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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Voices of PMDD - Battling the Darkness

Today's powerful guest post was written by Amanda Van Slyke, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flurt Magazine.  For more information, please visit Flurt's Facebook Page.

Every month around this time the darkness swallows me up. It seems to happen in an instant, where I previously felt more creative and fulfilled than I've felt in a long time. Just before the lights go out, I climb mountains of work that I've been trying to reach for weeks. I write essays full of passion and reach out to others for emotional connection. I walk down the street smiling ear to ear, thinking that maybe – hopefully, this time – I've escaped the torture I see others endure online. They post about how they can't do this anymore – about how it happens every month, and every month like clockwork it's the same thing – feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and isolation. But I am happy. I eat well and do yoga and meditate and run – everything you're supposed to do to get rid of the darkness. I think that if only people did what I did, they'd feel just as great as I do. I am the exception to the rule.
When I was younger, I came to a point where I'd felt like I had already died. I was a shell of a person, barely leaving my bed because of the fatigue and depression, stuffing my face with whatever temporarily took away the pain. I barely escaped to the west coast to get away from the darkness before it swallowed me whole – and I saw a lifestyle that could make me feel better. I stopped drinking, stopped eating sugar and dairy and gluten – and I know how you all feel about gluten, but it worked. For the first time in my life, my face cleared up. My bloated belly flattened. When I filled my body with fuel instead of poison, my energy started to come back. My depression started to lift. I could feel the oxygen coming back into my bloodstream. The more I took care of my body, the more I saw God through me – and I was an atheist.
I know that sometimes people take medication – SSRIs mixed with therapeutic conversation – and believe me, I've been on so many pills I considered swallowing them all at once. But pills took away something far deeper than the darkness – they took away my ability to feel your toes tingle and your whole body remember what spirituality feels like. And for me, I'm not willing to give up my God – the one that speaks to me through my own moans and screams. To me, feeling that numbness inside me might as well as be the death of me. So I tapered off my medication – well, after I tried to go cold turkey, and my boyfriend almost broke up with me. When I finally felt I was myself again – the one I had been searching for and didn't know could exist – I wanted everyone to know about the revolution.
And the revolution came in a plant based crusade. I felt like I had finally found a cure for the darkness. I went two years without eating meat, and I was so skinny my panties fell to the floor. But I still said that I was part of the movement. I shared photos of my recipes online, and talked about how well I was doing. But away from the limelight my diet fluctuated just as much as much as my mood. Just like I'd tapered off my medication, I tapered off fuel for my body, replacing it with poison – processed foods that were easy, thinking that just a little bit of junk food would make the pain go away. Because the pain never did, regardless of what I was eating. If I gave in and reached for the poison, it would spread throughout my body and the pain would inflate my belly and the lights would go out. And then I would say, "Screw it," like the people online that I thought just needed to be more like me.
I know now the darkness is inevitable. I know I need to do my best to choose the light – and that I won't choose it every day, nor will anyone else – even the gurus on Instagram who post photos of food I don't have the money to make. Because the darkness isn't a place where you only go when you're weak. Diet and exercise and medication is for the privileged – and I'm privileged enough – but sometimes I don't have much money for food or the will to leave my apartment, so I reach for something I know will be easy but harder in the long run. And then I spiral down – feeling hopeless, lonely, and isolated – where my only friend is the poison that I know will kill me. Because people die from this.
The darkness leaves you feeling like there's a hole where your heart should be – where you try to fill it with things to make the pain subside. Junk food, alcohol, sex, and drugs. But the real misery comes when you realize these things are never going to be enough. It comes from the knowledge that only finding self love can fill that hole – and trying to love yourself is hard when you never did. Once you see it's just you and the darkness, you can either stay up til morning or go to sleep. And while it's easy to say some are weak for not fighting, I don't blame them.

Because right now, I am unhappy. I walk around my apartment with swollen eyes, moping about how I'm just like everyone else, posting online about how I can't do this anymore, about how it happens every month, and every month like clockwork the darkness returns. But I know that soon the light will appear – so for today, I eat well, do yoga, meditate and run. I know it isn't a “cure,” but I know the more I take care of my body the more I'll see God through me. And maybe she can give me strength so I can see the light another day and remember what it's like to be happy – to smile ear to ear, thinking that maybe – hopefully, this time – I've escaped the darkness.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Voices of PMDD -- The Rising and Passing Storm

Today I am honored to be able to share the work and insight of guest author Julie Peavey, who initially wrote this essay about her PMDD for an English class.  I believe it will strike a chord in many hearts, and says things that have been left unspoken for far too long.  Millions of women the world over are losing precious days and weeks of our lives due to this menstrual disorder, with no real relief in sight.  
How much longer must we suffer like this?  

How do I effectively describe what I go through each month?  How do I compare who I really am to the ugly beast that raises its head, without sounding like someone who is insane?  Every month, because of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, I temporarily become someone other than myself as I enter a storm that I cannot control and must wait for it to pass.
            I can feel the PMDD approaching, hovering, waiting.  It feels like a another presence, a shadow, that lives inside of me and it’s slowly making its way to my mind where it can take over my thoughts and emotions.  It’s behind me where I can sense it, but not see it.  I’m aware of it there and can push it back for a little while, but I can’t stop it and it slowly creeps forward, closer than it was before.  I try to prepare for the inevitable, knowing that I can never really prepare myself for what is about to come.
Darkness, despair, and swirling thoughts descend upon me.  There is a part of me that wants to give up.  I could easily spend hours lying in silence, trapped with my own thoughts in my head.  I question my existence and purpose.  “Why am I here?  Do I really matter?”  My thoughts jump from one to another so quickly that I can’t even fully register them.  Except for one.  One thought keeps coming back over and over again no matter how hard I try to push it away or change it.  That is the thought of being alone and wishing that I had someone I could connect with at that moment, someone who would really understand me for who I am and what I’m going through.  I feel the loneliness in the pit of my stomach and the tears start to flow.  I am unable to stop the emotions once they start, which only leads to frustration at my inability to control the crying.  The tears flow heavier.  I beat myself up for my lack of self-control.  In my head I am yelling at myself to stop crying, to suck it up.  It doesn’t help.  I cry harder, I wail like an infant who yearns for her mother’s embrace, because I too, am in need of a comforting touch to ease the pain of loneliness.  My mind lies to me as I’m not truly alone, but I can’t comprehend that, I believe the lies.
            The loneliness and sadness overpower me.  As a tornado twists and turns and destroys everything in its path, so do those two emotions.  They swirl inside of me destroying any rational thoughts and creating turmoil.  I feel as if I am wrapped in a heavy cloak of loneliness.  Its weight is present in my every thought and action.  My desire to reach out for help is shattered by the false realization that there isn’t anyone I can turn to for even a moment of comfort.  I have no need to share my cloak; all I need is to feel a small amount of weight lifted by the simple connection with a positive soul. 
            Then the depression starts and I go in the opposite direction and want to avoid contact with people.  I write in my journal “Go ahead, lock me up and put me away.  Help me escape this existence called life.  Medicate me until I can no longer remember my name or feel this pain.  Isolate me from the world and allow me to create voices in my head.  At least they will understand me.  Take from me what I do not want and give me peaceful bliss instead.” 
I stay home from work and spend hours wrapped in my blankets thinking that this will somehow help.  I finally pull myself out of bed only to sit in front of the television and numb the emotions with food and hours of watching Netflix.  This is only a temporary fix and somehow I finally garner the strength to reach out to an online community, a family of understanding souls who also suffer every month.  The support comes; words of encouragement and wisdom are given with empathy and compassion.  We know better than anyone else what each other goes through and because of that we are there for each other if only we ask.  “This too shall pass” is shared with me, one of our favorites, because we all know that this eventually will pass.
            And it does pass; the storm ends and the waves of depression subside as the beast settles down to rest until my body decides to send the chemicals needed to wake her from her sleep once again.  The sadness and loneliness are gone and the heavy cloak is replaced with a veil of happiness.  Life has meaning again and I laugh easily and freely. I feel peaceful and calm as I rise early to watch the sun crest the horizon and wash away the darkness.  There is light in my soul again and I stroll in the sunlight and witness nature’s glory all around me.  I experience delight and appreciation in each passing moment, basking in the joy of life.  Like the butterfly that emerges from its cocoon transformed, so too, have I emerged from the storm transformed back into my true self.  I reconnect with my friends and family and vow to always treasure the love and close bonds that we share.  I re-visit the online community and this time, I am one of those offering support and words of encouragement, because I understand exactly what they are going through and wish to ease their suffering if I can.
            The days move forward and I search for a remedy from this madness called PMDD.  I am hopeful that with the help of my doctors I will eventually find a solution that will lessen if not eliminate these symptoms.  I am temporarily free, and yet I can’t help starting the countdown until the next battle begins, and I hope, I hope and pray for the strength and courage to make it through the storm one more time.

To find out more about PMDD and what is being done (and what needs to be done) to help women with this disorder, please visit the National Association for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder/Gia Allemand Foundation, or the NAPMDD Facebook page.  

Also, until midnight October 26, 2016 NAPMDD is participating in the Love Is On Revlon challenge in an effort to raise One Million Dollars for PMDD Research.  We are currently in the top 12 of 150 competitors.  With your help, we could reach number one.  For more information, go here