The diagnosis that broke me

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As you may know, I’ve got a laundry list of issues. I am only 28 years old. This means that I’ve been in pain for 24 years. I’ve been depressed for 18+ years. Anxious for 25 years. Add a big ole etcetera in there because this could drag on. But I’ve always dealt with it. Not in an inspiring, healthy way I’ll admit, but I’ve survived.

Then came the winter of 2015. I was 25 years old, and I went to see an orthopedic doctor for the first time, looking for some help for my scoliosis and my pain problems. My doctor was awesome. She was a total sweetheart, very gentle and caring, and listened to everything I had to say. I got some X-rays done and she had a lot to say.  I took off my shirt so she could see my back better, and she twisted me around, poking and prodding, showing me different areas where my spine was doing things that it shouldn’t. She pointed to the X-ray, showing me where vertebrae were twisted in opposite directions, explained each area that looked different than my first(and only) X-rays from when I was a child. She asked if I had trouble breathing, and when I confirmed, explained that it’s because my entire ribcage is malformed. One side is caved in, and my lungs can’t fully expand. This entire time I’m thinking things like, ‘ok this makes sense.’ ‘Nothing I didn’t know already.’ ‘Ok this is bad but I already knew it was bad.’

One thing stuck out to me though. While she was fussing over the things that looked obviously bad, she casually mentioned that I had arthritis forming in my top curve. ARTHRITIS. The talk of spinal fusions and breathing problems quietly slipped out of my head, as this ugly word, this old persons word, just settled in the back of my mind to nag at me. When I left the office, I just sat in my car and cried. I already knew something was different. Something was bad. But arthritis? No way. I’m too young for this. I immediately mentally berated myself for thinking those words, I’m too young for this, because it’s what I’ve heard my whole life. “Your back can’t hurt, you’re too young!”

But I couldn’t help it. I was too young! It’s not fair that at such a young age, I would be dealing with a disease that old people struggle with. And look at an old persons face when they mention their arthritis. You can see the pain in their eyes. I just couldn’t help but keep thinking, this is something that’s going to cause me pain for the rest of my life.

At that point, I had only begun to feel the effects of the arthritis. I knew something was wrong because when it got cold, my back would hurt in a way that I’d never felt before. It’s not like regular lower back pain when you strain yourself. Arthritis is… foul. It almost feels sentient, like it’s got a grudge and it’s out to cause as much discomfort as possible. It was November that i got the diagnosis and it hit me hard, but I was trying to accept it. But the rest of the winter came and went and “accepting it” became a laughable option. Turns out, the worse the cold, the worse the pain is. The more time goes on, the worse it can get and the worse the pain is. More time went on and all of a sudden it wasn’t just cold that did it. If i pushed myself too hard, my arthritis would flare up. If it rained too hard, my arthritis would flare up. I quickly sank into a deep pit of depression and my thoughts were so focused on how much I hurt that I didn’t even look for a way out.

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By the next winter the depression was bad enough that I was starting to wonder if I’d survive it. I tried to imagine the future, and for all the effort I put into it, I couldn’t imagine myself there. I’d never sunk quite that low before, and I knew it was time to get out. It took a long time, but I managed to start looking for help. I saw a doctor and started antidepressants for the first time, and although they were hell at first, they were a sign of hope. I started looking more into the arthritis and I realized that the phrase, I’m too young for this, really was as off as I told myself at first. I learned that there are different types of arthritis and that there are lots of people who go through something similar at my age. I read about different remedies and learned that turmeric, a simple spice, was used to reduce inflammation and pain. I started taking that, and it helped more than I imagined. I even went on a special low carb diet to try to combat something completely different, and it just so happens to be a great anti-inflammatory diet as well.

It took me a couple years in all, but my arthritis doesn’t scare me anymore. It can still get bad, despite the treatments, but I’m ok with it now. When it’s left unchecked, it’s hell. That’s not going to change. But what has changed is that it no longer has the power to break me. I had my pity party, I cried it out, and now I’m up for the challenge. Now I’m happy to tell anyone diagnosed at a young age that they aren’t alone and it’s not the end of the world. I’m a bit ashamed to admit how bad this one diagnosis hit me, but I’m determined that I will beat it.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time

I finally did it. The thing I’ve been telling myself and my family that I needed to do for years. I finally saw a psychiatrist, and I’ve been diagnosed with the alphabet.

I’m not sure how I imagined that visit would go, but it was easier and a lot less terrifying than I thought it would be. He asked a million questions, and patiently listened to the answers. He showed compassion in how he spoke, but not so much that I felt like he was pitying me. When more and more things piled on, he didn’t act surprised or overwhelmed or whatever I might have expected. He just did his job. He listened to me without doubting anything I was saying and it felt so good for a professional to do that.

The visit flew by quicker than I thought it would and he calmly explained what he thinks I’ve got going on. I already knew a few of these, but I wasn’t exactly prepared to hear it out loud.

MDD (Major Depressive Disorder)
PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
Panic Disorder
Social Anxiety
Agoraphobia(totally forgot about that one at first.)
and possible OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

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While it was a bit of a punch to the gut to hear it all out loud, it was also a huge relief. My worst fear going in was that I was going to pour my heart out only to be told that it was all in my head and there was nothing wrong with me. I think logically I knew that there was no way that was going to happen, but I was terrified. Hearing a professional say out loud that I was right in every single thing I suspected not only made me feel heard, but it validated how I’ve been feeling my whole life.

It’s like every time someone doubted me, my feelings, my panic attacks or my depressive episodes, my mind washed over all of those memories. They used to all be filled with doubt, because what if they’re right? What if I’m just overreacting? What if it’s just all in my head and I’m fine and this is how life is supposed to be? Now each doubt feels weaker. Each wave of despair at not being taken seriously, lifted just a bit because someone finally listened. And believed me.

So now I’ve finally got what I need to move forward. He explained that finding the right treatments would take time, that it would be a long process but he was confident that we’d figure it out together. He did recommend that I start seeing a therapist, and we will talk about that soon. When it came time to talk about medication, he asked what I’ve tried so far, what worked and what didn’t. When I told him what I’m currently on, he agreed that if it was working, then we’d keep it. He explained that even though it didn’t help enough with the depression, it was a great choice for me because it can also greatly help with the ADD. He then gave me a script for an anti-anxiety medication for me to use only when I feel like I need it, and so far it has been okay. He recommended another antidepressant to add because of how well it can work with the one I’m already on. And proving again that he was listening, he told me that it wouldn’t cause weight gain like the first ones I tried did, and that he was going to start me off slowly since I had such bad reactions before.

So I left his office with samples, a script and a renewed sense of hope that maybe this could work. I do hope one day that I can handle all this without medication, or at least at a minimal level. But right now, that’s not the point. Right now, I just need to be okay. I need to be the wife that my husband needs, the mother that my kids need and I need the person that I’ve always thought I could be but could never reach. I’m done with the pride, I’m done with the stigma, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m only hanging on with the help of prescriptions. Because this is what I need right now, and I’m glad that I’ve finally taken that step.

And good timing too, because 2018 is right around the corner and I am going to make it as good as I possibly can.

 

Why church does not help my anxiety

It’s been 15 years since I had my first panic attack. I was thirteen years old, walking through Kohls with my mom. It was a normal day, my mother and I were joking around while we shopped, and I felt fine. Then out of nowhere I started feeling abnormally anxious, sick, like something horrible was about to happen. My vision started to blur, my throat started closing up and my eyes started welling up with tears. I didn’t know what in the world was happening, I was terrified and my first reaction was to try desperately to hide. I started to pretend I was looking at some clothes, and fell back while my mom kept walking, my heart pounding harder and harder. But it got more intense, the horrible “something horrible is going to happen” feeling started weighing on me and I was hyperventilating. As soon as my mother turned around and saw me, I started sobbing. She rushed over and tried to comfort me, asking over and over again what was wrong. But I didn’t know. Neither of us knew what had happened.

That first attack was horrible, because it was the first. But as time went on, it’s like the more practice my body got, the better it got at having an attack. They would be stronger, longer and more frequent. And eventually would be triggered by things around me. Too much stress, the possibility of any sort on confrontation, needing to speak in front of the class! And, unfortunately, church.

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Not church itself, but the music. I loved praise and worship. I loved to sing, I loved the peaceful feeling it gave me, and I loved trying to discreetly sing along with my friends mother who belted out songs like she was auditioning for American Idol. But my heart, my anxiety, whatever, couldn’t handle it anymore. It’s a small church. Meaning wherever you’re sitting, it’s close to a speaker. And this isn’t an organ playing church, or a silent hymnal singing church. This is a loud, full band, the pastor plays an electric guitar, kind of church. But the volume and the vibrations from the overhead speakers became ammunition for my fragile mind to throw itself into another attack. And for years, it happened almost every week.

I’d be standing in service, in a spot close to the back in case I needed to run, quietly singing along and internally bracing myself for the inevitable. The more I thought about it, the more likely it was to happen. Then I’d feel it. Anxiety starts rising, heart starts going faster and I’d start to feel flushed. Music is still playing in the background, but now I can’t hear it. I’m totally focused on controlling myself. My whole body tenses up as the anxiety levels rise, and my throat starts constricting as if something terrible is about to happen. My heart is now racing and I’m feeling nauseous. It’s only been a minute but it’s already too much and the floodgates break. Tears start streaming before I even realize it.

No, I can do this. Hold it back, hold it back. Lots of people cry in church, no one will notice this is different. Oh God, I’m dying. Why are you letting this happen? Hold it back. Hold it back. 

I can’t hold it back. Once my body starts shaking with sobs I always run. In the bathroom, or straight outside, wherever I can go to hide and ride it out alone. The minutes bleed together in a rush of shaking, sobbing, hyperventilating anxiety until I lose track of time. And finally, the sobs die down and I can stop the tears. I sit on the floor and concentrate on breathing again.

Ok, it’s over. I’m okay. I’m okay. Oh God, I’m tired. I’m okay. It’s over.

Finally, I can stand up and wipe away the makeup that’s now ruined, and I’ve got no energy left to fix it. It’s finally over but the shaking continues. I was sweating a bit from the attack, and now that I’m calm, I’m freezing. My throat is taking it’s time opening up again and will now hurt the rest of the day. And all of a sudden, I’m exhausted.

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When I go back into service, my husband will give me an encouraging, knowing smile, put his arm around me and kiss me on the forehead. All I want to do at this point is lean into him and fall asleep. By the way, my husband doesn’t get up to follow me because he learned a long time ago I need to be alone. If anyone tries to comfort me, the sobbing last a lot longer and it takes forever to calm me down. I’m not upset for a rational reason, so comfort doesn’t help. So even though my only desire is to go sleep it off, I can’t do that. I’m in church and I’ve already missed the first twenty minutes of todays sermon. I need to stay awake. The rest of the service is always the same. The pastor continues his sermon, my husband sits there nodding along, and I’m trying my hardest to stay awake. I usually fail.

Once service is over, I don’t want to socialize, I don’t want to make plans with anyone. All I want to do is go home and sleep off the horrible wrongness holding me by the throat that won’t go away.

I’ve tried going up to alter calls for prayer. I’ve tried allowing my name to be put in the bulletin, or on the church prayer chain so the congregation always has me on their mind. I’ve tried healing services. I’ve tried staying inside during a panic attack and allowing someone to attempt to calm me down. Just guess how much any of that has ever helped.

Alter calls make me feel sick because I can’t stand being the center of attention. Prayer chains are awesome, except when people come up to me asking if I’ve been healed yet. Every time I tell them no, I feel guilty, like it’s my fault I haven’t received a supernatural healing. I’ve already explained that allowing someone to be there with me during an attack only makes it worse. And healing services? The church does not understand mental illness and doesn’t know how to handle it. Healing services were all the same. I’d be put in front of everyone again and have someone pray over me, but this time everyone else would join in, either laying hands on me directly(which I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t also have back problems that made it painful to stand like that) or stretching their hands out from all over the room. And even on a good day, I’d feel the anxiety building up inside of me from the overwhelming attention and expectation on me. And it would end with the speaker prodding at me, trying to get me to tell them I felt better. I didn’t. And now I’d be enduring weeks of people telling me, “just keep praying, it’s only in your head, God will heal you.”

After years of the same things over and over again, I eventually flipped out on my mother and forbid her from doing anything else. No more talking about it. No more prayer chains or healing services. God doesn’t want to heal me, I’m done. It’s only years later that I can understand how much I must have hurt her. She was only trying to help in the only way she knew how. But I couldn’t help it. I was hurting so much and the very idea of church had become so anxiety inducing that I was questioning everything. The first seed of anger was planted and I shut down, no longer willing to admit I had any problems any more. And no longer willing to pray about it either. All I had heard from God was silence and all I felt was abandonment.

98664b3a9b8da216e65a1c5ab9cb0a7d.jpgIt’s been years since I put a stop to any kind of help from the church. I still go every week, and I haven’t turned away from God. But things are different now. My anxiety ruined church for me, and even now that my family has started attending elsewhere, things remain the same. Now I’m on a medication that can sometimes keep an attack at bay, as long as I don’t drink too much coffee before service. But that seed of anger that was planted all those years ago, it grew. It was watered by the depression that was never healed, by my unnamed issues with life I still haven’t received a diagnosis for, and then for pmdd that developed after I had kids.

My hope is that one day I can get past all this. That I can figure out a reason that God would allow all these things to happen to me. That I can work through the anxiety so I can truly enjoy church again. I’m still angry at God. But it’s almost like that feeling after an argument. Like you’ve gotten out all the horrible things you had to say, and now you feel a bit better and maybe you can start to forgive. I have no shame in admitting that because lying and saying I’m fine helps no one. Especially me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Doctors: This is NOT Okay

 

 

 

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Apparently the Doctors are at it again! I think everyone has heard of the show by now, and just like anything else on TV, they’ve got their fans and their critics. I haven’t watch the show, until today. Until the PMDD community collectively blew up in outrage over an episode where they addressed, you guessed it, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. You can watch it here.

Just a quick summary for anyone who hasn’t heard of PMDD. PMDD has been described as “the evil cousin of PMS”. I don’t like that phrasing, because that makes it sound like it’s in the same family. Let me make this clear. PMDD is as close to PMS, as a rabid tiger is related to a newborn domesticated kitten. This is not to say that PMS doesn’t suck. I remember the days when that’s all I had to worry about, and it sucks. But PMDD is hell.

In the video, Dr. Landry tries to explain what PMDD is. Tries is the key word, because she is interrupted so many times with the men shouting over her, laughing and making jokes, that she spends half that time laughing that uncomfortable “this is ridiculous but I don’t know what to do” kind of laugh. Dr. Landry, many of us who watched this cringed watching you try to get through to them. We aren’t blaming you.

But to Dr. Stork, and ESPECIALLY Dr. Ordon, there is NO excuse for your behavior. And the 2-8% of us who actually struggle with this horrible ailment have something to say to you. I’m only one person, so I decided to get some feedback from the lovely women who struggle every month with PMDD. Here’s what we had to say.

Warning: Some foul language ahead. I normally do not curse on my blog, but I feel it completely appropriate under these circumstances.

“They did a horrible job of explaining what PMDD is. It’s life altering, affects every aspect of life, includes suicidal thoughts and impulsive behaviors like eating, shopping, etc. It’s hard to get doctors to listen because it has only recently been given a name by the MDA. They made it look like a cartoon. And on top of that there is no “quick fix.” solution that helps everyone.”      -Christine H.

“I’m horrified by this episode and will not be supporting this show anymore. As someone who suffers from PMDD I was horrified to see them laughing at my pain. I’ve wanted to murder my husband and no one else for sooo many reasons during my hell week and it has nothing to do with underlying issues, and everything to do with lack of support physically and emotionally. PMDD is a life threatening disorder and those fucking assholes made it into a big joke. I thought we were past the days when men were gas lighting and making women feel crazy and less than because of our cycles. I’m still crying after these doctors just set us back 100 years. ASSHOLES!!!”     -Keltie Jean-S.

“It was incredibly hurtful and irritating for Dr. Ordon to say you should hang out with a woman for a few cycles to make sure she’s not crazy. Women with PMDD are not crazy and just as deserving as anyone else of love…..  His outdated, sexist, insensitive and cruel remarks have no place in a discussion about women’s health. I would like to see an apology from him specifically.”     -Natalie P.

“I would really like to see The Doctors redo this segment and have a sufferer present to offer first hand experience of what it’s like to suffer from PMDD. I doubt jokes like the ones we witnessed would be made to a sufferers face so I don’t understand how it’s ok to broadcast them to sufferers watching at home. Many viewers have found this extremely triggering and it has exacerbated their symptoms. It has also damaged awareness campaigns that people have worked hard on to reduce the stigma of this condition. It reinforces sexist beliefs and provides a terrible role model for Health care professionals. Congratulations doc, you’ve probably just convinced several women not to seek help from their GP.”    -Lynda P.

“I am absolutely appalled at the flippancy of those men, clueless bastards! Their total lack of empathy is disgusting. What’s worse is that they (particularly Dr. Ordon) completely disregarded the idea of compassion and consideration in order to get a cheap laugh from the crowd – is he for real?! Oh, to have a penis and be totally ignorant of female issues. And shame on the ladies in that audience who laughed!”          -Laura Q

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You guys starting to get it now? The complete lack of humanity, the derogatory, misogynistic jokes, the ignorance, need we go on? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway.

“I’m completely horrified by how they behaved on what is supposed to be an educational show. In life, you choose whether you want to do good or want to do bad…these people obviously didn’t even think about what they were saying and what impact this has. This is a very serious illness that ruins lives, relationships, careers and dreams. Acting like sexist jerks DOES NOT help, it makes the situation worse. End this bullshitting!”         -Maite Hein-G.

“How great of you to make fun of something that has almost ruined not just my life but also the lives of the people I love. Because of PMDD I am now divorced. My 3 children are now from a broken home. My dad passed away during this part of my cycle and I still don’t remember periods of that time, complete blackouts. I am still trying to repair relationships with my family. My job has been amazing, my boss incredible. I have intermittent FMLA for this very real thing. Because being at work feeling you feel like you could kick a puppy is certainly a career limiting move.
You say “hey guys, make sure you’re with a girl for a few cycles…” To that I say simply “fuck you, you arrogant misogynistic chauvinistic asshole.” Because we have this disorder men should stay away? We don’t deserve the love other women get? I mentioned I was divorced. I have now been seeing a wonderful man who doesn’t back away when things get tough. I didn’t hide it from him in the beginning. I told him simply that I was going to change in a week and this is why. He has stuck around, for over a year now. Being a father to my kids that their own dad cannot be. He’s seen me at my worst, but will still come and pick me up when I’ve yelled and screamed and ran away. He doesn’t laugh. He reads, he researches, he LISTENS. That level of support is incredible for someone who has been doing this on her own even during my 10 year marriage.
This is a very real thing. Many people compare it as PMS to PMDD like a headache is to a migraine. Each month I feel like my skin, my body, isn’t mine. I have to keep moving, random shakes and shudders to make sure it is mine. My thoughts go wild. I either rage or am insanely clinically depressed. A guy in Subway pissed me off because he couldn’t decide what kind of cheese he wanted on his sandwich. And I don’t mean he annoyed me and I rolled my eyes. I mean genuinely PISSED OFF. Like shaking with rage, and letting it out on him so that he escaped before he even got his sandwich that he had paid for. There are months when I can’t get off the couch. Literally. I can’t move. I can’t think. I can’t focus. I can’t tell you how many things I have missed out on in life.
I know when it is coming. I could tell you the day, almost the hour. It presses a weight down on me that sometimes it’s even hard to breathe. I was diagnosed 5 years ago, am in therapy and see a psychiatrist. I have been on a few different meds, some have worked, some have not. I’m at a good point right now. I have found a combination of meds that work. A diet and vitamin regimen that works. Most of the time. I still get horrible months. And I have great months.
But always, ALWAYS, there is the knowledge that one day this could actually kill me. I have been so low down in the pit, trying to crawl my way out when my fingers were nothing but blood and bones. I know that could easily happen again, and I don’t think I could survive it this time.
There is no cure. One day the meds, or the therapy could not work and I could become one of those 15% that try to commit suicide, a figure that you conveniently glossed over and ignored. I have that knowledge every single day of my life. I have this beast living inside of me, that I try to keep locked up. But sometimes the door splinters and the beast can see some light and it fights like hell to get out. One of these days I am absolutely terrified that the door will break completely.
So again, I wanted to say “thank you”. I’m glad my tortured life and the tortured lives of my sisters could amuse you so much.”          Meghan S.

” I have often said, there is a monster that lives inside and once a month it locks me in the back corner if my brain to hear and see all the havoc it’s causing but there is not a single thing I can do but sit and watch and pray I come out alive. And once the monster slips back into slumber I return to life, doing my best to put all the broken pieces back together, feeling more like a shell and less like a person each time, hoping that I make it through next month too. This is my life, and yet I’m so alone because no one around really understands it.”      -K.S.

” This disorder is a real as any other and it’s sad that the cliché of PMS and other hormone related issues has made a very serious disorder a joke to these doctors. This clip was in poor taste in my opinion. Depression is real, suicide is real, anxiety is real, rage is real. The tears and fear and everything else that can be wrapped in this monster we suffer from. None of that is a laughing matter so why is PMDD?? The female doc was trying but I still think being surrounded by males was effecting her ability to keep it serious.”          – Stephanie C.

” It upset me. Many doctors already don’t take us seriously. For them to keep laughing & make jokes was super lame. We already have our problems to deal with & these so called Drs are rude. Also for the women laughing was like a slap in the face when he was talking about making sure to date them during cycles before you commit to them.”          -Ana T.

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Let’s make this a bit more clear. In the video, Dr. Landry tries to explain the basics of PMDD, using words like sadness, hopelessness, irritability, etc. She says that a woman can have symptoms 7-10 days before her period. That’s all true, but it’s a very diluted, sugar coated version of the truth. Not because any harm was meant from the medical side. But because PMDD has only been recognized as an actual, real condition recently, not much is really known about it. If you ask any woman that actually suffers from it, they will tell you how doctors still have no idea what it’s like.

When they use words like irritability and anger, we are comparing ourselves to She Hulk, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We use words like extreme rage, seeing red, uncontrollable anger. Another symptom is sensitivity to sound and/or light. Some women get migraines, some(like me) can’t stand anything too loud or repetitive. Which in itself, intensifies that rage. I’ve spoken to women who admit that they know logically how much they love their husband and children, but at this time of the month, they cannot feel that. All they feel is anger and an intense desire to be alone.

Until we don’t feel anything at all. Some of us are unlucky enough to experience anhedonia. Every month. It’s almost like you build up so much anger and you are so overwhelmed by everything around you, that you shut down. That shutting down of emotion, the inability to feel anything anymore, that’s anhedonia.

While they use words like sadness and hopelessness, we use words like severe depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, crippling anxiety and in some very unfortunate cases, suicide. If you noticed in the video, Dr. Landry tried mentioning that about 15% of women affected will commit suicide.

Which is how the Gia Allemand Foundation was formed, and if you’d like more info, please click here.

On the physical aspect, all the regular symptoms of PMS are there, and although it’s different with each person, some or all of them can be much worse. I remember breast tenderness as a nuisance years ago, but now tenderness cannot come close to describing the pain every month. Same goes for the headaches, the backaches, the cramps, bloating, stomach issues, insomnia, and the food cravings! Plus there’s the brain fog so bad that you can barely remember your own birthday, and the ringing in your ears.

Oh, and saying that it can last around 7 days is like telling young girls that their periods will last 3-5 days. Yeah it’s possible for it to be 3 days long, but only if you’re lucky. Many of us who suffer from PMDD have found that it may start off around 7-10 days of every month, but it gets worse over time. I’m currently victim to about 14-16 days of every single month, and I am not the rare exception.

“That clip was a pathetic joke. It probably did more damage to efforts being made for PMDD to be recognized as real, rather than any kind of help. If real doctors (And I don’t mean the so called ones in this clip) aren’t always aware of PMDD, let alone know what to do to help, how can this kind of publicity be anything but bad? I know most of the time I try not to think of how much PMDD affects my life but it is inescapable and even trying to explain to friends can be difficult, especially because most women have PMS so assume it’s just like their worst days of that. In fact before I ever heard of PMDD I thought it was normal to have cyclical insomnia and rage, and think of suicide to the point I never mentioned it because isn’t that what PMS is like? Hah! If I hadn’t mentioned to my doctor that I tried to drive my car into a bus and then got my period the next day and felt fine, I never ever would have known and probably would have succeeded in killing myself. I still want to… funnily enough just before my period!
I’m so disgusted in this bloody show and even the women making comments saying oh haha I have that don’t I honey… no you think it’s funny to excuse your PMS and bad behavior. Its sickening. I recently discovered my mother had PMDD, only recently, because she succeeded in killing herself when I was 15 after drugs stopped numbing her pain enough. My older sister also just had a full hysterectomy (and oophorectomy). Now I get to worry for the future and my daughter and hope like hell she dodges this damn bullet because if she doesn’t and this is what people think its ok to say about PMDD, she’s already on a back foot to find true help.”                                  -Maryanne K.

” I know what it’s like to be demonized, and to be expected to act “normal”, expected to control it, and told that an inability to control it isn’t an excuse to rage. I was called a devil more times than anyone can know, and I did not even bring up the worst parts of PMDD to those people. My boss tried to gossip about me over it. And I came literally two minutes away from being dead after trying to kill myself from it. For Dr. Stork to suggest putting us in a psych ward to make sure “nothing else was going on” is ridiculous and shows his ignorance on the diagnosis. If we are diagnosed, we know that nothing else is going on. I am not a psychopath. I have never so much as bruised someone, let alone put my hands on them in anger. Nothing else is going on, Dr. Stork. And the old dude that kept making jokes? Pathetic. And offensive. I did not feel as though I was watching this on YouTube, I felt like this was all being said directly to me. Because idiots who lack empathy have said those cheap jokes to me before. Dr. Landry was also appalling in how weakly she tried to steer the conversation. The laughs over suicide, and road rage, and the skepticism over the entire subject was appalling. It was unprofessional and offensive to an entire group of people with an entire lack of conscience that women die, and suffer every day from those things that were being laughed at. I’ve seen those clowns take some ridiculous things way more seriously, but when they start talking about women killing themselves over hormones, perfect time for a joke, right?”          -C.P.Saxton

In the end, these TV show doctors might end up “apologizing”, which we all know means they are really saying, “We don’t really care but we need to save our asses, so yeah we’ll pretend we’re sorry.” So here’s a message to you.

 

We want a sincere apology. We want you to look deeper into what you’ve done and think about how many women just changed their minds about seeking help because you made their lives an embarrassment. We want you to talk to women who have actually gone through PMDD instead of just making asinine, misogynistic assumptions based off of newspaper headlines. We want you to do some actual research and understand every aspect of your ignorance. Maybe even a redo of that segment where you can show everyone how it should have been done in the first place. With a doctor that is an expert in PMDD, who has compassion and treats women like us regularly. No offense, Dr. Landry, but you didn’t seem to know nearly enough about it for any of them to take you seriously, not like you didn’t try. Maybe if they could have stopped laughing for ten seconds… But most of all, you should all pray that no one you love ever develops PMDD. Even though all of us over here suffering are angry, we wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Even if it would be to teach you a valuable lesson.

Sincerely, all of the women who’s difficult lives have just been made a laughing stock.

 

To any woman who is going through this, you are not alone. You are worth seeking help. You deserve love just like anyone else. This condition does not make you crazy, psychotic, or whatever else someone like these men might call you. Living with this means you are strong, because you fight something that most people can never understand, and you survive it, repeatedly, month after month. Even though many doctors may write you off, dismiss your symptoms or turn you away because of their own lack of knowledge, know that it is worth it to keep pushing forward. Find some support in women who understand, talk to your family and friends, and don’t stop seeking help until you have the tools you need to cope with this condition. You are amazing, you are loved, and you are a warrior.

 

 

If you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
Come stand with us at Change.org to demand an apology from the Doctors!

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Why We Grieve For Strangers

A few months ago I woke up to a beautiful morning. I was in a weirdly good mood, I had breakfast and coffee in peace, and then when the kids woke up, I greeted them with a smile as they fought over who would snuggle mommy first. These are the things that melt my heart, this is the life I live for. Everything was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day. Then I sat down to check Facebook.

One of the first things that popped up was a post from a page I follow about PMDD. One of the women from that page, a beautiful, wonderful woman who had a reputation for helping those around her, messaging people in the middle of the night, talking with strangers to help them out of a hard time, had passed. She had just been talking with some of those ladies a couple days previous, and when she stopped responding, they got worried. Eventually, they reached out to her husband and found that their worst fears were confirmed. Her suffering had become too much for her, and she had taken her own life. She left behind a loving husband, a couple kids, and a support network reeling from the shock of losing her.

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I did not personally know her. I recognized her from the page, we had never spoken before. But I grieved that day. It hit me hard, and I felt so guilty over it. Grieving for a complete stranger felt like a slap in the face for the people who actually knew and loved her. I didn’t even know this woman, why am I seriously crying right now?

Because she could have been me.

Because I looked at her and saw a happy woman with a good family, who happened to be struggling with the same thing I was. Although we didn’t have much else in common on the outside, I looked at her and I could see me. I like to tell myself that I am safe because I have a family who loves me, children who depend on me, and a husband who encourages me to get the care I need. I like to tell myself that all of that will always be enough to keep me around. Just like countless other women who struggle with the same things I do, who told themselves the same thing. Just like countless women who have lost those battles.

Just like Robin Williams, who used laughter to make the world a better place, because he knew how it felt to be so low you can’t feel anything anymore.

Just like Amy Bluel, founder of the semicolon project, who inspired so many people and gave hope to thousands.

And like Chester Bennington, who’s music helped tons of people feel like they weren’t alone.

We grieve for these people, famous or not, because we can see something of ourselves in them. But here’s something to remember. If you hear about these tragedies and feel that grief and that loss, if you see yourself in these people and are affected by it, it’s because you still have that spark in you that wants to avoid that fate. It means that you are still hanging on. So go ahead, by all means, grieve. Because grieving means you are still living, and aren’t planning on going anywhere.

 

 

 

 

For more information, or support, for PMDD, click here.
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out.

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What Happened When I Realized Carbs (and sugar) Were the Enemy

 

Over the past year I’ve been trying to find an antidepressant that works for me, and it’s been a hell of a roller coaster. Mentally, and physically. Physically, as in the roller coaster was the numbers on the scale, going up up up up UP! I was on my third try with meds, and finally, this one wasn’t making me gain weight. But it wasn’t helping me lose either and I was 40 pounds heavier than before I ever popped a pill. I wanted desperately to lose some weight, so I was working out like crazy, eating better, and after months of hard work, I lost a WHOPPING… 4 pounds. The roller coaster got stuck and I was pissed.

Then my family moved into our very first house and there was a lot to do, so it all slipped to the back of my mind. We didn’t have a functioning kitchen for a good week, and between that first week and the weeks leading up to the move, I lost count of how much fast food and pizza we all ate. But once we were all settled in, I was ready to make a change. A big one.

 

I had been looking into the keto diet for a while, but I seriously doubted it. Everything about it made me shake my head. For one, it goes against the whole standard american diet pyramid thing we’ve all been taught. In a nutshell, the keto diet is a way of eating that makes your body stop burning carbs(glucose) for energy, and it starts burning fat instead. You do this by decreasing your carb intake, low enough that you can’t depend on it for energy anymore. I didn’t think I could do it. But mostly, no way I’d be able to give up carbs and sugar! Chocolate has sugar! But then it hit me.

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SUGAR

I started paying attention, and I noticed whenever I had too much sugar, I changed and my mood swings were bad. Like angry, She-hulk, monster mommy bad. I’d be having a great day and then stop for a frozen, sugary coffee indulgence because, why not? Within ten minutes I went from super good day to, “everything is too loud, these kids need to go away, I need to be left alone!” I was yelling at the kids when they didn’t deserve it, and snapping at my husband for no reason. I was blaming my depression, I was blaming PMDD, I was blaming my husband. When the culprit was the crap I was putting in my mouth.

So I looked back on the keto thing, and it clicked. This diet requires you to give up sugar, and I really should do that anyway… Why not? If the only goal was to lose weight, I might have given up a few times, but once I got past the keto flu and let my body detox a bit, I was feeling great. It hasn’t been magic, my mental issues are still there. But I started noticing good days again. I wasn’t snapping at the kids for no reason, and my husband has noticed that I’m a lot calmer. The last few days of my cycle that usually have my finger hovering over the call button for a suicide hotline, now have me just… Normal level depressed I guess? Like I said, I’ve still got my issues, but now I’m not fueling them with the evil that is sugar!

Not to mention, since starting this new way of eating, I’ve lost 30 pounds. That damn roller coaster got unstuck, started going down, and I jumped the hell off. Because if I keep up this lifestyle, I’m not going to keep going up and down with my weight. I might have my good weeks and bad weeks because of the PMDD, but now I can at least track it all again instead of wondering why the hell I’m feeling so stabby on what’s supposed to be a good day.

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Now, I’m not trying to sell anyone on the keto diet. I’m a terrible salesperson anyway. But I think people who struggle with certain issues *cough* PMDD *cough* need to look closer at what they put into their bodies to see if maybe, just maybe, some of the fault lies in that. It’s a bit embarrassing to look back on how long it took for me to come to this realization for myself, but I’m finally working on it and seeing results. I’ve given up on sugar and carbs and I’m never going back. Plus, sugar free chocolate exists and it’s actually not bad, so there’s that.

Now, it’s time to give up coffee caffeine. Pray for me!

What I mean when I say, “I’m not a person today.”

You see people like me on the street or in the store, and you wouldn’t look twice. My face is blank and void of expression, anyone would assume I’m lost in thought, but if we lock eyes I’ll smile. That smile; it’s a habit. It tells the world, “Hi, I’m okay.” Sometimes it’s genuine, and sometimes it’s a lie. Sometimes I can hide things pretty well, so you can’t tell whether I’m having a good day or whether I’m screaming inside.

 

But once in a while I change things up. I don’t have the energy to fake it, so I tell the truth. I expose myself, show my vulnerability and open my heart up to judgement and pity. Sometimes I’ll tell you, “I’m not a person today.”

If I say this to you, it means one of two things: 1. I trust you and feel safe being honest with you. OR  2. I’m too low to care what I say or what anyone thinks of me and I’m desperately looking for some comfort.

Anyway, what I mean when I say this. I’m not a person today. I mean, I’ve been in pain for too long and it’s all drained out of me. I’m numb. I have no motivation to do anything. I don’t have the energy to cook or clean or take care of myself. If anyone tries to talk to me, I’ll be awkward and clueless on how to respond. I’ll smile that sad smile that doesn’t reach my eyes. It means, I’ve gotten so low that I don’t know how to get out. I don’t care about getting out. I don’t care about anything. I might even be wondering what it would be like to not be here anymore.

When I say “I’m not a person today,” it means I need help. I need a hug, a kind word, a coffee, anything that might wake me up and remind me that I’ve got emotions, I’ve got worth and I am capable of pulling myself out of what I’m going through. I need someone to tell me, “It’s okay. Take the day off. You can be a person again tomorrow. Today, let me help you remember how.”

Of course, I’m not saying this for anyone reading this who may happen to personally know me. This is something that many, if not all, of us with depression go through. We might just word things differently.

“I’m not okay today.”

“I’m not feeling well.”

“I’m just tired.”

“I. JUST. CAN’T.”

Depression can take the best out of us and leave nothing but an empty shell. It takes a lot to open up to someone about it, even if it’s just a simple statement like this. If someone you love struggles with depression, pay attention to the details. Watch their smiles to find which are real and which they are hiding behind. Watch their posture, their ability to communicate, their hygiene habits. Watch how they act when they think no one is looking. And learn which phrase they use that means, “I’m not a person today.”

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What it really looks like to climb out of a depressive state

Recently I was just pretty sick. It was a quick virus(or food poisoning, I’m still not sure), but quick is no consolation when you’re up all night puking, sure that the next time you’re going to throw up an organ. I was sick into the next day, and right now it’s two days after and I’m still recovering. My stomach feels raw, my body still aches and my face is still red from popped blood vessels. But I’m getting better. Like I knew I would. Because that’s the way  it works it’s supposed to work.

But when it comes to the mind, things are different. One of the biggest things people don’t seem to understand with mental health issues is that you don’t just get better. There are good times and bad times just like with anyone else. Except the bad times don’t compare to regular stress, or a temporary setback in life. Our bad times are the symptoms of a disease. It may go into remission, if we work hard to fight it and our minds decide to allow it. But it’s never gone. Not completely. Sometimes it takes years to even find remission.

And then there’s the time in between wellness and sickness. When you aren’t at your worst, but you’re fighting to get to your best. You know what you should be doing to get better, but it’s not working right. I’m exercising, I’m seeing friends, taking my medicine. I’m writing and eating right and trying to stay positive. But right now I’m stuck. I’m inches away from slipping back into the pit of depression. And I can’t stop it.

So what is one supposed to do? That’s the big question that everyone seems to have a magical answer for, and by everyone, I mean everyone not going through it.

“You should exercise more.”

“Get out of the house.”

“Happiness is a choice, just choose to be happy!”

“It’s all in your head.”

And the one I hear most often, “Just pray about it.”

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but there is no magical answer. For someone going through this, it takes hard, hard work to fight it. Often it’s work without much progress. And the longer it takes, the harder it is to have hope you can win.

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Imagine you spent months stuck in a hole. It’s dark, wet and cold. It’s lonely and you keep hearing things that make you feel terrified. You can’t get out. Until one day, something changes. You find a root that you can step on, then another. And another. It takes days but finally you reach the top. You step out of the hole and right in front of it is a mountain. Your spirits sink and you almost fall back into the hole. Once in a while you do fall back in. But this time, you regain your balance and go on with determination. You start climbing. It’s steep, but there are rocks you can step on, and trees you can use to steady yourself and help your ascent. You start feeling hopeful that you can actually reach the top.

Then the trees start thinning out. You can see past the trees and look up to see your progress, to find that you’ve only made a small distance. But you haven’t slipped, and you can keep going. Keep fighting. You climb with the top of the mountain in sight and your progress is slow. The rocks are getting smaller and there are less trees to help you along. Instead of stepping on the stones to help you climb, you’re reaching pebbles that make you fall. You climb for days and every time you look toward the top, it doesn’t look any closer. You are making progress, but you can’t see it.

You are now about halfway up and you are falling as often as not. When you slip, you slide a few feet down before getting up. You keep getting up, because you know you should. But you are starting to forget why you should. Each time you slip a bit of hope dies, and your memory falters. Sometimes you know that you must be making progress and that you should keep going, and other times you just sit down because there’s no way you can ever reach the top. You start to doubt yourself. Maybe I’m not strong enough. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I don’t deserve to reach the top and get better. You sit there, doubting yourself, for days. Weeks. Months.

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This is what it feels like. When you aren’t at your worst, but far from your best. Some days I know that I’ll get better and I’ll be fine. But some days I can feel myself slipping backwards. And I’m scared. No matter which way I go, I’m scared. But there’s only one thing to do.

Keep fighting. Keep doing all those things that make you stronger. Even when you don’t want to. Keep seeing loved ones, force yourself to engage in a hobby you know that you love, even if you want nothing to do with it. Wake up in the morning, take a shower, make yourself look presentable. Tell yourself that you are fine. Lie. You know you aren’t fine. But lie. When you continue to live your life, you aren’t “faking it”. You are arming yourself so that your ascent gets a bit easier. Everything you do to help yourself can give you a boost up that mountain. So keep fighting.

So when someone is stuck, like me, they haven’t given up. They aren’t defeated. But they could use a hand, some encouragement, and a whole lot of patience. Knowing that there’s something up there waiting for them makes the climb just a bit easier.

 

 

What if I’m just a monster?

Over the past few years I have changed so much. I’ve become less shy, more outspoken and more mature. Ok fine, I’m still sarcastic and childish. But I think my biggest changes have had to do with all the illnesses and physical ailments that I’ve been given.

I’ve learned when to suck it up and see a doctor. I’ve learned that I can’t handle everything alone anymore, and that it’s okay to ask for help. I’ve become so in tune with my own body that most of the time I know exactly why I feel like crap. I can be clenching my teeth and when asked, I can tell you whether it’s my regular back pains or my arthritis acting up. I can start feeling real cranky and be able to warn my husband that my two weeks of hell is starting and to stay away until I’m me again. I can ghost my way through those last few days of my cycle and assure myself that I don’t really want to die. What’s in my head is the fault of my faulty hormones. PMDD is trying to kill me, but I’m not dying today.

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But there are a few things that always trip me up. During an okay moment, like as I’m typing this, I can tell you without a doubt that I am a good person who has a lot of struggles. I can’t control how I feel sometimes, and even how I act sometimes. When I’m my “normal” self, I can see that.
But when I’m not… that’s a different story. In the midst of a depressive episode, I feel guilty and try to tell myself that I’ve got nothing to be depressed about (which is true in one sense), but then get angry at myself because I HATE when people say that to me. I will be in the middle of Hyde week and yelling at the kids or snapping at my husband, but I don’t see that there’s a reason for it that has nothing to do with them, or my own feelings. I could be in so much pain that limping through the grocery store just isn’t gonna happen, and the house is not gonna get cleaned today, and it brings me down so much. I’ll be depressed and lonely, and all of a sudden I’m telling myself that I don’t have many friends because there’s something wrong with me.
When I’m in the middle of these things, I feel like I deserve to feel depressed and anxious. I convince myself that I probably don’t have PMDD like I’ve been told. I’m probably just a horrible person. Oh, and screw the pain I’m in. People get stuff done through worse all the time. I think I’m trying to take care of myself, but I’m obviously just being lazy. Lazy. Worthless. A monster. Not deserving of love, of what I have in life. Failure. MONSTER.

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Before you start worrying about me, I don’t really think these things about myself. Sometimes. But there’s a point to all this. When someone struggles with their mental health, they can’t help but to feel these things sometimes. We can’t control the harmful thoughts we might have and we may not believe you when you tell us otherwise. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. We still need to feel loved. We need extra reassurance that we matter and that we will be okay. And sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we don’t deserve what we’re going through.
Sometimes, I need to be reminded that I’m not really a monster.

The Sensory Hangover

Too many people, too much noise, too many colors, too hot, too windy, feet hurt, weird smells, aaaggghhh! Kind of annoying to even read that, huh?

Recently, my husband and I braved our own social anxiety to take our kids to the most crowded, overwhelming Easter Egg hunt ever. There were people everywhere, parents shoving kids aside to grab a dozen eggs, and children in every direction getting separated from their families. It was hell. And the poor kids had nothing to show for it because we couldn’t push past the throng of overbearing helicopter moms for my own kids to grab a damn egg. This was strike one.

After the failure of an egg hunt, we decided to make the most of it and stay where we were, which was a popular local boardwalk. Lots of rides, lots of memories. Our kids had never been, so we decided it was time. And let me tell you, my expectations were put to shame.

If you know me IRL or have followed me before, you’ll know that my son has sensory processing disorder. Long explanation short, it’s basically where all of the senses that we usually handle normally, they get all jumbled up in my kids head. His brain just looks at all this information like I look at algebra. Not a pretty picture. So, knowing how sensitive my buddy can be, I honestly didn’t expect much. But I underestimated him.

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My boy got on every ride he saw, laughed his face off and didn’t fuss one bit when he had to wait in lines. He ate lunch in a strange place, outside, surrounded by strangers, weird smells and weird, loud noises. He was polite, happy and falling in love with the excitement of the boardwalk. And it broke my heart.

Because it was a glimpse of what he could be if we’d never heard the words “autism” and “sensory processing disorder” coming from a doctors mouth. I started imagining how life would be if this was his normal. And I started getting optimistic that this was proof that he’s changed and grown up so much. It was just so nice to see him so happy instead of struggling through every second of the day.

But when we woke up the next day, all hell broke loose. He was angry and lashing out from the second he woke up to the second he finally passed out that night. There were meltdowns galore, tears from everyone and a lot of apologies. I tried to keep my cool because I knew what was going on. All of those overwhelming things he had braved through the day before were all just fuel being added to a bonfire. Every strange noise, every time he almost tripped on the uneven sidewalk, every time a kid rushed past him and bumped him, it all fueled him up, hidden deep inside where he had been storing it all day. The next day, through no fault of his own, it exploded.

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This is what I call the sensory hangover. His raging fire burned bright the day after our fun, into the next day, then the next, and the next, etc, etc… As I’m typing this, we are about two weeks out from that day and we still haven’t gotten him back to that great, grown up boy who was doing so well. I’ve found myself explaining his behavior so many times I’m running out of words. It doesn’t matter how many times I say it isn’t his fault. All strangers do is stare, shake their heads, and think I’m being a lazy parent. As if I don’t feel like the worst already.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize… When a child goes through all of this, and then wakes up the next day to this agonizing hangover, the kid isn’t the only one suffering. Meltdowns are hard. They drain the life out of the child suffering and every caregiver they come across. It’s heartbreaking to see a little kid have such a hard time. It’s hard enough seeing a strangers kid freaking out in public, but imagine that being your normal at home. After dealing with the meltdowns over and over, day after day, it wears me down until I’m the one lashing out. I’m snapping at my husband, yelling at the kids, and flinching over the slightest touch. It took me until today to realize that I was now the one in sensory overload. Anxiety does not mesh well with angry kids. And hurting children don’t thrive with an overwhelmed mom.

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The thing is, try as I might, this is just what happens when we do something big. The meltdowns are inevitable, his and mine. I have a lot to learn about handling my sons struggles, and I have a long way to go in forgiving myself when I can’t handle it all either. So I might have to avoid a playdate if it comes after something big. I might try to keep the kids in when everyone tells me to take them out. And I may seem like I’m making excuses for bad behavior once in a while. But just know that I (along with so many other special needs parents) are just doing what we need to do to survive the aftermath of a good day. Here’s to hoping that the good days increase and the hangovers get shorter. The sensory kind, and the wine induced kind. Cheers!