I am so grateful for this community and your gracious response to my first post on mental illness. You confirmed that it is something that needs to be talked about and I so appreciate your openness in the comments & your personal emails to me.
I found myself procrastinating again when writing this post. It is hard to know where to start when it comes to an issue that is complicated and multifaceted. I must start with what I know, and that would be my own personal story.
So here goes.
My anxiety disorder revealed itself fully, to the point that I could no longer ignore it, after the birth of my second child. Specifically after I weaned her, which I find interesting, as my disorder has been very much connected to hormones and my female cycle. Double interesting is that my breast cancer was fed by hormones, which is a sign my hormone levels have been a mess for quite some time.
I clearly remember a conversation I had with my sister about moods and anxiety when my firstborn, Teagan, was not even one year old yet. We were talking about parenting and how it could be taxing and hard, especially when there was a lack of sleep. I vividly remember her asking if I had lost my temper or if I ever just got overwhelmed and grumpy. I responded very honestly..”No. It is bliss. I just love being a Mom and it has been so very easy.” I remember her being surprised with my answer, and I also remember that my answer was very truthful.
I remember struggling around that ‘time of month’, but nothing out of the ordinary, or what would be considered anything more PMS. PMS was nothing new to me. It was something I had with every cycle from my very first one.
Fast forward to the birth of my second child–sweet Colsie. I was blessed with another easy baby, and was so enjoying being a young stay-at-home mom. Teagan was 11/2 years old when she was born. I weaned Colsie when she was about 9 months old.
My cycle became regular after weaning and my PMS returned, but it was so much more extreme than before. I struggled. I remember wondering why life seemed so hard and overwhelming. I wondered if it was just the difference between having one child compared to two children, but that didn’t make much sense as my Colsie was such an easy, delightful baby.
I made it into a spiritual issue, and several voices in the church affirmed that in both the books I read and sermons I listened to. “I just need to pray more, and have more regular devotional times. This is a sin issue.”
I tried everything. Journaling, time in the Word, prayer and meditation, exercise (which seemed to help some) and herbal supplements. I gave it my all but always felt like a failure as life was just so overwhelming. I was so overreactive to the smallest things. I especially noticed that noise bothered me. I was always wanting things calm and quiet, and with 2 little ones that was obviously not possible. My level of anger was way too high toward just normal kid things, like a 3-year-old getting out of bed over and over, or someone spilling their cheerios. I couldn’t understand how my calm, patient husband could be so…calm and patient! I would often look at him in disbelief that he didn’t feel the level of emotions and frustrations that I was feeling, and he would look at me back, I’m sure wondering why in the world was my reaction to life so over-the-top.
I did notice that my moods were pretty connected to my cycle. It started with a week of PMS, but quickly grow to a good 2 weeks of extreme PMS, which left only 2 weeks of the month where I felt like a somewhat normal person. Todd noticed the cycle, too. I came to dread the bad times of the month, and watched the calendar with anxiety growing as the date drew near.
I had a good friend whom I really trusted and confided in, and when I told her just how desperate I was for change, encouraged me to seek some help and get medication if needed. It was the first time someone gave me permission to even consider medication, as this was 12 years ago and there was still quite a stigma connected to mental illness and medication, at least in the circles I ran in.
It just so happened that conversation happened when I was due for my yearly female appointment, which meant my Colsie girl was about a year old. God seems to do that with me, as He promises–to work all things out for good and to lead when I am seeking answers. I went in and explained my symptoms to my gynecologist, and she gave me a pamphlet with PMDD on the front of it. I opened it and it explained my symptoms to a T. Here was the part that stood out the most for me:
In PMDD, at least one of these emotional and behavioral symptoms stands out:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Anxiety or tension
- Extreme moodiness
- Marked irritability or anger
I had the last 3 for sure, but not so much the sadness or hopelessness, unless Todd and I would fight, then I would feel extremely sad and hopeless. But the anxiety, tension, moodiness, irritability and anger would seem to hang around for no reason, or was brought on by the smallest of things. It made no sense, yet would not go away.
PMDD also comes with physical symptoms, which stunk, but I’ve always been pretty tough with physical symptoms. It was the emotional symptoms that got to me and made me hate myself. I was stuck in a cycle of acting in a way that brought on such shame and guilt. I just didn’t get why it was so hard to respond appropriately & why I couldn’t will myself to just be the person I wanted to be.
Doctor suggested an anti-depressant. I eagerly took it and was so very hopeful.
This is how I came to be on medication. I have learned since that PMDD comes often with underlying anxiety or depression disorders. I have never been formally evaluated, but I have gone to therapy and my therapist says for sure there is an anxiety disorder along with my PMDD, and also wondered if I was on the spectrum of the disorder of bi-polar, which could very well be as it runs in my genealogy and I relate to many of the symptoms of bi-polar.
My story so does not end here, but I will stop here for now. Stay tuned for more, I will tell you my experiences with medication & get more into how low the low’s got, and how I found freedom in listening to wise counsel, educating myself, prayer, and seeking treatment.
How about you? Do you relate to any part of my story? Do you have any questions for me that you would like me to answer in my upcoming posts on Mental Illness?