Living With More Than One Mental Health Disorder
If you are reading this, you likely have faced challenges in life with debilitating symptoms and no viable reasons or answers. That was me a year and a half ago. I had a myriad of complex mental health disorder and bouts of depression, hitting me back every now and then. Living with more than one mental health disorder was not easy.
Healing from a mental health disorder is not the same recovery from, say, a broken leg. No single word or sentence, or paragraph can do justice to how it feels when you are living with a mental health issue. Mental health issues change the ways we think, act, and behave. And the stigma makes it worse, trust me.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that one person can experience multiple mental disorders.
Today, when I write this, I have not cured my depression, but I have healed and recovered. Here is my journey of healing from complex disorders, which fundamentally changed my everyday life.
I am Pallavi, and I experience severe depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Depression turns your feel-good emotions upside down by focusing on the negative and sad emotions. It makes everyday things, as basic as brushing your teeth or a meal paralysing and loathsome.
My depression was not short-lived.
There were times that I would pop up on the grocery aisle in shimmering gold, and it wouldn’t seem bold. While at other days, I would not step out of my bed for even a warm cup of coffee.
I could not figure out what was going on until I came across an online webinar on being mindful. I was never present in the moment; in the present, my mind often would off to foreign lands of future or obsess over the past. There seemed no escape, and I couldn’t ask or talk to anyone lest I would appear weak.
Talking to a therapist or a professional psychiatrist seemed daunting and intimidating. I started reading and looked for self-help resources only to find out that I had symptoms of depression.
Yes. It was not news, but I didn’t expect to be depressed!
I had lost my appetite.
Concentrating on work became very difficult.
I didn’t want to meet people or friends.
Fun things were not entertaining anymore, lost interest in things.
My mood changed suddenly from being utterly happy to awfully sad. Uncontrollable emotions!
Insomnia became my new companion.
I was anxious and restless throughout the day.
When you are living with mental health disorder the biggest mistake you can make is not asking for help.
My symptoms of depression began to spiral and feed off of each other. I had a hopeless attitude toward the world. But it was too much to handle, and one fine day, I gathered the courage to speak with an expert.
That was the first time I tried online therapy, and the first session went surprisingly great. There was no fear of judgment and I talked and talked. I chose to be anonymous. I felt light the moment I started to share.
After a few sessions, I was feeling better, maybe 10% better than before! Not that I can quantify emotions, but yeah, I just had a hunch. And then I realised, no one is immune from negative emotions and breakdowns but one always get help. Ask yourself if you are living and with a mental health disorder? Acknowledge it and ask for help, it’s brave.
My healing took time. And my therapy was not about a sleeping couch and a centre chair! I tried art therapy, I used colour therapy, nature therapy, hypnotherapy, and what not! After more than a year, I can now manage my symptoms of depression.
All this time, I was doing things not because my therapist told me so, but because I could establish a meaningful relationship with whatever I did.
It went well; I was beginning to feel in control of my emotions and my life. I was happy, taking therapy sessions, engaged in things that made me feel loved and cared for. Months later, I realised that even now, I was not “happy” happy.
I mean, who would have guessed that another disorder might hit me when I am seeking help to heal? Like really, again?
It wasn’t enough for me. I was not very confident in sharing this with my therapist that I don’t feel better even now. Would it make them feel disappointed in me?
I would cry at night or even mornings and I was unable to find a pattern. Even though I tried hard to hide it away, my therapist noticed and confronted me. I opened about my sudden bursts of tears, and I was diagnosed with PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and it was cyclical in nature. Guess what?
I was living with more than one mental health disorder!
PMDD is an unknown disorder even in the medical community, and most people confuse it with PMS. PMDD is a newly recognised mood disorder in the DSM-5. Almost a week or 10 days before my menstruation cycle began, I would experience dramatic shifts in mood. It lasted only for these 10 days, leaving me confused for the rest of the month.
Dysphoric disorder is often misdiagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality depression.
Imagine how difficult it was for me when I was affected by these symptoms enormously:
Mood swings often making me suddenly sad or tearful.
I could not accept rejection and become annoyingly sensitive to ‘No(s).’
I would get angry at almost anything and everything!
Interpersonal conflicts grew more than ever.
I was always tired for those 10 days and had trouble focusing.
I was sleeping more than I should, and it was a case of hypersomnia.
A sense of being overwhelmed perpetuated and physical symptoms would surface up too like
- Tender breasts
- Joint and muscle pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Weight gain
While connecting with nature and art therapy helped me manage my depression, PMDD was tough to tackle. It required me to patiently accept my condition and learn to live with it in order to minimise its effects. Here are some tried-and-true tips for living with PMDD:
Track your mood, thoughts, and physical symptoms using a period tracker app to identify your triggers.
- Be aware of your menstrual cycle
- Communicate with your family and partner when you are in the PMDD phase
- Avoid planning critical things around this time
- Meditate and practise mindfulness
- Eat healthy food
Living with depression and PMDD has been difficult. However, I managed to seek help in time. The last one and a half years have been a roller coaster ride for my mental health with two disorders at the same time. I had my highs and lows while seeking help, and the right treatment for them, and I witnessed different shades of healing. Healing is a journey, a process. So a friendly advice to whoever is living with a mental health disorder, you will see rough phases, but most importantly, you’ll get there.
See a doctor and get help if you or someone you know is living with any mental health disorder and/or are experiencing recurring symptoms mentioned above for more than two weeks. Recognising your depression or your mental health symptoms is essential to get the right help at the right time.
Mental health disorders affect millions of people worldwide, but there are varying treatments available, ranging from lifestyle changes to medications. No matter the path of treatment you go for, asking for help is the first step to healing.
Happy healing, folks!
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