Today I wanted to bring a topic to everyone’s attention which may be unusual, but there is a purpose. That topic is PMDD, a condition which is similar to PMS in some ways, but extremely different in others. The best way I can possibly describe it is PMS being your average baseball hitter who can hit a home run hard enough to take out a scoreboard light, whereas PMDD is your brute force slugger who hits the ball so hard it knocks down the whole scoreboard. Yes, it’s that strong a force of nature. Those of us men in love with a woman with this condition endure a special form of torment, one which many suffer in silence with.
Having spent 18 marital years locked in what has felt like mortal combat with this situation, I read some tips for men living with this. Most are solid, but there are some corollaries I would like to add, mainly because there are always exceptions to the rule, but also because sometimes we miss the obvious.
- If she can’t eat dark chocolate, any good quality milk chocolate will do. My wife is a supertaster, which makes for double trouble. The usual PMDD food therapies (dark chocolate, coffee, etc.) are completely useless because they are too bitter for her to tolerate. What I usually do, foodwise, is keep good quality milk chocolate on hand, along with “mood foods” that are nutritious. PMDD sufferers tend to have extremely amplified cravings during their cycle, so be sure to listen to what their bodies say, within reason, of course. Aim for European-origin milk chocolate, as most American-made bars are no more than 10%, the FDA mandated minimum. (Sorry Hershey’s, just being real!)
- Cravings tell you what the body is being depleted of. In my wife’s case, it’s beef. Lots of beef, and protein, lots of protein. This is because the body is expending a ton of energy prepping the reproductive area for the possibility of fertility. During this time, the body diverts resources from regular tasks to do this job. Red meat of any sort tends to be rich in iron, so vitamins and, in particular, iron, help. Also, the loss of protein energy can lead to sugar cravings, because the body is looking for a quick jolt.
- Encourage cat naps. As important as sleep is, for PMDD sufferers this is especially vital as many tend to not get enough sleep because of its effects on the body and mind. When droopy eyes hit, let her sleep. A cat nap can do wonders for her mood.
- Develop a very thick skin. PMDD is a sneaky little bastard. Being a body chemistry issue, it will create all kinds of havoc, most of which is mentally based. The more you can slough off what she says and does to get attention, the better off you are. Be supportive, kind and compassionate, but not a punching bag. If she starts yelling and screaming, the best way to defuse it is saying in a calm voice. “I’m not yelling at you, why are you yelling at me?”
- Sometimes, a good fight really IS what she needs. Fighting, arguing and yelling releases stress. As long as you do it fairly, show compassion and don’t gaslight in any way, it is survivable. Most important of all, any fight during a PMDD cycle cannot be conducted with the mentality of winning – this is about blowing off steam for her, and you are the only person she can get away with doing it with. Let her blow it up, put on that thick skin, and blow it off.
- Do no harm. It sounds idiotic to have to bring this up, but the fact that it’s easy to forget is why this tip is so very important. This doesn’t mean “walk on eggshells.” This means don’t make a bad situation exponentially worse with stupid statements, comebacks, snarkiness, or bad behavior. Love, kindness, compassion, and generosity are essential components to surviving PMDD episodes. Abusive behavior of any sort, even implied, is never, ever, acceptable!!!
- Don’t take the “Ghostbuster” approach. In other words, don’t blast her when you see the demon approaching. Let the demon come out and play, ignore it, and remind the woman in its grip she is valued, cared for, and vital. It does sink in, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
- Believe any PHYSICAL pain she says she is in. PMDD tends to bring with debilitating physical complications. Where most women suffer menstrual cramps, the PMDD suffer experiences a flurry of physical pains, and sometimes flu-like symptoms as the body’s immune system is sometimes compromised because of a diversion of blood to the uterine area. Treat her like any allergy or cold sufferer – plenty of fluids, plenty of rest, and lots of support.
- If she has a furry friend, keep them close by. A cat, a dog, a ferret, a bird, it doesn’t matter. When she’s hitting her episode, keep her buddy close by. Women who have pets tend to relax noticeably when their trusted companions are around. These creatures do not judge, do not talk back, and are the most loyal, trustworthy friends they see. Give her all the time she needs with them.
- Remember this too, shall pass. PMDD will not last forever. A woman suffering PMDD will often experience substantial relief with treatment and permanent relief with menopause. When those days come, cherish them as you would a special event. A perfect day with no symptoms should be regarded as a holiday, and celebrated to remind you of the good which keeps you going through the bad. On those sorts of days, buy her a gift, or flowers, or take out on a nice date, even if it’s just a romantic walk under a starry sky. Most of all, listen, hold her, and remind her how much she means to you every day, especially the bad ones.