Hormones From Hell: Debbie

Hormones From Hell: Debbie

"When that time of month comes around, [I feel like] the world is coming to an end," says Debbie. She admits to bouts of rage which include screaming at her kids, badgering her husband, throwing dishes and slamming doors.

She recalls, "One time, I went upstairs and flung open the door so hard, the doorknob put a hole in the wall. When things get really heated, I leave. I'll get into the car and just scream my lungs out. I can't control my feelings. They're controlling me. There's something in me. I'm possessed."

Debbie's husband, Joe, says that when Debbie takes off in a rage, he feels rejected. His worst fear is "that these fights will drive a wedge between us that's not repairable. Our children don't understand. They tend to go hide in their room."

"I don't want them to be damaged by me," says Debbie. "It's out of control. I don't want to live like this anymore. Dr. Phil, I feel like I'm losing my mind because of my PMS. Will you please help me?"

Dr. Phil begins by asking Debbie, "How do you know you're experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, verses you're just having a bad day?"

"My anxiety level goes through the roof," replies Debbie. "It starts with my stomach getting all tied up in knots. I feel it swelling up." Debbie mentions that once she started writing a journal documenting her emotions and behaviors, she started seeing a pattern with when she starts her period and when she fights with her husband. "I started putting two and two together, so I'm watching myself," says Debbie.

Dr. Phil asks Joe, "Do you get that this is to a large extent an involuntary biochemical process with her? Or do you think she just decides you're worthless?"

"I'm understanding it more," says Joe. "It does seem that she's out of control and she can't help herself. There are days when I come home and I'm wondering if she's going to be Mrs. Jekyll or Mrs. Hyde."

Like Debbie, Joe has kept a journal of his thoughts and feelings regarding Debbie's perimenopausal outbursts. Dr. Phil reads some of Joe's entries: "She has no tolerance ... She's extremely agitated ... I don't want to go home, it is not safe there ... I fight back and get ugly ... I'm not helping the situation ... She is a towering inferno ... I am concerned that things we say during these times don't wear off."

Dr. Phil tells Debbie, "Understand that this is something that you're experiencing that has physical, emotional and behavioral components to it. But just because this is happening in your body, understand that this is a couples challenge. Joe, your question is the same question a lot of husbands have, which is, 'We don't have this. We don't understand it. What do we do?'"

Turning to Debbie, Dr. Phil asks, "What do you want him to do when you're in that phase?"

"Don't bring up money, that's a hot topic," says Debbie. "Try and be nice. Be gentle. Show extra affection the week before because that would tame the underlying fire that's there."

"But you understand that that's a scary proposition for him, right?" says Dr. Phil. "It's like saying, 'OK, Joe, there's a grizzly bear in the garage. We want you to go hug the bear.' I mean, he's dodging plates and doors. Trying to snuggle up [to you] can be a little scary."

Dr. Phil explains, "We're going to talk later about the things you can do to manage this physically, but I want to talk about what you can do relationally for this. Number one, I want you guys to acknowledge this for what it is. When that time of month comes, you need to say, 'Here's the situation we talked about, we knew it was coming.' Be accountable, but don't personalize it."

"You also have to have some integrity as you go into this," says Dr. Phil. "Here's what I want both of you to do: Debbie, when you're not having PMS, I want you to get a blue card like this and I want you to write a 'note to self' that says 'I don't hate him. I don't believe that he doesn't love me. My life is not over. I'm going through a very difficult period of time and it will pass.' I want you to write that down and when you get in that phase, I want you to pick that up and read the card."

Debbie responds, "You know, the problem is I'll probably [rip it up]."

"Well, then we'll laminate it so you can't tear it up and we'll make you 10 copies," answers Dr. Phil. Turning to Joe, Dr. Phil says, "You've got to do the same thing. You've got to write down, 'Instead of getting up on my hind legs and getting offended, I need to understand that this is a time I need to be understanding, supportive, loving and affectionate. This is a time that I need to not take this personal.'"

Dr. Phil continues, "Next, I want you to make an agreement during smooth waters, that there are some boundaries as to what you're going to say and what you're going to do.

"Do not, I repeat, do not problem solve during this period of time. When she is [going through her cycle], it is not the time to come in and say, 'We need to go over your spending.' You probably don't ever want to say that, but you sure don't want to say that when she's PMS-ing! You're better off to go in the garage and hug the bear. This is not the time to solve problems with your wife. If it's a problem on Monday, it'll be a problem next Monday. So you need to set boundaries on what you talk about."

Turning to Debbie, Dr. Phil says, "And you need to set boundaries as well. Even though you know you're going through this, it is not a license to lay waste to everybody around you, because it will accumulate. It's hard to forget some of those things when it's over."

Dr. Phil sums it up with Debbie and Joe: "So, what have I said? I want you to acknowledge it. Be accountable, but yet don't personalize it. Write yourself an anchor to reality when it's not distorted by what's going on. Don't problem solve during this period of time. And, be as loving and supportive as you can."