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PMS and PMDD Guilt
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
PMS and PMDD are bad enough by themselves—they can disrupt your life, your relationships, and your work. But once they’ve passed, you may still be living with the guilt residue they can leave behind, especially if during those days and weeks you’ve found yourself saying or doing things you later regret. Many women feel guilt-ridden for days or weeks into their next cycle, from things that happened when they didn’t feel like themselves.
The hormonal and emotional rollercoaster that is both PMS and PMDD creates "ideal" conditions for feeling guilty later on: outbursts of extreme anger and irritability; backing out of plans because you just can’t get yourself up off the couch; alienating or letting down family and friends (again)—such behaviors can be common territory for PMS and PMDD, but they can come back to haunt you, making you relive the events and feel just horrible about it.
Unfortunately, PMS guilt and PMDD guilt are often overlooked, and the focus is placed entirely on the actual PMDD and PMS symptoms. And yet, if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with those terrible, wrenching guilty feelings. PMS guilt isn’t really different from ordinary guilt—but women with PMS or PMDD are much more vulnerable to acting in a way that can lead to feeling guilty. And, because of their overlap with depression and other emotional conditions, women with PMS and PMDD are often much more susceptible to guilty feelings overall.
You may think, "How could I have said those things?" "How could I have let myself get so out of control?" And then, the familiar crush of guilt comes on, often because you’ve treated worst those whom you love and cherish most.
Valerie is a 32-year old mother of two young children, who has been married for eight years. The first years of her marriage were emotionally and sexually satisfying for her and her husband. As a young woman, she had barely any PMS symptoms, and often forgot that she was due to get her period. When she was 19 she started the birth control pill after a pregnancy scare, and because her gynecologist thought it might help a mild acne problem. On the pill, her PMS symptoms remained minor.
Valerie’s premenstrual symptoms first flared up after the birth of her first child, including menstrual and premenstrual cramps, but also crippling fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability. During her second pregnancy, these symptoms went away completely. However, following the birth of her younger daughter, Valerie’s emotional PMS symptoms seemed to get much worse. Her irritability had morphed into an edgy, barely controlled anger that could be provoked by seemingly minor problems—usually, of course, in the week or ten days before her period.
Eventually, these symptoms, PMDD symptoms, reached crisis proportions for Valerie, for her family, and for her marriage. PMDD was beginning to impact her parenting abilities and her work life. She’d had run-ins with customers and clients who’d complained to her boss about her attitude, and had more than one talking-to from her manager. Valerie knew that further outbursts might result in a reassignment or a demotion.
She initially sought help for her symptoms after her therapist suggested there might be hormonal reason for some of her problems. But in addition to sore breasts, irritability, anger, and difficulty concentrating for ten days to two weeks out of the month, usually beginning soon after ovulation, she suffered almost as much from the guilt that followed the emotional outbursts. Every month, after the symptoms had passed, Valerie was racked by guilt: about her children, about her marriage, about her work performance, about mistreating her friends and coworkers. It sometimes seemed like PMDD was her whole life, since it often took several days to get past the guilty feelings and the remorse, so that some months there was only a week of feeling normal and OK before PMDD anger and other premenstrual symptoms kicked in again.
What finally made Valerie really serious about getting help for her PMDD was realizing that not only was her marriage on shaky ground, but that children were becoming afraid of her and her temper.
Like many of our clients, Valerie wanted to find a natural solution. Even though her husband and doctors encouraged her to take medications like birth control or antidepressants, she wanted to try a more natural way first. It’s not that she didn’t take her situation seriously—it’s that she truly believed there must be a natural solution, a way to balance out her hormones and emotions without resorting to foreign chemicals that might have immediate or long-term side effects.
The first thing we discussed with Valerie might sound surprising: she needed to treat herself better. Not that she needed some new shoes or a new outfit, or that she needed to devote less energy to her family or her work—rather, she needed to practice giving herself some slack, and treating herself with more compassion and kindness.
It turns out that Valerie was in the habit—not just with her PMDD, or her PMDD guilt, but all month long—of berating herself, almost constantly. She felt as if she could never do enough, never be good enough, and so she called herself names and demeaned herself. In other words, she tried to be nice to everyone, but couldn’t stop herself from being mean to herself. And during her PMDD time, she couldn’t stop herself from being mean to others, either.
Although Valerie had discovered much of this before in talk therapy, she and her therapist had focused on investigating why she behaved as she did, looking for the roots of her behavior and her unhappiness in her childhood experiences. Although we approve of the general idea of better understanding oneself and one’s motives, Valerie needed immediate help, which meant she had to practice self-acceptance now.
Valerie’s volatility and PMDD anger and irritability were really just an explosion of something that actually built up all month long—the pressure that resulted from her unrealistic expectations of herself. Inside, she really believed that that she wasn’t "perfect" enough, and her ceaseless self-criticism when she fell even a little bit short really did take a toll on her. Learning self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance was a slow and difficult process in some ways, but it was only a few months before Valerie began to approach life with a lighter, easier attitude that soon made a positive impact on her PMDD symptoms, not to mention her marriage, her parenting, and her work.
Of course, self-acceptance alone isn’t a cure-all for PMDD. Valerie’s success in overcoming premenstrual symptoms was a result of an overall holistic program that is outlined in our do it yourself natural program for PMS & PMDD. It includes:
Taking Valerie’s example of a well-rounded approach that addresses the whole you: body, mind, and spirit, you too can overcome PMS, PMDD, and the premenstrual syndrome guilt aftermath.
NOTE: Valerie is a composite of real PMS Comfort patients who sought holistic help with PMS and PMDD.
PMS and PMDD misery aren't always taken seriously enough by doctors, family, and friends. At PMS Comfort, our whole purpose is to empower and educate you about premenstrual symptoms, and to provide real, natural relief so that you can feel great all month long. Our all-natural doctor-designed programs are based on decades of experience helping thousands of women recover from what you've been going through. Our Herbal Relief formula, when combined with our diet and lifestyle guidance, addresses more than just your symptoms—it can help bring your body and mind back into balance, and help you get and stay healthy. Plus, we're here to support you, every step of the way.