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Friday, October 25, 2013

In Between

In between those moments I have described to you in the last two blog posts, there are times of reflection on what I have done with my life, despite the things inside my head and body with which I have to deal. How much I have accomplished isn't that impressive unless you know the illness and what it does, all of the hurdles and obstacles I had to overcome.

I think of all the other women out there going through the same things and managing to get out that door almost every day, able to make the most of that good half of their lives, able to hold down a job, raise children and maybe even have healthy relationships.

We all have days like my yesterday, days where we have to give in to the need to stay safe and take care of ourselves like we would a sick loved one. We must do this to care for our bodies and minds or everything gets much worse.

Yet there is guilt.

Our internal guilt that we are weak or defective in some way, that we don't measure up to everyone's expectations.

Then there is the external guilt we get from all sides; employers, family, friends, doctors and the media. Sometimes the worst can be women who are blessed to suffer from normal PMS. They judge us, often to our faces.

They say things like, 'So, I had cramps yesterday and I went to work.' or, 'Take a midol.'

If it were just cramps I would be dancing on the rooftops! Seriously. They have no idea how lucky they are and that does not give them the right to judge us or think less of us and our abilities. Would they tell someone going through chemotherapy for cancer, 'So, I had the flu last week and I went to work.'?

Nope, I didn't think so.

Why should we feel guilty for a medical condition? Is it because it only affects women?

Yes. Yes it is.

Both men and women are conditioned to believe that a woman's emotions are a disability, a defect, a hinderance to being dependable and valuable. It is a subtle conditioning, not normally blatant and spelled out. It is the telling of a girl that she is overreacting when she cries over hurt feelings. It is the dismissal of a woman's witness testimony because she is too emotional to be trusted. It is the refusal to see the harassment and oppression the women in the workplace go through because they are 'always complaining about something'.

But why? Who decided that emotions and ability are mutually exclusive?

Isn't there a chance, just a small chance, that people who are unable to understand and communicate their feelings are the ones that are defective?

Rather than punish those who are in touch with their inner selves as well as their outer selves, they should learn from them. Imagine what the world could be like if everyone took the feelings of themselves and others into consideration before making decisions. It is compassion, empathy and understanding that we all need.

Our emotions do not make us weak. Caring about others does not take away our power. It makes us stronger, more whole and more able to relate to others, which equates to skills that could be useful in any boardroom or political arena. It means we are trusting and honest because we are open and honest about our inner most feelings. It means we can be trusted and counted on to help a person in need.

Those of us with PMDD often have no control over outbursts of emotion. We can be sitting back inside our own heads yelling at ourselves to stop talking, stop crying, stop yelling, whatever it is, but we can't. At that point in time we are not running the show, someone else is at the controls and there is nothing we can do about it. We don't want to do those things. We try everything in our power to avoid it, including canceling our plans and avoiding interaction.

Many times the feelings we experience are so real to us that we can't distinguish them from actuality. The sense that friends, family and coworkers are talking about us and plotting something to harm us in some way, emotionally or physically, can become so real that we become angry or untrusting or seriously afraid. The threat may not be real but our feelings are. The Boogie Man may not be real, but try telling that to the crying 6 year old in your bed at 2am. We need reassurance that our fragile selves are safe just like you would comfort a child with nightmares.

No person, male or female, healthy or suffering, young or old, should ever be discounted because of their feelings. And those feelings should never be dismissed. Not all wounds show bruises and bleeding but that does not lessen the pain.

If we respect the emotions of the people around us perhaps more and more people will feel free to express their feelings. Perhaps the stigma of being emotional and the divide between the genders can be lessened, eventually erased.

Ok, now let me climb down off my soap box and let's all join hands as we sing kumbaya followed by a tearful rendition of We Are The World.


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