In the interest of being completely open and honest, I want to tell a story. About a year ago, I found myself in a slump. It was summertime, so the kids were out of school. I was a home with our five and two-year-old boys. I was experiencing worsening pre-menstrual syndrome. I'd stopped working out regularly, and I was drinking more than was healthy. I first noticed it when my youngest was about eighteen months old, and by the time he was two, I was almost debilitatingly depressed ten days out of the month. During that time, I'd get up every day and drag myself through my obligations, constantly fighting the urge to curl up in a ball and cry. I was depressed about nothing, and then everything I encountered throughout the day, from traffic to puppies, made me more depressed. I'd work really hard at being cheerful for the kids, but they knew, and their moodiness reflected my own. I remember trying to make dinner in the kitchen while the kids watched cartoons in the living room and sinking down to sit on the floor, hidden beneath the cabinets, my head in my hands, trying so hard not to lose it. "What the hell is wrong with me?" going through my head like a mantra. I tried to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I read books and articles and followed their advice. I started a new exercise program. I took vitamins and made sure I was drinking plenty of water and all that. Nothing really helped. I tried to cut back on my alcohol, but I couldn't seem to do it for more than a couple of days. Wine was my salvation at the end of the day, something to look forward to, something to get the stress to melt away and my brain to stop racing. Finally, I'd had enough. I was reticent to try medication, because I was supposed to be able to handle this on my own, I thought, but I was tired of being depressed half the time and having to work so hard not to scream at my children . School had started, I had more time to myself, I was exercising regularly again, and I still did not feel any better. I owed it to myself and my family to try medication. I knew it was hormonally driven, after all. It happened at the same time every month like clockwork. I made an appointment with the gynecologist, and before I went, my husband told me, "Don't just tell him you feel kinda down. Tell him what's really happening. Tell him it's affecting your happiness and your life." This was sage advice. He knows I have a habit of downplaying my feelings, so as not to seem melodramatic.
It was uncomfortable telling my doctor what I considered personally sacred information, details of my emotions I'd taken months to admit to myself and my husband, but I steeled myself and said, "I get depressed to the point of wanting to cry all the time at the same time every month for the past year. It's affecting my life and my relationships, and I want to fix it." To my relief, he didn't act judgmental. He didn't suggest all the things I'd already tried, like adjusting my diet and exercise. He said matter-of-factly it sounded like PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) and wrote me a prescription for Zoloft. Feeling empowered, I had it filled right away and began taking it ten days before my period started. It made all the difference in the world. I didn't feel numb or over-the-top euphoric like I'd feared. I felt normal, which was wonderful. Suddenly, things seemed manageable. I'd still get down, but all the things I'd been trying over the last months to improve my mood actually began to work. I'd go outside to get some fresh air and actually feel better, which was amazing to me.
Not too many months after cycling on and off the medication, I began to get mentally antsy. I couldn't figure out why at first. Then, I realized I had extra energy to burn. For a long time, for ten days out of the month, I'd been draining my energy just getting through the day and keeping it together. Then, it would take me a few more days after that to dig myself out, emotionally. Now that I didn't have to work so hard to just get out of bed and not cry, I could focus on other things. I cut way back on my alcohol intake - what seemed like a huge sacrifice months earlier suddenly didn't even seem that difficult. I was tired of being hungover three days a week, and I wanted to be more productive and a better example for my kids. I started looking into fitness as a business. A friend had talked to me about it months earlier when I didn't think I could handle it, and now it seemed not just possible but exciting. Now I'm working on my business and writing more. I'm more patient with the kids, more in touch with my friends and family, and happier in general, because I feel productive. I still take Zoloft ten days out of the month, and it makes me a tad sleepy, but it's so much better than being in the hole I was in, I don't even care. In the end, I did pull myself up by my bootstraps. I made my life fuller, better, happier, but I needed a stepping stone to get there, and I had to be strong enough to admit I needed it. To close, I want you to know this has been hard to write, and it's going to be even harder when I click "publish post" and put the link on my Facebook page. It feels unnatural to me to share my deep personal insecurities with…well, with anyone. I decided to do it, though, because it's therapeutic for me, because one of my new goals is to be completely, whole-picture, honest about who I am, warts and all, and because I know there have got to be people out there experiencing something similar who might read this and take heart in knowing they're not alone.