“The shadow proves the sunshine.”
One year ago, I found myself sitting uncomfortably on a counselor’s couch. I was really tired.
I had nightmares just about every night that summer. They were never about dragons or monsters, they were always about the people in my life telling me they didn’t need me anymore. That I wasn’t worth needing. Try as I might, working through the next day like everything was normal wasn’t much of an option. I was haunted by my thoughts and feelings at all hours. There were breaks in darkness, but this sort of emotional pain felt unlike any kind of stress or suffering I had experienced before. It would not go away.
As honestly as I can say it, my high school career had ended in lots of relational distress for me. My anxieties had ground deeper and deeper into my heart from months of stressful navigating. The unknown of college lingered in the distance too. This would be a stressful season in anyone’s life, but nothing anyone said seemed to help.
I experienced bouts of hysterical crying that I couldn’t get a grip on, panicked fantasies of being left, hurt feelings at all things said to me, and the nightmares. When my mom noticed the state I was in, she encouraged me to see a counselor.
We started talking and immediately, I felt some relief. Sometimes you really just need someone to ask the right questions and listen.
She diagnosed me with something called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder—something I didn’t even know existed. She described it as a severe form of PMS that affects very few women. It is characterized by experiencing feelings of being unloved or unneeded, Depression, and Anxiety.
More so, Mayo Clinic explains it as: “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe, sometimes disabling extension of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Although regular PMS and PMDD both have physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt your work and damage your relationships.”
Counseling was more than beneficial, but like I said before, words couldn’t pull me out of it. I had a clear hormonal imbalance. Once a month, I couldn’t get out of bed, I’d leave a room full of friends to cry in the bathroom, I could hardly sit still and listen in church, I struggled to have conversation with my boyfriend that didn’t end in me crying.
I saw lots of doctors, tried different medications, and had numerous tests done. All seemed like failed attempts. Hopelessness seemed to takeover my thoughts for a while.
How can I be a mom one day if I just wake up and can’t get out of bed?
How can I take care of people if I feel sick all the time?
I picked up journaling as a daily practice those days. Writing gave me some peace. Almost every thought turned into a prayer. I dug into scripture like I never had before. I reached out to everyone in my church community. I held onto people and friendships I knew I could count on; I shared my tears and fears with my boyfriend, Connor.
But my hormones still needed help being regular.
My faithful counselor soon recommended a physiatrist. And just like counseling, when I sat on that couch, I knew he was going to help me.
My doctor suggested I try an antidepressant, and I was willing to try anything at that point just to feel a little like myself again.
Within three months, it began to kick in. Sunshine days, is what I would call them—when I woke up and there weren’t any clouds. Steadily, more and more sunshine days came. My parents noticed. My roommate noticed. My friends noticed. Connor noticed. Most importantly, I noticed. Jenna was on her way back.
As silly as it may seem, I often wear the color yellow as a way to honor those “sunshine days.” Although I get to feel them almost every day now, I don’t and never want to take them for granted.