Saturday, 25 February 2017

PMDD...from one guy to another...

Violence...It's NEVER okay. Assault is never acceptable. Physical Abuse must never be tolerated. PMDD must not be used as a justification or acceptable reason for assault, abuse or violence. If there's violence in your relationship, things need to change. Communication is key. Intervention may be necessary. An emotional discussion is of utmost importance.

Yes, my wife had aggressive tendencies earlier in our relationship. Yes, there have been flare-ups over the years. But we talked about it then and we're STILL talking about it...and it's not easy.

My wife has worked her ass off trying to control those aggressive urges. She said that, having kids, seeing them in her PMDD haze, lessens her potential for unleashing the beast within. However, it increases the likelihood of her hibernating in the basement for hours on end. It's a Catch-22. The kids want to see her but she doesn't want them to see her in that state. She wants to be involved in their weekend shenanigans but fears what might happen should another wave of darkness roll in.

How do we deal?

First of all, we have an agreement. When there's too much Dude chaos, when they're sending her anxiety through the roof, when the stimuli of us is too much, she goes downstairs. She burrows. I'll check on her when I can, asking a simple question - do you need anything? If the answer's no, I leave her, returning to the kids.

When she says to 'leave me alone' or 'go away' or 'get out', I do.

When she says she doesn't want anything, when she tells me she needs her space, I give it to her.

However long it takes, I don't bug her or inundate her with questions or hugs or kisses.

In the nicer weather, she goes for a run. There are days where, she'll walk to the front door in her running clothes say "I'm going for a run" and leave. As she goes, so does the dark cloud that surrounds her.

Self preservation is key. For you and her.

It's hard as hell to see your partner shattered or in a world of hurt. It's even harder to hear her tell you to leave her alone. And it'll seem like the hardest thing ever to walk away, to let her be, to actually hear and accept her words.

What's my story?

Early in our relationship, as we developed mutual coping mechanisms for her bouts of PMDD, we were very clear with each other - if she wants something, she needs to ask for it. I can't read her mind. If she says she doesn't want anything, I can't get in trouble for not getting her the chocolate bar or ice cream or chips she was thinking of! Either she says what she wants or gets it herself.

Secondly, when she would tell me to leave her alone, I would. No matter how much I wanted to help, I walked away. I went to Starbucks. I went to a pub and watched sports (and ate free peanuts). Yes, I worried. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I struggled to concentrate on the game. But, we had another agreement: when she wanted something or needed something, she'd text me with specifics.

I don't know what went on in our apartment (and later our home) while I was out. Screaming? Yelling? Hitting pillows? Punching walls? I know there'd be stuff on the floor that wasn't there earlier but, I didn't ask anything. I came in, gave her what she wanted (chocolate? hug? bag of dill pickle chips?) and, usually, said nothing. I let her speak first...let her initiate the communication. That told me she was ready to talk...that she was coming out of her state.

Yes, sometimes there's aggression - mostly verbal, with a few bouts of physical over the past 12 years. But I equate it to holding a dog or cat or any animal that doesn't want to be held. It will bite, it'll lash out, it'll hiss, it'll protect itself. I was too close to her. I was asking too many questions. I was giving a hug that wasn't just amplified her anxiety and exacerbated her stimuli. I was making things worse by ignoring her words. I didn't listen when she told me to leave her alone. I thought I knew what she wanted. I thought I knew better than her. I couldn't accept that I couldn't fix her. (I know better now!)

So, now, it's on her. If she wants help, she needs to ask for it. If she needs something, she needs to ask for it. If she asks for nothing, that's what she gets. I know, it sounds heartless & mean. But it works for us.

TALK! Honestly.

Finding out what works for you is hard. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience and a lot of communication. Honest communication. Talking about your feelings. Express the emotional toll her PMDD takes on you (how it drains you, scares you, how you want so much to help but don't know how). Being blunt, straightforward with your ideas. Have a game plan going into the conversation. What do you hope to get out of the conversation? What would make things better for you - tell her how hard it is to see her like that, tell her you want to help her but don't know how - but, for heaven's sake, listen to her words. If she says, in those moments, it's best to leave her alone, do it. If she says, in those times, to put a chocolate bar on the bedside table, have a stash handy to appease the PMDD beast. If she says she wants a punching bag, use a pillow (FYI - those body pillows are tough, sturdy, can be bunched up and squeezed to death!). Lastly, talk about what the two of you should do next time...for the next flare-up. Don't think long term - look at the next month (because, dear friend, the PMDD beast WILL return). I can't lie - it's been 12 years and we're STILL re-evaluating our coping mechanisms!

Say 'I love you' and 'I'm here if you need anything' or 'I'm sorry I can't do more' or 'I'm amazed at your strength to deal with it'...let her know that you recognize her struggle. Words do help. She may not say anything in response, but your words may just seep into her subconscious, letting her know you're there.

Be prepared - somethings will work, many things won't. Get used to it. You're not a failure for trying. Your relationship will be stronger BECAUSE you tried. Your commitment to her is - and always will be - a work in progress. What's successful one month, may fail epically the next. It's okay. The more strategies or outlets or possible solutions the two of you develop, the better off you'll both be.

Our List: (I can't say these will work for you but it'll give a little insight into our realm)...this is still a work in progress and changes with every bout: she plays piano, running (when it's actually nice out), dill pickle chips, Downton Abbey, Star Trek: TNG, Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate, her phone (Candy Crush & some Choose Your Own Adventure games), pillows & blankets (to create her cocoon), nachos, Supernatural, really bad movies like Sharknado 3, disaster documentaries...all of these came through trial and error...basically, stuff that requires little thought, minimal emotional investment (on her part) and can be controlled by her.

Good luck on your quest. Both of you are stronger by your willingness to help. You can do it!

PS - my email, should you have questions or suggestions, if

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