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Depression, PMS, or PMDD? Which is Which and Why do I Have It?

PMS is the moment in a woman’s month she would most likely like to live without. But there are also women who experience PMS in a way that completely puts her life on hold.

woman who is stressed

Why PMS might be a more of a struggle for you than for others

How PMS can affect your decisions

When I first got married, there were a lot of instances when my husband was at a loss as to how to handle his new emotional and hormonal wife. The first month of our marriage he told me that PMS was all in my head, but knows now, that was a big no-no and absolutely not true.

He was raised alongside three brothers, and when it came to his mother opening up about her hormonal issues, forget it. I mean, why would she? Up until the last however many years, hormones, periods, and women’s emotions were hush-hush. No one talked about them, and in my opinion, a lot has been swept under the rug resulting in a lot of disarray on the matter.

One day, after having a moment of freak out during my special days, I was shocked in how my mind had turned so ugly so fast and wondered if I was capable of actually doing the things I had just thought in my mind. It made me curious as to what percentage of crimes were committed by women during their PMS. I, of course, googled it and read a few articles on the matter.

It was apparently brought up in court during the 80’s on whether sentencing could be lowered if a woman committed a crime during PMS. Since doctors couldn’t prove that PMS alters our decisions, the case was thrown out, even though there are studies that found there was a higher percentage of crimes committed by women during PMS. Honestly, it makes perfect sense to me and proves even more that PMS can affect us in so many ways, including our decisions. 

Emotional vs physical symptoms of PMS and when it’s called PMDD

Anger, irritability, depression, anxiety, cramps, headaches, and much much more.

Every woman is different, even when it comes to hormones. Some women suffer more physically during PMS and their period, while others suffer more emotionally. The severity of PMS is determined by how many symptoms you have. If you have 5 or more of these symptoms, it can be likely that you have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) .

Women who are experiencing PMS, can still function and continue to perform their daily activities, even with their discomfort. Women with PMDD, because experiencing more severe symptoms, are sometimes paralyzed in their mind and body which makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks. 

While anger, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide are a part of the emotional symptoms, there is yet another painful side to PMDD that suddenly and unwillingly rears its ugly head. Depression.

There are many different forms, but the one I am referring to is that only during and having to do with the menstrual cycle. For me, this occurs both at ovulation and a week leading up to my period. Once my menstrual cycle starts, I feel like a different person.

That makes it two weeks out of the month where I feel like myself. Not only do I suffer emotionally, but it affects my sleep (which affects my depression even more), my skin, and worst of all my decisions. I feel as though a tiny evil version of me is sitting in my head, and using her tiny controls to operate my bad decisions and make life seems hopeless.

Due to tracking timelines and keeping a symptom documentation, it’s become apparent to me that what I experience is a bit more severe than PMS. In the second trimester of pregnancy, I am quite possibly the happiest person on earth. Most of my problems seemed to dissipate, including my skin, because my hormones changed for the better during this time.

My first and third trimester are a completely different story.

Most of these things are no news to a lot of you. But what don’t we know? What if there are broader issues to PMS, PMDD, and depression, and do they possibly coincide? Is there a way to get help from our symptoms?

I wanted to touch on this subject because I have benefitted from being aware of some of these things by research, reading some books on the matter, and some wise advice from a few women. Since we can’t control the fact that we menstruate and from that receive wonderful side effects, let’s talk about what we can control.

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What we can’t control

Probably one of the hardest years of my life was when we moved to Germany for the second time. The unfortunate menstrual changes during PMS occur because of the rapid rising and lowering of the hormones progesterone and estrogen.

If we have high levels of stress in our lives, these symptoms are made worse due to the release of more cortisol into our bodies. I have witnessed first hand that stress plays a role in making symptoms worse, as the stressful years in my life, have brought out the record-breaking crazy lady days. 

We can’t control our circumstances, for the most part, nor can we control our PMS or PMDD, if birth control is not an option for you. I tried it, only to find out I do, in fact, transform into Mr. Jeckel.

It made my symptoms so much worse. Some of you don’t want to be on birth control, but since it helps you feel less insane, you do it. Same goes for depression medication. You need a solution, so why not?

As I am both for the use of depression medication and birth control when needed, I also don’t want to accept the fact that it should be something we have to take for the rest of our lives. So what are the other options? Let’s talk about the neurological side of things and how it possibly ties into PMS, PMDD, and depression. So we can’t control PMS and its symptoms, neither can we control our circumstances. So what can we control?

One of the best things you can do for your period is switch to Diva Cups! Say no to tampons! Read about it here. Click the image to buy on Amazon for a great price!

What we can control

1. What we eat -The PMS diet and how it can

lessen or eliminate your symptoms

I read a book awhile back talking about natural resources that help lessen the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. It’s called Period Repair Manual.  One of those factors is our diet. It’s important to figure out what your body needs and doesn’t need. Keep a diary of what you eat and how it made you feel.

For example, our body doesn’t need a twinkie, but it could need natural sugar, like fruit or yogurt. Seems reasonably straightforward, right? She goes a little deeper into it, explaining how certain foods can worsen our symptoms. A very interesting read if you want some advice on what you can do naturally to lessen or even for some women, eliminate your symptoms. 

2. We can control our thoughts

There is a neurologist whose name is Dr. Caroline Leaf. She’s brilliant and has written a book called Switch on your Brain. I don’t agree with everything she says, but she touches on some excellent points.

Our mind/brain and our body are connected; therefore, our thoughts are the starting point of what happens to our body’s emotions, ailments, physical well being, which in turn affects our lives. Our thoughts have the power to physically change the makeup of our brains for the better or the worse.

I’m going to quote a good old fashioned verse from the Bible. If you’re not a Bible-believing person, that’s okay it doesn’t matter because this can still apply to you. Philippians 4:8 says,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

This is advice from thousands of years ago, and I can only gather that God is trying to protect us in not wanting us to let our thoughts run wild on negativity because science now says it is neither good for us emotionally nor physically. Positive thinking, right? It can heal our brains, physically change them, and heal our bodies. Read the book. It’s fascinating. 

So, what does this have to do with PMS, PMDD, and depression?

A sage woman once asked me in reply to me sharing how during PMS, I have a hard time controlling anger towards my husband when we fight. She asked, “Are you able to control your anger towards your son or your friends?” I replied, “yes, of course, most times.” she responded. “So there is hope. If you can control your anger towards your child and friends, then if you put your mind to it and practice, then you can also control your anger towards your husband.”

That was convicting. It occurred to me that I can, in fact, control my emotions, even during PMS. How? By controlling my thoughts. It is SO hard to do during PMS, and I realize for those of you who suffer from PMDD, it seems impossible at the moment. But with practice (mostly during the good weeks,) as you will read in Dr. Leaf’s book, we can physically change our brains and begin to heal from the inside out. Cool, huh? Oh and she backs it up with science, so don’t worry. I don’t think that this is always possible for everyone and every neurological issue. She seems to think differently on that matter. That’s okay! We don’t all have to agree on everything!!! 

Learn more about – How do we begin to control our thoughts?

There is almost always a still small voice in my head when I think of something I shouldn’t be thinking that says, “If you go down this thought journey, you will end up going down the rabbit trail into a big ugly mess of insecurity, doubt, depression, and anger. If you choose not to believe that lie, you can go on with your day NOT fighting with your husband.” I believe we are continually being fed awful lies, and we always have a choice to believe them or not. Anything that causes you to curl up in fear is most likely a lie, and if you feed that lie, it will fester until your brain and emotions are a rotten mess.

It takes practice, but try it. When that lie comes up, have an escape plan. Think of something positive to replace it with that correlates to that thought that might be pestering you. 

Thought scenarios:

‘I am fat and ugly’ – replace it with something that you know is true about yourself. ‘Okay, that’s how I feel, but what is true? I am beautiful because…’ 

‘She is prettier than me’ – replace it with the truth. ‘Wow, she is really pretty. I’m grateful that God creates everyone with some unique form of beauty. Thanks, God, for also creating me beautiful.’

I have my “escape from bad thoughts” plan all written out and taped up in my bathroom (the place I usually go when I’m upset.) It reminds me (when I choose to acknowledge it,) to take action for how I am behaving right now and own up to my side of things.

I used to live in unforgiveness, bitterness, and thinking that I am a worthless piece of nothing, and why should I even bother with the world. It was a dark place, and worse yet, intensified when I was hormonal.

It brought dissension in my marriage, destruction in my heart and mind, and I physically felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. I had headaches, backaches, anxiety, loss of appetite, thought of suicide and more. All because I started believing those little lies that turn into BIG LIES.

I believe, but as I said, it’s my own opinion, that there were always deeper issues at hand, and during my PMS, those things would intensify and leave me paralyzed with fear. So, what else can we control?

3. Make peace with your past.  

We all have a past that includes good and bad experiences and memories. If you have undealt with baggage, then figure out a way to heal through it. Whether that’s forgiving someone, even if they don’t deserve it, or having someone to help you work through your wounds. Forgiveness is vital in letting the past go. I know this first hand, and it is one of my hardest struggles and something that has held me back for many years. 

Some of us have deep wounds that go beyond what is even in our conscious minds. It could be subconsciously affecting you, although you thought you had gotten over it. Make sure you have made peace with your past and leave the past in the past. It won’t help you to dig up those graves to justify your thought patterns. .

4. Take responsibility for your actions and who you want to be.

I don’t know who you are or how you got to this post, but I do know you’re reading it for a reason. I am grateful if in some way it can help you in your journey to learn how to deal with PMS, PMDD, depression, and the issues that go more in-depth.

I believe, when we PMS, the deeper dwelling issues of our heart’s come out, and rear their ugly heads in ways we don’t like or even want. That’s why in dealing with our symptoms, we need to dig deeper and figure out who we are, and why we are the way we are.

For everyone, this looks different. For me, it has helped me immensely to take responsibility for my actions and work on the things I need to change instead of wanting everyone and everything else to change. To take my thoughts captive and not let them run wild on emotion. Just like the serenity prayer. “God, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can.”  

You have the power to change your own life for the better. It has first to be a choice, and then an action, starting with the opportunity to not believe lies, and to replace those evil thoughts with the good ones.

Try it, and see if you can start changing those hopeless days into days full of joy and peace. It’s a long journey which I am still working on, and I can’t say it always works. But at least I know I am trying something, rather than doing nothing. Feel free to share your thought below on what you experience with PMS, PMDD, or depression.

We are in this together, and your story could be an encouragement for someone else.