Talking about depression is more uncomfortable than a Pap test.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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.

KNOCK. KNOCK.

“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 am validated.

I will be okay.

*Related Post: When Sad Days Become Sad Weeks

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16 thoughts on “Talking about depression is more uncomfortable than a Pap test.

  1. Appreciate your sharing.

    We should all be so comfortable talking with our doctor, OR we should find a new doctor.

    Thank you for a lesson in speaking up and speaking out.

  2. It is amazing to me how we always assume other people have it more “together” than we do, and that “I should be able to handle this, or fix this etc.” Bravo for talking to the doctor! And Good luck!

  3. O geeze…I to have PMDD, and my meds are great! You know when you feel like yourself, and you know when you dont. I knew I didnt feel like myself at all, and it took me years seeing my fabulous Dr. to before I could choke up the words out loud.

    SOOOO happy I did….there’s no turning back now.

    Love
    Shannon

  4. You’re so right… the cliche of PMS moodiness makes us feel like we should just get a grip and go on with our day. Add to that how reluctant our society is to acknowldge any mental health issue and it’s a wonder any of us ever seek the help we need. Thanks so much for your courage in sharing your experience.

  5. Thank you so much for writing about this, and thank you for including my words. That kind of thing isn’t much easier to write than it is to talk about. You have to pull things out of your gut to communicate about this stuff. But fortunately, it’s also a way things can improve.

    So good to hear that you were heard and embraced. It’s the only thing you’re really hoping for at that moment.

    Take good care,

    Erika

  6. I have absolutely been there Emily and it happened to me almost exactly the same way. My OB/GYN is the one who helped me. And he really did help me. So glad you tok that step and good days are ahead.

    I have missed you but am back on a roll again.

  7. You are so brave, girl! It’s not easy to admit when life is being difficult on us. Kudos to you for reaching out to your doc for help. Sending good vibes your way – you CAN and WILL get through this. Stay strong and don’t be afraid to ask others for help when you feel overwhelmed. *Hugs*

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