The b$tch abides.

HI friends of the ether.

I am going to insert a reader disclaimer right at the beginning of this post. This post might end up being more about hormones than about rock climbing...

So, my male readers, please feel free to avert your eyes for the majority of this post. Or, if you consider yourself to be an enlightened male, then perhaps you want to take a read. This post might help you too as the climbing partners, lovers, friends, and husbands of womankind. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this. I guess, I'm really just an expert on myself. And, it was only in the last three months that I even earned the title "expert of myself", because the months and years leading up to this summer, I was pretty much completely in the dark about me, myself, and I. 

It seems like a fitting time for me to write this post because Oct. 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. Alright, certainly those two words, Mental Illness, made you feel a little uncomfortable, but allow me to draw the connection between PMS and mental health with a little story. 

The female body is a funny thing. The only thing that stays the same about your body, is that nothing stays the same? One week you're riding high on some happy hormone, and the next week your body is coursing with an angry hormone and it doesn't matter how sweet anyone is to you, you're going to bite their head off. This is unfortunately, normal though. 

The happy hormone.
What isn't normal is when you're riding high one week; happy, calm, rational, and stable. Then, you wake one morning with a very dark cloud over your head. You cry simply because you can't shake the feeling that everything is falling apart, though nothing has changed from the day before. Over the last few years, this slowly became my reality. It got to the point where I would literally feel like I was having an out of body experience, watching myself explode with rage, fear, sadness, or whatever the negative emotion of the day was. It was scary. I was afraid of myself, and naturally, I thought I was falling ill, really mentally ill. 

It's a terrifying feeling to feel so volatile, and unpredictable. Above everyone else, you're supposed to know yourself the best. I didn't know who I'd become in the slightest. Was I bipolar, could I be losing my mind, was I a bad person who simply wanted to ruin my life, and the lives of others? I was terrified of the answer.

I "thought" I hit rock bottom a bunch of times. Then the next day, I'd wake up feeling perfectly fine again, and so would continue on living my life. Then it would happen again. I'd hit rock bottom. I'd spiral out of control for a couple days, effectively destroying every relationship in sight in the process. Why was I so messed up, how did I get this way? I really didn't want to ruin everything.

It wasn't until one more rock bottom experience this summer that something clicked. I couldn't be this way anymore. This wasn't me. I didn't want to simply be an observer to my own life anymore. I'd had a hunch that I had bad PMS. My mother had told me that she'd have some pretty dark days which she was certain were attributed to her menstrual cycle, but back in the 1960's you didn't get help for having PMS, it wasn't really even "a thing" back then. And, it wasn't much before that, that women who were dealing with PMS were labelled as "hysterical", given tranquilisers and confined to their rooms. Gosh that makes me really sad to think about. 

Regardless, I began to research PMS a little further, my research led me to my family Doctor, who referred me to a female Psychiatrist, who helped diagnose PMDD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. For the first time in, ever, I had a support network and I wasn't going crazy, I didn't have bipolar disorder. I was a woman, who by some luck of the draw, was experiencing PMS symptoms severe enough to receive medical attention. PMDD was recently recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a tool often regarded as standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. The DSM identifies formalised treatment plans to assist those diagnosed, manage their symptoms day-to-day, or rather cycle-to-cycle.

The Psychiatrist prescribed a common anti-depressant which has been shown to interact with the hormonal effects of PMDD in a positive way. At the recommendation of the Psychiatrist I began tracking my mood day to day. Miraculously, the combination of seeing a Clinical Counsellor once per week, taking 20 mg of an anti-depressant daily, and simply having the self awareness that I wasn't f#ck$d up, I started to notice my "+'s" began to outweigh my "-'s" on the calendar. For the first time in a long time, I felt in control of myself. My mind was quiet, my relationships great, and I was content. 

This is perhaps a little scandalous, but then again, this whole post is a little scandalous. Yours truly, finding peace on the mountain top. 
This is why I share this with you. I want all those other women out there, climber or none climber, to hear my story and if this sounds like you, I want you to get help. I don't want another woman to watch helplessly as her life falls apart around her. I recognise that taking an anti-depressant gets a lot of bad rep. out there. But, let me encourage you by saying, this is your body's chemistry, and it's hard to fight nature. The human race has perpetuated because of nature, you can't win this battle on your own. 

Here's one particular resource that helped me alot. There is much more information out there, I have a whole bookmarks folder dedicated to PMDD. So, rest assured that if you seek help, the medical community is there to support you. The day after seeing my Doctor, in tears, I received a call from our local community health nurse who informed me that she had received my referral to see the Psychiatrist, and wanted to ensure that I had the counselling support I needed until I was able to see her. It was incredible to feel so validated and cared for, when all along, I'd just thought I was a bitch.

So, there you have it Ladies and Gentleman. How's that for a tell-all. I hope you still read my blog after this!

And, why don't we just close things off with a photo of a man riding a sea horse, because, let's be honest, who doesn't like to see people having fun with sea horses.