[ID: Bright full moon in a blue dusk sky being enveloped by a swirl graphic, above branches and orange leaves.]
For those of us living with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) or another chronic illness, our timeline feels quite different than that of many others. Time feels like this own entity that we converse with, learn how to dance with, bargain with, negotiate with. We develop a curious relationship with Time. At certain points the relationship feels painfully slow. We just want Time to hurry up and get on with it. Sometimes we can’t get enough of it. At others, we can’t quite catch up, and Time becomes entirely elusive.
I imagine myself in my room on those days struggling with PMDD, laying in bed and sometimes whispering to myself: What a waste of Time. In this instance, it’s as though I am failing because I am not upholding my end of this relationship with Time. I am not putting in my full effort or not engaging Time wisely enough. All of sudden me snuggled up in bed no longer puts me on “good terms” with Time. Afterall, here I am in bed resting when I have a bajillion things I should be getting done but am not able to.
In those moments, I tend to fall into that spiraly monologue of ‘should’s.
I should take a shower.
I should post on Instagram or write that blog.
I should have called for that appointment already.
I should start that project.
I should cook dinner.
I should be contributing to the world somehow.
I should work on getting clear on what I’m doing with my life.
Woah. That escalated quickly.
The thing about Time though is it’s not actually judgmental. It doesn't really care if we watch a TV show or clean our dishes. It doesn’t look upon us with disapproval when we are feeling lost and need to cuddle up in bed until we feel better. It doesn’t shame us for slowing down and taking care of our body. Time doesn’t criticize us when we spend our whole life-Time relationship figuring out the purpose of our journey on this beautiful rock called Earth.
Time just is.
We do not betray Time when we listen to our genuine needs and manage the best way we can.
Uncovering the relationship with Time
There are a multitude of reasons why us PMDD beings might have a sticky relationship with Time. Here are some that come to mind…
Let’s talk about the systemic factors for a minute here. We live with a chronic illness in a society that does not accommodate or honor cyclical living, disability, chronic health conditions, or reproductive health. It makes it so that we end up questioning our own “use of time". Remember: We are not any less deserving of abundance, of stability, of progression toward our goals, of soaking up Time to the fullest. The reality is that the structures in place cater to certain abilities, bodies and agendas; all the while they shake their heads when we’re not doing things on their rigid ‘timeline’. That doesn’t make sense, right? These structures are influenced by a harmful mindset that measures our worth by tallying up how much we’re producing, achieving, and accumulating (and often the faster the better). Of course we consequently may feel ‘less than’ when we aren’t “maximising our time". But hello: We are magical cosmic cyclical beings with a deep insight into how to manage and travel with Time. Treat us as such, thank you very much.
Many of us PMDD warriors have grown up with a complicated relationship with Time. This can be for an assortment of reasons. For example, we can develop patterns around Time through our relationships with our early attachment figures. Perhaps a parent or caregiver taught us Time was worthy under certain conditions. Or at some point when we started experiencing symptoms, there was confusion or unwelcomed shifts in how we understood Time. Or maybe at some point a friend, mentor, or partner introduced us to a new concept of how to relate to Time and that switched things up a bit. How we communicate around Time is also largely influenced by our cultural and spiritual history/traditions, and other social identities, such as age, generational context, neurodivergence (eg Autism or ADHD), areas of marginalization or privilege, and so on and so on. Any PMDD warrior who has moved through life stressors, is processing trauma, or healing through grief knows just how tender the relationship with Time can be.
Then there's the multitude of emotional, mental, and physical factors that come into play. For those of us living with PMDD, the following are big ones that impact our relationship with Time:
Dissociation or Derealization.
Time can feel warped, super heightened, distant, disorganized, unreliable in any of these states. We might even get angry with Time for now showing up in the way we need. We are also more likely to have that inner critic come out with “You're not doing enough” or “You’re not making the most of your time” or “You’re lazy”. This can feel magnified when we turn to certain social outlets and begin comparing our own 'timeline' to that of others. Why might we do this? Well, we want to belong. We want to feel included. We want to feel good enough.
And then there’s the fact that the disorder itself is literally Time-based. We hold a diagnosis because certain changes happen in our mind, body, spirit during designated timeframes. It’s a constant reminder of our relationship with Time. A common narrative for PMDD folks is how unfair, frustrating and de-motivating it feels to have less functioning Time than other people (without PMDD). This is absolutely a reality of this chronic condition. Sometimes folks refer to it as a ‘half life’. Half of the month we feel grounded in our normal self and the other has us questioning everything. It is reasonable to feel upset about this. Here we are living in a world that doesn’t recognize the condition, does not accommodate it and support us through it, and on top of this many of us feel like we have limited hours to get things in order and moving forward.
For many with PMDD, so much of our relationship with Time is strongly defined by this health condition. This manifests in the daily to-do to the really big stuff. Here are some examples of this that I have seen in the PMDD community:
🌀Organizing our personal calendars according to our cycle
🌀Tracking (constantly) to support daily and future managing of symptoms
🌀Sorting out when or whether we can spend time with loved ones
🌀Communicating work schedule with managers
🌀Figuring out how to launch and sustain a business venture
🌀Deciding if there’s time to create a family when considering PMDD treatment options
🌀Asking self many times over any of the following questions:
Will I have time and energy for that?
Will that be the “good time” of the month?
How can I make the most of this time before PMDD time?
Our friend Time seems to do a revolving dance around PMDD. Sometimes, Time pauses or gets stuck on a beat, or is swaying in slow motion. Or it’s in hyperdrive mode, when we’re trying to clean up or catch up. It can feel dizzying, this sense of not having control of our Time.
No Human actually has control of Time though. We might do things to make it feel like we control Time. Alarms, calendars, productivity workshops, 9-5 workdays, the Pomodoro technique, and such. I am not sure I have heard of a Human yet who has mastered the art of truly manipulating Time. Not even sure that’s a good idea.
Either way -- I am here to validate that it makes a lot of sense that given all of the aforementioned factors that you, dear one, might have complex feelings about your complicated ever evolving relationship with Time. Give yourself a big warm hug of credit, because you’re a Time traveler who is doing the very best you can.
Cultivating the relationship with Time
We often don’t get to choose Time, how Time happens or what Time brings. This is actually true for ALL Humans. We PMDD beings and others with chronic illness just get a bit of an exclusive amplified insider peek into this. We can learn how to manage our relationship with Time though. Another way to put it is this:
We can begin to gently and consciously nurture how we dance with Time. We can honor that there are moments of flowing seamlessly, and then there are times when we need to let go, let be. Oh, and don’t let the systems or that pesky PMDD anxiety fool you, dear one. Your intuition that says to rest and reset is indeed a worthy engagement of Time. It’s not humanly possible to go-go-go. That linear hustle is also not necessarily where all creative juices flow. And we need that Time with slower imaginative reflective energy in order to re-create systems and processes and communities that actually support us.
There is also no one way to be with Time. And there is no one “right” ‘Time-line’. The word ‘timeline’ itself is a bit misleading. Because it's not linear at all. It’s cyclical. And curvy. And messy. And multi-planed. It is much much much bigger than any of us.
Oof. Let’s allow that to soak into our cells for a moment, hm?
There is no truly predictable set rhythm or timeline to this life.
Our story is our story. Our timeline is our timeline.
It’s a good one to remember when those unhelpful ‘should’s come visit during PMDD.
What does it feel like to say:
I am worthy of following my own Divine Timeline.
What beliefs or sensations come up for you as you say that, dear one?
Here are three practices to intentionally develop your relationship with Time...
1. Mindful reframing of language around Time
One strategy that I have been engaging to cultivate a softer, more easeful relationship with Time is playing around with a shift in language. Here are several examples:
💭 How can I maximise my time? → How may I drop into my needs and the obligations today to 1) assess what most needs my attention and 2) what can reasonably be done?
💭 I don’t have enough time! (anxiety on 100) → Deep breath. I have this moment right now. What is one baby step I can take to ground myself or move forward in this moment?
💭 This happens every cycle. I hate this. I never have time to feel normal. → It makes sense that I feel this way. It’s 100% normal to want a different circumstance, to have things feel easier. This is a wave that comes and goes. How can I engage this Time to take care of myself until this wave passes?
💭 I should have made better use of my time today. → I did what I could with the capacity I had. I am learning in each moment how to balance my energy, mental well-being, and what needs to get done. There is no perfect way of balancing Time.
As you can see the reframed one is a bit more complex than the other. That’s because it's a reflection of what life really is and how this Time thing actually works. It’s nuanced, messy, and each moment requires its own mindful response. I speak to this in my new online mindfulness PMDD course, in case you’re looking for more ways to nurture ease and self-compassion while navigating PMDD.
2. Tracking when your being feels most aligned
Another suggestion is investing some ... time :) ... to track your own patterns and relationship with Time. When are those timeframes when you feel most alert, grounded, most yourself? And when are those times when you are needing a little extra loving? Experiment with different activities at different times of your cycle, at different hours of the day, at different times of the year. This might plant the seeds for some insight around how to engage your Time in a way that feels *aligned*. We are switching from “how to use my time” to “how to align with my time”. External sources of support can be helpful, such as following the lunar cycle, utilizing a beautiful inspiring planner, checking in with a trusted person to get feedback, or creating gentle reminders that add a sense of okayness, anchored grounding, and compassion to your days. Remember we’re not saying no to time management skills, we’re just becoming more mindful of how we talk about it and engage it.
3. Exploring your relationship with Time
I invite you, dear PMDD warrior, to simply get curious about your relationship with Time. Here are some questions to jot down and journal on when timing feel aligned:
What or who has influenced my relationship with Time?
When I am struggling with PMDD, what does Time feel like?
Do I compare my “Time-line” to that of others? If so, why might that be? How does this comparison serve me? How does it not serve me?
How might I nurture more understanding, friendliness, compassion, or acceptance in my relationship with Time?
Sending you a loving reminder to gift yourself the okay to be more compassionate with yourself and your own 💫Divine Timeline💫.
With much care,
✨A central element in cultivating the relationship with Time is self-awareness. Mindfulness practice is a supportive evidence based tool in nurturing awareness and self-compassion. If you are someone who is living with PMDD and curious about learning mindful practices, the new mindfulness course created by Dr. Mo might be a supportive addition to your PMDD treasure toolkit. Some sparkles of light that can emerge from this course:
⟡ Creative ideas to nurture self-care and stress management to help reduce the intensity of PMDD waves
⟡ The art of being with and greeting the messy uncomfy bits of PMDD, including tough emotions and negative thought spirals
⟡ A framework to practice self-compassion in moments of guilt or shame
⟡ Considerations to practically integrate and sustain a mindfulness practice while navigating PMDD
The course is completely self-paced and you can begin whenever you’d like. You’ll have access for six months! It offers different learning formats, including video lessons, guided practices, audio meditations, and workbook reflections all aimed to support you and your PMDD. Head to this page to learn all about the Mindfulness For Your PMDD Journey course.✨
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