Talking about depression is more uncomfortable than a Pap test.
I could hardly breathe sitting alone on the examining table Tuesday morning, wearing nothing but a loose, unattractive gown that opened to the front and my black, grey and royal blue striped knee socks. At least with my socks on I didn’t feel completely naked. I picked them out especially for that morning because they are new and without holes. The blue stripe matched perfectly with the blue Tye-dyed scarf I wore into the office, but of course my doctor would never know that; she’s never seen me dressed.
I waited anxiously, staring at my socks.
“OK, Emily, so we are just going to do the usual today,” the Doctor said, shuffling through my chart and glancing at the gynecological instruments laid out carefully.
“Do you have any questions or concerns before we get started?” she asked smiling, “The nurse mentioned you were interested in changing birth control pills.”
She has been my doctor for nine years. When no other doctor would take me seriously about my thyroid, she worked miracles. Although she is mostly a General Practitioner now, she used to be an OB/GYN and is still categorized as a Women’s Health Specialist in the area. She talks openly and directly about everything and has never made me feel inconsequential, and yet, I was still on edge and closed lipped.
“I got new socks,” I said staring at the floor.
“Those are fantastic!” she remarked.
And then the flood gates erupted. I poured myself all over the small, brightly lit room, unveiling my darkness. I told her how ashamed I felt that I couldn’t handle PMS like other women, how I felt like I was either going crazy half of the time or mourning the death of someone. Anger would ignite for no reason and without warning. Sometimes I would experience insomnia, staying up for hours past my family, while other days I couldn’t get out of bed at all. I didn’t tell my friends, family or my husband for fear of them not taking me seriously. I was embarrassed and felt like I should be able to control all of these irrational feelings and behaviors. Handful of stories about my hormonal chaos bubbled over uncontrollably until there was just nothing left to say.
“You are not crazy nor should you be ashamed,” she said thoughtfully, “I believe you have PMDD and we will fix this.”
Suddenly I could breathe again.
What was most refreshing was not having to endure any more ridiculous comments like:
- Everyone has to deal with some type of PMS
- Eating a healthy diet and exercise would reduce your symptoms
- You should take more vitamins
- Maybe you’re just bored and need to find a hobby or something
“PMS has often gotten a bad rap over the years. It conjures up visions of highly emotional irrational women, screaming and crying for days before her period. Like saying a woman has PMS that day is a blanket excuse for all kinds of ridiculous behavior. Not saying there isn’t some basis of truth there (highly emotional, sometimes irrational), but it’s been scoffed at and belittled so much it gets very little real respect.
So bring in PMDD, a true mental health disorder that rides piggy-back on a woman’s hormonal cycles. The crashes are devastating, the return to normalcy is suspicious and all-too-short. It’s like a roller coaster that doesn’t let you off. Once you can see that the ups and downs are inevitable, the despair and anxiety set in. What will I be like when my in-laws come over next week? Will I still be OK, or will that be the first day I start going down the drain? I finally feel better now, but just look at my wreck of a house!” ( Erika Krull, MS, LMHP in her article PMDD – Hard To Endure Harder To Explain)
My husband, family and friends may never truly understand how I have felt and that is okay. My doctor and I have a plan of action that will undoubtedly need tweaking along the way, but I am optimistic. I will meet with her in six-weeks to see how these changes are impacting my life. It seems so foolish now that I waited this long to talk to my doctor in the first place. Who would have thought that talking about depression would be more uncomfortable than getting a Pap test?
I was heard.
I was validated.
I will be okay.
*Related Post: When Sad Days Become Sad Weeks
My Pajama Days - "Trying on life one flannel pant leg at a time."
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