How my PMS helped me realise I’m not actually an angry, sad person

For a while now I’ve been taking antidepressants. This is something that’s been shameful to me, something I said I would never do because “I’m a strong person”. I looked down on people who couldn’t manage without them, and that is something I’m not very proud to admit. Thankfully I now no longer look at it that way.

These last couple of months have been a learning experience. Since I became a teenager up until now, I’ve had a lot of anger issues, especially around my period. I know that a lot of us with periods have this kind of problem, but for me it was so bad that I actually had a huge punching bag in my room during high school. I frequently smashed things, threw furniture, and don’t even get me started on how this affected all of my relationships. Passive agressive was my middle name. When I wasn’t angry, I was sad. And I started to identify myself as this negative, angry, sad person. My hormones were affecting my whole life, or rather INFECTING.

There’s this quote I read on Humans of New York that really spoke to me and put words on how I viewed myself.

“I’m always sad. Are there certain thoughts associated with the sadness? No, the sadness is under the thoughts. It’s like when you’re on a camping trip, and it’s really cold, and you put on extra socks, and an extra sweater, but you still can’t get warm, because the coldness is in your bones. Do you hope to get away from it? Not anymore. I just hope to come to peace with it.”

I truly believed that I would always feel this way. But something amazing happened when I started taking medication. I am suddenly a generally happy person. Not like jumping-around-with-a-huge-smile-on-my-face-singing-tunes-and-being-ridiculous-kind of happy (although that does happen), but more being thankful for what I have, trying to see everything in a positive way, and handling my relationships more carefully. It’s groundbreaking, really.

So then one day I woke up and felt… not great. I was annoyed, melancholic and somewhat anxious again. For no reason. Did the medication not work? Was the happy me just a phase? I struggled through the day when I suddenly got a notification on my phone. I have this app that tracks my period, and it reminded me that my PMS is coming up, which explained all of those negative emotions I was feeling. At first I was upset that my medication didn’t help me with my PMS issues, but I realised that there’s a distinct change in me now. There is a solid line between myself and my PMS for the first time since I got my period at 12 or 13. I am no longer my PMS. I no longer identify with my negative emotions.

For about a year I went to therapy talking about my anger issues, my negativity and sadness, and it didn’t help. Now I realised that the reason it didn’t help is because those emotions aren’t who I am. I went in there thinking that I would become a better person, learn to control the feelings and not let it get to me. But how can you change and control something that is a chemical reaction in your body?

It’s obvious to me now that there is a correlation between mental and physical health. I am not crazy, nor am I less intelligent or strong. I had a chemical imbalance in my body that made me do and feel things that I somehow started to identify with. Notice that I’m speaking in past tense. I still have that imbalance, but it is now concentrated to the week before my period. And honestly I’m so happy to experience the clear difference between everyday-me and PMS-me. My PMS helped me realise that everyday-me is not an angry, sad person.

Now don’t get me wrong, antidepressants are not the solution to every problem. I still struggle and I still have a long way to go in terms of my ongoing exhaustion that’s affecting my stress tolerance. But I know the signs now and the fact that I’m not feeling this way all the time is a huge win for me.

Turns out, the coldness is not in my bones. It’s a chemical imbalance that’s totally seperated from the person I actually am.

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“That weird part of Youtube” – The addictive spiral of videos that leave you feeling awful

You know when you go on Youtube and there’s a video recommendation that kind of stands out from the rest of your usual type of videos? They most likely have a title that draws your attention, like “My boyfriend died” or “What it’s like being allergic to water” or “I’m married to my cactus”. For some reason you have to click. And once you click, you know you’re screwed. 10 horribly depressing videos later you find yourself feeling awful, sad, anxious or just left with a weird feeling inside. So you go back to the main page, only to find that all of your regular recommendations are switched out by more horrible stories and topics that just make you feel even worse. It’s like Youtube is saying “Hey! You seemed so interested in those topics, so here! Have a look at these ones too!”. And you feel like screaming “Get me the hell out of here!”.

“I’m in that weird part of youtube again”

Often when you scroll through the comments on those videos, you find people writing “I was watching makeup tutorials, how did I end up here?” or “I’m in that weird part of youtube again”. I think we can all relate. But being a person who’s very curious and also has a compulsive need to know everything, this spiral is a dangerous rabbit hole. Once I get into a topic, I start googling more information. Reading every article, news story, blog post and comment about it. I can honestly sit for hours just reading and watching videos on the topic, and when I finally get back to reality I feel awful. And I keep feeling awful for sometimes days because of all the horrible stuff I learned.

“I’m wearing everyone else’s pain as well as my own”

I think the reason I so easily get emotionally involved is because I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP). I not only watch people tell a sad story, I can feel it. I start imagining what they went through, how it felt, what their thoughts were. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I have a lot of empathy for people and I care deeply. But it’s like I’m wearing everyone else’s pain as well as my own. How do you cope with this issue when every single day we are bombarded with these kinds of stories through social media and other media outlets? It’s not like I want to close my eyes and not learn about what’s happening in the world, but sometimes it just gets to me in a way that’s not healthy.

It is important to remember that it is in fact a positive thing to care and to have a need to learn. I feel like I’m feeding my brain, making my thought process more complex and interesting. But where do you draw the line between enthusiastic learning and unhealthy compulsive consumption?

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The struggle of wanting more – while being exhausted

Photo by: Victor Norgren

When I was a kid, “The Little Mermaid” was my favorite movie. It spoke to me. And it stuck with me. The feeling of being different, of not settling, of wanting to explore and do more. One of my high school teachers once told me “You seem to be a strong person. You run your own race”. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But in many ways the “wanting more” has made my life miserable.

To me, “more” doesn’t mean money, power or fame. It means doing something meaningful. Something that will have a positive impact on people. I have such a strong feeling that I should be doing something else. Right now, my life is all about survival. The only thing I think about is money, and how we can earn enough to get by every month. I’m making decisions based on what I think will give us a more stable future in terms of money. And it’s making me sick.

I don’t know enough about life to know if it really pays off to be a good person and work towards your dreams. But I do know that I don’t want to spend my life working a meaningless job, feeling shitty about myself every night and having anxiety 24/7. And that is why I’m in this position right now. That is why I’m on antidepressants, why I’m not employed and why we struggle to get by. And you know what? I am so grateful for everything I have at this moment. Right now I have love, I have a roof over my head, food on the table, lovely friends and family that care about me. What more could I possibly need right now that money can buy? Nothing.

But I need to find my purpose. I am and have always been an ambitious person. When I do something, I go all in, which is why I haven’t really done anything in the past year. I haven’t had the energy to go all in. I think that might be the problem with us who struggle with exhaustion – we constantly want to do more, and nothing is ever enough.

The University programme I talked about a couple of weeks ago is still on my mind. It’s not what I’ve dreamt of doing with my life. Quite frankly, most people would call this profession boring and old-fashioned. But being the ambitious person that I am, I already came up with my own ideas of how this profession could evolve into something global and groundbreaking. Because that’s who I am. I question the way things are. Which is not always welcome in the educational system, despite what you may think (but that’s a totally different story).

I’m not sure where this blog post is going, I just felt like I needed to get these things off my chest and to give you an update. I’m alive and doing pretty well in terms of my mental health. So now I’m slowly trying to stear my focus towards personal development instead of survival.

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How do you find your life purpose and choose a career?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life purpose since the realisation that I chose the wrong path in terms of my career. A couple of weeks ago I got an idea of what I wanted to do instead, and it didn’t take me long to get things moving. I found a programme at the local University, asked around for internships and even managed to get an interview with two people who are working in that particular field. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into before I decide to apply for two more years of school. It all seemed great and I was super excited. But surprise surprise, I’m starting to doubt the whole thing now.

The applications aren’t open yet, so I haven’t made an official decision. I’m afraid that this is going to be another bad turn. When talking to the two professionals I got the sense that one of them wasn’t very happy with his job, and the reasons for it are reasons that I know will bug me as well. It’s an administrative job, often controlled by other decision-making people, and everything has to go through them. Me being a person who needs control and has an issue with authorities, might have a problem with such a business structure.

But I need money, I need to make a living, and this job would mean a steady income. That is, if I actually get a job after the studies. Cause you never know. The statistics are looking pretty okay at the moment, but a lot can change in two years. Including my mental state and feelings towards this line of work. The whole reason why I came up with the idea in the first place is because I was searching the internet for jobs that suit my introvert personality. I found this profession interesting and “easy” enough to work with my anxiety problems. But is that really the right way to go? Am I settling for less than I actually want out of life?

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. To do great things that people will acknowledge. I wanted to help and change people’s lives. I still do. But I’m not well and have no energy to attempt something greater right now. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m just afraid of failure? Or stressed out about the whole money situation. Having your own business can be very rewarding on a personal level, but the money won’t exactly pile up the first couple of years. It’s tough, and you need to be mentally prepared to stick with it, even when business is bad. I guess the key is to start a business you’re really passionate about, and where you can see a sustainable future. I don’t know what kind of business that would be, and as excited as I was for that new path I started exploring, I think I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But then again, do we ever find what we are looking for? I think we’re all just lost souls searching for something we believe will make us happy. But happiness isn’t around the corner, it’s right here. Even if I don’t feel it all the time, I know it’s here. To me it’s not the happiness I seek, it’s the meaning. A greater belonging. A sense of fulfilment. One of my greatest fears is being basic. Wow, I’ve never actually thought of it that way… That’s exactly my problem.

I feel like this is beginning to sound like a therapy session, so I’m going to end it right here. Please comment if you have any thoughts on this. Are you also afraid of not living up to your full potential? Have you found the right path? How do you know what you are supposed to do with your life? Do you just focus on surviving and providing for your family? Is your career important to you?

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Carpe that f-ing diem – And other harmful ideas to live by

I used to believe that inspirational quotes about seizing the day, living your dream and whatnot, was a good way to keep motivated. Not that I put them on my walls or reposted them on my social media, but you know, every now and then I might have liked one that someone posted. But when you get ill, really ill, these ideas of how you should live your life just makes you feel worse. Nobody wants to hear “carpe diem!” when they’re suffering from severe depression.

I’ve spent the last week on the couch. Crying, staring out into the void, incapable of functioning like a normal person. I wasn’t even a person, I was just a body with a person trapped inside. I’ve wasted what could be precious days of my life, not seizing the day. Not working towards my goals. Not being the best that I can be. Not visualising my dreams or helping others.

But it’s not just quotes about living in the moment that get to you. You know that quote by Mark Twain; “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”? I often think about that by imagining myself as an old person lying in a hospital bed, reminiscing about the past. I image what my thoughts will be, if I’ll be happy with what I’ve accomplished by that time, if I’ll have any regrets. And I always feel bad about the countless days, weeks, months, years I’ve spend doing nothing because of depression, anxiety or just pure laziness. And this idea of future regret is dangerous. It’s making us focus our mind on future happiness and how we can attain it, which often makes us feel less of a person until we get there.

We need to remember that it’s okay to have bad days too. As long as those bad ones aren’t more frequent than the good or okay ones. We can’t all be living life to the fullest every single day. If you strive towards this you’ll end up disappointed. Trust me.

Here are some more realistic ideas to think about:

1. This too shall pass

I know, when you’re deep in despair it’s hard to see clearly and believe that it will ever get better. But it does. Sometimes it just takes longer. And better does not have to mean you are up and running, living up to your full potential. Better can mean getting out of bed, smiling at a stupid joke your partner made or taking a shower. Celebrate every step and give yourself some credit.

2. Appreciate the small things

Every day I am grateful for my home, my plants, my friends and my boyfriend. I take time to actually appreciate what I have. Sometimes all it takes is having potatoes for dinner, or when I ask the boyfriend to bring me some tea, and he brings me exactly the kind I was secretly hoping for.

3. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery

I am currently reading “The Power of Now”, and the most important thing I’ve learned so far is this. I spend way too much time thinking about what’s been and what will come, but the truth is that today, this moment right here, is all there is. The past cannot change, and the future is just an illusion. Think about it. No living person (physically) lives in the past, it’s impossible. So visiting the past with your mind and reliving painful moments is like spending your time at a graveyard, talking to ghosts. And you can chase the future as fast as you want, but you’ll never catch it. You will always be in the present. So try to let the illusion of time go for a moment and focus on how you are feeling right now. I’m not telling you to “seize the day”, but realise that you exist only in the present moment, and what you do with that is totally up to you.

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