My She Can & She Did Experience

During my junior year of high school, I went through a huge life change. One day I woke up and just didn’t feel like myself. The world around me started to become confusing and scary. Over the course of seven days, things got worse and then suddenly, I felt fine again.

The next month, I went through the same thing. Feeling confused, sad, scared. Every day getting a bit worse until day six when I was in the fetal position on a recliner hysterically crying. The next day, I woke up feeling fine again.

My mom had taken me to all the doctors she thought might know what was going on. Our family doctor mocked that I was, at the time, a vegetarian and said I should eat meat and I probably wouldn’t have any issues. An Ear Nose and Throat doctor said that everything looked fine and he didn’t believe it was related to my equilibrium being off despite the fact that I often described the confusion feeling almost as a dizziness.

The following month it happened again to the point that I ended up crying in chemistry class. A classmate, who I didn’t know well, had died in a tragic accident, but I was crying because I was scared and didn’t know why I felt so weird. My chemistry teacher tried to comfort me about the death when I broke down and told her what was really going on in my mind. “So it lasts for seven days, disappears, and then returns in the next month? This sounds cyclical. You should see a gynecologist.”

That’s when my mom and I turned our research to hormonal disorders. After landing on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder we saw that the birth control Yaz was a way to combat the symptoms. PMDD affects only 2-5% of women in the world. Psychiatrists still don’t have much information on the disorder but it’s described as a very intense PMS that can cause extreme symptoms. My symptoms included not recognizing myself in a mirror, crying uncontrollably with no reason, and having no focus or memory of things that had just happened.

The gynecologist was awful and told my mom it was all in my head. That alone was horrible and heartbreaking to hear that my Doctor didn't believe me. Regardless, she put me on the Yaz and suddenly I was myself again, all of the time, each week of every month.

As years went by I started to see that things would cause the disorder to reappear including alcohol and a generic brand of birth control. Even an over the counter “Emergen-C” type substance that had Vitex, a hormonal supplement, caused my birth control to not be effective and I would find myself stuck in a week of the black cloud. Every time I would experience those seven days of confusion and scared feelings was always horrible, even when I knew that it hadn't lasted forever in the past.

When I was 19, I had a boyfriend who I thought the world of. He was the first boy who cared more about spending time with me than with his friends at parties because partying just weren’t my style. Our relationship was short-lived, but during that time he experienced my disorder. For a week he let me stay home in his bed and made sure I was fed and taken care of. Even simple things like going to the bathroom became hard for me during the middle of the disorder.

When we broke up he had told people at our community college that he ended things because “She had a disorder that made her crazy.” When word got back to one of my good friends, she texted me to let me know he was spreading lies about me. I completely broke down. I had never told anyone about what I dealt with. I was scared because I felt broken and inadequate.

The stigma of depression is very real, and now, at the age of 19, I had to come admit that I had a depressive disorder and that I didn't know why. I’m always happy unless I’m going through it, and yes, I’ve tried to just “cheer up” but it’s not like that. I was wrecked that my ex, someone I cared about, thought it was okay to share my biggest vulnerability with people who I had never even talked to in my life.

Years passed and I never found a true fix aside from constant medication through birth control. Slowly the depressive side has started to affect my life more frequently outside of the normal 7 days before my period. Things like running don’t totally solve my disorder, but running gives me time to clear my mind, release endorphins, and be with nature for a bit.

I ran my first half marathon in 2013 at the age of 22 and realized how life-changing crossing that finish line was. I had friends who challenged me to run a marathon and told me that I should try it sooner than later to make sure I didn’t lose sight of the goal. December 2014, during a bout of the depressive disorder, I was able to make the trip to Memphis (after crying when I arrived because of the confusion my brain was experiencing. I struggled to understand how to park in a city that I had never been to so that I could go to the expo) and ran for the kids at St. Jude.

I remember being so happy being on the phone with my mom, dad, and uncle after the race sitting in my car realizing I had just completed a marathon and didn’t allow the depression to keep me from doing something I had spent months training for. This was the moment I realized running needed to be a part of my life. It was the day I decided it was a part of who I needed to become.

Fast forward to 2018 I have run 11 full marathons and 8 half marathons. I am a Marathon Maniac after running three fulls in three months in 2015, and this past year, I ran the Disney Marathon on my 27th Birthday followed by the Charleston Marathon six days later. I still fall into ruts where I can’t get off the couch because life is just too hard and even running is too confusing to figure out. But overall, running has been my sidekick. I have a boyfriend of 2 and a half years who has worked with me through my disorder and all the anxiety I have. He has even started to run some 5ks with me and plans to run the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon this fall!

Mental illness can make you believe a lot of horrible things about yourself, especially when people you care about tell people they think you are crazy. I’m grateful I had the “She Can & She Did” attitude going into my very first full marathon. And now, thanks to running, I am happy to say that I am not crazy...I’m a Maniac. :)

*For more from Amanda, you can follow her on Instagram.