Hormones Hijacking My Life
December 21, 2018 7:36 AM   Subscribe

98% of the time I am a very happy, fulfilled person. 2% of the time I have PMS and become withdrawn, have intrusive thoughts, and am difficult to be around/find it difficult to be around others. My questions is about finding resources (particularly CBT-based) to help me manage my emotions that are NOT therapy (for reasons*). Bonus if it's focused on continuing to be a good partner/parent.

- What books, apps, videos, things I am not even thinking of, do you use to help yourself maintain your composure?
- How do you manage parenting and being a good partner on the days when you are falling apart?

Please imagine that you have less than an hour a day to spend on this and usually it will be in the late evening, just before bed.

My personality changes when I have PMS. I go from singing songs and dancing around with my daughter to barely speaking as I go through the routine tasks of life (she is preverbal & I'm not ignoring her. I'm just not gleefully naming things as she points at them, etc.). I am 100% able to function and care for us, but I do not have it in me to pal around much on these days. I'd like to crawl in bed and take a sick day, but that's not an option for our family.** The other issue is that I have always been sensitive to noise. She can sense the change in me and gets upset more often which causes her to cry more on these days, which is really hard for both of us.

*I know the standard answer is therapy but....
- this is seriously only 2% of the time and I am really strapped for time these days. I don't think I can justify to myself spending hours in therapy for 2% of the time. Also in the past, therapy hasn't coincided with PMS, so my therapist never gets a sense of it and it just feels like a big waste of time.
- I am primarily interested in CBT and we have only 1 CBT therapist in town and they seem to be booked for the foreseeable future.

**My partner is gone a lot for work. When he is here, he is great.
posted by CMcG to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I just want to add: I feel so concerned about impacting my daughter with this behavior/shift in personality. I really want to find ways to cope so that I can help myself, but also so that I can demonstrate that we all feel sad sometimes and there are ways to keep going and continue to act by our principles.
posted by CMcG at 7:38 AM on December 21, 2018

If you keep track of those days that you are grumpy AF (for me, that usually happens two days before I ovulate, where I hate everyone, especially myself), and then bring them up at your next doctor's visit. They did a blood test for me and found a big difference from expectations for progesterone and testosterone, and I've been taking non-birth control progesterone for the second half of my cycle, but starting those two days before ovulation. This has helped IMMENSELY with those two days of self loathing. It took about 6 cycles to figure out the best timing and dosing, but it really has been worth it.

Good luck.
posted by jillithd at 7:52 AM on December 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

Agreed with Jillithd. I’ve started taking Zoloft the last week of my cycle (so, about 25% of the time) and it’s made a huge difference for me - no more uncontrollable sobbing and feelings of self-loathing! I personally don’t experience any side effects that I can pinpoint, just more stable moods during the few days before my period. It’s called PMDD. The Zoloft works.
posted by samthemander at 7:56 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

While meds and such may indeed help and solve this, perhaps another approach to ponder is this.

I call my mood then one of “staring at the bones”, and any stress or feeling I must put on a cheery face makes it worse.

If you can identify and predict when you may feel this way (an app called Clue helped me a great deal), arrange to have more time alone then, when no one can demand anything of you. If your partner is home then, great, but maybe another person could spend most of the time with the baby while you hang out with yourself , feeling whatever you feel without it impacting others. I find I feel crazier when I try to make myself “normal” during those days, and if I can get some time out, that problem goes away and I get a grip more quickly. You might not always need this, but it’s an experiment to try.
posted by Riverine at 8:28 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you're interested in DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), a variation of CBT that includes mindfulness and distress tolerance, this is the workbook my therapist recommended: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Workbook.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:00 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

*I know the standard answer is therapy but....

For PMDD, it really isn't. Some women take Zoloft for a week, but I found that really hard to track so I take Sertalin at a very low dose all month long and it's been really a huge change for me.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:20 AM on December 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

I third asking your doctor for medication. They can give you a schedule where you have a very low dose normally but then ramp it up in preparation for the monthly PMDD.

For materials to work through by yourself, I recommend the Mindful Way Through Depression. If your book doesn't come with the tapes, you can find the audio on YouTube. One of the first exercises is a daily hour-long body scan, but you can replace it with a shorter body scan from YouTube.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:22 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I did a DBT group therapy session focused on learning mood regulation tools to handle exact what you're talking about. The tools were great, and worked well, but the problem for me was I only have so much energy to give in one day and therapy didn't increase that. So I could manage my emotional state with the tools I learned and keep from snapping at people, etc., but it was *work* and it took a lot of time and energy. And then that time and energy didn't go to other things, which also needed to be done. I'm not disappointed in the DBT tools I learned, which are fantastic for other situations, but for me they weren't the right tools for PMDD, where what I really needed was something to help me *free up* energy (not use more!) I was using to control my mood so I could live my life normally like the other 3 weeks of the month.

I'm now on Prozac one week a month and it is a game changer. I don't have any side effects. Can't recommend it enough.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

*I know the standard answer is therapy but....

It's so interesting that you said this, because my first thought was... work around it. Sure, it'd be great not to feel crappy, and maybe you can work on that in the longer term, but is your schedule regular enough that you can predict when these days will be? You said your partner is great when he's home. When he's home and you're in this mode, he's the full time parent, and you have this time for whatever self-care you need.

If he's not home: call in your troops. Do you have family, friends, a babysitter in the area? Either bring someone to your house or see if you can schedule those folks to be at your house. Then you are either out of the house or in the bathtub or bed or whatever you need.

I do wonder if your stress is exacerbated by your daughter's reaction, and then you feel worse, and she feels worse. So removing yourself from the situation might help with you, because you won't be stressing her out, and vice versa.

If you don't have this kind of support, try developing it. But also... PMS night is movie night with your daughter, maybe? Is there some treat she loves that's for special occasions that you could save for your worst nights?

Other folks are giving great ideas here, and I can't speak to specific suggestions for managing this, but for some perspective: being a happy, fulfilled person 98% of the time is awesome. Being able to only manage the basic functions of life for the remaining 2% of the time... is still pretty amazing. So, while you definitely might look for bigger solutions, in the smaller picture, I say, cut yourself some slack and lean in and just know that it's time for self-care as much as you can manage to make that happen. Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Your question doesn’t mention if you’re on or have tried hormonal birth control in the past, but it’s definitely an effective option (either a long acting method like iud or continual cycling with pills) Please disregard if you have a medical contraindication/are trying to conceive/know you have a bad reaction to exogenous hormones.
posted by genmonster at 11:54 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are you 2012 me writing this? I can empathize so much with everything going on in this question because that was me. I ended up tracking my cycle to figure out when my grumpy days were and scheduled half or full day childcare on those days at our local church* drop in place.

*We aren't religious but in our area churches have some great drop in programs for mother's that are reasonably priced.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 12:26 PM on December 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

CBT in a nutshell is basically the idea that your feelings drastically color your perception of the world. Oh and by the way, your perception is not the world. It is your perception.

For me, the change is SO drastic that is comically obvious:
ed: lalalaaalaDEATHDESTRUCTIONWHYDOIEVENBOTHERIMUSTEATALLTHECHOCOLATEWHYAMISOFAT? OH GOD WHEN WILL IT END, ITS BEEN GOING ON FOR...20 minutes? Ahhh it must be that time of month. Lol. I have 24 hours not to do something stupid and get arrested!
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

PMDD is a beast.

IAPMD, which funds research into pre-menstrual disorders, has some resources available.
posted by divabat at 6:15 PM on December 21, 2018

Yeah, as other folks have said, you need a babysitter more than therapy. If medical solutions don't end up helping you, find a way to take that sick day that you need. I get the impression that you feel enormous responsibility to be 100% sweetness and light for your family, and that's just not reasonable 24/7. Give yourself permission to let someone else take over that 2% of the time.
posted by metasarah at 3:07 AM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't have anything new to add, except my support and another voice saying you're not alone. My PMDD increased in severity after I turned 30, and I was so confused by my symptoms that I actually posted on the green thinking it could have been caused by my hormonal IUD.

Turns out it's more likely that the PMDD itself is increasing as the hormone level in my IUD drops, meaning I'm experiencing more of my natural cycle for the first time since I was 18. All that has helped me is low-dose Prozac and telling people in my life that there are times in my cycle that I can't control my emotions well. The Prozac was a night and day change--I went from hiding in the bathroom and crying in the middle of the night to pretty much functional within a month.
posted by assenav at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wanted to circle back to this because the Zoloft was SUCH a game changer for me, even though I was skeptical. I had had an OK experience with zoloft for mild depression previously but had a bad time transitioning off of it, so I was scared. However I experience no side effects with my one-week-a-month PMDD dosage.

Like others mention above, I only started to experience the full throes of this at age 32, after removing my IUD. Previously, I had only semi-believed that PMS was a thing, since I had never personally experienced it. But the Zoloft really, really helps so much- I am back to my normal self.
posted by samthemander at 1:44 PM on December 25

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