the last few years. If you don’t get out from under him spiritually, you will suffer from these progressive diseases…” and she went on to list them.

What I’m trying to say, is that what we do in our outside world affects our inside world and over time, it can become bigger than we are.

One more thing about the PMDD: Before I knew what was going on, and after that episode with my son, I decided to pay more attention to things and to chart my periods. I got an app on my Droid phone called “My Days” which is mostly used for people trying to have a baby, unless you’re like me: trying to stay out of the mental hospital.

One size fits all.

Speaking of the mental hospital, I also take several over-the-counter supplements to help me keep a even keel emotionally. I’ve been taking them for about six years, ever since my internist suggested I take a low-dose SSRI (seratonin serum reuptake inhibitor: prozac, lexapro, wellbutrin, zoloft, etc.) for mild anxiety and I was fearful that an SSRI was a slippery slope due to the side effects. They are: 200mg SAM-e, 100mg 5HTP (at night, read about it), B-complex, “sustenex” a probiotic for gut / brain health, 3000mg fish oil 2x a day among calcium, etc. and I don’t see any side effects. This works for me — I workout like a maniac and practice meditation, give myself time-outs when I’m nonplussed and angry and I try to keep my voice calm. All of this requires tremendous self-awareness, and I’m OK with that.

Back to the app: it was very helpful until that trip to the beach. Why wasn’t it helpful? It wasn’t hooked up to my hormones and it didn’t know to put me on alert for my own built-in personal hell three days early. But after being on this program for 28 months now, I can only tell you that I’m in a far better place. Now I just get a small backache before my period and even if it’s early or late, I have no mood symptoms other than being just slightly tired because of the disrupted sleep. That’s the only tip off. Now I have this great website saved on my phone to help me keep track of what’s going on with my emotions and my hormones. I hope to have it memorized soon.
http://www.menstruation.com.au/periodpages/knowyourbody.html

So here’s the deal: we have to pay attention to ourselves and sit still long enough to notice that stuff is changing in our bodies. It’s one thing to be on the cusp or in the throes of being of a certain age and not sensing symptoms, it’s quite another to see them occur and totally ignore them, or just pass them off as a fluke. PMDD is no fluke. It is hell. If you suspect you have it, or know someone who might or see these changes in a loved one, please get her some help or have her read this post.

If nothing else, she will know she’s not alone.

This was a very long post. My use of humor in conveying the severity of this disorder is not meant to dilute or diminish anyone’s experiences with it; in fact it’s essential to me. In person, I’m a very quick-witted and funny person which means that I am also a very cutting and at-times angry person. I have found that I prefer the laughing over the tears.

I appreciate you sticking it out with me. I also invite you to read the comments below. There is helpful info there. By the way, my relationship with that special person is ok.

Thank you.

ps – This is my personal story. I’m not offering medical advice or a diagnosis and this post should by no means be substituted for a proper diagnosis performed by a practicing medical healthcare professional. I’m also not affiliated with Women to Women; I just take their stuff. What you do is up to you.

I seldom ask this: please SHARE this post if you think one person can be helped. Read the comments. We are together in this.

UPDATE: 1/15/14: I have been asked by a couple readers if there is anything new to share in my experience. I would like to say no, that I’m cured and that I have nothing else to say. The fact is that PMDD is something I will live with until I finish menopause. It’s something that will follow me, lurking in the shadows and that no amount of awareness will ever defeat. What the awareness does, however, is remind me that I have a role to play in this: no longer the victim; just the survivor and winner. I feel myself get edgy before my cycle kicks in. I feel bloating and headaches and something in me says, “Don’t take that shit! You can beat it!” but the fact remains that the larger my ego, the greater my fall, so I do have do fall out, I do need to take a few hours away on my own. It’s OK to say you need a break. It’s OK to say, you’re tired and you just want to be alone. Anyone who doesn’t get that, needs to get with someone else or educate him or her -self. PMDD is real, it’s here to stay. Just like the Taliban is here to stay, but we don’t have to take that and be afraid. We just keep going on. With awareness and new rules.

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