Finding Gratitude for my Depression
I had been suffering through depression for a while before being officially diagnosed. I do not have clinical depression, which may require taking medication daily; what I have is called PMDD or, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
PMDD is a cousin to PMS, but much more severe. I do fine for about three weeks of the month, and then the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle hits. During this time, I go from my happy, reasonable self-- to a raging, hormonal, sad shell of who I was days before. Before moving in with my then boyfriend/now husband, I would retreat to my bed or a yoga studio during those days of the month. It took us living together to realize that something was up…
The change of moving in and sharing a life with someone, living in a new country where I felt isolated from much of society (due to language and cultural differences) and studying a master’s degree that I was not interested in; brought out my PMDD. I would have days where I couldn’t go to class because I was in a deep dark hole. JK Rowling wrote the Dementors into the Harry Potter series to embody what she felt like while she was suffering through her depression. Being kissed by a Dementor is the best way to describe what I would feel like during those days. I would lay in bed and cry and hold the bunny that I have had since I was a child, and my husband did not know what to do, what could he do for that matter?
I started to take a bit of control of my issues by seeing a psychologist at the university I was attending. She was from Canada and very empathetic to my psychological needs as a foreigner living in a new country. She also helped me settle some stuff from my childhood (we ALL have it). Through all the therapy, something still felt off. I would see her during the deep pit of it all and during the times that life was going okay. When life was okay, I thought that I was getting better, and she did too. Then, a few dark days would come, and that idea was gone. I talked to her about PMDD and going to see a psychologist to have an evaluation. She thought it was a good idea, but it didn’t come to full fruition for a few months.
Through all of this, my husband and I decided to move back to The States. The lifestyle here is the best, and most affordable, in the Western world. For as much animosity as there is right now, it is still the country with the largest population of diverse people living as one society. With this, comes the greatest amount of potential and opportunity for success and happiness. However, this is all a tale for a different day…
When we decided to move, my happiness for getting out of the place that brought on my deep depression overshadowed the deeper issues that I had, and so I neglected to get a psychological evaluation. In the beginning, moving back to The US brought on more stress, which led to depression. Moving anywhere is hard, but an international move with an immigrant spouse in The Donald Trump-era is not something that makes most people think of milk and honey.
One day before my period began, and after spending the previous day in bed crying and yelling at my sweet husband, I decided it was time for a change. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was trying to seek help, and I hid it from my husband for a few days. I ended up telling him because he overheard me talking on the phone with the appointment operator and was worried something was wrong, but he was so proud when I told him I was seeking help. I used the online health insurance portal, provided by my husband’s job (if you have health insurance, know you are blessed), and found a psychiatrist with good creds.
I went into his office and went through an hour-long Q&A session to find out what I had assumed, but never really knew. I have PMDD. My doctor told me that this is not a lifelong illness and it is usually brought on by hormonal fluctuations, he prescribed me some medication and told me that I could choose to take it every day or track my period and just take it the week before my period begins. He also told me to make an appointment to see my gynecologist and see what she had to say about my hormone levels and his diagnoses.
I went to my gynecologist’s office, and I had a long, informative talk with her about PMDD and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). She explained to me that this kind of depression varies by person, and a hormone panel will not give me much information, as every woman reacts differently when her hormones fluctuate. She told me that the choice to go on an SSRI would be mine. If I decided to do so, I would need to see her every three months, and then we could try and taper off it in a year.
I decided not to go on an SSRI, I am not against them, but I am horrible at remembering to take medication. The brain is a sensitive organ, and I do not want to haphazardly mess something up because I forgot to take a pill. I find relief in knowing that I do have PMDD. I am better able to monitor myself and realize what is causing me to not feel right for a few days a month. I am learning how to thrive through depression and not just survive.
My depression has taught me to be fearless and to take ownership of my issues. It has taught me to seek answers when something does not seem right. It has also taught me to forgive myself and realize that I am human. It has taught me to seek help when I need it and not sit back and be a bystander to my own life. My depression has led me to take control of myself, my wants, and my needs, and for that, I am eternally grateful.