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What Saved My Life in the Fight Against PTSD and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

In September of 2021, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to a two-year battle with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and childhood trauma I didn’t realize I had. Having PMDD in itself was like constantly being at war with myself. One that I eventually ended up losing. Even though it’s now over, I lost my family, my friends, and my sense of self all in one fell swoop. Having to deal with PTSD and trauma responses after finally being physically free from PMDD is devastating. It’s like thinking my world is never going to see the sun again and I’m never going to be the happy, carefree woman I used to be.

• What is PTSD?

PMDD and PTSD have a lot of similarities when it comes to symptoms, at least for me. Feelings of shame and guilt, difficulty controlling my emotions, headaches and stomach pain, distancing myself from friends and family, marriage problems, destructive and risky behavior, and the worst one of all, suicidal thoughts.

Before PTSD, I had never in my life thought about suicide, but I didn’t have any support and when I would reach out to family they told me to “get over it.” They didn’t care what I was going through, told me they’d been through worse and that my situation and experience didn’t matter. My husband didn’t understand, and even though he tried to support me in his own way, it wasn’t in the way that I needed. A way that would have been beneficial and helpful to me. He never actually asked me what happened or what any of this has been like for me. Feeling like he didn’t care enough to take the time to ask and spend alone time with me just drove us farther apart and made me resent him. I felt like he could be there for everyone else but he couldn’t be there for me, and I had a hard time with feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and not being good enough for him.

When I reached out to my best friend of over 15 years, she said, “I don’t know how to respond to any of this,” and then just up and disappeared from my life. I haven’t heard from her since. The lack of support and not having anyone to be there for me left me feeling like I didn’t know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I didn’t think it was possible and at the time, I didn’t think I was deserving of a life. If no one else thought I was enough to put in any kind of effort for, how was I going to think that about myself?

I had already been in therapy for over two years for help with PMDD and things my husband’s ex-wife was doing that was adding to the strain of our already crumbling marriage, but that therapist wasn’t as helpful as I wanted to believe. She kept telling me to “connect” with myself when in all honesty, I was overly connected. It was part of my problem. I knew what was wrong, how I was feeling, why I felt the way I did. I just needed the guidance to navigate these things so I could come out positively on top of them all.

And then I met my current therapist.

When I switched therapists in October, that’s when things really started to change for me. I’m not saying it was an overnight fix, far from it. At first, I was closed off and when I would talk about certain situations, I would flip the script from me to the other person and I would shut down the possibility that anything was my fault. I never laughed and spent the majority of my sessions in tears. My anxiety never eased up and my panic attacks were prevalent. And then one day my therapist told me she’d noticed a difference. One I hadn’t seen or noticed in myself. I had managed to go through several sessions without crying, I was laughing and using sarcasm, I was making her laugh, and the most important change was I was starting to take accountability for my part in things that had happened. I genuinely wanted to apologize to people I had hurt and I was taking it upon myself to read about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or other ways that could be beneficial to my mental health and growth.

While I’ve had a couple of friends who have genuinely cared about me and my situation, it’s hard to completely open up to someone. Right now, it doesn’t feel safe to me because in my experience, it’s never been safe. But switching therapists and finding the right one for me literally saved my life. I don’t know where I would be today or if I would have made it during those dark days had I not had her. I owe her a lot and I’m extremely thankful for her and the changes she’s helped me with. She’s taught me that no matter how hard things get, even if I don’t have the support I need from the people I love, sometimes the best support you can get is from yourself. And even though things may look like they won’t get better, they always do. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but they always do eventually.

Unsplash image by Aramudi

Originally published: April 10, 2022
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