Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THE LOST YEARS - LIVING WITH PMDD

Of my 47 years on this planet, I have actually lived 29.5, because for 2 weeks out of every month I am out of my mind and out of my body. I live in my memories and past. Every bad thing that has happened to me, every bad decision I have made, and every bad thing that I have done comes back to haunt me. And because these memories come forth, for those 2 weeks, I live in fear that something bad will happen. When I drive, I have the dread that I will get into a car accident, when I leave my son home alone to run an errand, I feel that something bad will happen while I’m gone, and when I go to bed at night, I have bad dreams and nightmares and fear that something bad will happen to my son in the next room while I sleep.  If I go for a walk, I see a coyote cross my path with razor sharp teeth, if I take a bath, I see a snake coming through the drain hole in the tub, and if I have any kind of weird pain, I have cancer. 

It starts with insomnia, for 3 nights in a row, with an overwhelming sense of fear. I toss, turn, and beg, but sleep eludes me. After the bout of insomnia, a head-splitting migraine develops which can last up to 2 days. Then, my entire abdomen will swell; it seems that digestion completely stops, even though my craving for food increases. I become tired, so tired that it is difficult to get out of bed, to stand up, to do household chores. My head spins and I have dizzy spells. It’s like I can feel the blood flowing through my veins, my body tingles all over. My anxiety increases so much that if anything should make me upset it will trigger an anxiety attack.  I cry easily. Lights are brighter, sounds are louder. I feel like hiding. I can’t concentrate and I forget things, I’m moody and irritable, I feel so bad that I can’t talk, and I become so overwhelmed by my emotions that all I want to do is sleep.

I don’t know what I am doing during this time. I am restless and anxious. I think about the most stupid things. I say stupid things. I do stupid things. My house is a mess, I ask myself philosophical questions about life, and I become very withdrawn. I feel out of control, like I am on a bad “mushroom trip.” 

I never knew what it was that made me this way until after I had my son, when I suffered a case of post-partum depression. I was extremely nervous as a new mother – I could barely believe that a child came out of me – and I was that way for quite some time. For the first month I couldn’t even believe that I had had a child. However, I took very good care of him. I bathed him, I fed him, I held him, I loved him. As a matter of fact, he was more in my arms than in his crib. I had a wonderful relationship with my son and my partner. However, as time went on, I had this increasing sense of doom. I began having visions of throwing my baby over the balcony. I had him in winter, so I didn’t even dare go close to the balcony doors – we lived on the 14th floor – and it wasn’t until spring that I was actually able to just open the balcony door.  

About a month later I became very stressed. I started thinking about going back to work, about daycare, about leaving my son with strangers, and I got very depressed. I started having headaches, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Then everything just got to me, especially the sounds of the city. I thought I was going to explode. I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that I needed a vacation, so I packed up and went to the country to visit my mother. I felt better and everyone enjoyed meeting my son. I got settled in and thought that everything was going to be okay, but it started happening again. I became supersensitive to everything. I was so irritable I couldn’t stand myself. And when my son would become cranky, I’d strap him in the car seat and go for a drive. While he slept, I’d calm myself down and try to make sense of what was happening to me. 

I became so beside myself that I finally visited the doctor. After telling him what was happening to me he diagnosed me with a condition called Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a severe form of Pre-menstrual Syndrome. The causes are unknown, but one theory suggests that during ovulation, with sex hormones fluctuating, there is a lack of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, which causes the symptoms associated with PMDD. The symptoms last just before ovulation right up to menstruation. The symptoms are: 
1. Feelings of sadness or despair, or even thoughts of suicide
2. Feelings of tension or anxiety
3. Panic attacks
4. Mood swings or frequent crying
5. Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
6. Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
7. Trouble thinking or focusing
8. Tiredness or low energy
9. Food cravings or binge eating
10. Trouble sleeping
11. Feeling out of control
12. Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain

He said that I had probably had it since my first menstruation, but just didn’t know what it was. He told me that my symptoms had become worse after I went through the pregnancy. He said that I wasn’t going crazy and gave me a prescription to “help” with the symptoms.

So, the math goes: 47, which is my current age, take away 12 years up to the first period, equals 35. Divide that by 2 and you get 17.5, add the 12 years and you get 29.5. Of my 47 years on this planet, I have actually lived 29.5.