January is officially halfway through and it's cold and grey in Ithaca, NY. When there is a sliver of sunshine, I usually struggle with feeling guilty for not wanting to crawl out of my cozy bed and get outside for those brief moments this time of year. Today, was not one of those days that I put up a fight.
My whole life I have suffered from terrible PMS and periods. I started taking birth control pills when I was 16, which helped a lot with the physical pain during my period; but what I thought was just teenage angst and anger--which did exist--was very likely linked to a bigger problem.
This week was the beginning of PMS, Pre Menstrual Symptoms; however, I don't just have regular PMS, I suffer from PMDD: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Being newly unemployed, losing my job three days before Christmas, having the option to sleep more and not have to interact with the public as often certainly helps when dealing with these symptoms, but only a little. It is an issue I haven't heard much about. No one else I know suffers from it. When I asked at least fifteen women about some of the symptoms I was suffering from and none of them could relate I knew it was time to seek assistance.
Unfortunately, it took a severe depression (in the winter of 2009) and a close friend to accompany me to the free clinic, where we waited for at least an hour to see a doctor who within ten minutes prescribed me 20mg of Prozac, which I never took because having never been on medication before in my life, it made me nervous taking something like that without having a doctor to follow up with; which lead me to speak with a doctor at Planned Parenthood who wanted me to go back on a birth control pill, but after my refusal, prescribed me 10mg of Prozac daily, which I was told was one of the lowest doses. This made me feel worse, suicidal thoughts being one of the first side-affects listed for this anti-depressant, beyond ironic, I know. I took myself off of it immediately. Finally, I made appointments both with a psychologist and psychiatrist via Tompkins County Mental Health. I had to jump through the hoops of making a certain number of appointments with the psychologist before I could see the psychiatrist, but was able to speak with someone for more than five minutes and was then and now on a low dose of Zoloft. Told to take it only the week I felt the symptoms, I did that for a few months; increasing the dose in the second month, but began feeling extreme side affects from acute withdrawl going on and off of it. So I made the decision to cut my dose back down to the original prescription and take it nightly and that has been helping. It's not magic. I still feel the symptoms and still deal with feeling shame, guilt, and confusion every month for everything seeming so difficult and overwhelming. But I believe this is a women's issue that needs to be talked about; so I am putting a face and a voice to it.