I’ve always considered my mental health to be very well managed. I do all the things I believe necessary to help keep my mind free from stress and strife. I’m very lucky that I’ve never suffered from any trauma that might stir up troubling memories. I am able to workout five days a week, I get nine hours of sleep on most nights, my work doesn’t cause me stress or take up a lot of my free time, and I am able to take time every day to do something for myself. My husband is caring and supportive, he shares in the housework duties, cooks dinner, and surprises me with sweet treats when I need them. I am rare in that everything in my life leans in my favor to allow me to have optimum mental health.
But, the body is a tricky thing. We are full of chemicals and hormones that can turn us on our backs at any moment. And, even though I have everything going for me, I have recently found myself on my back, looking up at a grey cloudy sky.
I didn’t notice it really. Or, I thought it was normal. Everyone that has a period gets PMS. We get grouchy and bloated, we cry at stupid things, and we sometimes take it out on the people around us. It’s not easy bleeding from your vagina every month. Your hormones shift and things tend to get a little crazy for a couple of days.
I get a little crazy. Actually, I need to rephrase that. I get a lot crazy. This is not a pretty story and I’m not going to shy away from the details. The things that I did are not me.
Three months ago, I had a tantrum. Like a full blown toddler tantrum. My husband and I were in the living room talking. We were at the tail end of working through a disagreement, the details of which I can no longer remember. It was a calm conversation for the most part, both of us said our side and we were close to ending it. He said something. Again, I can’t remember, but it set me off. I misunderstood what he said. I think I thought he was blaming me, and I went into a rage. Just like in the movies, I saw red. I screamed and cried like a child. He had to leave the house because I was so out of control and there was nothing he could do to console me. I cried and screamed like a horror movie actress and threw pillows and shoes and whatever I could get my hands on until I had exhausted myself and stumbled into bed and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning and it was like I’d been on drugs. My memory was hazy, the details foggy. I couldn’t remember the things I said, why I was so angry in the first place. With a clear mind, we were able to speak and it was obvious to me that I was mistaken, that I’d stepped over a line into someplace strange and dark. I vowed to try to control my emotions, but I didn’t connect my outburst to my hormones.
It happened again the next month.
And, it happened again the next. This time I cried for an hour straight, trying to work through my feelings, trying to tell myself that I didn’t need to feel this way. He left me alone to cry, not realizing that I was working myself up into a frenzy. And, finally the chemicals inside me took over and I popped. I was so angry, I threw a log bench over the side of our hill. Yes, I picked up a seven foot log and chucked it over a retaining wall in a Hulk-like rage because I couldn’t process what was going on inside me. Every nerve in my body burned with anger and frustration. In my mind, he was to blame for all of it when in reality, he’d done absolutely nothing wrong. I didn’t sleep that night. Neither of us did. We lay next to each other in the darkness, seething, an electric current of uncertainty bounced between us under the sheets.
The next morning, my head cleared once more, we talked again. He pointed out the pattern, but I just couldn’t accept it. It couldn’t be all on me! But, the more we talked, the clearer it became. Our fights were on a schedule, my behavior was so out of character, the fogginess, the intense anger, the feelings of hopelessness.
I called my gyno to see if my birth control could be affecting my moods. She told me the hormones I was taking should help the symptoms and recommended I talk to my regular doctor. Just making the appointment made me feel better already. Having a plan helped me feel focused. And, I could hear the fog lift in his voice as well. I didn’t realize how much this had affected him, how he’d pulled away because my outbursts were so intense, how my darkness had begun to pull him in.
Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD. It has a name. My behavior has a definition, but most importantly, there is a solution. When describing my symptoms to my doctor, I told her I felt crazy. She was quick to stop me and tell me that I wasn’t crazy, that this isn’t that uncommon, that I was completely normal for having a reaction to the hormonal changes in my body. I knew this already, but to hear her say it, I felt validated.
She prescribed me a low dose SSRI, and I will have to wait to see how my next few cycles go. I really hope this medication works for me and that I can get through a whole month without tumbling into this darkness. I don’t want to push my husband away from me anymore. I just want to feel like myself again 100% of the time.