Premenstrual Dysphor–What??

About once a month I kind of lose my mind.

For the past two years, I’ve been experiencing bouts of depression, crying jags, insomnia, irritability, suicidal thoughts, fatigue, and complete lack of motivation. The thing is, I experience this for a few days to a week, once a month, around the time that I’m ovulating.

Unfortunately, it took me until just this year to realize there was a pattern and maybe the things I were experiencing weren’t because I’m really emotional, have a lot going on, or am just a depressed mess.

It seems as though I have something called PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).

After a really bad argument with an ex (who is still a friend) a few months ago, when I threatened to harm myself, I realized something was really wrong. I was fine two days later. I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist to discuss what I believe to be a hormonal imbalance of epic proportions.

I have not taken birth control in approximately ten years. I kinda really hate it, truthfully. I have tried several types and have had some kind of adverse reaction to each one. That is part of why I’ve put off this self-diagnosis for so long. One of the first measures a doctor will suggest is birth control to regulate the body’s hormones. And, well, once you come to terms with the fact that you could have really hurt yourself, you’ll do just about anything to feel like yourself again.

I’ve only told a few friends about my attempt to harm myself, because, naturally, it is something that typically angers and worries friends; it’s something that makes me feel guilty and ashamed.

At the end of April, I had my appointment with the doctor on the same day I was going to NYC for the weekend with a female friend to visit some of her friends and the guy I’ve been emotionally attached to for the past year.

The amount of relief I felt as I stepped out of the doctor’s office was amazing. I wasn’t better–but I was finally out of denial and making the first step to being a healthier, happier person.

Fast-forward to the next day, where I am sitting on a patio somewhere in Brooklyn with this gorgeous man who’s holding my hand as I swallow my pride and tell him that I’ve finally decided to do this for myself because I have a problem. Instead of scoffing at me or telling me that PMS isn’t real (ways I fear people will react), he said he thought it was great, that a lot of people won’t come forward and confess they have had “bad” thoughts, and that I shouldn’t worry about silly things like side-effects (bloating) from the birth control.

I started the pill a few days after returning from NYC, and it’s been one month and a few days of shutting off my phone alarm at 8pm and swallowing a tiny, pink disc packed with hormones.

So how am I feeling?

It’s not a panacea. At least, not yet.

Week one was terrible. Every side-effect I could have from the pill I did. Nausea, indigestion, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, headaches, and my period lasted for 13 days or something ridiculous like that.

Then, the side-effects began to level out. However, around the time I would start ovulating–week three or so of the pack–the familiar feelings of sadness for no reason started creeping in. I recognized it right away. Nothing was going negatively in my life (at least, not more than usual) and I was doing good things for myself like going to yoga and spending more time writing, yet when I got home from work, I wanted to go to bed immediately so I could just restart again the next day.

Commercials would make me cry, I would get snappy. I had trouble sleeping at least one of those nights. Although, I will say, it was less pronounced. The symptoms after only being on the pill for a few weeks were already beginning to smooth out.

In a little less than a month, I have my follow-up appointment with my doctor, where we’ll discuss if this is working for me. I’m on month two, and am feeling better already.

This isn’t all unicorns and daisies–Feelings I didn’t even know I had began to surface after the first few days of taking the pill:

  1. I can’t have children
  2. What happens if I stop taking the pill?

I am 33 years old and am not in a committed relationship. I have wondered if I would ever have children at this point. After beginning the pill, this massive fear came over me that I might never have children if I’m already 33 and I’m going to be on the pill for a while.

Of course, there’s the counter: What happens if I stop taking the pill, because, by some miracle, a man wants to spend his life with me and we decide to spawn life? Will I spiral into hormonal imbalance? Will I have postpartum depression? Do I need to take the pill for the rest of my life to feel sane?

I’m trying to heed the advice of my friends and take it one day at a time, and focus on the immediate and getting better now.

I have also begun to think of my intake of birth control as a temporary aid.

There are so many other healthy adjustments I have made to my life after years of alcohol use, late nights, and drama:

  1. I have a regular exercise and yoga schedule
  2. I spend at least a couple of nights a week completely by myself, sober, and choosing positive activities, such as cooking, chores, reading, or writing
  3. I have separated myself from situations/people who were making me unhappy
  4. I am eating better
  5. I am reconnecting with my spiritual self

All of these things are natural ways to enhance serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. They are also probably things that will help naturally regulate my hormones.

Once I’m feeling good enough, perhaps I can try going off the pill again to see where I’m at.

But for today, and in approximately two hours, I will punch that tiny pill through the foil, swallow it down, and feel comfort in knowing that I don’t have to suffer.

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