Last Tuesday I hit bottom.
I am no stranger to emotional highs and lows. Normally, however, my moodiness is quite structured. Each month I have two stable weeks followed by two grumpy weeks. And yes, it all revolves around my period. Oh the joys.
My PMS infliction is quite humbling, for two reasons. One, I used to think PMS was a made-up condition. (Yes, I see the cosmic joke. Ha. Ha. Ha.) And two, being no better than my hormones does not make me feel very highly evolved.
On my PMS weeks, I’m wildly irritable, grumpy, and snarky. I stomp around the house. I moan a lot. My whole family is used to this, and my husband handles me like a pro—he alternates between keeping his distance, sending me to my room for time outs, and poking fun at me. The moodiness is miserable but manageable; there is an explanation and an end.
What hit me last week was no normal PMS. It was twelve hours of hardcore, clinical-like depression.
I know that duration is key in the definition of clinical depression, and that twelve hours hardly counts as depression in the truest sense. However, even though my episode lacked length (thank goodness) it packed a hefty dose of everything else. I know this because five years ago there was a string of weeks—weeks in which I couldn’t stop crying and putting on my socks felt like an insurmountable task—that culminated in a doctor’s visit and a saving prescription for a happy pill. Eighteen months later, I went off the antidepressants and I’ve been stable (or some derivative of stable) ever since.
Last Tuesday, I made it almost till noon before I cracked. I called my husband and sobbed in his ear. I canceled my afternoon appointments. I turned down a walk with my sister-in-law because I couldn’t bear to be around other humans. To pass the time till my husband got home, and to lessen the disappointment of the canceled trip to town, I let the kids watch a movie.
At first I thought Fiddler on the Roof was a great idea. Tevye made me smile in spite of myself, and just the fact that I was still able to stretch my face muscles upwards was encouraging.
But then we hit Part Two: war, shattered dreams, children growing up and leaving their parents, sunrise, sunset, wah, wah, wah. My throat clenched up and my eyes started leaking all over again. I had to repeatedly leave the room to gather my wits. (There weren’t that many to gather.)
As soon as my husband arrived home, I headed out on a walk all by myself.
The clouds had been heavy and dark all day, perfectly mirroring my mood. I felt like I could crumble in a pile of snot at any moment, but I pushed on, willing myself to think about other things.
And then it occurred to me that in a few weeks my oldest would be thirteen. Thirteen! Immediately, my life as I know it was over. Sunrise, sunset. Throat clench. That dang eye leak again!
My children would leave me and I—
A gunshot cracked, shattering the silence. The bullet whizzed through the valley and bounced off a barn roof—or at least that’s what it sounded like. I flinched and looked down to see if I had any holes.
Miracle of miracles, I was intact! No blood!
I patted my chest to make sure.
Should I take cover? Did I look like a deer on two legs?
I walked faster, eager to get home to my wonderfully, fully-alive family. The heavy clouds suddenly no longer seemed nearly so oppressive. I was breathing! Life was good!
I muddled through the evening, sad but functional. The next morning, I walked around gingerly, afraid the beast would rear its ugly head. But it didn’t.
There is no neat ending to this tale. No pretty words.
Just the acknowledgment that, for some people, my bad Tuesday is their normal.
This same time, years previous: green tomato curry, pie pastry, with lard and egg (by far my favorite quiche crust), green soup with ginger, happy pappy-style cornbread
Jennifer, I know a little about depression, and agree that it's no fun. Fortunately I never had anything extended and it hasn't happened recently. While not coming down to depression, life has been harder all around for me this last year and a half and I can't blame it on hormones. Keep sharing with others and don't be ashamed to ask for help or prayer. We are all here for each other. Being with others and especially working as a group has always been the best for me. That's one of the reasons I love making applesauce the way we do it. See http://buzz.openpolitics.com/2012/10/a-picture-guide-for-canning-applesauce/ (or however you post a link, just copy and paste that string in your browser). And don't beat yourself up over how things went yesterday or whenever. Forgive yourself. It makes it harder when you are a parent and are supposed to be a good example. No one ever warned me that being a parent would be so hard and so much is beyond our control. We can only do our best and hope that our children will be able to ignore our shortcomings and emulate the best, but it rarely works that perfectly in reality. Pardon my ramblings, but I wish you the best and will pray for you as you come to mind.
I struggle with ups and downs too, especially as weather cools and days shorten. This blog has been comforting to me: it's good to be reminded that sometimes just breathing is an accomplishment! http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/06/22/10-reminders-worth-reviewing-daily/
Keep fighting the good fight.
So very good.
Ditto on what everyone else said about your honesty and the challenges of depression and being a woman. I have to say, though, that as a resident of an urban neighborhood where gunshots are so frequent they no longer warrant a call to the police to investigate, I had to smile at the positive impact a gunshot had on you. Life is fragile, no matter where you live.
That very last line in this entry…that hit me in all of the feels. I think my heart clenched up a bit with the impact of it. I teared up. I'm not even lying. When I stop and really think about what it's like for people who suffer from depression and how horrible it must make their life, it really hits home. I do not suffer from the affliction myself, but I sympathize with those who do.
Thank you for this. It was well written.
yes. *sigh* all the time. if it's not PMS mania, it's depression with me. and the weather here (hot, hot, or if you're in the mood for change, hot) does not help. I just sit in the house with the A/C set to cold and pretend. It's no picnic when the electric bill comes, but it's better than sitting on the couch crying every day.
This was timed perfectly. Just what I needed today.
I didn't suffer from the beast until after my children were born. Now it's a monthly yuck. I've tried BCP and that made me nuttier for longer, so now I just warn everyone and then check out if necessary. Ice cream is often an antidote for me.
I have long struggled with PMS. I too was prescribed 'happy pills' which helped with the moods, but not the feeling of not wanting to be in my own skin for at least a week every month due to the surge of hormones. You know what did? Birth Control. Seriously. I tried a low dosage and it worked wonders for leveling out my hormones. I ditched the happy pills (which were awful to come off of. They are apparently designed for you to take them for life, hence the bad break up), and have happily stuck with my low dose of hormones, which have made all the difference in the world.
the domestic fringe
My PMS cycle is very similar. I. Hate. It. My husband hates it more.
Glad your bad day was only one day.
oh man, is this the shifting hormone tides of pre-menopause? Because sometimes I think that's what's going on in my life.
I so appreciate your honesty about depression because it grows more hideous as a secret. I love how you tell this story. I've been down in the trough, clinically, twice.
Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig
I, too, deal with depression on a regular basis and I love that you have realized that you do have some power over "the beast" and that your thoughts CAN be controlled, even though it's hard and even though it doesn't seem like it sometimes. You did good…acknowledged that you were down, took care of yourself, and pushed through. I only wish that everyone could find that strength within themselves to battle depression, too. You sharing your experience is a good step in the right direction though..letting others know there is hope. I appreciate your honesty…:)
I never cry at movies – EXCEPT Fiddler on the Roof. The part where Tevye has just yelled at Golde, "Go home! Go home, Golde! We have 4 other daughters!" and then he sits down on his plow and gets lost in that revery about Chavele. Little bird, little bird…
Waterworks. Every time.
So glad your mood improved. It's scary when you realize you have no real control over it. Although (and, yeah, this sounds crazy) salted peanuts and a coke once saved me…honest…
You Can Call Me Jane
I'm so sorry, honey… you know I'm thinking of you.
I don't know what to say.. 🙁 Love you JJ.
You are brave and beautiful.
Great timing. I'm just out of my dreaded second week and it seems to be getting harder. To name it and recognise it for what it is is half the battle I know but to feel so helpless in the face of hormonal turmoil sucks.
Also (and on a happier note), I may well be your newest biggest fan. Thank you for the blondies(!!) and for sharing your lovely family. I am loving going through your archives 🙂