Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dealing with Crazy PMS

(This is a little long, but I promise it ties in to weight loss in the end!)

I've mentioned before that I get bad PMS almost every month. It's been going on for most of my life. Even when I was 13, I used to miss school from PMS. I have vivid memories of lying in agony in my father's recliner all day long instead of going to school. I remember crying from the terrible cramps, headaches, and exhaustion. My mother never took me to a doctor about it. She never even gave me a Tylenol for it. She just said, "That's the price you pay for getting to be a mother someday."

In my later teen years and when I had my first few children, it seemed to improve. I still got cramps but probably more along the lines of what most women experience. Then, after I had my fourth child, all hell broke loose. I was SO SICK every month. The cramps were debilitating. I was so nauseous I was weak. I could barely function. My neighbor across the street came over one time and told me she could always tell when I had PMS because my face looked GREEN, like I was going to puke any second. I had four little kids, and it was all I could do to make it through a day caring for them because I was in pain. Not just cramps... but backaches, migraines, pains down my legs.

Finally, I mentioned this to my gynecologist. He told me I was suffering from PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I had never heard of it before. It's a very severe form of PMS affecting about 5% of menstruating women. Some women with PMDD also have issues with anxiety or depression, but that wasn't the case with me. It was all very real, physical symptoms that made it so difficult to function. I did also crave certain foods but I was so nauseous that most of the time I couldn't eat.

My doctor recommended Prozac for my PMDD. I objected. I was not depressed. I thought Prozac was to treat depression, but he told me that it was also useful in treating the physical symptoms of PMDD. So, I reluctantly agreed to try it.

BIG MISTAKE. Not long after starting the Prozac, I started having panic attacks! I had NEVER had a panic attack in my life, and was really terrified. I had no idea what was causing it. I was afraid I was going to die. I went back to the doctor, and he said that in some people, Prozac actually triggers panic attacks! Gee, thanks. I'd rather be sick. But anyway, then he suggested taking another antidepressant, Paxil, to get rid of the panic attacks! I was really getting worried at this point. I asked him, "do you think I am depressed?" He assured me that he did not think so, but that these drugs were necessary to help me with the PMDD and the panic attacks. So I started taking the Paxil

Within 3 months of starting the Paxil, I had gained 40 pounds! The panic attacks were gone, and the PMDD was much relieved; however, I had this deadpan complacency about life that I had never experienced before. I was craving carbs ALL the time. I had no energy. I felt like a slug. I did not like how I felt, so I tried to stop taking Paxil. I started getting ringing in my ears and "zaps" in my head, like electricity going through my brain! I would get dizzy when I moved my eyes, like the room was spinning. It was unbearable! I thought I was going crazy. The zaps and spinning rooms stopped when I took the Paxil again. This was ten years ago, in the days before Paxil withdrawal was acknowledged as a real syndrome, and the doctors thought I was making it up. (Nowadays, you can Google "Paxil withdrawal" and get lots of information and even directions on how to wean yourself off Paxil. My advice? DON'T START IT.) I was referred to a psychiatrist and a counselor. I was starting to really BE depressed over the whole situation.

Eventually, I got a doctor who wanted to help me wean off the Paxil. He was aware of the withdrawal symptoms and told me to wean off the Paxil, I would need to take yet ANOTHER antidepressant, Wellbutrin! UGH!! I was tired of all the meds! But he said the Wellbutrin would ease the Paxil withdrawal, so I took it. I was able to get off Paxil, finally. The counselor saw me a few times, told me I was not crazy or depressed and shouldn't be on any medications, and I went off Wellbutrin. FINALLY. I felt like myself again. What a nightmare!! I have never take any "meds" again. I would rather just deal with the PMS.

Since then, the PMDD has gotten better most months. I get bad carb, salt, and sugar cravings. I get cramps, bloating, etc. But what helped me the most was losing weight. My PMS is only about half as bad as it was a year ago. I don't get nauseous anymore. It's tolerable with an Advil and some rest.

This week I have had some major PMS going on. I had a backache, headache, and bloating. I felt like chewing someone's eyeballs out. Very edgy and irritable. A few months ago, I was craving potato chips SO BADLY but I didn't want to eat them. I was in tears because the cravings were so bad. Finally I just poured some salt into the palm of my hand and licked it. I sat on the couch licking a pile of salt because I craved it so bad. This time around, it was carbs. Last night all I wanted was pasta. I wanted macaroni and cheese or fettuccine Alfredo. I woulda killed for it. And sausage... I wanted sausage. And chocolate. So what did I do???

I made the fake Alfredo sauce from Hungry Girl's website. I doubled the sauce recipe (a wedge of Laughing Cow Light cheese, 2 tsp light sour cream, 4 tsp Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, melted. I thinned it with a bit of skim milk = about 90 calories). I mixed this into a cup of Barilla Plus spaghetti (since I had no fettuccine noodles... 180 calories) and then I chopped up a 120-calorie sausage patty and put that in there. And that's what I had for dinner, followed by one square of dark chocolate (36 calories). I felt satisfied, comforted, and filled. And I stayed under my calorie limit for the day.

So, if you are struggling with PMS too, try and be kind to yourself. Take some Advil or Tylenol and have a comfort meal. Sometimes my comfort meal is a Lean Cuisine Macaroni and Cheese meal. Or a pile of mashed potatoes make with roasted garlic and skim milk and maybe a Kraft 2% American cheese slice melted on top. Don't binge; it won't help. Then go take a nice warm bubble bath and relax a bit. Have a cup of hot tea. And above all, remember that you'll feel better in just a few short days.


Heather said...

oh I have had bad PMS this week! my bitchiness has been out of control and I have had out of control cravings! I am trying to manage, but it is very true, we can allow ourselves some comfort food that is healthy too.

barbra brusk said...

i also got really big taking antidepressives.

at that time, i was having a lot of migraine episodes (about twice a week), and it was terrible, cus i am allergic to painkillers (even a simple advil could make me die).

so, i went to a doctor that is famous in my city to help people with migraines, and he told me to take this.

i gained about 10 pounds (which is a lot for a girl like me - i am very small).
i could not lose it yet. and stop taking the medicine was like hell... so bad.

but i don`t have the migraines anymore, and my pms os pmdd is much eaker nowadays.

i prefer my life like this (10 pounds more) than the life i had before..

we are all different, so.. i don`t think there are rules for this kind of thing.

congratulations, lyn. i am very proud of your control!

barbra brusk said...

i mean, it was 10 kilogramns.
in pounds, it's 22, right?

all those blog i read that talk about weigh in pounds get me confused.

here in brazil we don`t use pounds. just kilos.

alice said...

dairy actually makes my pms worse. i know how it is. i have horrific pms as well. it starts about a week before my period and goes away about a week afterwards. this means i only have one week each month where i feel *normal*. :::sigh:::

Ready to Shrink said...

I can't even tell you how bad my pain is at my TOM. I have PCOS and it's like every month I am dying. It's so frustrating. Additionally I had a friend who went through close to the same thing with the meds you were on except the Paxil made her manic. It was AWFUL. She is doing okay now but it was a really rough run.

Good to hear you are off the meds. Though the docs try to help sometimes the body has to prove it's own resilience.

Ryry the Adventurous said...

A fantastic victory against pre-menstrual hormones! You kept the binge eating army at bay and still gave yourself what you wanted. You are awesome.

Lynne said...

Hi - I am a PMS Prozac girl. I just weaned myself off last summer. It's not easy BUT - My sister talked me into taking Omega III fatty acid supplements (fish oil). She's very into hollistic treatments - and I am always skeptical. BUT I have to tell you, my PMS is in check. I don't care if its a placebo - it seems to work and I don't get the cravings for JUNK like I used to!

AND THANKS for the alfredo recipe. It sounds DELICIOUS! I am trying it tonight!

Honi said...

I can relate someone what to that.. when I was 38 I had a period every 2 weeks and I had bad hair growth on my face.. I was miserable.. started takeing Apree birth control.. 3 months on 1 week off.. and sometimes 6 months on 1 week off... it changed my life.. no more hair growth.. a period 2 or 4 times a year.. ( could not do this if i was going to have kids obviously ) .. it was amazing now I only go every few months to get my face waxed.. i was having to go every 3 weeks.. and I had an appetite that shame everyone.. it was horrible.. thank heavens for my tiny red pills.. in the early stages of this all they wanted to treat me with all of the drugs you were on.. I was so glad I went this route instead.. .. be well.. and congrats on being closer to your goal.. and congrats on that wonderful alternative dinner you made.. ROCK ON!

barbra brusk said...


the comment from lynne reminded me something.

have u tried gamma linolenic acid?
you can google it, cus i don't know how this substance is avaliable in us. here in brazil is a very usuable treatment against pms and it's natural (as you can read on the articles they have on the pages that google show).

i had an amazing experience with it (before the treatment i did with antidepressive), especially because it helped with the pain i had in my breasts and to decrease liquid retention.

alexis said...

hi lyn

have you tried taking blackstrap molasses? It has worked wonders for my menstrual pain and heavy clots. You can read more about blackstrap molasses on (sorry I don't quite know how to paste a link, but here goes