Truthfulness is a character trait essential to building lasting relationships. We spend most of our lives either learning or teaching the importance of honesty. Not only do we desire having people in our life whom we can trust, we want to be trusted. We want people to take us at our word. We want to know that we don’t have to constantly prove ourselves.
But what if the person lying to you, is yourself?
I have spent months, actually the better part of a year or more, trying to convince myself that:
- I am just fine.
- Everyone has sad days.
- Most women have PMS and learn to deal.
- Being anxious, having trouble sleeping and feeling paranoid is normal.
One night over the summer, I found myself standing in the hallway at 3 o’clock in the morning, clutching the phone and listening to every minute noise in the house. Between the sweet sounds of children slumbering, I strained my ears to see if I could hear unfamiliar footsteps, or the crackle and pop of a fire sparking. The sound of the sump pump churning made me worry our basement was flooding. I hadn’t slept in hours, convinced something, anything, bad was going to happen while my husband was out of town. And if it did, how would I save us? I started devising crazy escape plans in my head, picturing us fleeing through a small window over my toilet in the master bathroom, crawling on to the roof top and sliding down the small tree in front of our mudroom. I even started to think it would be a good idea to make the kids practice so that they wouldn’t be scared of jumping off the roof.
Besides chronic trouble sleeping, my mood oscillated between uncontrollable crying or unprovoked anger. One minute I couldn’t eat enough, the next I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach if I even smelled food. I had no energy and could barely string together enough words to make a coherent thought. Things would disappear and then resurface in unexpected places, like my car keys in the refrigerator or my glasses in the linen closet. Half of the time I thought I was crazy and the other half I was waiting to go crazy.
“I just feel so tired and sad lately,” I confided to a friend.
“Maybe you’re just bored or lonely,” they responded. “Find a hobby or get a part-time job.”
I could barely take a shower or get dressed most days. How in the world would I find the muster to go to work? I gave up trying to explain myself to anyone for fear of being ridiculed or brushed off. There was nothing in my life weighing me down. My marriage, my kids, our finances and friendships are all healthy and satisfying.
Then I started telling myself different lies.
- I’m a bad housekeeper, I’ll never get this place organized.
- I’m a mess, how could my husband ever find me attractive?
- I can’t finish anything.
- I contribute nothing.
And then it just went away, almost as quickly as it had surfaced. The negative self-talk, the lethargy and the lack of motivation seemed to disappear.
Until the next month.
And the next month.
For two weeks out of every month, for over a year, mental chaos washed over me in waves, crashing into my confidence, slowly stripping away my clarity and creativity. I didn’t want to play my oboe. I didn’t want to write or be with my friends. And I certainly didn’t want to exercise or cook. It was like I was stuck on “pause.” And when I wasn’t deep in depression, I was struggling to catch up on all the things that had been left undone while I was in this emotional coma.
I started to track how often these mood swings would surface, realizing that there was a definite pattern to my behavior and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I needed help.
I can’t even take credit for making that first phone call. It was time for my annual visit and before we started the exam, I finally spilled my guts to the doctor, and for the first time in a long time, I was heard.
It has been determined that I suffer from PMDD, a condition that causes severe emotional and physical changes around the time of menstruation. After I got home with a game plan, I started reading everything I could find on this subject. The best explanation I found was a personal account written by Erika Krull, MS, LMHP. I could relate on every level.
Once I understood what was going on with my body, I could talk about it more honestly. I could stop pretending that everything was normal and start living my life again.
And I could stop telling myself these lies.