Even though my marriage has sadly broken down I am reposting this blog post my ex husband Sam wrote as I know it helped so many people. Sam and I still speak and I will be forever grateful for the days/weeks/months he supported me through my dark zone days.
It has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with. The suspense, the waiting, watching and that feeling of desperate anxiety of wanting and trying to do something, anything, to help the one person you love the most. The one person that I would do absolutely anything for, but I can’t. All I can do is stand by, helpless, completely powerless to relieve the pain and alleviate my wife from the torture that she is so visibly going through. Right now, that’s what PMDD means to me. It’s horrible.
It was earlier this year that my wife was diagnosed with PMDD. In the early days, before her diagnosis it was probably quite easy to be dismissive. “Oh, you are just having a bad day”, “Stop being miserable”. You kind of ignore it –not in a malicious way but bluntly us men are relatively narrow minded and are not always the most understanding of creatures. We have grown up with this notion that for 7-10 days a month women are moody, you’ll get nagged and emotions will be all the over the place. So we stereotype, “time of the month, give it a week and it will be ok”. The reality of it was, and still is, that I started to see the woman of my dreams go from this all singing and dancing, smiley, happy bouncy person that had an incredible passion for life and everything in it; to someone totally unrecognisable. Now, I don’t mean that in a horrible way, what is important to convey is that her behaviour and attitude to life had changed, so quickly, so dramatically. It was as if someone else had taken control and literally slammed on the brakes. No longer did she feel that she was able to do the things she loved, she became very anxious, scared and so overwhelmed… a total shadow of her former self.
Then the real darkness came, she was totally consumed. I could see all her bad feelings building up over an incredibly short time frame and every time I looked in her eyes I could see it was eating away at her, it had nowhere to go and I was scared, no, I was petrified that it was going to destroy her. But in all of this, I perhaps naively never imagined that she would get to a point that she would not want to be with me or the little ones. Then one day I got a phone call. She was at a cemetery and was totally hysterical, she had reached that point, her limit. She felt so guilty and put the phone down on me. I’d never ever felt so much fear or so helpless and inadequate as a husband that I couldn’t give her a cuddle and tell her all was going to be ok. Even if I could, that wouldn’t have been enough. I have a number of mixed feelings about PMDD, I hate it for how it makes my wife feel. I hate it for causing her the pain she feels and the challenges that she faces every day. However, after all that time of having labels thrown at her by the medical professionals, I am grateful that we now know what it is. It is there, it is real and we can now get the help that she needs.
As a husband the biggest emotion I have felt on this journey is anger. Not at my wife, but with myself. Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but when I made my vows on our wedding day, I made a vow to look after her. Loving her in sickness and in health means that no matter what, I will be there. But that doesn’t stop you becoming angry with your inability to help. Have I made her this way? Is it my fault? Why are the doctors not helping? (Don’t get me started on how quickly they want to put labels on things and dish out a prescriptions to zombie-fy!) I didn’t have the answers and as my wife can tell you… I think I am a bit of a know it all! Maybe it’s the way my brain works, but I think it is sometimes very difficult to understand something you can’t see or feel, as a man I cannot ever experience what she is going through and so I cannot apply any rational logic to. But to support her properly I have had to go out of my way to try to understand. It has taken me a while to get my head around it all, but I started to find things that I could do to help –
- Don’t try to have all of the answers all of the time
- Plan, Plan and Plan again – understand her cycle. Make a conscious effort to remember those days in the month which are going to be the dark days, those 10 days leading up to her period. It is during these days that she will need you the most, even if she does tell you to sod off.
- You have two ears and one mouth.. use them in that ratio. Make sure you listen, because there are going to be times when she won’t want to talk, so embrace those days that she does reach out to you rather than keep one eye on the football or rugby whilst she’s trying to talk
- You will become a battering ram at times, but do not take it personally! There are going to be days when absolutely anything you do, good bad or indifferent will irritate her and you may be on the receiving end of a stern word or two! Remember, it is not personal so bite your tongue, take a big breath, pause and move on. If you snap back, that is when you can enter a spiral lasting longer than a few days
- Be extra considerate. The simple things can go a long way, whether that is bringing her a cup of tea and a biscuit in bed or running her a bath and lighting some candles.
- Constantly reassure. One of the biggest things I have recognised is that during the dark days she becomes far more insecure and far more sensitive and there is a need to constantly reassure. I’ll tell her as much as I can that she is loved, she is a beautiful woman and an amazing mum. Although she may not recognise what I am telling her right there and then, I can guarantee you it resonates.
She is here, going to war with her body and her emotions every day. No matter if she wins one day or feels like she’s lost another, when she gets up the next morning she goes for it again and again. I am so immeasurably proud of her and no matter how hard it gets I will go to battle with her, even if I don’t fully understand the enemy within.