It happened again.
Most months, I stare at my pill pack every morning and try to calculate what week it is. Is it THE WEEK? I used to keep a monthly health journal of sorts, and sure enough, every 24 days or so, good old PMDD would return. But now that things are back to normal, the countdown really only results in a day of weeping, napping, and cramps, none of those activities appearing with any particular ferocity. So this is PMS. I think this almost wonderingly. This is what normal women experience during their normal cycle. Maybe I am in the women’s club, after all.
But despite the pill and my usual watchfulness, occasionally it sneaks up on me. It did last week. PMDD’s affects on me so terrible, so gut-renching, so existential, that it convinces me that it is normal. PMDD never once entered my mind last week. It is so interesting how that happens. Every time, it feels so real, so pervasive, that there is no part of me that thinks, “Oh, there go my crazy hormones again.” Instead, I somehow wake up with a dread in my stomach and a strong conviction that my life is meaningless and always has been.
It was literally a difference between night and day this time. One night, after days of feeling like a zombie and contemplating the fact that I wouldn’t mind being dead, I fought with my husband. He winced as I tried to describe how I felt.
“I’m bored. No, I’m not bored. I’m distraught. No, I’m alone. It’s like… I’m underwater.”
I almost slept on the couch because of this fight, but my husband realized halfway through it that he was arguing with a little lost girl. He convinced me to curl up with him in bed, and he rubbed my head until all the demons stopped tormenting me and thoughts of my failure and my horrible finally dissipated into sleep.
I woke up singing.
The biological bounce-back is almost as startling as the PMDD. My eyes were clear, my head was demon-free, and my husband looked and felt again like my partner, instead of my worst enemy. He was happy that I was back, but he did tell me (kindly) to go see a shrink.
Do you think a counselor can help with issues that are biological? Would it lessen the impact of the “bad weeks?” What do you think?
How do you hold a job when you have PMDD?
I ask myself that question retrospectively. You see, taking Yaz, then Yasmine, then Ocella, has drastically removed my symptoms and changed my life. Am I being too dramatic? No. Whenever there was a switch from one pill to another (details to come in another post), I remember just how bad living with PMDD really was. One of these switches occurred while I was at a job that I had only been at for three months. I knew that once I switched to a new pill, the next month I would be facing a week where I would be exhausted (aka late for work), anxious (aka less able to deal with my abusive boss than usual), and downright weepy. Sure enough, it turned out that I had three sick days that month, days that were spent in my bed, curled up in the fetal position, whimpering. My roommate would knock on my door and ask how I was, but I was afraid, even of her. I made brief sprints to the kitchen to eat, and only on one of those three days did I have the courage to pick up the phone and call in sick.
I came back to work with the wrath of my boss waiting for me. I still wasn’t strong (it had taken a wake-up call from my boyfriend and breakfast in bed from my roommate to wake me from my 14 hours of sleep). He pulled me into his office and berated me for not calling in, for being gone for three days, for being unprofessional. I cried, and he took my tears for attrition. I returned to my desk, where I wiped off the poop of the mouse that lived in our office and hunched my shoulders, waiting for the next blow. None came.
A few days later, I was a different person. I did not feel anxious or weepy, exhausted or insecure. I was furious. I asked my boss for a meeting and met with him, telling how unkindly he had handled my sick days. I had told him a month before about PMDD, but apparently the acronym meant nothing to him.
“I know how you’ve said you struggle sometimes with… emotional issues.” he was uncomfortable even thinking the word ‘period’ in his mind.
I thought about an employee who worked in the downstairs of our office, one who had been to a mental hospital for weeks on end for some dramatic mental illness. Schizophrenia? Paranoia? Hallucinations? I had a feeling that whatever he had suffered from, it had a name that was more recognizable, and symptoms that were more firmly masculine, than PMDD. Had said employee been called into this office, berated for ’emotional issues?’
It is unfortunate that the first job I held after knowing I had PMDD was with a very insensitive and sexist boss. This showed in many other areas and with many other employees besides myself. But the thing is that even when I am healthy, the part of me that remembers PMDD and has been judged for it is always somewhere in the corner of my mind. This means that even now, when I am healthy and smart and only as lazy as the average American, there is a part of me that is still crouching in the corner of my bed, afraid of bosses and professors and roommates who might judge me for my periods of– for lack of a better word– insanity.
And now I am about to take another job. Throughout the interview process I have paid close attention to my new boss. And I find myself nervous to take the job. I will be good at it. I will work my hardest. But what if it turns into the nightmare of my last job? What if I have to switch pills again? Will I explain my “emotional issues” to my boss, or simply feign the flu three months in a row?
I would love to hear from other PMDD sufferers, or anyone whose life interrupted by the effects of Aunt Flo. How do you hold a job? How much do you share? How often do you find your symptoms re-occuring?