There are bears lurking all hot and hungry in the woods and there ancient alligators gliding sure and slow under the surface waiting to lunge and consume. The Spanish moss hangs in haunting swags and spidery tendrils. In my canoe, poling alone, weighed down with tatty packs full of wadded up anxiety shoved in amongst moth-eaten fears and crusty self-loathing, I nearly drown in my own head before the world’s real threats can even touch me. The energy emanating from my exertion to stay afloat unfurls like an oppressive fog until all creatures have retreated to their respective warrens, hunkering down until the storm passes.
It is a countdown every month, the last seven to ten days of my monthly cycle, exercising caution as I process the input of the world around me, taking my prescribed meds and a handful of herbs and vitamins to try and quell the approaching storm as it creeps across the fields and valleys of my of my soul. The last couple of days are like trying to paddle through the okefenokee. Then day one, the day before I Aunt Flo arrives, my existence is lIke trudging in high heels and a hoop skirt through a mangrove forest, all tangled and dark with misty beams of sunlight struggling to slice through the humidity rising from the swamp of my mind.
We each have our swirly little pools of cra’y cra’y we wade around in now and again. For some these pools are infrequent, irregular or easily avoided. For some they are a more regular part of life and as predicable and unavoidable as hurricane season. For the sake of others who may have their stormy seasons with no one to offer them rain boots or even words to claim the storms as their own I want to open a very raw and personal conversation about my own seasons in the swamp.
Friends, my canoe is filled with backpacks full of what we now understand to be PMDD. According to the-easy-to-digest definition by WebMD Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS but are severe enough to interfere with work, social activities, and relationships. I can not even begin to tell you folks how understated this is. We are not talking about some little irritability or annoying mood swings, we are talking about a cycle in my life where 7-10 days out of every single month of my life I can easily morph into the antithesis of everything I hope to be. And then within moments of my cycle coming to its periodic conclusion, the fog lifts and I am instantly me again.
As a society we largely dismiss this sort of cra’y cra’y with very little understanding and even less compassion. Women are already treated like second class citizens in so many aspects of our society and the health-care industrial complex is right there in the mix of largely ignoring the significance of hormones in regulating an amazing array of biological and psychological functions. Doctors dismissed my mother’s own struggle with the very same disorder even though we all knew and suffered along with her. It nearly killed us all at times. But it a’int just the doctors, the church is right accomplished at maintaining a deadly silence on issues of mental health.
But what I now know, that by owning this, knowing who I am and how I have been created, I do not have to be owned by my monsoons. Over time I have even learned to see in these torrents of thoughts and emotions as gifts. (Have you ever known a truly undisturbed writer? Me either.) I have learned to embrace the regular storms of my life as gifts that flush from the storm drains of my mind some of my most painfully profound ponderings. I have also learned that I must attend to my body by listening to the doctors who do understand, avoiding foods that trigger my worst days, engaging in daily exercise no matter how much I hate it (and I LOATH it), avoiding booze which swings my moods like a mad pendulum during my PMDD days and taking the very little bit of meds required for just those seven days. If I am careless with any of my triggers I can become nearly unrecognizable as the human of gentle grace I pray I am every day. By acknowledging the dangerous swamp of my reality I can help cultivate a more lush and loving reality for myself and my family.
Are you mired in the swamp of your own biology or psychology? End the silence, take care of yourself and take ownership of your life.
Thanks be to God for storms and for the rainbows of promise on the other side.
What is PMDD? http://meetmypmdd.blogspot.com/p/what-is-pmdd.html