I’ve been referred to as the smartest airhead ever known. This oxymoronic title comes from the fact that there are some days my brain functions clearly and most effectively, while other days my brain feels half asleep.
Imagine one day being able to write a dissertation on a familiar subject with ease while the next day struggling to pay attention to a mindless conversation over coffee with a friend. This is how my brain works. Some of the time, my mental abilities are effortless…ideas and thoughts come to mind quickly. I can solve problems, communicate a new idea, or develop a business plan in a short amount of time. And yet, there are other times that I feel like a complete ding bat. During these times, if I am asked to make a simple decision regarding which movie I want to see, I feel completely overwhelmed. Words cannot describe the frustration in dealing with this neurological imbalance.
Oh, there’s more…
I have a physical imbalance as well. Imagine one day feeling strong enough to participate in a Freak-of-nature-type of aerobic workout (such as running uphill or sparring with someone twice your size), and the day before (or after) not even having enough energy to get off the sofa. Some days I feel strong. I can clean a house, run several errands, and host an unforgettable party. Other days, I feel as though my body was just ripped out of bed. And, three o’clock in the afternoon feels like three o’clock in the middle of the night.
Or how about this? Suppose one day you’re able to watch the movie Steel Magnolias without requiring tissues followed by the next day in which a few crumbs on your recently swept kitchen floor can bring you to tears. Or, one day you text your husband, “I love you. I miss you.” And then the next day just upon hearing him tiptoe in the next room causes the hairs on your neck to STAND ON END. “STOP IT! Aren’t you late for work or something?” Whoa. Talk about starting a potential war. Welcome to the joys of an emotional imbalance.
I’ve struggled with several chronic health issues that cause physical and neurological imbalances, such as extreme fatigue and swelling in my brain, for as long as I can remember. Dealing with the symptoms is beyond-words-difficult, in and of itself. But that’s not even close to where it ends.
There are no words to describe how much damage these imbalances have caused in my personal and professional life. I am partly to blame. After all, I fought against these issues for so long. (Sometimes it’s the fighting against something inevitable that can be detrimental.) Anyway, I pressured myself with the need to fix all the problems these imbalances caused. I pushed myself to catch up after days struggling with physical fatigue or mental brain fog that initially caused me to fall behind. And only God knows how much I grieved after so many attempts in unsuccessfully seeking validation all-the-while struggling with my own ability to understand and communicate what was happening in my body and in my brain.
After a while, you realize that it’s easier to lay low. Not only are you dealing with debilitating symptoms, but the never-ending need to explain, apologize, or justify your behaviors, moods, and mental density is exhausting, overwhelming, embarrassing, and frustrating.
Here are the symptoms, in order of frequency, that I wrestle with as a result of PMDD, Endometriosis, Hypothyroidism, Chronic Allergies, and Epstein Barr Virus/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
- Fatigue (SEVERE)
- Chronic Allergies
- Pelvic Pain (Internal Bleeding)
- Brain Fog
- Loss of Memory
- Bladder Infections
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
All of these symptoms are invisible except for my allergies, which are so severe that I have bags under my eyes from the swelling in my sinuses. For the first few hours of the morning, I am sneezing, blowing my nose, and/or running cold water over my eyes.
Somehow I managed a somewhat normal lifestyle until the year 2012. But, in the winter of that year, I was officially diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and PMDD. (Most likely…many years too late.)
What’s the worst health issue I’m dealing with? PMDD. Hands down. PMDD.
For the 3-8% of women who have PMDD, something goes awry in the brain as a result of the standard reproductive cycle. Specifically, the hormonal mechanism during the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle causes severe swelling in the brain.
The worst thing about PMDD is that most doctors are clueless, and for whatever reason, it was not until last year that PMDD was finally recognized as a legitimate “disorder” in the DSM-5 (May 2013). Maybe that’s why I was undiagnosed for 24 years.
Friends, it will take me a long time before I am able to put into words my experience with PMDD. In a nutshell, women with PMDD are unable to mentally nor emotionally process anything as they would on a normal day. Everything is distorted. You literally believe that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You feel hopeless. Worthless. You don’t want to be around people. Everything seems bleak. You’re confused. You can’t make a simple decision or perform a simple task. You can’t choose your words properly. And you lack motivation to do just about anything.
PMDD is such a complex health issue that I don’t want to dedicate too much writing about the illness, itself. (The Internet contains plenty of information.) I can only share what I know, what I experienced, and how I am choosing to live an extraordinary life in spite of having this awful, debilitating, disorder.
Right now, my wellness is my part time job. I spend many hours each week dealing with symptoms, adjusting my routine, keeping up with doctor visits, staying on top of medical/insurance paperwork, trips to the pharmacy, and tracking my symptoms on charts. I am working with specialists who are trying their hardest to understand and control these ongoing symptoms. The best remedy, by far, is modifying my life-style. I don’t push my body to do more than it can do. The good news, is that I can finally reserve the energy for doing things that are essential.
I live a half-healthy life-style, and yet I choose to accept the extra-ordinary.
Everywhere I look I see people pushing beyond their limits…living beyond their means…and desiring more and more while never enjoying the moment. I get it. That was me, once. But, God allowed me to have these health issues, and they certainly got my attention. It took a physical collapse before I finally decided to stop pushing and change my limits…my means…and my expectations.
I have found satisfaction in the simpler things. Today, I am feeling extremely fatigued. Yet, I am sitting here, in my pajamas, in our cozy 1-bedroom condo, sipping chamomile tea, and writing this post…at my own pace…hoping and praying that it will make it into the hands of at least one particular person that needs to feel reminded…validated…encouraged…and inspired that she, too, can choose to live an EXTRAordinary life in spite of limitations, circumstances, or a half-healthy lifestyle!