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  • Writer's picturemarikenney

First, do no harm.

A few years ago, my physical and mental health started to plummet. I began to lose weight, lose time, and lose myself. I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I was angry. My doctors didn't show any concern, so I felt like it was all in my head - that I was somehow doing this to myself for some weird spiteful reason that only my brain knew.

I didn't have much support from my doctors. Many times I had appointments, I felt like I was a burden to them. My gynecologist jabbed her hand inside of me and tapped hard on my stomach to let me know I had a UTI. When I was getting screened for skin cancer (something that runs in my family) the doctor seemed annoyed and quickly, without asking me where the problem moles were, just cut off a sliver of my skin. She didn't even give me a chance to take off my shirt. She just pulled up a piece of fabric and sliced. My first GI doctor just gave me mint pills (when I couldn't hold food down and had lost 40 lbs), but I went to another doctor who ordered a colonoscopy and during the procedure found a large, flat polyp. She said if I would have waited a few months, it would have developed into cancer.

Overall, Mississippi healthcare is horsehit.

But during this absolute shit show, I was able to find some answers. Answers I had to research and provide myself, but at least there were answers. I began keeping track of my symptoms and trying to find a correlation with something I did or ate. After three months, I started noticing a pattern. My symptoms (physical and mental) seemed to heighten to the extreme around my period. That's when I discovered PMDD.

PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is a more severe form of PMS and effects about 8% of the population of people who menstruate. I knew that's what I was suffering from. Once I found information about PMDD, I started another journal that focused on my symptoms before, during, and after my period. I noticed that I was a completely different person. Two weeks out of the month, my normal self was replaced by a shell - I couldn't feel joy or happiness, only pain, dread, and extreme anger, but then a few days after my period started, I would be fine - returning to my normal self.

It's a cycle I've had ever since I was thirteen years old, but never thought too much about it. I just thought that was how life worked - two weeks of hell and then two weeks of trying to put everything back together.

It's hard to discuss, because I feel weak when I do. I also understand the stigma around the health of menstruators. We've been told for generations that it's all in our heads and we are crazy, and honestly, hearing that enough makes you believe it. I did feel crazy.

My PCP at the time was understanding, but she tended to prescribe rather than diagnose. She placed me on Zoloft first which caused extreme dizziness, loss of time, and feelings of aggression and anger. After that, she placed me on Lexapro. The Lexapro helped and I felt almost normal. But then, we moved. I had to wean myself off my Lexapro, and going to be transparent, it was hard as hell. The first few months we were in Oregon, my grasp on reality was fading and my PMDD symptoms only worsened. I didn't know how to exist.

At first, I didn't want to get help. I didn't know how I would be treated and couldn't handle another doctor pushing me away or downplaying what I had to say. But my husband, who has the heart of a freaking Saint, pushed me to see someone, because he had experienced my shifts in self for years, and it worried him. I don't blame him. It can be scary.

So, I went to a therapist. I was nervous. Honestly, even though I had journals of my symptoms and lived through them monthly, I still thought I was crazy - that I had somehow read so much about PMDD and my mind made me believe I had it. But when I spoke to the therapist, she listened. She didn't scoff at my symptoms or my experience. She accepted what I had to say and then she said, "I'm giving you an official diagnosis. You have PMDD." She then outlined a plan to help me manage my symptoms and get back on track.

It's only been a week and a half since my appointment, but I'm already starting to see my world regain balance, and I'm excited for the possibilities. I feel less crazy.

Overall, the last few years my experiences with doctors haven't been great. I've been dismissed, yelled at, abused and treated like a piece of absolute garbage - when all I wanted was to be healthy. I'm working on realizing that not every doctor is bad and some actually want to help. I'm hoping as I continue my health journey, the doctors here will be like my therapist, and listen to me, and help me.

I can only hope.

Fingers crossed.

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