Why Having PMDD Makes Me A Better Writer.
Going crazy once a month is actually pretty useful.
Once a month, but not during that time, I turn into a different person.
I become an angrier, less patient, exhausted version of myself. I gain 3 inches of flesh on my hips. My face is visibly angrier-looking. My spending goes up.I have more incidents of acting in a way that could only be described as hysterical. That terrible, terrible word actually applies to me in this state.
I’m working at obtaining a formal diagnosis. But the experts I have consulted with thus far agree with my hunch: I have PMDD.
How do I begin to describe PMDD? The short answer is that it is Super PMS. Or, depending on what you learned growing up, it’s what most people think normal PMS is like. From personal experience, I can say that it feels like a demon is possessing you eight days a week. Hence why that time is referred to as Demon Week in my house.
An article in American Family Physician describes symptoms of PMDD this way:
- Markedly depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, or self-deprecating thoughts
- Marked anxiety, tension, feelings of being “keyed up” or “on edge”
- Marked affective lability (e.g., feeling suddenly sad or tearful or increased sensitivity to rejection)
- Persistent and marked anger or irritability or increased interpersonal conflicts
- Decreased interest in usual activities (e.g., work, school, friends, hobbies)
- Subjective sense of difficulty in concentrating
- Lethargy, easy fatigability, or marked lack of energy
- Marked change in appetite, overeating, or specific food cravings
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- A subjective sense of being overwhelmed or out of control
- Other physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness or swelling, headaches, joint or muscle pain, a sensation of “bloating,” or weight gain
Sounds demonic enough, eh?
This disease can be treated with depression medication, IUDs, cognitive therapy, supplements, or even ovariectomy. There is no universally accepted cure for PMDD. Pills can help. But in the community for PMDD, there are often horror stories around shopping for a cure.
At this point in my life, I’m mostly trying to learn more about PMDD and how it affects me. I’ve had this my entire life. Just recalling high school is enough to bring back memories of frenzied crying and crippling obsessions. Not to mention every sabotaged relationship.
But it’s okay now. I know the name of the demon, and that is what helps me conquer it. In my path to becoming a copywriter, it’s even helped me. It’s made me better at what I do and has instilled good habits in me. Habits that don’t always come easily when you’re starting a business…
I am forced to slow down and rest.
You know what my biggest pet peeve is? Entrepreneur porn.
Work work work. See the theme?
I’m all for working hard and the occasional late night. But if I worked all the time (as the entrepreneurial parts of me are wont to do), the Demon that comes eight days a month will eat me.
That is to say, I will be a mess. I will be angrier. I will make poorer decisions. I won’t think things through. I will overcommit myself. And that’s just referring to the time leading up to Demon Week. You don’t think that doesn’t affect it? Oh yes it does.
If I want to do any meaningful work at all, at any time during my hormonal cycle, I have to rest. I take weekends now. I have preferred work hours. And more than ever, I enforce these rules. I turn down rush assignments on weekends.
And you know what? I’ve never made more money. My work is better because I’m allowing myself to take in new media and actually let my brain process it all. I was worried that resting would make me mediocre. In fact, it made me better than ever.
The phrase “What can I do?” has disappeared from my vocabulary.
I’m a joiner. I like jumping in to things. I like committing to things, be it a party or writing a whitepaper.
But there comes a certain point where eagerness to jump in can be easily exploited. People tend to follow your lead when you’re a joiner. Then all of a sudden, you’re under deadline for five assignments when you originally agreed to one and you have a bake sale to run… and supply.
When it’s Demon Week, I can handle maybe 60% of what my normal self can handle. That’s it. So to keep bad things and “I’m sorry I can’t make it” emails from happening, I’ve stopped being a joiner. Other people can step up and be The Main Person on things. I’ll help where I can! But I’ll only lead if, on Demon Week, I’ll care.
My risk assessment skills are regularly tested and honed.
It’s not like I’m physically incapable of scheduling appointments and meetings during Demon Week. I can and do. I just hate myself for it afterward.
With PMDD, being too stubborn is punished. I have to pay attention to how I’m feeling and be realistic about what I’m capable of. That can be extremely demoralizing for an entrepreneur—the idea that you have limits in terms of what you can take on. It’s humiliating to ask if you can reschedule something because all you want to do is curl up into a ball and cry at a certain plot twist in Twin Peaks.
But you know something? After I make that sacrifice, I do better work than I likely would have if I said yes. You don’t want Demonically Possessed Brit starting a project. You want Normal Brit making the decision with a clear head and putting all her mental power toward it. Assessing my limits (or even preferences) has enabled me to work at a better speed and with greater speed and produce higher quality work. I can do anything I set my mind to. But I’d rather the end result be as good as possible.
Adaptation has become a way of life.
If it hadn’t been for one particularly bad bout of PMDD, I wouldn’t have learned how to gracefully cancel a business appointment. I wouldn’t have learned that people aren’t offended when you ask for a preferred deadline before committing to a project.
Having a disease that forces me to sit and do nothing has taught me to adapt my work around life. It runs counter to every single lesson we’re taught about entrepreneurship and running a business. Our work is supposed to be out lives.
That’s a good attitude to have most of the time. But too often, it can collapse into bad work habits, eagerness to please and ultimately shitty work. My affliction forces me to stop and reconsider this attitude. Without it, I may have worked myself to death.
It’s not my preference to have PMDD. I would absolutely prefer to just have my monthly cycle and not have it disrupt my life in a terrible way. But I can’t ignore the benefits that having to cope with this disease. We adapt to the worse things we face. The growth that PMDD has allowed me to experience is absolutely invaluable.