and you might say it's self-indulgent
and you might say it's self-destructive
but, you see, it's more productive
than if i were to be happy...
-Bad Habit, The Dresden Dolls
I met a new psychiatrist today. Her specialty is mood disorders related to reproductive life cycles, including pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The doctor I see at school said "it's clear to me that your mood is being affected by hormonal and situational triggers, and I think it's important to see someone with a knowledge of the hormonal effects on mood," and so now I have two doctors. One for situational triggers, one for PMDD.
Except we didn't really talk all that much about PMDD today.
This new doctor was incredibly thorough. We talked about everything...being molested when I was 8, feeling like I was never good enough to make Dad happy, the 6-month-long period that had me suicidal by the end of it, the various health problems Mom has had to deal with, the bipolar boyfriend who first triggered my restricting, the way I deal with things now by pretending I'm someone else, the cutting.
And this one said "You definitely have at least some of the symptoms of PTSD." The acronym threw me off for a moment. "What's that?" "Post-traumatic stress disorder."
I wasn't expecting to hear that. I was never involved in a natural disaster. I haven't witnessed a murder. I haven't fought in any wars. I was molested, true, but it wasn't full-out rape. My life hasn't exactly been calm, but I never thought it met the criteria for 'traumatic'.
I'd told her, at the beginning, that I wanted to be able to handle my PMDD symptoms without needing to stay on zoloft forever. And she said that would likely be possible, but that I need to be realistic; that point is at least 3 or 4 years away. There's too much going on right now for me to go off the zoloft. I'm constantly being triggered by my everyday life, and I need to deal with the situational side of things before I can really tackle the hormonal triggers.
And she came up with a long-term plan. I'm getting a referral to start trauma therapy, with both individual and group sessions. And I'll continue seeing her once a month to check on things, and seeing my doctor at school every week. And once I've developed ways of feeling safe, even when I'm in a stressful situation, then I'll work with her more to develop techniques to deal with PMDD.
I'm a little overwhelmed. I really had no idea I was so messed up. I don't let myself feel things. I'm afraid of feeling things.
She also said she'd recommend increasing the zoloft, that studies have shown that trauma patients benefit from the use of medication like zoloft to allow them to cope as they begin to deal with their trauma. She said that might be hard for me, because 'hyperarousal' is a symptom of PTSD, and some patients don't want to give that up because they feel like they're losing their 'edge.'
And that does scare me a little.
I am defined by my edge.
I hate a lot about me. But I love that my body and mind are constantly on alert, ready to do whatever I need to do at a moment's notice. It's exhausting, sure, but I love that I can function perfectly well in extremely stressful situations, on little to no sleep, with little to no support. I work well under pressure, I thrive on stress. I push myself incredibly hard because I know I can get away with it; my mind will still function and my body will still hold me up.
I really think most of what I have accomplished, I have only been able to do because I haven't had a calm life.
Can I be happy and keep my edge? Can I keep the adrenaline that stress gives me without succumbing to the panic attacks that crop up every now and then?