It trickled in slowly, in pangs of loneliness and an insidious jealousy that speaks fluent inadequacy. “You will never be good enough,” it whispered, “you will never be talented enough or smart enough. You will never, ever be enough.”I saw it rolling in, heard its hiss and didn’t worry too much. I’ve always felt a little lonely and out of place; like that one random puzzle piece that doesn’t fit any known puzzle but you just can’t bring yourself to throw it out. And scarcity? Scarcity and I are old, old friends so really, this was nothing new. This was small potatoes. This was manageable.
And then the bottom completely dropped out.
I don’t know if it was because the wheels of depression were already turning or because I’m still not used to the sting of rejection letters but suddenly nothing was manageable. Suddenly I found myself lying in a heap on the floor, incapable of doing much beyond obsessively plucking at the loose threads sprouting from the carpet while crying as silently as possible so the kids didn’t get too worried. Defeated didn’t begin to describe it…I felt demolished. Alone, despondent, bone-crushingly tired, and most of all? Ridiculous.
Ridiculous for writing absolute shit. Ridiculous for thinking I had anything anyone would ever want to read. Ridiculous for for believing I had anything worth sharing. Ridiculous for trying and failing and getting my hopes up.
Hour upon hour I cried to the the endless tape of self-destruction looping through my thoughts. I could hear my logical brain screaming from whatever trunk I’d stuffed it in…THIS IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE REACTION! THIS IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE REACTION!!! To which my counter-reaction was to accuse myself of being ridiculous for reacting like such a drama queen thus continuing the ridiculous loop of ridiculousness. *logical brain bangs head on wall muttering, that’s not what I meant!* Apparently I was not going to stand by and let myself win. The only goal of my illogical brain, it seemed, was to beat me back into the grey where hope dies. For a little while I thought it was going to win. Until something oddly magical happened.
I got my period.
Insert old school record scratch.
What the f does that have to do with anything?
For the last year, this has been my life. For 3-5 days every month I drop into a seemingly endless well of self-loathing, anger and choking depression. For 3-5 days each month I hate every last thing about myself. For 3-5 days every month I feel like I’m drowning. The very worst, darkest, scariest parts of myself rise I function because what other choice do I have? But every month I wonder it this is it. If this will be the month the light doesn’t return.
This is PMDD. Pre-Menstrual Dysmorphic Disorder. PMS on steroids. Definitely not something they covered in health class. According to American Journal of Psychiatry about 2-5% of premenopausal women experience PMDD. Until I discovered its existence I dismissed my symptoms as another nuance of my general depression; another primo example of my inability to get my shit together. However a year ago when my general depression began improving I was still having these monthly episodes. Feeling better 90% of the month only highlighted the stark changes that came over me the other 10% and the timing of these abrupt mood shifts was undeniable. Like mental health whack-a-mole I’d gotten one thing under control only to have PMDD pop up. Sigh.
Right now PMDD steals about 10% of my month, sometimes more. This morning it dawned on me that if all these episodes lasted 3 days, that’s 36 days I stand to lose each year. That my family loses. But hopefully no more. My research tells me there’s hope. That I have options and I may not have to suffer anymore. Tomorrow I make an appointment with my OB. I don’t know what will happen but right now I breathe a sigh of relief knowing my monthly anguish has a name and that there’s some hope of treatment.
I’ve hesitated to post this. It’s incredibly personal and I still struggle with accepting myself as I am, warts and all. This one feels like a really big wart and I find myself being dragged into a shame spiral. Writing this I’m fighting embarrassment. I question whether anyone will find this to be anything more than a self-indulgent overshare. And maybe to some it will be. But as I work through this new territory I’ve found that reading stories from other women who have dealt with PMDD has been immensely helpful. Their words have made me feel less alone. I hope if you struggle with PMDD or suspect you might my words can make you feel a little less lonely too.