By Brooke Raines
Barely Hanging On
Work was stressful. I was tired all the time. I suffered terrible migraines and headaches. I constantly felt overwhelmed. But I wasn’t doing anything that anyone else wasn’t also doing. My schedule wasn’t any busier than anyone else’s, so why did my day to day life overwhelm me so much? My husband did not understand either. It always seemed that right before my period my mood would be terrible and everything in life went wrong. My husband said he’d noticed this for years. I figured this was just normal PMS and I was just at a point in my life where I didn’t spend enough time on myself, so it was easier to notice.
In May of 2015, I was promoted to director of one of our Reggio-Emilia preschools at the nonprofit where I worked. Those first couple of months I worked 7am-6pm most work days, not including monthly night meetings. Once again, this overwhelmed me more than it would most people.
I met one of my very best friends at this job and she helped me see what was going on. We often discussed mental health and motherhood. She has kids the same age as mine. I finally felt like I had someone in Salt Lake that understood me and I could talk to about anything. She helped me to realize that maybe I still had lingering postpartum depression. Could postpartum depression last for two years?
So many other things went on that year that should have been red flags for me that I needed to get help, but I kept telling myself I was fine. I had terrible rage at times, mood swings, was spending money without even thinking, had times when I would just cry, was always on the defense, and let work affect me like I shouldn’t have.
After having spent way too much money on an app, and crying uncontrollably one night when my husband approached me about it, he told me I needed to get help. He was right. I had opened up the website for a counseling center in town several times but never called. Well, the next day I finally called, only to find out that they wouldn’t get me in for two weeks (crazy right?!). I know I should have called somewhere else, but I didn’t. On the inside, I felt like I was barely hanging on, but I never let many people know that. I attributed everything to stress, but later realized it wasn’t stress, not all of it.
In the midst of it all, we moved to Nebraska. After being there for a couple of weeks, I had a huge blowup. I was feeling all of the rage and suicidal thoughts again. It felt like I couldn’t control myself. I had felt this before and absolutely hated it. I felt like I was crazy. I did not know what was wrong with me. This night, I almost checked myself into the hospital.
I ended up going to a mental health clinic the next day and someone saw me right away. I clicked with this counselor and I am still seeing her to this day. She has helped me in so many ways. We came to the conclusion that I did have postpartum depression after my second child. I did not treat this and it had gotten worse and was classified as depression and anxiety now. She also had me start tracking my moods every day for several months. From this, we now know that I also have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is best described as PMS on steroids plus suicidal thoughts.
I started taking Evening Primrose Oil, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, and Multivitamins. They helped some, but I still had this terrible rage at times. I decided to finally start taking a medication. I have been on prozac 20mg since this past summer. It has really helped and I wish I would have taken it sooner. I rarely have the rage like I used to experience and through counseling have learned many coping mechanisms.
Where I am now
Understanding My PMDD
After the initial diagnosis of PMDD, I started doing research on my own to figure out what this was. I had not heard of this before and wasn’t quite sure how to explain it to people. I found several Facebook groups to join, as well as Facebook pages dedicated to PMDD. I joined the ones I thought would be the most helpful and as I started reading the posts from others, I knew that this was definitely what I had. One website I came across, GiaAllemandFoundation.org, had the most helpful information. I searched around on their website for quite some time. Be sure to check it out if you are wanting information on PMDD. They also hold a conference every year, that I would love to be able to attend one year.
I continue to go to counseling every other week. This has been a huge blessing in my life. I have learned so much and feel so much more equipped to handle my PMDD. I have learned to recognize when PMDD has arrived and the emotions that come along with it. I now know how my body responds to being busy during that time as well. I have learned that when I am experiencing my worst rounds of PMDD I must rest and take it easy. When I am going constantly, especially during the time when PMDD is at its worst, it is a recipe for disaster for me. I also continue to take Prozac 20mg for now.
I am constantly learning more and more about PMDD, depression, and anxiety. About four months ago, I learned how the toxins in your everyday products, such as cleaning and beauty products, can disrupt your hormone levels and make PMDD much worse. After doing more research on this, I made the decision to throw out all of our cleaning products and buy natural. Next, I threw out all of our bath products, including, soaps, shampoos, lotions, hairspray, dry shampoo, etc., and either made my own or bought natural. I have gotten rid of most makeup products as well at this point that is not natural either. This is the time that Pathway to Nature, my blog and shop, was born. All of my products are made from natural and organic ingredients with no toxic hormone disrupters!
While I have made some great progress in the last 8 months, there are still many areas that I need to work on to completely get ahead of PMDD and give myself and my family the best possible me. I just recently began a whole food, plant-based diet in hopes that this too will bring positive changes to my life. I would like to see myself exercising much more than I currently do.
I just want to be the best me I can be.
About the Warrior
Brooke Raines is a mental health and wellness advocate from Nebraska, U.S.A. She shares her journey with depression, anxiety, PMDD, and motherhood along with how switching to natural products helped her symptoms on her blog and through her shop, Pathway to Nature, which sells homemade natural products. She hopes to help others that may also be struggling with mental health illnesses and just everyday life. Brooke is a mother of two boys and wife to Aaron.