Tuesday, 14 July 2015

PMDD in Chat it's fate magazine.

Today, my story came out in the August edition of Chat it's fate magazine.  I was contacted by them earlier in the year to share my story about PMDD, the menstrual cycle and my art.  I felt this was a way to raise some awareness of how severe PMS can become, along with how I came to heal myself from the worst symptoms.  If you would like to read my story you can find it in all larger newsagents for the next month.

If you are interested in finding out more about PMDD, please check out my PMDD blog, Meet My PMDD, or visit the UK's National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) or the USA's National Association for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

To find out more about the alternative ways of understanding the menstrual cycle, please have a read through my Natural Shaman blog, particularly the article I wrote for Indie Shaman magazine, The Magic of the Menstrual Cycle and my experience at a menstrual workshop with Alexandra Pope.

Sign up to learn more about your menstrual cycle with Red School Online.  Red School Online is a new way to learn about your cycle, with peer support, fantastic learning tools and private group chat.  Go check it out!

Red School also features some of my work in their teaching materials, you can find my poster in my Etsy store.  If you would like to see more of my feminine art work, please visit my gallery over at chaoticat.com.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Question time!

During the month of April 2015, I am inviting questions via my Facebook Page.  If there is anything you would like to ask me, then please leave a message on my page and I will do my best to reply in the form of a blog post.

The first question left on my page by Elizabeth is:

I'm wondering why it is you've distanced yourself so abruptly from the PMDD movement? 
So many women were inspires by you and you helped so many with getting going.

I am very grateful for the first question as I still feel people don't understand why I no longer write about PMDD or have much to do with the pages and groups I created.  Back in December 2013, I wrote a lengthy blog about my reasons for moving away from the work I was doing.  You can read that here.

The main reason I have distanced myself from the PMDD movement is to enable my own healing. Over the years, it became very apparent that no form of medication, hormone treatment or other would work for me.  I also had clear lines that I wouldn't cross, so very much came to the end of the road of options.  In giving up all medications, hormone treatments etc, I was leaving myself very vulnerable and exposed.

I had only started the blog as a way to express myself and share what was happening to me.  I had never imagined it would get so many readers and that I would meet hundreds of women through my support groups etc... I never knew I would set up support groups in the first place!!  I had no idea I would go to a newspaper, attend a PMS conference, end up on a Mental Health website or start an awareness movement!

Doing all these things gave me a positive focus and something to spend my time on.  For around 4 years my life was nothing but PMDD.  Dealing with my own symptoms, writing blogs, sharing stories, supporting people in the support groups and often going above and beyond what should be expected of a mum of two from Hampshire.  It often supported me. Making friends and finding others who wanted to raise awareness and start groups was a bonus.  I made so many lovely friends, met so many lovely people, and really felt like I had made some small difference, even if that difference was just uniting women so they could support each other.

It would be worth noting here that it wasn't all a wonderful experience.  I have been publicly and privately attacked, and had to deal regularly with stress and problems that arose in support groups. Quite often this stress would send me down a bad road, and I would then suffer the effects of simply being on the receiving end of someone else's problems, even though I'd only tried to help or keep the peace.

In all the chat and support groups, I realised that I was not going to be happy with a lifetime of pills, or surgery etc, and my spiritual healing began...  Working with my cycle and having to completely change my way of thinking meant that I could no longer write about things the same way.  In fact, as I was learning and going through it all, I couldn't write about much at all.  I didn't understand it enough to share it with anyone.  My focus had to move away from the groups and blog.  My focus had to be directed at me and nothing else.  You can read a little about this journey here and here.

I have changed my life.  It is unrecognisable from the life I had when I started this blog. The only way I could do that was to heal myself my own way and that meant stepping away from the PMDD environment.  Even saying I have PMDD is going against all the healing I have done.

For me, I could no longer identify with PMDD.  I had to see myself as well, not un-well. Telling people I had PMDD just affirmed it every time.  I could no longer talk in the groups as I was trying a method of healing that most didn't really understand.  I couldn't keep taking myself back to dark places, and being part of the support groups and pages meant I regularly had to deal with dark things, or be reminded of them.  I felt guilty, like I was turning my back on the people I'd met and who had supported me through stuff many times. I had to move on though, despite everything I'd built.  I had to let it go as it was the only way I was going to heal.

I had never dreamt of being a PMDD spokesperson, or activist, I had never daydreamed of running support groups and awareness campaigns.  All of it just happened, and a time came, where I could no longer sustain it or be a part of it.  I had to be completely selfish.  I had to walk away and focus on my own healing.  I was not going to be taking meds, or going for surgery.  What I was doing was completely changing the way I think and see my dis-order. This required total commitment to myself and meant I had to step out of the PMDD world.

I now find myself feeling very different towards PMDD.  You could say it's almost a complete U-turn.  I don't feel the same way about it as I did.  I can't write about it like I did, and as yet, I still don't have the vocabulary or time to explain it all.  Imagine being told that to heal yourself, you need to deny PMDD exists in the way it is currently understood.  That you need to avoid meds and hormones and that you need to possibly change your life completely.  Essentially, that is what I have done, so you can see why I don't want to shout about it, despite feeling amazing and completely different to how I was just 6 years years ago.

I am proud of what I've achieved but can no longer support it in the same way.  I am thrilled others have grabbed the baton and continued the race.  NAPMDD is doing a grand job of continuing raising awareness, and I am so pleased someone is working hard to get the word out.  For many, the support is needed, for all, research is needed, and that will only happen if women put on the pressure and find ways and people who can make that happen.

For me and my 'PMDD' I have to follow a different path.  The support groups helped me for a while, then became a source of stress.  The writing and campaigning gave me something positive to do with my time and helped me make sense of it all.  The experiences I had and knowledge I gained was simply amazing, but all I wanted to once I started feeling better was paint and create, follow my dreams of being an artist and teacher.  I couldn't do any of this is my days were full of PMDD.

I now fill my time with colour and paint.  I teach meditation and using art as meditation.  I have a volunteer job and one day, I may be able to be self employed and work properly again.  My relationships are better, my kids are happier.  I'm happy with my life and with the potential paths that lay ahead.  What happened with my PMDD blog, the groups etc was all an essential part of me getting where I am and I will always be grateful for the experience.  I will never forget the friends I have made along the way, and will always support the 'cause' in my own way, even if others think that way is strange!

To see my art, head on over to www.chaoticat.com or check my Facebook Page here!

I hope that answers your question Elizabeth.  Thank you for participating!

Friday, 3 April 2015

PMDD Awareness Month 2015

Show your support! 

The National Association for PMDD is continuing the PMDD Awareness month throughout April. 

Use the hashtag #pmddbrave

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Menstrual Cycle Posters

For those of you thinking about purchasing a poster, I am almost sold out of A4 Secret Feminine Energy posters, so if you would like one, please purchase soon as I may not be getting any more printed.

I have also decided to give away a FREE menstrual guide with every A3 poster purchased while stocks last.

You can find all my posters in my Etsy store

If it's your first Etsy purchase, you can get £5 off if you spend over £10 by clicking this link http://etsy.me/1xVg453 (more info can be found HERE)


Monday, 16 June 2014

Handing things over...

Recently, I decided I can no longer maintain the PMDD-Community page and PMDD Awareness UK pages on Facebook.  It breaks my heart every time I cannot respond to a message, and the pages need an injection of energy and enthusiasm that I just can't muster now towards PMDD things.

Within a few days of the call out on the community page I had found someone perfect for the position.  It's a challenging place to be when you have thousands of likers and you can no longer continue what you started, so it was always my priority to hand over to people who I feel have every intention of keeping these spaces going to the best of their ability.  Jenn Stephan has experience in running pages and women's health, alongside being a PMDD sufferer and is looking forward to adding more content and creating conversations on the page.  I'm sure she will do just great.

So, I bid farewell to a community I have looked after for 4 years.  It is both a sad and happy time.  It will be strange not to check in on the page every couple of days and to no longer have the responsibility to reply to comments and queries.  I am looking forward to really being able to move on without thinking about PMDD or being called back to help someone else in need.  It may sound selfish, but I know I have dedicated a lot of my life to helping others while healing myself, but for this next part of the journey I need to go it alone (symbolically!).  I still run a a couple of support groups (I don't know if I might need some support during the next part of my journey, or if that's even the right place, but it feels right to still have some connections there)

The PMDD Awareness UK page is also being handed on to a lady called Victoria.  Victoria currently admins the UK support group and is looking to help raise more awareness.  Victoria's own journey with PMDD sees her recovering from a hysterectomy, so if there is anyone who can understand first hand the struggles of living with PMDD it's her.  I'm hoping she will enjoy running the page and helping others as much as I have.  Taking hold of the PMDD baton and running with it is essential to the future of PMDD being understood, so I hope these women realise they are doing a worthwhile and needed job for others with the condition.

My best wishes to them both.  The posts I make to these pages over the next few days will be my last, as I help the new ladies find their feet.  I will always remember what was achieved and how much support I got through these spaces.  If you are searching for help, go there now and ask for help.  Someone is there waiting to listen and share advice.

Much love x

Monday, 19 May 2014

Poetry by E M *Guest Blog*

'PMS: Part 1'

Hunger. Emptiness. Holes.

It may be that I shall further reduce myself,
spit out a body.
The omnipotent female core of me is alert, aware:
she will not let me sleep, rather eat, eat.
Ravenousness multiplies fat cells; hunger softens the body:
the cries of fleshy hips smothered by dark shapeless clothes,
the swollen breasts with their aching teats constricted.
I am contained. I stand prone, chained at the stake,
looking out from these eyeholes, chewing and swallowing
instinctually like a calf-heavy cow.
Defenceless against nature.

The vagina is the killer.
A penis is something but a vagina is

an absence
a space
Holes and hunger!
Food, a penis, a baby:
I need to fill my holes
I cannot think until it is over;
this obsession is blinding my mind.

Let my blood flow. Let me give birth to myself. Let me return.

'PMS: Part 2'

PMS hits me.
I'm unaware and unprepared
every time.

(I forget, I change.)

Cravings without hunger;
exhaustion without tiredness;
tears without sadness.

I do not graze, I gorge.
I have no energy.
I cry.

Yes, I am utterly enslaved by my body.
It will not let me go.
I am trapped until my blood runs out.

'PMS ends'

I cannot control the floodgates.
Suddenly, I am bleeding.
I am a leaky vessel.
My blood is uncontained.
I flow in pain.
It is my time, but I did not choose it.
E M - UK

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Hysterectomy for PMDD by Jennie. Readers Q&A

A question about Hysterectomy and a response from Jennie, who has had a hysterectomy for PMDD.
Many thanks for creating such a great website.  I've just begun the hormone treatment but I've decided if this doesn't work I'm going to have a hysterectomy.  Have you had this done or decided to just live with it?
Uterus Body Painting by Bethany Roberts
I personally decided not to go down the hysterectomy route,  I tried out the Zoladex injections for 3 months and became very ill.  It was the blackest 3 months of my life and I ended up with many more sucidal thoughts than normal.  To help the withdrawal off the injections and to try and stabilise my mood, I was given lithium.  The whole experience was terrifying.  Having said that, I didn't have great support while I was on it.  No 'experts' looking after me, so it was a very unpleasant experience in my eyes.  I had got to a point where I believed there was only one way to go.  Only one option left.  Surgery.

When the hormone therapy didn't work for me I was devastated, I thought my life line had been cut.  But things changed, I began to change, and I found other ways to live with and manage the PMDD.  It's not easy, but with my body free from all medications I can be more in control.  The decision to live with it rather than go down the surgery route has been made easier with the easing of symptoms and family support.  I work with my cycle now, my life has been transformed and I am glad I didn't go for surgery.
To give you another view point, I passed your question over to Jennie Webster.  Jennie has been working really hard to raise awareness in Scotland for NAPS and PMDD in general, and she has always supported me and my projects.  Jennie recently had a hysterectomy and spent time on hormone therapy, so  I felt she was better qualified to provide an real honest answer about going down that route!
Jennie writes;
I spent nearly 5 years on hormone therapy to treat my PMDD. I used GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone) Analogues which are injections to shut down the ovaries, stop the menstrual cycle and induce a medical menopause.

These injections worked really well for me and whilst I had some issues regarding the add back HRT, I felt more like myself on this treatment than I ever have. I couldn't take any form of progesterone whilst on the injections so I had unopposed oestrogen for many years.

My gynaecologist kept a close eye on things enabling me to have regular ultrasounds to monitor my endometrium (womb lining). For a while, everything was okay but, eventually my luck ran out and I was told I had hyperplasia which is an overgrowth of cells on the endometrium. Because it was so severe, the only treatment option available to me was a total hysterectomy. I had been avoiding this surgery for years but knew that I would go down this path eventually, however, it still came as a shock.
I had the surgery in November 2012 and I don't regret it for a minute but I am now in surgical menopause and it's no picnic. I had my ovaries removed during the operation (the ovaries are responsible for the production of hormones which cause PMDD) and this means that I was thrown into menopause overnight.
I started my oestrogen only HRT again but as it takes a while for the blood levels to even out and due to previous reactions to HRT, I have to take it slowly. It’s a fine balancing act which I am only too happy to spend some time doing, but in the meantime, my body is crying out for oestrogen. I am having hot flushes, headaches, night sweats, joint pain and extreme tiredness which are all well known menopausal symptoms. I am also having mood swings (swinging between happy, sad, angry and more, rapid style) which is all down to hormonal imbalances. It seems unfair that I have spent my life suffering because of the hormones that my body produced and now I am suffering because of the hormones I am putting back in to try and have a healthy life. I am hoping to have this balance achieved very soon.
I need oestrogen to protect my bones and heart as I have gone through the menopause at a young age.  Swings and roundabouts. Every time I catch myself feeling low I try and turn my thoughts into happy ones but I’m finding it hard as I am still tired from the surgery.
The surgery really is the last option, the end of the road, the only documented real “cure” for PMDD, but I urge anyone who is considering it to be 110% sure that this is the road they want to take. It may be stating the obvious, but it's irreversible. My ability to bear a child has gone forever, I will be on HRT for the next 20 years and I run the risk of osteoporosis and premature heart disease.
There are many other ways to manage PMDD and, in my opinion, surgery should be seen as the very last resort.
Would I do it all again if I had to? Absolutely, but everyone is so individual. Please, if you are considering the operation, ensure you have thought long and hard about it and make sure that it is the right decision for YOU.
My thanks to Jennie for sharing her story.  I hope that helps some of you considering having a hysterectomy for PMDD. 
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