I am trapped in a cycle of suicidal thoughts
I am travelling back from a long day at work. I have my window pulled down. Its dark outside and the wind is blowing directly in my face. I am exhausted and mentally drained. I have no energy left to fight these battles. As the car pauses at a traffic light, my mind races by. I can’t bear this any longer.
The car revs to a start and speeds onto the highway, cold wind blowing onto my face again. I can see the lights of other cars swish past me in a blurry rush. My mind slows down and I start focusing on the car door handle. I can’t take it anymore. No one understands my misery; no one understands my lonely anguish. My hand reaches for the handle. I just want it all to end. This is the only way out of this darkness now. Just end it, my mind tells me. Just jump…
I take a deep breath and a small, hidden voice of sanity tells me stop. I pull my hand back and wait for the car to stop at the curb of my house.
This isn’t a fiction tale. Neither is it an extraordinary incident. This happens to me every single month. I am trapped in a monthly cycle and am sick of these suicidal thoughts.
I am suffering from an illness called Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), an extreme form of Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). This condition affects women physically and mentally, with different symptoms for at least seven to ten days before menstruation.
I have been on medication for almost three years now. I tapered off last year but this summer, the symptoms started reappearing and the days of depression started to stretch longer. The war between my sanity and insanity would go on for ten days during this period. This was too much to handle because not only did it affect my productivity at work, it also affected my relationships. Writing is my passion and I had ideas too, but I couldn’t focus on anything and felt lost. I contacted my psychiatrist and she asked me to resume taking medications, but this time a lighter dose. She also said that now my issues had become more of a biological problem and I need to take medicine regularly – similar to having high blood pressure and needing to take a tablet every day. I did what she said and life is better now.
But I am not the only woman who faces this agony every single month. Let alone men, many women do not even know that a condition like PMDD exists. The disorder is accompanied by various biological and psychological symptoms, such as weight gain, migraines, nausea, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and tension, mood disorder, insomnia.
So how do I deal with these terrible symptoms? I take prescribed medication because they help alleviate the severity of the symptoms. In my case, they never go away completely. So what shall I do to cope with my condition? When I have suicidal thoughts, I listen to loud music to drown the ideas whirling inside my mind. In a tug-of-war, I sing along loudly to reclaim my sanity. On good days, I emerge as a victor in ten minutes, having diverted my thoughts. On bad days, it takes louder music and a longer duration. Reading doesn’t help in such situations.
PMDD is common across the world but, in Pakistan, most women dismiss the symptoms as a normal phase of their monthly cycle. Most of them do not consider it as a disease that requires treatment. Most women only approach a doctor when their depression lasts for a long period of time, and they find it hard to get out of bed or even function properly.
I recently read an article published in The Guardian saying Sylvia Plath may have had severe PMS or PMDD, and was in the classic post-ovulation, premenstrual period of her cycle when she took her life. Now, years later, I am glad our understanding of female hormones is a little better.
Through this blog all I would like to say is, don’t ignore the symptoms. Seek professional help. If the problem is taking a toll on your mental health, do see a psychiatrist. Life is precious. I have dealt with it successfully along with a challenging career – so I know that every woman can. I did not let this illness affect every aspect of my life. My doctor says I am a fighter. I never give up. I am glad I came out of this miserable state in one piece.
Life can be extremely difficult at times but do not give up and keep fighting. Don’t let this illness destroy your life, seek professional help and shine. As they say ‘no health without mental health’. This is my message on World Mental Health Day marked today, across the world. Even if it helps one individual, I will be grateful.