Sexy Happy

We slept deeply, oblivious of the sun’s arms stretching across the Boston skyline. My best friend and I stayed out late the night before dining and dancing with my brothers and sister-in-law on the uneven streets of downtown. Thanks to Priceline, we basked in the luxury of a 5 star hotel we could barely afford to breath in normally, drew the heavy room darkening shades tight and slept uninterrupted for hours.

When our eyes finally fluttered open and focused on the dimly lit room, giggles erupted. It hardly seemed possible that both of us could have slept so soundly well passed 9am. The crisp white sheets still smelled of bleach and lavender, with a hint  of tuber roses from my perfume.

Breakfast on the patio

Sunlight cut through the room, filling every corner wholly as the curtains were drawn. The day had started without us. I could see the ships docked outside our hotel room, casually curtsying to people as they strolled down the walkways. The tips of the water’s edge glistened and danced in the June air. It was the perfect morning. I felt energized and sexy happy, my body well-rested and content.

That trip was more than two years ago.

I have been taking Fluoxetine for almost two weeks now. My PMDD has not reared its ugly head yet. In fact, I still have a few days of calculated sanity before all hell typically breaks loose. I was prepared to “wait and see” how this drug effected my hormonal mood swings. I was prepared to brace myself for what ever came my way and even prepared to try something different after my 6-week follow-up if this drug was not effective. What I wasn’t prepared for was someone drawing open the room-darkening curtains of my life, revealing sunshine. Revealing that the days had started without me for a long time.

You don’t realize how depressed you are, until you aren’t. 

Happy had been relative to sadness. It was just better than despair. I have no idea at what point my eyes began to cloud, or when I started to dread waking up in the morning, or how many months had passed that my poor husband kept asking, “how was your day?” and I sullenly replied, “same as yesterday.”

This week I have more energy and patience. Each day is met with optimism and joy. Exercising feels more like a gift than a burden.  My body feels well-rested and content, just as I did that memorable weekend away with my best friend a few years ago.

I feel present.

I feel sexy.

I feel happy.

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

When Sad Days Become Sad Weeks

Young Woman Thinking --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I remember trying to explain to someone once how lonely and sad I was feeling at home while everyone was away at school or work.  Their response was,”You sound like a bored housewife.”

After that, I rarely divulged that kind of personal information. Instead I just pushed through each month on those “sad and lonely days” until they subsided. After all, they didn’t last for more than a few days. Surely I could muscle-up enough energy to at least shower and get dressed before my family got home in the afternoon.

I don’t remember experiencing postpartum depression after either of my children. There was a short amount of time I do remember struggling with teen hormones and the grieving of a failed marriage, but for the most part, I have been able to face life with joy and optimism.

Depression only happens to other people, unhappy people, people who have stressful lives.

Or at least that is what I thought until I got remarried and moved to Michigan.

It didn’t happen right away, but after a few years of constant cold and overcast days, my mood began shifting dramatically. First, it was just in the winter months, so I thought it was SAD, but then it became more cyclical during the whole year. I chalked it up to PMS since it coincided with my period. I increased my calcium intake, B and D vitamins, made sure I ate healthy and exercised. I was determined to have less sad days. But that only helped for a little while. Finally, a few years ago, I was more honest with my doctor about how I was feeling and we decided to try Yasmin for birth control, which is also prescribed for mild PMDD.

The mood swings were less harsh each month, although still cyclical. Maybe it was a mind-game. I could predict when the bad days would come and just bare down, wait it out. I could numbly go through the motions. And even though I felt detached from my life for a few days, I was still productive. I was still able to be present. I could still greet my family with a smile, a clean house, and a hot meal at the end of the day.

But lately those sad days have turned in to sad weeks. Earlier this month I found myself crying in the shower for the third day in a row, until the water ran cold and my fingers and toes were shriveled and numb. My voice reverberated off the walls. I was depressed. I was drowning in hormone fluctuations. My house was frozen in dust and clutter while my family had been eating frozen dinners. The things that brought me joy only caused stress. I didn’t write. I didn’t practice my oboe. I didn’t seek out any of my friends or extended family. Luna and I laid in bed for days watching TV.

When I finally came out of my funk and resurfaced, I called my mom. She had left several messages during those ten days. I was chipper and optimistic when I told her why I didn’t call her back right away.

“But it’s fine now, Mom, ” I assured her, “The two weeks are just about done and I can get on with my life now.”

Mom took a heavy breath.

“Two weeks a month is half of your life.”

“What?” I asked.

“Half of your life, ” she said, “you miss out on half of your life. How is that okay?”

It’s not okay, but I had never thought about it that way. I only focused on the two weeks that I felt great, the two weeks that I had energy and enjoyed being with friends and family. I looked forward to the two weeks I wasn’t in a total brain fog, when writing and playing my oboe felt effortless and fulfilling. That seemed like enough. I had forgotten what it felt like to enjoy my whole life.

There is little to no stress in my life. My marriage is good, my kids are healthy and doing well in school, relationships with our extended family are amazing and finances are solid. There are no outside influences causing me to fall in to this darkness. This is not my fault nor is it in my control. The time has come to swallow my pride and finally succumb to my doctor’s yearly recommendation of taking a more aggressive approach.

No one wants to see themselves as depressed or dependent on drugs for happiness, but I doubt anyone wants to miss out on half of their life either.

I sure don’t.

Friday Flip Offs 2/4: Hormones, Peeing on a Stick and Blog Envy

The weather has been less than stellar this week for most of the country, I think, and for those of us with children, that meant it could have been pure hell or a little piece of heaven. For me, it was a little bit of both. The first day the girls decided to abandon me and play with their neighborhood friends. Gone are the days that they want to hang out with mom baking cookies and snuggling on the couch watching movies on their day off from school. I have officially become chopped liver.

Being home with the kids also brought to light how much time I have recently spent on the computer. I went through a little bit of withdrawal when I couldn’t just sit and blog stalk. It wasn’t even writing that I wanted to get done, but drool over all the amazing bloggers that I want to be when I grow up. I flip off a big green, discouraged and slightly pitiful middle finger at myself for being so ridiculous. I’ve been suffering from blog envy. Everyone else just seems to have it all figured out and make it look so easy. I’ve been letting my OCD get in the way of why I even started this blog. To write. Not to sell stuff or have a bazillion weekly gimmicks, but to share a piece of myself and hopefully inspire even one person to be more than they ever thought they could be. Or at least know that who they are is normal. I’ve spent way too many hours trying to figure out how to make my blog LOOK better. There is no blogging design budget here ladies. It is, what it is. Free is good. (But of course , if a blogging fairy godmother wanted to surprise me with a cool new header and logo I would gladly accept such a generous gift.) I don’t have the funds, time or the means to turn this blog into Disney World, so my writing is just going to have to be enough. Even for me.

But in my spare time, I will still drool over all the bloggers that not only write great stuff, but look really cool. And I might secretly worship you, cyber stalk you or dream about meeting you one day. But please, don’t be scared.

A sweaty, hot, bloated and weepy one finger salute to hormones. Both little girl hormones  and my own. We’ve had a lot of tears lately about friends. What is it with us girls? We all desire to find that one special friend. I swear the process to find one is more painful and complicated than finding a husband. I’m so sick of hearing myself say, “honey, you’re just going to have to trust that your friendship with her is strong enough to stand on its own” every time one of my daughters’  friendships are being attacked by a friend stealer. I loathe friend stealers. Moms, please, if you teach your daughter nothing else, teach them how to make their own friends and to be a friend!

I think I could almost handle all of this girl drama without drinking if my own hormones weren’t totally out of whack. This is what my last couple of weeks have looked like:

  • Sore boobs
  • Suddenly sweaty hot in the middle of the night and then freezing cold
  • Weight gain
  • Radical mood swings
  • Super clumsy
  • Hungry like crazy

And yet, no period. I must say, it had me a little freaked out. The thought of being pregnant again at almost 38 years old made me nauseous.

“I’m on my way home sweetheart, is there anything you need?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Well?”

“Chips, salsa, guacamole and an EPT test”

“WHAT?”

“Just do it, alright?”

My hand shook like crazy as I peed on the stick. Thoughts of strollers and baby carriers, poopy diapers and cutting teeth started flooding my mind. I couldn’t look right away so I set the stick down on the counter and took another swig of wine. (Good grief, drinking while taking a pregnancy test. What does that say about me?) After a minute, I held my breath and took a look.

It said,

not pregnant.

I flipped off a tissue holding, wine swigging, sniffly finger at the stick. However, I’m not totally sure I was relieved or disappointed.

And last but not least, a very paranoid and twisted flip off to myself, again, for worrying that no one reads this blog. Well, except for some guy named Jim who has a dozen different “names” and keeps getting sent to my spam because all he wants to know is how to get girls to have sex with him. Really Jim? I know all of those spam hits are from you because the email is always the same! So besides him, where are all the Pajama Day stories, Facebook friends and Twitters? I made a call for Pajama Day stories yesterday and nada. Nothing. Zippo.Zilch. Yes, I know, it’s only been 24 hours and my blog doesn’t have any cool writing workshops, prompts or blog makeovers. I’ve never been a guest blogger or even gone to a blogging conference, but please – someone – write a pajama day story just so I can save face now. It doesn’t even have to be your own story. I’ll never know. And even if I did, who would I tell?

Sigh.

I might have to write a couple of Pajama Day stories under aliases.

Friday Flip Offs 1/28: Over-Caffeinated Boobs, Forgetfulness and Frozen Poop

I forgot that The Hare had choir club this morning. She reminded me last night. We laid out her clothes, pseudo-packed her bag and planned lunch. Somewhere between turning out the lights last night and coffee this morning, I forgot that she needed to get up 45 minutes earlier. It was a normal morning. The Tortoise successfully got out the door, coffee was made and emails were being checked. I actually planned to take a shower this morning, a real wash-your-hair, shave-your-legs and maybe even exfoliate my face kind of shower. (It’s been about a two and a half shower week.) At about 7:15am I shuffled some papers together on my desk. Suddenly staring me in the face was the choir club paper: start time 8am. Holy Frick! It was a mad dash to pull a sleeping child from her bed, dress her while she was semi-unconscious, shovel food down her mouth, finish packing lunch…and yes, rinse off in the shower so I don’t stink up the place too much. Whew. And we made it by 7:59. I’d flip myself off for being so forgetful but I can’t remember which finger to flail. I’m starting to wonder if I could submit myself for a reality television show. Apparently the daily chaos on those shows isn’t an act. I LIVE IT. EVERY. DAY. Although it would be harder to sell, I suppose, since we don’t have a dysfunctional marriage and I don’t curse all the time. I could change. I’m not opposed to cursing.

A double-espresso, I like-it-sweet-and-creamy, shaky middle finger goes to my swollen over-caffeinated PMS boobs. They hurt so bad that I have to sleep on my back. Putting on a bra is excruciating so the only comfortable undergarment at the moment is a super stretchy sports bra. My “girly” doctor has told me for years how important it is to lay off the coffee and chocolate while I am PMSing. Apparently the caffeine aggravates the soreness. Really? Let me assure you, that me without caffeine, aggravates EVERYBODY! Someone is going to have to come up with a better solution…Mimosas. Maybe that is a better solution.

I love that The Hare has always been able to entertain herself with imaginary play. She is an amazing story-teller, but sometimes enough is enough all ready.

“Hare, you need to remove that stuffed dog from the table.”

“But MOM! Coco has to eat too. She’s a service dog in training.”

“Hare, you must go to bed right now.”

“But MOM! Baby Emily needs to have her diaper changed and her jammies put on before bed.”

The conversations go on and on and on…sometimes it is hard to tell if she is playing or really lives in La-La Land. And of course, some of her “play” is a little too real. A major-embarrassed, hard-to-see-yourself, flip off to watching your child emulate some of your lesser qualities.

Last night The Hare was showing me her new puppy’s home. She has a Maltese Mix (go figure). In the middle of her room is a kennel, a plethora of “dog toys”, a water bowl, food dish, and a make-shift door to the “outside”, complete with a bell hanging from the door handle.

“See mom, it’s just like Luna puppy!”

I surveyed the area and couldn’t help but notice all the brown Legos speckling the floor.

“Yeah, that’s great, but why are all those Legos out?”

“Oh – that’s the frozen poop no one has picked up.”

Enough said.