To my Mom…You are a hero

I didn’t get a chance to write this yesterday. I wanted to but my head wasn’t in the right place. I pondered for weeks what I could get my mom for mother’s day. She isn’t your typical mom, much less a typical woman. Her needs and wants are hardly expressed and mostly, she is content. Except she misses her grandbabies. ūüėė

My mom is human this she is flawed and imperfect. Her biggest flaw to me though is not seeing just how incredible she is, how strong she is, how intelligent she is, and the most loving soul I have had the privilege to know.

My mom fought so hard against mental illness and stigma. And there were days she failed, but she found a way to keep going. I’ve been there Mom, I know how hard that is. I know how much it hurts and the guilt and the fear that envelopes us.

Your fight, your strength, your bravery (yes you are incredibly brave) helped me through my darkest and deepest hells. I don’t need to compare our life experiences, there can’t be but we have both been in hell and clawed and fought our way back. We still traverse the pits at times but we go through it together.

I see soany other daughters have horrible relationships with their moms. I want to cry for them. Regardless of what happened in our past we hold on to each other and we are more than just.mother and daughter. We always will be. Mom, I couldn’t think of anything to get for you but I can give words to just how proud I am to be your daughter. How you have helped me through the worst times, watched over our little angels with more love than I could have hoped for, and held me when I needed you most. I love you and I miss you every day. You can never know what kind of hero you are because you can’t see what the rest of us see. Thank you for everything, thank you for your unduing love and support. Thank you for being my Mom.

Featured

PMDD or Menstrual Psychosis?

Let me explain, in my own experience, the difference between PMDD and menstrual psychosis (Brockington, 2005) having lived both. Now I will note that menstrual psychosis does not usually occur every cycle, it may happen for a few consecutive cycles in a row and stop permanently, it may start and stop over a period of years, it may last for a year or just a single month. Its also important to note that there is so much stigma attached to mood disorders and hormones and mental health, there is even more stigma attached to psychosis, in many cases those that may be experiencing psychosis will never get help because of that stigma. I was nearly one of them.

PMDD is brutal enough, but can you imagine welcoming months where its just PMDD? When PMDD seemed so much easier to deal with? No, not many can. Not the individuals who struggle with PMDD on a cyclical basis and not those who have never experienced it. There are those like me though, not many, we are a tiny sliver of the population and I wish that population didn’t exist at all. Menstrual psychosis is both alike and unlike postpartum psychosis. Both are acute phases of psychosis that end, with menstrual psychosis, the end may be at the onset of menstruation, or shortly after. Both are seen as conditions not to admit to, to not get help, and as monstrous. Unlike postpartum psychosis, menstrual psychosis can strike an individual at any point of their reproductive age/cycle, several of the cases are that of teenagers who never experienced pregnancy (Brockington, 2005). Some symptoms of psychosis are mania, delusions, suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts/actions, hallucinations, depression, insomnia, paranoia, dissociation and there are more but those are the main ones. Those are ones that I personally experienced, though I never acted on any homicidal thoughts, there were enough to make me want to lock myself up and throw away the key or to die by suicide just to prevent me from hurting anyone if I truly got lost in the maelstrom.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms mentioned above now or have in the past, please seek out help! You have rights and you can have a say in what kinds of treatment you receive regardless of the cause, but you owe it to yourself to get help.

There is hope. You are not alone.

I had PMDD from the start of menstruation. For me it started as horrible cramps, bloating, flu like symptoms, migraines, depression, anxiety, and self harm. It affected my education, my friendships, my family and myself greatly. I developed numerous destructive habits and behaviors. Every month was a battle that I did not know the cause and was just downplayed that every other woman who menstruated struggled with. I had no idea. My mom had no idea. My doctors had no idea. I also had PCOS, which in truth I was thankful for because even though I hated what it did to my body, I was stable in the months in which I did not get my cycle. And when it stretched on for months and months of me not getting my cycle and being infertile, I felt relief. I hated birth control, it always made me feel ill and off but I would take it for a few years, then stop, then start. I ended up missing a lot of work, every month the migraines and the mood swings would take over. The debilitating cramps and always getting sick. It took a toll on my relationship and my career, I couldn’t be trusted. I can’t blame them, I didn’t trust me either. I struggled through my 20s, went through college, held multiple jobs, found stability finally but still it was only at the grace of those around me and who supported me.

Menstrual Psychosis – Hell has a name and it is hormone fluctuations.

I did not have menstrual psychosis until after the traumatic birth of my second child. At that point I was told it was postpartum psychosis. Later, you can find menstrual psychosis written down in my medical files, they just never told me. It didn’t go away though after 8 months postpartum. It kept coming back, no in the same extreme way each month, but every few months or so, it crept in and I was lost again. I don’t know why some months were so much worse than others. I do know that I was misdiagnosed for a long time, bipolar does not include those symptoms of psychosis. I do know that my psychiatrist was way over their head. I do know that all the doctors and hospitals I saw should have connected the dots to my cycle or listed to me when I told them that it was connected. I know I was failed by our medical community at large. Can I fault them? No one wants to admit to psychosis and treating psychosis is still barbaric to this day. Not that ripping out my ovaries and uterus is not barbaric but it just isn’t the same when it comes to the brain.

Psychosis does not mean you are a psychopath.

The worst parts of the psychosis was the mania and delusion and then the hallucinations that followed. I experienced the mania/hypomania more often than I experienced the hallucinations, always before I ovulated. Estrogen is a feel good hormone after all. I experienced the hallucinations after ovulation, when progesterone spiked. The spike sent me to the lowest places I could never imagine. I experienced mostly auditory hallucinations, but the developed as images sometimes, mostly in my head but sometimes I felt them hanging over me. I hallucinated angels tell me to end the suffering that my children were going to have to live through. They told me to kill myself so many times. I fought and I fought, but only a small part of my brain at those times knew this wasn’t right, this wasn’t real. Thankfully it won most of the time. I’m not afraid to admit I tried to die by suicide. No, I do not think its selfish. I don’t care what anyone else says. I know what I faced, I know what I felt, and I know that it was for protection. I’m still here, I’m still fighting, I’m trying to get the word out.

I struggled with paranoia and impulse control. I still can struggle now, but its not to the same extent. I didn’t believe that people were out to get me, rather that everyone judged me and found me wanting. I was also delusional in certain instances, believing I could be or do something that I just couldn’t or shouldn’t even attempt. I also struggled with dissociation, such as derealization and depersonalization. Where I felt nothing was real or that I was not part of my body, like an outsider. I even experienced out of body experiences in some of the worst moments.

All of these symptoms were on top of the regular PMDD symptoms, the rage and irritability, the rapid mood swings, the flu like symptoms, the cramps and migraines. I could barely breathe but when I had months were it was just the PMDD stuff, I felt relief. I could deal with that. The psychosis always came back though.

My memories are faulty, as is often the case when people suffer psychosis and I struggle with PTSD from it all now. I struggle because I can’t remember my daughters when they were little, or concerts I went to with my husband. I can’t remember so much or really who I was before all this mess. I get glimpses, but its like looking through a stained glass window, its distorted, both beautifully and disturbing in the lack of clarity, wholeness.

Nearly two year ago, I found out about PMDD and went down a new path of treatment. I ended up having surgery to remove my ovaries, uterus, and cervix and now am in surgical menopause. I manage my hormones with estradiol hormone replacement and as long as I keep it stable I do as well as someone who has gone through psychosis can be expected to. While my life may not be fun or what others expect life should be, I know where I have been and I am thankful every day that I do not have to face that. I survived years of menstrual psychosis, without being locked up and the key thrown away. There is hope.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PMDD or another hormonal mood disorder please consider checking out the resources over at the Gia Allemand Foundation(www.giaallemandfoundation.org), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to help those who suffer from these debilitating illnesses.

April is PMDD awareness month. Please pass this on!

 

  1. Brockington, I. (2005) Menstrual Psychosis.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414712/

Mismanaged

I can only truly remember a few things that followed in the next years. I am not sure in what order they actually come in. They are like six second GIFs. They are¬†not connected to any particular time. There are a couple I know approximately when they happened but nothing concrete. I has placed in inpatient hospitals at least 5 times in 5 years. Probably should have been a lot more. In those 5 years I had tried 50 different anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and other psych drugs to try to level out my moods. I also wasn’t sleeping. We tried every sleep aid on the market, including Zyrem a form of GBH. I couldn’t have more kids without triggering post partum psychosis again so we tried a lot of birth controls but they did horrible things to me. For example, continuous bleeding for months and they told me¬†to¬†just ride¬†it through, it would eventually end, it didn’t. My mood was already so unstable I¬†don’t know¬†what to attribute to the birth control, the medications, or¬†just me.¬†My husband ended up getting a vasectomy.

From the moment of my Bipolar diagnosis they had me on mood stabilizers like lithium or Zyprexa and my weight started going up and up uncontrollably, devastating me even more. I was going to be that horrible, insane, fat person who should have never been a mother. I didn’t bond with my infant daughter the way I wanted to. Maybe she knew inside herself how messed up mommy was. I was an ugly person now. I was irritable. I had rages, and though I was so scared of hurting anyone else, I tried to turn it all inwards. I became impulsive and compulsive. I took all kinds of risks. I stopped caring about what was best for all of us and cared only about what was going to get ME through that moment. I devastated our finances at a time I was on¬†medical leave because I couldn’t take the stress from work without becoming suicidal. I told lies, lies, and more lies. I hurt my husband over and over again claiming he was abusive and didn’t care for anyone but himself. If he kept me from things that “made me happy” he was perpetuating the cycle.

By 2012 we had tried so many things and I was getting worse. Late 2012, my doctor suggested ECT treatment. I was willing to try anything to stop this. I underwent 22 extensive ECT treatments between December 2012¬†and February 2013. I remember very little. I don’t remember taking my oldest daughter to her first play of the Nutcracker for Christmas. I have pictures, but I don’t recognize them. I remember they always had a hard time getting the IV in before each treatment. I remember them struggling to get right strength of treatment and were worried because they kept pushing it up and up. I remember the sadness in my husbands eyes when I would collapse in the car afterwards for the long trip home. I remember the hopeless when we decided it wasn’t working for me. It had been my last hope.

In 2013, I managed to get a little strength at some point. Documenting when I was hypomanic and when the depression hit. I found a cycle. Every month. Near the time I would ovulate I was hypomanic, when ovulation hit I would crash and suddenly become despairing and suicidal for awhile. My period would come and something happened, I wouldn’t say I was normal but I was better than I was the previous weeks. Something told me that this was hormonal. It was tied to my menstrual cycle. Excitement!

My husband concurred with me and we went straight away to my psychiatrist. I presented the information to him, with my husband backing me up. I asked for a hysterectomy. The next words out of my psychiatrists mouth destroyed me. “They don’t do that.”
Then he talked about rapid cycling, which I probably had since I did cycle through hypomania and depression more than 4 times a year. I wanted to argue. And yes he did agree that hormones could have some impact on my moods but they were not the cause.
So on we trudged down the list of pills, trying old ones in new combinations, trying just released to the market, trying off label pills. Pills, pills,¬†and more pills. I had been trying therapists but never made a connection with them, I didn’t feel it was in my head.¬†It felt more like¬†that something else was taking over my mind and body.

I began to get really hopeless. The suicidal ideation came much more often, multiple times a day. I was hurting myself more. Trying to stop the thoughts and just feel physical pain. Cutting was hard for me but that didn’t stop me from bashing my head against walls or punching myself. I don’t remember what year it was but I remember one night in particular, I think my husband had just gone to sleep, I got up with the intention of cutting off my hand. Why? Because then people would believe that I was I truly handicapped, that I was truly sick. They could see it and they wouldn’t dismiss my pain.¬†My husband woke up before I did more than grab the knife but he had to fight me to get it away from me. I think I might have gone to the hospital that time.

Things kept getting worse and worse for us. In 2013 my husband was laid off. I panicked and tried to go back to work, but someone had told them I was dangerous, they filled my position, and I was out of a job and no longer on long term disability as a result. I looked for work, my husband looked for work. Bills had gone unpaid for a long time but we had always managed to pay our mortgage. I put on a happy face and pretended I was well enough for this. I actually got a job. I lasted three months, barely, but it came down to every day I was driving to work I wanted to drive the car across the highway median into oncoming traffic. I was scared I wouldn’t stop myself one day. I had to quit. Shortly after this happened we got a reprieve, a small one, but it helped. I was granted disability after a second go at it. However, it depressed me even more.

In 2013 and 2014 I started drinking, binge drinking, and taking more pills than I should at a time. I would steal some of my husbands pills too.¬† My husband would go to sleep and I would sneak out of bed and start drinking to drown my thoughts, however, it usually just made the thoughts worse. I think it was 2014, I don’t know if I was actively suicidal or just no longer cared. I took about 100 clonazepams, 2 mg with half a liter of rum. This is where my past is important. I had weight loss surgery. Which meant I do not digest things very well at all, in fact I am missing part of my digestive track. Malabsorption. This fact alone saved my life that night. My husband found me moments later and called 911. They got there, stabilized me, something about my blood pressure being low. That’s all I remember. They had me on lots of IVs to flush out my system, you cannot stomach pump someone with gastric bypass. Amazingly, my stomach prevented me from killing myself by overdose. I went into inpatient treatment after that.

Pills changed again and I went back to living each day just to keep breathing, to keep my children alive.

11426160_10205865158042398_4809434630911932047_o
These were some of my daily pills, some of which I took more than once a day. These were my psych meds and two supplements. I had other medications for other issues not pictured here. It was daunting.

In 2015, my husband found a job. Across country. It was only a contract for few months. It was in the field he wanted to work and might help him get experience so he could find permanent work. I pushed him to take it. We didn’t move with him. I couldn’t be left alone with the kids all day, I couldn’t be left alone with myself all day. Those four months I tried to live in my house alone, and keep my kids over a couple times a week, but mostly they stayed with their grandparents. I got worse. I never kept a clean house, but it got horrible. Unsanitary. I stole my husbands social security number to open credit cards and loans so I could buy, buy, and buy more things. I screwed up paying other pills. I didn’t take my medicine like I should. I just didn’t care about anything anymore. The lies were horrible and I am sure that everyone saw through me but were too scared to confront me. They canceled my husbands contract 2 months early, the project was a failure (not him). I panicked. He was now going to find out everything I had done. The stress and fear overwhelmed me. I now have two scars on my thigh, one 12 inches long and the other 8 inches long. The day after he got home, after the fights had already started, the hallucinations started. Auditory. Telling me exactly what they had told me after the birth of my daughter.

My husband took me to the hospital. Now let me be clear, inpatient psych wards are not a place where you go to get better. It is a place for you to be watched and nothing more. They are often hell holes and you feel even more fear and are scared of getting hurt the whole time. I did my best to tell the truth but I wanted out of there. I was terrified of this one patient muttering how he was going to tear the red headed fat women who had a rose on her back limb from limb each night, how she was a demon sent from hell to destroy children. That she needed to suffer. I did not hallucinate that person, other people heard him too.

After a couple days, I was “stable” and could go home again. I was scared, I knew what I faced at home. A broken family, a husband who was sick of dealing with me, and a lot of hopelessness. In the next weeks he was offered a chance at another programming job in another state with his dream company. It was contract again, but it was longer. He didn’t want to leave, I said he had to for the kids. We had to protect them. We had to do our best to provide for them. We discussed it with my parents and it was decided that the children and I would live at my parents house while he was gone. I was never to be left alone on my own again. We all knew I couldn’t be trusted.

So beginning in August 2015, I began living with my parents again, so they can watch me and make sure I don’t do anything stupid. Mostly.¬†Things are better then they had been in awhile. I can semi participate with my kids normally. No body mentions my lack of self care, but I am all too aware of it. I am lucky if I shower twice a month.¬†Taking care of myself is beyond my ability.¬†I no¬†longer care what clothes grace my horrible body. Make up and hair are a thing of the past.¬†I hid behind baseball caps¬†every time I left the house.¬†I was such a bad role model for two little girls.

Anyways, in the past year I notice that I am having hot flashes and night sweats and other symptoms. I look them up and they match perimenopause. I am only 32, how can I be in perimenopause? It’s something to latch on to though. I do more research and decide to try a phytoestrogen to see if they relieve some of the physical symptoms. I start taking it November 3rd. By November 7th I am convinced I am perimenopausal. I haven’t felt better mood wise in years! The hot flashes disappeared. So I go to the doctor and say I want my hormones tested because phytoestrogen shouldn’t have this big effect on me unless something hormonal is going on. Labs come back, I am not menopausal. It doesn’t change the fact that this estrogen is really doing something so I don’t let it discourage me for long.¬†It is turning my personality around! I have energy. The smile on my face is not by accident or force, it is just there. The suicidal ideation is falling away. My irritability is calming down and I actually want to do things!

I decide to test it further. I start tapering off my lithium and a couple of my other psych meds. I keep feeling better. Unfortunately, I have a reaction the phytoestrogen I am taking, it causes hives in my throat, so I have to find another one to try. I do, and it works as well. I am on to something.

By late December I am off all psych meds, oh and I have lost 20 pounds without doing anything else. I am feeling on top of the world.

I start mood tracking, because this is definitely hormonal.
Featured

The journey begins

My story. I think that more women than care to admit have been where I was and need to hear this. This is long but you need to hear the whole thing before coming to any conclusions.

Let me first set some things straight. I am not anti medication. I am not anti supplement. I am not anti ECT. I am not anti doctor of any kind. I am against throwing pills at anyone with the expectation that something will eventually work. I am against labeling someone treatment resistant. I am against when someone refuses to listen, really listen to all the small details. I am against bias and sexism and knowing that there are treatments out there that can work but doctors not willing to consent to their patients wishes.

Short history to me. My period did not start until I was 14. At which point puberty hit me very hard. Weight gain, headaches, acne, etc… In fact it was around that time I started to suffer from migraines very often and constant headaches. My parents ended up seeking treatment for me a special clinic hours away to help me cope. In 2000, at 16 I dropped out of high school because it wasn’t the place for me and studied for my GED. That fall I went to community college enrolled in an associates degree program. During this time I met a person I fell in love with on the internet. December 2002 I graduated with my associates degree and moved to Texas to be with the man I fell in love with. About a week before my 19th birthday I got married. I was not a girl to be held back from what I wanted in my life.
A few months down the line, we were watching something in a movie theater and I ended up in excruciating pain. Went to the hospital, had tests and ultrasounds done and sure enough I had PCOS. This explained the absent menstrual cycles that I wasn’t complaining about. Saw a doctor, they said birth control. I chose Depo-Provera (progesterone only injection)¬†because I hated having periods. It didn’t help my weight issue. Beyond that my PCOS went untreated and I didn’t stay on birth control, I didn’t do well on it both physically and mentally. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Many women don’t react well to birth control.

Fast forward to 2007. We now lived in California, near my parents. I was in the process of having weight loss surgery to try to regain my life and start over. I was young and immature still but that is life. After weight loss surgery your menstrual cycle returns with a vengeance if it was stopped and you become regular again within a very short time. Something I hadn’t experienced in a long time and was infertile (due to¬†PCOS)¬†prior to the surgery. Shortly after my weight loss surgery I got pregnant. My doctors suggested abortion because¬†I was putting my life at risk for what could possibly be a deformed child due to my surgery.¬†I was able to maintain both the pregnancy and the weight loss through a lot of hard work and a lot of support. I have a beautiful daughter who is happy and healthy, who was coincidentally born one year to the date of my weight loss surgery. I suffered from a bout of post partum depression after her birth, was eventually treated for it with anti depressants, and rebounded to live a more productive and healthy life with my family.

Fast forward to early 2011. I was about to give birth to my second baby. Another little girl. In the last couple years I had made great headway in my life. I had my taken good care of myself self and lost 135 pounds after the surgery. I was raising a beautiful daughter with a head full of strawberry blond hair. I had finished both a bachelors degree and a masters degree in accounting. I had recently transitioned from a contract data clerk to a full time industrial engineer for an aerospace company. I thought I was beautiful, loved my clothes, even though I was still a size 14/16, I was confident and proud of myself. I felt vindicated in my choices and I had a happy beautiful family to show off for it. My husband still supported me in everything I did!

My world came crashing down during the birth of my second baby. I have flashbacks to those few moments. Trauma doesn’t have to meet a certain definition to be traumatic to someone. All it has to do is trigger the fight or flight sensation, and especially if you can’t respond with either one of those actions the trauma will take a huge toll¬† on you. I have precipitous labor. Meaning without warning and very sudden. I was in a hospital,¬†they had induced labor because the day before she had been breech and I was schedule for a C-section. She had turned and they wanted to push the labor forward so she didn’t turn again. After about 8 hours into it, on epidural, my water broke. And my body took over. My control was ripped from my brain and my body wanted to expel the baby as fast as possible. I felt like I was being ripped in half. I¬†felt pure and simple¬†terror. Someone was going to die, I was sure of it. If it wasn’t me than the baby was. It only took two minutes from when my water broke. It seems like my screams lasted longer. I know I wasn’t fully dilated because they had just checked me 30 minutes before and I was only 5 centimeters. As soon as she was out I blacked out for a split second, and then became aware that my baby was lying on the birthing bed, not crying. Terror hit all over again. I couldn’t get the strength to reach for her. I think I was sobbing, so scared. While I was struggling to regain strength an orderly walked in to deliver blankets and saw the scene. I don’t know¬†if he said anything¬†but I did see panic in his eyes as he gaped for a second and then darted out the door calling for help. A few moments later a nurse dashed into the room, panicked as well. She got the baby. The baby was breathing. Everything was a daze after that. A lot of tests happened and then they laid her on my chest, while I struggled to wrap my arms around her. I think we stayed in the hospital a day longer than usual. She wasn’t preemie but was very small, we had to put her in preemie clothes and diapers and they still hung a bit on her. If she hadn’t been that small I would have suffered severe internal damage.

She is a fussy baby. Always has to be held, mostly by daddy, and is very colicky. I am stressed, exhausted, feeling like a failure because my milk again won’t come in. I cry a lot and I hide a lot. I keep trying to put on a happy face, for my family,¬†but something is going on in my head. I had post partum depression with my first. So its not unexpected it would happen again. It feels different. More ominous. A month or so goes by at home and I get worse. I put all my energy is getting physically fit again, trying to outrun the demons in my head. Within two months I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I haven’t outrun the demons. They are getting stronger. Its not someone else’s voice I hear. It is my own. My inner self telling me I have doomed these innocent children to the torture that is called life. That they are going to suffer in pain for the rest of their lives and then they will die and their souls will be tossed into oblivion. That by me choosing to have children I have intentionally caused their pain and suffering. I placed a death sentence on them. Then the visual hallucinations started. Visions of me suffocating my infant. I had just enough logic to understand that this was not real and that there was something very wrong now. I collapsed in the middle of the night, in the middle of my living begging my husband to call my mom. She came and held me, for a long time. They promised that this wasn’t real. That my brain was hurting me and that it was telling me horrible lies. They promised the my children were not doomed, that they were not going to suffer, that they would live lives with happiness and sadness in them but that they were not doomed. My family is Christian, they assured me that my children were not doomed to die and that their souls were not going to oblivion. I couldn’t believe any of this at this point. My mind had been poisoned by a long, slow trickle. I told them I wanted help, I didn’t want to live like this. My mom took the girls that night, not to keep them safe, but to keep me safe, to keep me from torturing myself, and to let me try to rest. I don’t remember if in the following days I went to the hospital or not. My memory is vague after that night. I know I saw a psychiatrist in the next couple days who diagnosed me with the little known post partum psychosis. I was now just like Andrea Yates. I was a monster. They put me on medications, I can’t possibly remember which ones now. They encouraged me to find a therapist. And told me to take is very slow and easy, to not let myself get overwhelmed or exhausted, that those would certainly trigger the hallucinations again. In the next months I tried going back to work, had my kids with me at certain times but they spent more and more time with their grandparents. I tried, I really did, but I was failing. I wasn’t getting better.¬†Several months down the line the doctor said this was no longer post partum psychosis. They threw out a new diagnosis. Bipolar Type II. The real war began.

Lupron and beyond…

The afternoon of April 26th, I was very tired and was forced to nap. This doesn’t usually happen so I consider it a side effect of the Lupron. The following day I was exhausted again. My period had stopped and it was usually a good day for me in my history. So again I attributed it to the Lupron was doing something! Which to me was good news. April 28 came and my anxiety levels were through the roof. It was pushing at my mind and at my heart. I could not sit still just like my mind would not stop racing. Again, I wasn’t supposed to have any PMDD symptoms on this day of my cycle, it had to be the Lupron. I ended up going for a 3 mile walk to work out the anxiety, it did help because it absolutely exhausted me. April 29 I was moody and irritable. I began doubting I had done the right thing. I had made another bad choice. April 30th I woke up feeling positive, a significant change from the previous day but things progressed during the day and I became angry and cranky again. May 1, day 8 of my usual menstrual cycle, I was doing better, but I was hot, which made me a bit irritable. May 2 came and went and I didn’t have a single complaint, the same for the next two days, even after getting a huge bill from the IRS.

May 5 arrived and it had its own issues. First off my dad was undergoing surgery and it really stressed me out and caused panic attacks. I was weepy all day. On top of that I started spotting, not too bad but it was more than just lightly and I never spot between periods. I also had bad cramps and it felt like my ovaries were being twisted and tortured. The next day the spotting and cramps continued but added to that was this heaviness in my chest, like I couldn’t get enough air. I called the doctor, they couldn’t treat me because of the chest issue and suggested I go to the ER. I did not want to do that. I was scared again. I was sure I had chosen wrong and that Lupron was going to be a disaster. I read and read, and realized what I was experiencing was the hormone surge!

Lupron works by working the pituitary glad and making it over produce LH and LSH in turn stimulating the ovaries to produce more and more oestrogen and progesterone until the ovaries go into panic mode and shut down.

I suffered bleeding, cramping, and body soreness one more day, May 7. However my mood was doing wonderful that day. Nothing could keep me down. Until May 13 I had no issues what so ever. I was even able to stop my caffeine and soda addiction cold turkey! May 13 I was doing great but that evening I snapped a bit, I looked in my journaling history and this is usually the time of my cycle that my progesterone is spiking. I should be off my rocker by now. May 14 was a hard day. I was very irritable, a little bit of rage, mood swings and crying punctuated by a horrible argument with my husband in which I could not seem to control what words came out of my mouth. Looking back on the episode later that night it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I had not once had suicidal ideation or an intrusive thought during this time. The rage felt blunted. The crying was simply frustration. I didn’t feel worthless. Something was different!

The next few days were blissful. I was calm, energetic, happy go lucky, and I felt alive. I could think clearly, my brain was working again.

On May 17, I spoke to my doctor again, I wanted to be able to make arrangement to go back and see my kids as soon as possible, so I was anxious to discuss the timeline for surgery, which I knew I wanted more than anything at this point. He understood and unexpectedly suggested we do the surgery June 9, 2016!! We got the ball rolling on that!

May 23, the day before my next Lupron shot, I was a little irritable under the surface but that is the only thing I could mention in all those days since May 14th. The next day I had my second Lupron injection. And off I went to live my life. I was still expecting at this point to have one final menstrual cycle, starting around May 26th, but it never came.

My days up to June 9 were wonderful. I was full of energy, happiness, and excitement. I had my bouts of doubt and anxiety but it was nothing, I brushed it off, talked with my husband and we went about our new lives together.

 June 8 my anxiety was very high of course. I was having major open surgery the next day. I have had major surgery before, gastric bypass and gallbladder removal. They were both laparoscopic, this was going to be open. Needless to say I did not sleep that night. I had instructions not to eat or drink after 11 p.m. which was actually pretty difficult as far as not drinking goes. I always have water sitting by me to drink throughout the day and night. It was also not fun because my husband had gone into work at 7:30 that morning and did not get home until after 9 p.m. and then had to continue to work until 1 a.m. before he could call it quits. Very frustrating and tiring for him on top of my nerves.

The day of surgery is here. I am to check in at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning to go over the paper work and get prepped for surgery at 7:30. The hospital is only 10 minutes away from our tiny apartment so getting up at 4 in the morning leaves us a lot of waiting around time. I take a long shower, trying to get the hot water to soothe my worries about the next
few hours. My overnight bag is all packed but all I really need is my cellphone, kindle, socks, and chapstick. So glad I have a pixie cut for my hair!
We get to the hospital and the check in process goes very smoothly, no questions or glitches. I can’t believe that something hasn’t been screwed up, I really can’t! Am I dealing with insurance at all? We wait about ten minutes and a nurse comes out and calls my name to follow her along with one other woman. Off we go! We are each led to an individual pre-op room and the nurse who brought me up will be my pre-op nurse, getting me set up for the surgery and answering any questions I have. She is very nice. A couple of other techs work with me for blood draws, setting up the leg compression wraps, and getting more signatures from me. The gown is a joke, barely covers my front. Really people, you won’t offend me if you ask me if I want a bigger gown. I know I am fat, its a fact of my¬†life. My husband is calmly sitting by me the whole time.

Time for the IV. If nurses knew about me before they tried this they would cringe and go looking for someone else to do it, always. I tell my pre-op nurse that my veins are hard to get to and that they roll, a lot. That I often get stuck more than two times and I am sorry. They put a hot compress on my arm and let it sit for about five minutes and then make a go at it. My nurse is kind, has gentle hands, but the needle just cannot get my vein to sit still long enough to get through it. I still have bruises from the first two attempts nine days out from surgery. She makes a call to the IV team and puts the compress back on my arm. I’ve gotten use to this routine. No biggie. My husband looks ill. They put a warming blanket on me.

Time passes, I just sit in silence or talk about the small things with my husband. Nurse checks in every once in awhile to see whether the IV team has come in or not. Its after 7 am now. The nurse calls another of the pre-op nurses to try to do the IV on me, they can’t wait any longer. I tell her to go for the hand, I know its going to hurt, I don’t care, it’s the best option at this point. She gets it the first time and it barely hurt!

The anesthesiologist comes in to speak with me. He is rather shocked that I have been put under anesthesia so many times already in my life, 25 times. He is full of energy and it is apparent he loves what he does. He offers me options, I regent them all, and just want the basic no frills. We get along just fine. He gives me something for anxiety, which I welcomed though I wasn’t really feeling that much anxiety.

My doctor who is also my surgeon comes in and reviews everything with me. We are all laughing and making jokes. This is going to be a new life for me and my family, we should be happy! Neither my husband nor I have any further questions and in pops in the surgical assistant, the operation room is ready for us. I tell my husband I love him, he responds. We are beyond the need for physical affection at this point, we just know.

I am wheeled off to my operation room. Its a nice room, lots of light, sterile, and full of humming devices. My anesthesiologist is there with his nurse, there is the operating room nurse, my doctor, and his assistant. We get me transferred over to the operating room table very quickly and they ask if I am ready. I say that I am, and they put the mask on me.

The recovery team starts trying to wake me up. All I can think at that moment is I don’t want to wake up, I was sleeping so peacefully for a change. No dreams. Then I notice my throat is very scratchy and very dry. They ask if I want some ice, all I can do is barely nod my head. They spoon feed me a couple pieces and then I doze off again. This happens for probably a little over an hour. I do try to wake up but I am so groggy! Sometime during this period both the anesthesiologist and¬†my doctor¬†came to tell me how fabulous everything went, that¬†it went better than they had expected¬†and things looked great.¬†Finally I am awake enough to start noticing my surroundings, what is going on around me, and listening to other people, whether they be nurses or patients. Pretty soon after that the nurse comes to tell me they finally have a room ready for me and are going to be taking me there.

About 12:15 in the afternoon I am installed in my private room. It is so peaceful. I feel so calm. I hurt, of course I hurt, I just had open surgery in which they removed some pretty major organs. I am still pretty tired and feel like I could go to sleep at any moment, and when I am left alone I try to do so. My husband comes awhile after 1 that afternoon to sit with me for awhile, but he is hungry and very tired and stressed. I tell him to go home after about an hour, I am not going anywhere and I am doing really well. This is all true. I don’t even have an estrogen patch on me yet.

Things go pretty well for my stay in the hospital. They finally put an estrogen patch on me but then had to move it because they put it on my shoulder (I told them abdomen) for some silly reason and the doctor came in and said what the hell. Other than that I got my catheter out in the early morning following the surgery. I walked then too, used the bathroom on my own, was able to get up and out of bed, sit in a chair, and get back into bed all on my own. The next day pretty much more of the same. I walked as much as I could and was switched off the pain pump to oral pain medications. Saturday showed up, June 11, I waited all day till the afternoon to hear the sweet words from my doctor, you can go home if you want to.

It was a vey nice hospital and the staff overall was very kind and gentle but I hate hospitals. For me, they feel like a place where death is just lurking around the corner waiting for you. The smell of them turns my stomach and I have a natural reaction of just wanting to run away.

My recovery from the actual surgery is going to be slow and I will likely still feel the effects months from now. However, the effects of the surgery on my symptoms of PMDD were immediate and absolute. The demon that has plagued me for five years, the demon with my voice and all my secrets, has fled. I look in a mirror and I see a woman who could use some work but look at the color of her eyes, they are actually pretty. The way her smile turns up the edges of her lips is perfect and so sweet. Her eyes sparkle, her freckles delight and her eyebrows express so much. The woman in the mirror I can actually say is pretty. But beyond that I can see that I am worth so much more. Beyond that I feel human, hell I feel more like a woman now than I did before. I am interested in living again. My creativity is back. My fun, outgoing, happy go lucky nature is coming out more day by day. My jokes are no longer only sarcastic and jaded. They are corny and silly and shocking. I don’t feel the need to hide away anymore. My brain is useful once more! I am recovering from major surgery but I feel like a bundle of energy and want to get out there and do things. I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to face the trauma and pain of the last several years. Now that I have treated my PMDD I have the ability to tackle it, to break old habits and start new ones. I have the ability to change and be changed.

What it all boils down to is that I was just hormonal. I know our society jokes about it and takes it way too lightly. I want that to change. I want to take back “being just hormonal.” Hormones can do crazy things to a person. Look at diabetes. Look at thyroid hormone disorders. Pituitary disorders. Hypothalamus disorders. Growth disorders. Why do we scoff at sex hormone disorders? It is no laughing matter. It is real. It should be prioritized. I nearly lost my life because of the attitude toward women and their hormones. I nearly lost my life because of ignorance and unwillingness to provide the right treatment to women. I nearly lost my life because my reproductive rights belonged to doctors, politicians,¬† and¬†insurance companies.

PMDD touches hormonal disorders and mental health disorders. It is very complex and needs to be treated on all fronts. I am happy that here in the USA that PMDD was recognized as a disorder in and of itself in the DSM V, but I feel that is going to steer the issue away from the root cause. Hormones. Many women cannot be treated for just the mental health symptoms. It is a half assed approach at best. There needs to be open and honest discussion between everyone about PMDD and the treatments for it. My solution is not the solution for all women, not even a majority of women and I don’t suggest it as such. I can only speak from my experience however and I never want to see anyone discouraged from a possible treatment that could change their lives. I cannot stop the pain that PMDD causes in the women who suffer and those that suffer along side her. I can stop the ignorance.