Sunday, July 29, 2012


About 6 months ago, I started noticing some pretty crazy things going on in my mind and physically. I'm a bit nervous to share all of this, but I figure it'll be good to get out there if anybody is experiencing the same thing. Or maybe you've hung out with me recently and felt I was a bit "off". Also, if you believe that PMS is just a lame excuse some women have, maybe this will change your mind.

I noticed feeling some really intense ups and downs a few months ago. I would feel so on edge and anxious at times and some months, I'd even have fleeting suicidal thoughts. I felt crazy!
I basically fluctuated between this
...and this
 It was such an interesting experience for me to have. I'd think things like, "I am so anxious right now. I just want to cut or go run around." or thoughts like "I can't do this anymore. Everybody would be better off if I were dead." Then shortly after thinking these thoughts I'd think, "Lauren, what the heck! You know that's not right! Why are you having thoughts like this? What is going on? Of course, your life is worth living. You have great family and friends. You are having a hard time right now, but you will get through it." I remember feeling like my skin was crawling because I was so anxious. I was so embarrassed and ashamed to even be so overwhelmed and having such thoughts. I think I had some increased guilt because I am a therapist and help people through these issues daily at work. Aaron could obviously tell something was going on and would ask if I needed to get out of the house for a bit- which I felt guilty for saying I needed. I was already in school and seeing clients and then he was sensing my anxiety and depression and offering for me to leave more. I couldn't believe it.

I have a Period Tracker on my iPod that can track moods, cravings and I could put in notes so I started tracking days of the month when I was feeling especially low- something I often advise my female clients to do. I just wanted to see if it was correlated with my cycle or not. I should also add that I've had a Mirena IUD in since 6 weeks postpartum (almost 2 years ago) so I hadn't recently had any changes in medications like birth control. I couldn't believe how obvious the pattern was!! My really hard days of depression or anxiety were always 2 days before starting my period. Always. Some months were harder than others, but on any given month I could guarantee that 2 days prior to my period's arrival, I would be on edge and easily breakable and pretty crazy feeling.

I finally talked to Aaron about it. I was so embarrassed. He expressed to me that it was really hard for him and Aidan. He suggested I go talk to a doctor because "Aidan and I don't like this Lauren. We want the other Lauren." It broke my heart to hear it, but I knew it was true. I wasn't being as good of a wife and mother to them as I could. The next day, I talked to my mom about what I was experiencing. She asked if I was working out, eating well etc. Of course, I'm not as good about these things as I used to be and have been trying to work them back into my schedule. I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor later that day to check out my symptoms and get an opinion.

I was terrified for this appointment. I just switched insurance with my job so it would be my first time meeting this provider and I was going to have to tell her about these crazy thoughts I was having and then "Oh, and by the way, I'm a therapist." I was worried about how she would react and what she would think. I worry a lot about what other people think. Aaron drove me to my appointment and dropped me off and picked me up. My doctor was really great and understanding. I felt totally comfortable with her.

The diagnosis- PMDD (Premenstural Dysphoric Disorder). I'd heard about it a few years ago when we had cable or at least seen some birth control commercials that said they helped with PMDD "a more serious form of PMS that affects 5% of women". My doctor suggested I try to exercise more regularly, eat a healthier diet and also asked if I wanted to take medication. I felt more shame and guilt. But then again, I tell my clients to take medication if it will help them function and do better. We talked about it and since I was just starting to wean Aidan I wanted something that wouldn't interfere with breastfeeding. She prescribed a very low dose of Zoloft for me to take for the 13 days prior to my period starting. Luckily my period is pretty consistent.

The first cycle after that appointment, I did my best to work out and have a good healthy (ish?) month. I was still super agitated 2 days before my period. Not as bad as before, but seriously, I could tell. It's just that on edge icky feeling. I figured that the following cycle I should actually take the zoloft as prescribed since the workout/sleep/eating regimen didn't totally cure the symptoms.

The first day I took a zoloft I was scared out of my mind. I took it on a Sunday and was worried about how I might start acting at church in front of other people, if symptoms would appear out of nowhere or what. For  those taking Zoloft for PMDD, it's supposed to work instantly. I remember feeling like things were rolling off of me and I wasn't so stressed and overwhelmed- even just by watching Aidan during sacrament meeting. It was crazy to realize that I could have a reaction that wasn't so tense and agitated. Who knows, it could just be placebo affect, but I'll take it if it works! Placebo affects have been shown to help heal cancer so helping PMDD is totally awesome, too ;-)

This has been a very humbling experience for me.

First, to know that some mental issues can come out of nowhere after a long time without them. There isn't always a hint. Sometimes they just hit out of nowhere.
Second, to know that even if I do all that I can in my control, I may still need help of medication and others around me.
Also, it's just great to know that I do have a good network of support around me to help me through anything I might need.
It was good to get some honest feedback from Aaron even though it was pretty hurtful to realize how I was acting was affecting those I really love and care about. I'm glad Aaron and I have a relationship where we can talk openly with each other.

I'm glad I've had this experience because I feel like I get a little more the struggle my clients go through when struggling with a mental/physical illness, having to try medication and not knowing what to expect.