Sometimes I feel like I have two faces – the one that I wear on the outside and the one that I hide on the inside. Or maybe it’s more like three.
There’s the one that everyone sees, on a regular basis. That’s the Badass Victoria. The girl who gets her hands dirty, who doesn’t give up, who fights for… well… everything that she feels like she needs, who bends the world to her will. That one is very well known. That one has made friends, she’s lost friends, she’s won great gains and lost great losses, but she still stands because at the end of the day, she is a survivor. That one everyone knows really, really well. And, maybe, that’s the one that people come to most often because they know that, no matter what they throw at her, she’ll be able to take it.
Underneath that, is a softer Victoria. A more compassionate Victoria. Some people get to meet her… a very few, select people whom she deems worthy for whatever reason or another (or maybe it’s just because they need her to be that way at the time and she (actually) doesn’t like to see people suffer). This is the girl who takes in friends who are homeless, who sits beside them, unwavering, when they’re at the Emergency Room for hours on end. This is the girl who lovingly ships packages full of snacks and super glue and plastic bags (yes, plastic bags) to Afghanistan and doesn’t ask for anything in return. This is the girl who leaves her ringtones up at full volume all night so that, if someone needs her, they can reach her no matter the hour. She’s the girl that drops everything to fly a thousand miles when she gets an intuition that she is needed. And because of this, she’s tired a lot. She’s often worn down by the problems that other people bring her. But she does, in fact, give a shit (which surprises the hell out of people who have only ever seen the Badass side of her). This is the girl that, despite the badassery, can love, and who loves deeply when she chooses to. This is the girl who is loyal to a fault, who does not lie, who does not cheat, and who, often, gets taken advantage of because (despite the badassery) she’s been known to put her trust in the wrong individuals. The badassery gives her a bandaid to seal her many wounds, and the two keep walking together.
The two of those parts? They coexist really well. Because when she needs to be compassionate, she can be compassionate. But when that compassion needs to turn into strength to pull her friends and the people she cares about out of very dark places, the badass part steps in and does it – the compassion keeps the badass in check. The badass makes sure the compassion does not overwhelm her so that she is rendered useless.
About three weeks out of every single month of my life? These two things exist harmoniously. I can move mountains. And I have (figurative ones). I don’t know, sometimes, where that reserve of strength comes from, any more than I know where the compassion comes from. But believe me, as a survivor of many things, I’m glad I have the ability to be both simultaneously.
There is, however, something else. It’s a part of me that I don’t let people see very often… even less-so than the compassion. I’ve been fighting with myself over whether I wanted to write about this right now or not, but since it’s relevant to what I’m doing right now, and as it’ll be relevant to the narrative later on, I think it’s necessary.
I suffer from PMDD (yes, this is an official diagnosis), which stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I jokingly say it’s like having PMS on crack. And I guess, in some ways, this is a fair assumption. This is something that only a small fraction of the female population suffer from – and physically, it’s an exacerbation of the normal PMS symptoms. My cramps are bad when I have them. I have headaches. I am tired, literally, all the time post ovulation until my period starts. Since this is something that manifests about two weeks before my period, I literally have it pinpointed to two phases. During phase one, the headaches start. The vision changes start (seriously, my vision – already bad – gets worse… no one could explain it until I started tracking it). The fatigue sets in and you’ll find me taking naps after work. Concentration is laughable and I take a lot of mental breaks because trying to focus on one little thing becomes impossible. Oh, and then there’s work. I’m not really a fan of most of my coworkers… they’re a lot like teenagers, except they are all masquerading as adults. But the balls hitting my office, the yelling, the loudness outside my door, that gets to me more during that first week than at any other time. I put on relaxing music and I try to get through my day. The first week isn’t that bad.
The second week? Oh my god. See, the headaches subside. I can concentrate a little bit better than I could the first week. Most of the symptoms from the first week are long gone. The second week is when my demons start to talk to me again. They say that PMDD is most prevalent in women that have suffered (or that do suffer) from a depressive disorder. I am not depressed these days, but I used to be. This makes me more susceptible to the PMDD. And it’s not that I get particularly depressed during this time. No, my problems stem from anxiety. Really, really, really BAD anxiety.
It’s like “fight or flight” all the time. They have drugs for this. And I take them. When I need them. My OBGYN wants to put me on an SSRI, but I respectfully decline as I do not want to be a robot, and writing is kind of what I do. I opt for Xanax instead, which makes them shut up most of the time, but it’s really ridiculously difficult for it to shut them down all of the time. I am not a hazard to myself, and I never really was. I’m not suicidal. But before I knew what was going on, I was incredibly self destructive. My relationships suffered. My decision making abilities went out the window. And when the anxiety takes hold, I can’t even read the tarot, because my mood comes through in the cards, making it impossible for me to read them accurately. I can’t trust my own intuition – and you have to understand, when it’s your intuition that normally gets you through the day, you feel kind of naked without it.
Now that I know what it is, and when it’s going to hit me, I’ve learned to combat it a little. I’ve learned to put off any major decision making until this subsides (and it will… it always does). I’ve learned that, whatever is going in my head at that very moment, that 90 percent of it is garbage and I’d do better to ignore it. That helps to a degree. But it doesn’t shut it up. I still have to listen to it. I just don’t do anything about it. That’s free will. That’s the exercising of free will.
It begins a countdown, of sorts, because I know that it will get worse before it gets better.
That said, when it hits, and when you’re sitting in the middle of it (like I am now), it doesn’t matter how many support forums you read or how many pills you take, or how many days you have until you don’t have to deal with it anymore… every day seems like a hundred years. You want to feel normal again, and you put on that “normal” face so that no one knows that underneath you’re this ridiculously stressed out, anxiety ridden chick (the kind you really hate), you pop a Xanax, and you go for a run, because, really, what else is there to do except wait it out? It’ll go away eventually. I’ll get three weeks or so of normalcy, and then, maybe, the next time around it won’t be that bad… because it ebbs and flows, depending on the cycle.