Parenting is so tough sometimes. When it's good you are on top of the world, loving your kids, enjoying the moments, and thinking that THIS IS IT. This is the meaning of life. This is AWESOME. And then when it's bad you can't believe that this is your life. You are overworked and under-appreciated and it has only just begun. This is AWFUL. What a dichotomy, all from vaguely similar scenarios! Same house, same kids, same schedule, so why does it feel so different sometimes? The unbalance in the situation seemed to be, more often than not, ME.
Cut to my sister Kari. Kari is as die-hard of a friend and sister as you'll ever find, which is always heartwarming and sometimes hilarious! Like when she started a conversation, "So I was talking to my gynecologist about you..." WHAT?! You were what? But the conversation continued, "I was asking her if maybe you should switch birth control because I know you have really bad PMS and maybe some different hormones could help." Yeah, I had to admit, I really DO have terrible PMS. Since we hang out every day she sees me in the trenches and hears stories about me being all crazy with my kids and husband during that time, and she always sympathizes with me, but I had no idea it had her thinking or worried about it... So she continued, "My doctor said, 'oh yeah, that's super common, I usually have women take a Prozac before their periods to help with PMS.'" I was shocked! Super common? People complain about PMS to medical professionals, not just their sister? I was intrigued, and kept thinking about it.
Cut to my Bad Mothering Memories. Everyone has bad days, sure, but I can positively identify which week of the month I had PMS based on the number of horror stories about how I acted toward my family. I spanked my kid because they used too much soap in the bathtub. I gave Caroline a cold shower because she covered herself in lotion. I let loose a string of expletives at bedtime because my kids weren't getting the pajamas on fast enough. Some days were better; some were worse. SERIOUSLY?! Okay, maybe the kids were annoying, but even while I was losing my mind I knew I should not be losing my mind. In the end I would apologize to the kids, talk through why I went nuts, but it became so common I gave myself a nickname: Monster Mom. I would warn the kids in the morning that I had zero patience and I needed lots of alone time and they needed to give me extra help on those days, but still I would have meltdowns. More than once I ended up sobbing to my 5-year-old while he patted my shoulder and consoled me... and shouldn't it be the other way around? I'm sure he was looking across the room to Eli with wide eyes, mouthing "mom is insaaaaaane!" If I wasn't acting insane, I was feeling depressed. I just couldn't believe that this was my lot, 4 kids ruining my life, and I resented it like the day is long. And then, one day, PMS would be over and I loved the world again, being a mom felt like an amazing gift, my kids were cute and funny, and I could not imagine why I had felt (and acted) so absolutely AWFUL the week prior.
Cut to my own Doctor's appointment. I was there to get some moles removed, and it's always fun and awkward as you lay there and make small talk and try not to look at whatever minor medical procedure is being performed on you (I can't even watch when I get blood drawn), so I brought up the conversation about PMS and Prozac. As we talked I mentioned Monster Mom and how regularly she shows up (and then disappears) from my life. The good Doctor said it sounded like I experience PMDD, Pre Menstrual Dysmorphic Dysorder. Mayoclinic.com described it as such:
In both PMDD and PMS, symptoms usually begin seven to 10 days before your period starts and continue for the first few days that you have your period. Both PMDD and PMS may also cause bloating, fatigue, and changes in sleep and eating habits. In PMDD, however, at least one of these emotional and behavioral symptoms stands out:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Anxiety or tension
- Extreme moodiness
- Marked irritability or anger
Wait, sadness like resenting my life? Anger like screaming and getting physical with my kids? Extreme moodiness like sobbing on my 5-year-old after freaking out over nothing? That all sounded so familiar...
Cut to NOW. I have a prescription for Prozac to take for 8 days during PMS (or PMDD). Other options to treat PMDD include birth control pills, which I can't take due to blood clotting disorders; nutritional supplements, especially B vitamins, which I already take; and diet and lifestyle changes, which are already under control as I enjoy going to the gym and I maintain a healthy body weight. I've taken it for 2 months now and I am OVER THE MOON with the results! I had figured PMS was part of life, Monster Mom was something my kids would have to learn to deal with each month, and being an emotional train wreck was part of "for better or for worse" that Joe had signed up for. WELL. I'm not perfect on the timing yet, but last month I was having a really wretched morning - Joe was being unbelievably insensitive and the kids were pulling at the frayed ends of my last nerve! When Joe said, "jeez, PMS much?" I got defensive for 2 seconds, then looked at the calendar and realized YES, it WAS PMS much. Time for Mommy's Little Helper. By dinner it was smooth sailing on calm seas and I felt incredibly blessed. Blessed to have 4 wonderful kids who make mistakes, but we can handle it. Blessed to have a wonderful husband who makes me laugh but who is not laughing at me or being a jerk. Blessed that my lot in life is to be home and do the VERY important work of raising children to be good human beings but not to slave away in the drudgery of being their maid. Blessed that my sister cared about me to be concerned about me and try to find a way to make my life better. Blessed by modern medicine to have a way to do that. That was WAY different than how I would have felt if the day had progressed without any intervention, so I felt blessed Joe saw through my mood swing and we could nip it in the bud.
I had PMS before having kids of course, and I even remember some crazy emotional roller coasters because of it (I once broke up with a guy because he didn't call me at 3:00 like he said he would), but did it get worse after having kids? Or do I have the same amount of PMS but having 4 kids on top of it is a ridiculous combination? There are stress and anger management issues buried in there somewhere so I am not ignoring them and thinking medicine is a magical answer, but for where I am right now it is a lifesaver. A relationship saver. A helper when I could use help more than ever. The reason I wrote this post is in case anyone (you?) reads it and has had similar experiences, gets crazy moody and Monster-y, they know it's not just them. I would never have talked to my doctor, it took my sister to tune me in. Maybe you wouldn't talk to your doctor either, but now I've tuned you in, too. Maybe one long post can help one other person, so my time will be well spent.