I wake up, my heart is racing out of my chest because I’ve just woken up from one of the worst dreams I’ve ever had. It’s always one of the “worst” dreams I’ve ever had, every fear, every negative thing I could ever have thought of, it just comes up in this one carefully packaged nightmare. As I come to my senses and pick up my phone, check messages, check the time, the weather… things don’t get any better. There’s this odd heaviness on my chest, numbness in my fingers, and an overall feeling of doom that has come virtually out of nowhere. “What is this?” I wonder. I go through my entire yesterday bit by bit, I think about the things in my life that are going well, I think about the people I love, and I wonder: “Did something happen to make me feel this way? Why do I feel so anxious and nervous? Why am I so accelerated right now? Why do I feel like there’s nothing wrong but there’s going to be something wrong? I am awfully good at feeling things before they happen…dreaming them even, could this be it? Is something going to happen?” all of these thoughts move through my mind at a speed of a thousand light years and I haven’t even been awake for more than 10 minutes. I think that perhaps my blood pressure is low (I tend to suffer from that), I think maybe I need a salty snack, or to make my way to the bathroom and wash my face with some warm water. I chuck it up to not being a morning person, but 20 minutes into this I start to fear it’s something else. After I brush my teeth I make it back to bed, because I can’t really bear to do anything else, I can’t help but think it wasn’t always this way, I didn’t always wake up like this; but in the last 5 or 6 years I have. Not always… just on some random days, and no matter how much I know, I never know enough to immediately realize what it is. I go through the things I did the day before, and the people I saw and I see that it’s all happy. I remind myself that I have an amazing family, that I have an amazing boyfriend, that I’m studying, that I live in a great city and run through the perpetual list of fun things and experiences I’ve had lately. It’s odd… it all seems good, and yet I feel off and it makes me feel even worse. Suddenly I feel like the biggest ungrateful jerk that ever lived and I just want to either a)fake my own death/disappearance or b) tell everyone I’m sorry but I simply just quit…quit at being in their lives because I suck. Suddenly an alert pops up on my phone screen “You are now a week away from your period, remember you get crazy and you feel even more crazy”. I can see myself over 3 years ago programming that alert to my phone so that every month I’d get the reminder, and yet it still wasn’t enough to save me from this.
Every month at around the same time I experience something doctors like to call PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) it’s basically PMS on steroids. It’s like in Shrek, when Fiona the beautiful princess turns into an ogre at night so she has to hide in a cave? Yeah, it’s like that… but magnified by a thousand, because if I actually stayed a pmdd ogre no one would be writing a fairytale about it I can tell you that much. It normally kicks off exactly 10-9 days before the period actually shows up, and honestly… it’s a nightmare. The first thing that happens is that I get super negative and low quite suddenly, I simply wake up that way one day wondering who died, because it honestly feels that tragic. I then turn a bit paranoid because I start wondering if other people notice that I’m slightly off, and I start fearing that they will because it just isn’t the easiest thing to explain. How do you explain that to friends? To classmates, to your students, to the person you love in your life? How do you just casually say… “erm by the way I’m basically a psycho hyper-emotional weirdo for like a week or so out of every month, but like… it’s totally okay, once it’s over you can love me, I can love you and we’re all good, it’s all good!”. Life doesn’t stop because I have this, I still have to teach classes, I still have to study and meet with people, and yet I feel like mentally any bit of information that is a little bit out of the ordinary, and a little more than letting my brain turn to mush my watching YouTube hair tutorials is going to send me for some sort of intergalactic negativity ride. Whether it is by coincidence, or just really bad luck, a lot normally does come up during those weeks too. Blame it on the PMDD or on life just loving to test you but normally in the start of that week is when the most things magically go wrong. I mean people cancel classes, I’ve gotten fired from jobs, I’ve moved, I’ve lost friends, loved ones don’t feel well, I have a super nerve-racking presentation… you name it, it seems to have to happen on the week where I feel that the best thing I can be in life is a human burrito wrapped in a blanket watching Bridget Jones and eating chocolate.
I wasn’t always like this… and that’s the most difficult part. I still remember when I was welcomed into the women’s monthly chocolate eating club when I was thirteen. I took it quite well, didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal, and for most of my teenage years it wasn’t. I felt like one of the “lucky” ones, I never felt pain, I was upbeat, energetic, and honestly I was fine. Most of my friends complained about their time of the month and talked about how awful it was, how it lasted for a week, how it was filled with pain and cramps, and even fainting. I was glad because I just wasn’t one of those women, after 3 relatively painless days mine was over, and I could go back to normal. This normality went on for years, but around age 23 something changed. I didn’t immediately know the cause but I was beginning to feel awfully depressed and anxious around the same time every month. I didn’t pick up on the pattern until I started checking my journals, and noticed that I went into a deep pit of despair at the same time each month. It was so odd, almost like a spell… like my normally happy self just couldn’t be happy no matter how hard I tried for almost a week. I would argue more with my sister, I’d get super sensitive and cry about everything anyone said to me. I felt rejected and abandoned, and the only person who could help me was my mom. I had always had little bits and bouts of depersonalization since I was a kid, but during these weeks I almost felt that I didn’t exist -and in the worst moments too. We could be shopping at a store and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was checking my hands and rubbing them so that I knew that I was really standing there and everything around me was real. Mirrors gave me a slight anxiety because I questioned my own existence, it sounds absolutely nuts but that’s exactly how I felt. It’s like I was disappearing and I was fighting to stay here, to stay here for myself and for everyone else and I was so angry that no one could see me… but at the same time, I was angry with myself for not being able to tell anyone I was here, that I needed them.
These last few months I’ve felt it more than ever. I’ve wondered how I can break the spell? Maybe I haven’t prayed about it enough, maybe I haven’t even wanted to admit that this is a real problem, that perhaps I need help. I just don’t want to see myself, me, the adventurous, happy and strong independent person as someone who needs help. But the truth is maybe I’m starting to see that I do. I wish I could tell people, that I can’t think straight during these weeks, and that when someone expects me to make a decision or to think about something really big I feel overwhelmed. I’ve always been someone who tackles one thing at a time, I can’t have too much on my plate, but during these weeks I feel like I can barely have my own head attached to my body. I try to stay positive for my family’s sake. My mom is the most positive and happy person I know, she’s not one for wanting sadness around her, and with good reason… but sometimes, I feel awful. My students, it’s not their faults that their teacher can’t concentrate and is forgetting some grammar information. My boyfriend, it’s not his fault that I can’t think straight about topics, or that I just feel anxious and defensive about things I can normally think level-headed about. It’s no ones fault, not even mine. Yet I always feel like it’s mine, and when I have a day like the day I had today, I’m forced to ask myself why on earth this has to happen, and why on earth I’m hurting the people I love most.
This morning I woke up and the room was spinning, the short-lived energy I had over attending an aerial Pilates class had flown out the window, I had a series of negative and odd dreams, I felt disconnected, like my life wasn’t real… and for a few minutes I wasn’t even sure where on earth I was. I started thinking about the fact that in less than 10 years I had moved almost 20 times, and instead of being excited about it I wondered if that’s why I have a slight feeling of constant displacement. Of fearing to make plans for the future, or to even talk about it because I just never feel that I know where I’ll be. If perhaps the feeling of depersonalization comes from looking at person who has no idea where they are going or if they’re going to make it, someone who feels like they’re just dragging everyone else down an unknown path. “Not everyone wants to be a nomad, not everyone wants to be both emotionally and physically nomadic” I say to myself. I wonder often who really wants to stay, I start wondering if my fears are showing, if it’s spewing out left and right to the point that even the people who pass by me on the street can see it and feel sorry for me. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me I think. I don’t want anyone to see this.
If there’s something I’ve heard a lot from friends and acquaintances it’s how much of a positive and inspiring person I am. I always feel happy when they say that because for the most part, I think I am, I think I’ve survived a lot, but then weeks like this come by to remind me that I’m just kidding myself. I’ve always told myself that it’s no one elses fault you’re having a bad day, everyone deserves a smile, someone else could be worse off than you, smile. I smile a lot. I laugh a lot, and when I do… I’m honest about it. But deep down I’m laughing because otherwise I don’t have anything else, I know I have nothing else but the faith and the belief that when this week is over hopefully things will be back to normal. Lately however, I’ve been wondering if the tornado I am leaves anything behind to go back to normal in a week or not. If the civil war that takes place between my normal conscious self and the reactive hyper-sensitive storm is destroying everything, is leaving everyone to find shelter far away from me. I have moments during these stormy weeks when I laugh, when I feel okay, I feel a bit stable, the tide has gone down a bit and the waves aren’t dragging me in… and in those moments I feel like I can do this, like I can function normally and be in control during this time. Sadly, those moments feel short-lived. I guess I just want to say… I’m sorry, to everyone I love, and to everyone that I feel I’m letting down by not being an inspiration during this time, the truth is I’m not inspiring myself much either. I feel like I need people to be there for me, but like these storms leave people without resources, and in those moments I’m not too sure what to do other than sit here in the midst of bitter tears and hope that I can imagine another ending to the day, a scenario in which I take a flight (it’s always a flight) but this flight takes me and those I love to a beautiful place where we are all happy, where everyone I love is with me and we are all happy. I like to think about that place, there are no arguments, no low moments, no sadness, just up and up, just a million emotional eternally happy red balloons that float up into the sky and never come down. I know in a few days I’ll read this and scoff about it, I’ll probably even laugh and maybe… just maybe the sun comes up and all is back to normal. But I know very well what happens, and how it affects people, how I just can’t handle what everyone else can sometimes, how I just feel like I’m letting myself and everyone down, I know there’s a tornado that develops every month and though it only lasts for a little bit, I’m very aware of how it makes everyone feel. Of how it makes me feel.