Why You Should Know About PMDD

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Why You Should Know About PMDD

By Megan Rigdon

Clinical Social Worker

I recently posted on Instagram asking my therapy community about some ideas for a blog post. I got a request for a post about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. Later that week, I spoke with several individuals who told me they were diagnosed with PMDD. Naturally, I began digging to find all the information I could about PMDD. It was new to the DSM 5 when I was in graduate school and we did not spend a lot of time learning about it. In light of my research and work with these individuals, I truly believe everyone should be educated about this disorder to be able to support those living with it. 

So what in the world is PMDD you ask? Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a cyclical, hormone-based mood disorder. It is not an imbalance of hormones, it is an extreme negative response to the increase and decrease of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It occurs during the luteal phase, or after ovulation, until menstrual flow. In the mental health world, it is classified as a mood disorder, and often people are misdiagnosed with bipolar, generalized anxiety, and major depressive disorder, because some of the symptoms of the more researched mood disorders are the same as PMDD symptoms. 

Because PMDD is a negative response to the rise and fall of hormones during an individual’s menstrual cycle, then this means it happens every month. One woman reported, “It is a life sentence. Until menopause anyways.” Many people report it is like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation, two weeks of feeling like yourself, and then two weeks of terror and misery. Some of the symptoms of PMDD are: panic attacks, mood swings, depression, thoughts of suicide, intense food cravings and binge eating, irritability and extreme rage, tiredness, feeling out of control, and many more. 

So if you don’t have PMDD, then why should you care? Here are some of the statistics. 1 in 20 women, transgender, and non-binary individuals live with PMDD, and of those individuals, 90% go undiagnosed. And here is the part you should pay attention to: 30% of people with PMDD will attempt suicide in their life. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States according to the CDC. I had a mom share her experience of PMDD with me and she said, “When I am finally out of the bad days and I am me again, my kids will say, Mommy you are back! I just don’t know how to explain to my children that every two weeks mommy can’t get out of bed, mommy can’t get you breakfast, and mommy can’t get you dressed.” 

 By educating ourselves about PMDD we can be a support to those around us. By talking about mental health and banishing the negative stigma of mental health, we can allow those living with difficult things, like PMDD, to not feel shame. PMDD is not a choice, it is not “bad PMS”, and it is not something that just goes away. There are mountains of research showing that peer support is one of the most beneficial tools in recovery, so I encourage you to get educated and support those who need it.

All of my information came from the website iapmd.org. It is the international hub for all information on PMDD. It has a self-screening link, how to talk to your kids, treatments, online support groups, and so much more good information. 

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Reduce Anxiety Using One Simple Trick

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Reduce Anxiety Using One Simple Trick

By Megan Rigdon

Clinical Social Worker

I often have people come into my office asking for help with anxiety. Anxiety looks different for everyone, but there are similar aspects that my clients report. One theme I have seen in my work as a therapist is that anxiety comes when people follow the “what if” thoughts they have. “What if I interview for the job, but I don’t get it?” “What if my child gets sick and I don’t notice it in time?” “What if I relapse and my wife leaves me?” Too often we follow these “what-ifs”, and before we realize we are running after these thoughts, we feel anxious and get stuck in a cycle of constant, anxious thinking. 

 We all have these what-if thoughts. I am having one right now! “What if no one likes my blog post?” It is not uncommon to have these thoughts, but what can you do to cope with these thoughts and stop yourself from chasing them down? There are several tools and schools of thought, but one tool that I teach (and my clients have reported being helpful), is called “thought labeling.”

Thought labeling comes from a practice called mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation aims to keep you in the present and helps you observe your thoughts without judgement. I like to put it this way: we feel depression because we dwell in the past. We ruminate about what we should have done differently. On the other hand, we feel anxiety because we reside in the future. Worrying about all the things to come and the “what-ifs.” When we can take a moment to be mindful, check in with our body and our thoughts, then we are in the present. Being in the present allows us to take a step back from the future and the past, resulting in a reduction of anxiety and depression. 

This is when thought labeling comes in. When you realize you are having these “what-if” thoughts, go ahead and grab onto one. Take my thought for example, “What if no one likes my blog post?” My instinct is to follow this thought and think of all the possible scenarios until I get really anxious and end up thinking that I am a failure and that everyone will hate my blog. That may sound extreme, but if you follow one of your thoughts you might find that they end in an extreme place. What would happen if I decided to not follow that thought? I am going to tell myself that it is “just a thought”. Too often we believe that every thought we have is true, when frequently that is not the case. A thought can be just a thought, not a reality.

 Thought labeling is as basic as it sound.. You simply label an anxious thought as “just a thought”, and it takes power away from it. You get to decide later if the thought was true or helpful or realistic. But for now, this thought that “No one will like my blog”, is just a thought. 

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The Road to Englschalking

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The Road to Englschalking

By Wayne Taylor

Sunny Day Counseling Guest Blogger

Every now and then there are moments when my life seems like a Monty Python sketch. Specifically, it’s seems like the sketch where, in the middle of a grave or serious situation, one character starts to obsess over a single trivial detail. In Monty Python it might be an article of clothing, or someone’s height, or a word that someone says, but everything comes to a halt as the character forces everyone to focus on that inconsequential detail. In the context of sketch comedy, this can be very funny, but when it happens in my life, when I realize that I’m the character that’s obsessing about minutiae, it’s not. My wife finds it mildly amusing that I will go off on a rant about how every article of clothing and every single possession my children own has been dropped in the entry way of our home and has been lying there for months and how my children’s failure to take responsibility for their belongings can only portend the complete moral collapse of Western civilization. If she’s in a good mood, she will tell me I’m missing the point. She tries to remind me that I’ve lost perspective on raising children, that I’ve lost sight of the “gestalt” of the parenting. She is a psych nurse, and in psychological terms “gestalt” is the idea that the whole is something other than its parts. And while the whole experience can involve learning and growth, the components of the experience can be unpleasant, unplanned, and unhappy.

The late Joseph Campbell would often point out that many myths begin with “the call to adventure.” That is, something happens that interrupts the usual pattern of the potential hero’s life. For example, he or she might be so absorbed in hunting that they suddenly find themselves in a part of the forest they do not recognize. In mythic terms, the person has entered a space where not only adventure, but also physical, spiritual, and emotional growth are possible. For Joseph Campbell these unexpected interruptions in our daily lives are tremendously valuable because they get us out of our ruts, out of our routines, and put us into an environment and landscape where we can learn something new or, even better, become something new. To lose sight, then, in these moments of the possibilities of the larger experience--to focus just on the inconvenience, just on all the things are out of place and might be left undone—is, well, silly. 

Years ago, I was in Munich, Germany, for some business meetings. Over the course of a week, I spent nearly all my time in a conference room, and when it came time to return home, I felt vaguely cheated. I decided that before returning home I owed it to myself to experience the “gestalt” of Germany. My meetings were finished, the business was done, and I had three hours before my flight. So instead of taking a taxi to the airport, I decided to take the train.

I didn’t understand the train riding conventions in Germany; I didn’t know where or how to buy tickets or who to give them to once I had them.  But I was ready for adventure, so I asked the hotel’s concierge where the nearest train station was.  He told me that the closest stop was Englschalking and that I would need to take a taxi to get there.  I thanked him, and I went to the corner and flagged down a cab. I got in and said, in what I hoped was passable German, “Englschalking.” The taxi driver looked at me quizzically, but then shrugged, and off we went.

The road to Englschalking wound through the city. Gradually businesses and shops were replaced by houses and apartment buildings.  In most places stone fences pushed toward the road, offering only the occasional glimpse of the houses nestled inside.  Bavaria, it seemed, did not yield her gestalt easily.  Trees, bushes, and the occasional violet of lilacs filled in the seams between homes and buildings.  Soon we came to a semi-industrial part of town where factories and warehouses replaced the houses.

It was next to one of these warehouses that the taxi stopped.  The driver turned to me and said something in German that seemed to indicate that we had arrived. On my left were train tracks with two small raised cement platforms on either side. There were no shops, no ticket booths, no traveler’s aid--nothing.  I got out of the cab and looked around.  Englschalking, I surmised from my surroundings, meant "boondocks" in German.  The taxi driver seemed a little concerned about just leaving me there, and he kept waving his hands and saying "hotel bad" and waving his hands some more. He was desperately trying to communicate, but I couldn’t understand his German, and he couldn’t understand my English. I looked at my watch and decided that I didn’t have time for much more adventure. My quest had failed. I felt stupid for even thinking that this would be a good experience. Defeated, I renounce adventure and turned to the taxi driver and said in the only other foreign language I knew, "Aeropuerto, por favor."

The taxi driver instantly brightened.  He was, he told me, Francisco, from Barcelona, and the hotel had given me bad directions--they were the worst for giving people bad directions--and the next train wouldn’t come for at least 45 minutes and that if I wanted to take the train I should go to the Ostbahnhof station toward the center of town and he would take me there if I’d liked but herewas not a good place to catch the train. I told him to take me to the airport. 

We would have to wind around a little bit, but it would be okay, he explained, and he talked to me in Spanish the rest of the way.  He talked of German wines, cars and autobahns, the local university where his daughter went to school, and the unusually wet spring.  While he talked, I looked out the window.  The countryside was partly obscured by haze and low clouds, but the fields were now long and bright with yellow flowers.  I had not expected the road to Englschalking to pass this way.  It was a bad place to catch the train, but a good place to ride the back roads to the airport and to see Germany through the eyes of a Spaniard.  That’s gestalt for you.

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3 Signs You Have Postpartum Depression

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3 Signs You Have Postpartum Depression

By Megan Rigdon

Clinical Social Worker

When I had my first child, I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love. I felt that feeling all my mom friends had talked about. I saw her little face and it was love at first sight. I actually cried every time I looked at her because I loved her so intensely. Since then, though my trainings and certifications in women’s health, I have learned that I had what is called the “baby pinks.” It is the opposite of baby blues. I was almost obnoxiously overflowing with love and joy. After about two weeks, this subsided and I felt like my mood stabilized and I was myself again.

You can imagine my surprise when I had my second child and I did not have the “baby pinks.” I remember waiting and waiting for myself to feel that overwhelming sense of love for this new baby, but it was not coming. “I am exhausted,” I told myself. “You are still adjusting to two kids,” I told myself several weeks later. As the weeks went on, my thoughts grew darker and I felt more anxious and lonely. I didn’t even feel like any part of me was my true self anymore. Worst of all, I was not even sure I loved my child. Typing those words fills my eyes with tears and makes it hard to swallow. “How can a mother feel this way,” I wondered.

Eventually the darkness faded, my love for my child grew immensely, and the fog and sadness of that period of time is gone. As I continued educating myself and decided to get a certification in perinatal mood disorders (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum bipolar, etc.), I realized that I had postpartum depression after the birth of my second child. There was nothing “wrong with me”, I wasn’t “the world’s worst mom” because I had horrible thoughts about my child. I was struggling to fight something that I knew nothing about.

There are several signs and symptoms that go along with postpartum depression. However, I think it is useful to identify three common symptoms that are often reported by those with postpartum depression. If you feel like these symptoms apply to you, and you are pregnant or less than 12 months postpartum, then it is very likely you have postpartum depression. While every individual will have a different postpartum depression experience, these symptoms are common to most peoples reported experiences.

Intrusive Thoughts and Images

Many women and men (yes, men can get postpartum depression too, so stay tuned for a future blog post) report having intrusive thoughts and images during the postpartum period. I use the term intrusive because these thoughts are often unpleasant and frequent. It can be difficult to talk about these thoughts because they can be frightening or graphic. They can involve harming your child, abandoning your child, or even images of an accident happening to your child. Evidence shows that men and women who have these thoughts are rarely a danger to their child, rather these thoughts are a manifestation of their fear and anxiety. Regardless, these thoughts are scary, and often parents do not feel they are safe to be left alone with their child. If you have intrusive thoughts and images in the postpartum period, I would highly recommend seeking support from a therapist.

Apathy

In the clinical world, when a client reports feeling a lack of motivation, lack of concern or care, and/or a lessened emotional connection with a person or interest, this usually leads a clinician to term this as apathy. As a postpartum parent, feeling apathetic can be intense. Society instill in us that parents should be ready to fill every need of your child, day or night. Your main goal is to keep your child safe and loved and have their basic needs met. However, a postpartum parent who is apathetic may be viewed as “lazy” or seem detached from their child. Sometimes the apathy is so extreme that parents report feeling too emotionally numb to care for their newborn.

Mood Swings

Sleep deprivation is one aspect of being a new parent. Lack of sleep brings irritability, moodiness, and clouded thinking. These are typical things new parents face. But there is a line when these expected symptoms cross into something that is more unpredictable. This is when you cross into mood swings. Mood swings are a big aspect of postpartum depression. They range from angry outbursts and rage, to uncontrollable crying episodes. The intensity of these swings is usually an indicator that there may be something more than being tired.

If you are a thinking about getting pregnant, are currently pregnant, a new mom/dad, a seasoned mom/dad, or a friend of someone who is fits these criteria, I hope you read and share this article. By sharing this article I hope that women and men who feel the way I felt, can find a little bit of hope that healing can happen.



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How to View Mistakes as Opportunities

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How to View Mistakes as Opportunities

People are often accustomed to viewing one mistake as total failure. This blog post describes a new perspective on the creativity and growth that can come from making a mistake. Mistakes can become opportunities.

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We want to introduce ourselves...

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We want to introduce ourselves...

We wanted to take a minute to introduce ourselves here at Sunny Day Counseling. Josh Thorn, licensed clinical social worker, is the founder and owner of Sunny Day Counseling. The vision behind Sunny Day Counseling was to be able to help people in our community with specific issues such as overcoming pornography and substance use disorders. We wanted to empower individuals with the tools and ability to help themself and not rely on lifelong therapy. Josh recognized that there was not a lot of support for individuals struggling with these issues and he knew he could be a resource for them.

He hired on Megan Rigdon, clinical social worker, so that more clients could be met with and to add some of her specialities. We are a small practice which allows us to specialize our client’s treatment and really spend time assisting those we meet with. We wanted to be available and really connect with those we work with. Megan Rigdon specializes in women’s health, including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Thank you for taking the time to check out out website. We plan to post one blog per month and include current upcoming events in a monthly newsletter. As therapists, we recognize the importance of sharing what we know with our community. It takes more than just a therapist to make lasting change, it takes a whole community. Welcome and please reach out to us if you have any questions or comments.

Welcome to Sunny Day Counseling, LLC.

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