I’m writing this with my aragonite crystal and blue apatite stone in my hand, my tranquility sea salt and rosemary candle glistening nearby, and a coffee that is 85% decaf and 15% regular because…anxiety.
I have been struggling. And I think it's okay to say so out loud.
I have not been as “publicly present” for awhile, and it comes down to needing space to process, heal, and survive. As you may know, I live every month with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This long term chronic condition has its way of evolving with age, stress, and just the complexity that can occur over the lifetime of a reproductive cycle. It has this curious not-so-fun tendency to show up in a new way or level of intensity time and again. This time around, it happened over the 2021 holiday season.
[Image: Single flower bud not yet open, under the rays of the sun at golden hour.]
I want to preface with these points:
Okay, deep breath.
In December, I was severely anxious and depressed. It had started with increasing panic attacks around ovulation, to the point where I felt like I was losing touch (detachment) with reality. I was experiencing what is called dissociation. It can come in different forms, and can happen on a spectrum of intensity. Dissociation is one of the brain’s defense mechanisms when it feels under threat or overwhelmed. The brain registers an urgent need to keep the person safe (e.g. in a panic state or recovering from trauma). Through the process of dissociation, the nervous system disconnects or pulls the person from reality to ‘keep them safe’. It is not necessarily a listed PMDD symptom in itself, though it can occur when one is experiencing excess anxiety. For me, it was like I was either not in my body, delayed in my sense of time, floating above ground, significantly disconnected from the loved ones and environment around me, or having an unsettling sense that things around me were not real. This unfortunately also was exacerbated by paranoia. I was experiencing episodes when I would have a significant and scary level of distrust in my environment and others around me. It was terrifying. If you know, you know. These clinical experiences can happen for folks living with anxiety, traumatic stress, postpartum mental health issues, and mood disorders like PMDD.
Then, like clockwork, in the days approaching my period, I felt the PMDD fatigue and depression coming ashore. However, this time around, I did not feel safe. It was one of the worst depressive episodes I have moved through in a long while. I had thoughts of unaliving myself and that was my cue to immediately call in for my partner/family support and to initiate a mental health plan. I was able to flow through that and feel safer with myself, but it was highly uncomfortable. Days later, my panic and paranoia came back with a vengeance and I went to the Emergency.
I am now seeing a psychiatrist, restarting SSRI medication (I had trialed SSRIs awhile back at the start of my PMDD journey), and beginning individual therapy again.
[Image: Single red orange flower in bloom, in a field under the rays of sun at golden hour.]
Why did I ask for help?
Why did I decide on medication and therapy?
Why am I sharing this now?
It felt right. I could say something 100x more profound I am sure if I had the brain capacity to do so. The truth is I am still sorting through it all. I am still very much actively healing, unraveling, expanding, hurting, yearning, and figuring out-ing. I needed time to be in my hermit survival mode for a while there. And if you are in that spot right now – you do you. Know that it’s entirely okay to take the time you need to love yourself in the ways your being is asking for. Many people are feeling exhausted and extra stressed right now. Whether you live with PMDD or not, this is a time of holding multitudes -- hope and sadness, awe and fear, uncertainty and trust. It can feel like a whole lot to carry and process everyday. This can feel extra tough for those of us living with chronic health issues. I personally am still in the haze of my meds trial and my anxious ‘how is this all going to turn out’ phase, so I still need time. My being is saying fairly loud and clear that it needs spaciousness to slow down, tend inwardly, and create room to feel the feels.
I am a clinical psychologist and a trained therapist – and I struggle with my mental health. I am practicing saying that out loud to honor this is my genuine truth *and* just in case there’s a lovely soul reading this and whispering, ‘thank goodness I’m not the only one.’ You are indeed not the only one out here in that field of unknown, blooming in the context of not-quite-there-yet. There was a time when I was managing my anxiety and depression well without medication and therapy. Then that changed. And. That’s. Okay. These paths of ours are not perfect linear healing trajectories. Grief, depression, stress, anxiety, lack of clarity, pain – it all comes when it does. It’s scary and feels wildly unfair sometimes. And you are so so right in wanting to feel more ease, more peace, more okayness. I hope this part of my story is a gentle comforting reminder in those moments when it feels really hard. You are not any less of a spectacular human when you need help, when you need to be cared for, when you need to do things differently than you have for a long time. Choosing to love on yourself – truly love yourself enough to take meaningful care of yourself – is such a gift.
I am practicing what I teach here. At the time of this writing (end of Jan 2022), I will be taking time away from my typical offerings to tend to my healing process and upcoming life transitions. I will likely not be as active on social media and newsletters. I am putting a pause on the ‘PMDD Grounding Circle’ gatherings for now. I have every intention to return with more creative loving community supports. My online PMDD mindfulness course is still available, as it’s an ‘evergreen’ course and can be accessed at any time. More of my energy will be saved for folks who are signing up for or moving through that course. (If you're interested in learning more, feel free to message me so we can chat about it.) I am hopeful that this mini break of 'tending to my garden' will permit me to show up with more supportive presence for the community.
In the meantime, if you’re finding any pieces of this story helpful to your heart, please do send me an email to let me know how it lands with you. I might be quieter these days, but would still absolutely *love* to hear from you. As always, feel free to share with others who may appreciate the read. Also, you're welcomed to join my newsletter (if you aren't on there already) and are interested in staying connected and knowing when I have new offerings in the future.
Sending gentle fierce waves of love, compassion, and reverence to your being.
💛 Dr. Mo
If you or someone you love is experiencing depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation please do reach out to your healthcare providers, such as your primary doctor, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. If you are seeking a therapist, there are multiple directories and suggested considerations listed on my Resources page. Additionally, IAPMD.org has resources for PMDD peer support groups and a clinician directory as well. In the event of a mental health crisis, there is help available.
~ Go to your local emergency room.
~ Contact your health provider's psychiatry hotline.
~ Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
~ Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
~ Text HOME to 741741 (Crisis Text Line, USA)
~ Text SHOUT to 85258 (Crisis Text Line, United Kingdom)
~ Connect with another crisis helpline local to your region.
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