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My Self-Improvement Journey From Stress and PMDD to Happiness and Fulfillment

“Moments that should’ve been joyful or just neutral became shaded by this heaviness. Simple activities, like catching up with friends or working on a project, suddenly felt so draining. It was as if a constant cloud hovered, casting shadows on my usual upbeat self.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hello there! My name is Isabel Faye, a relationship and lifestyle expert. I consider myself sort of a nomad, but currently I live in the beautiful city of San Diego — I’ve always been mesmerized by its stunning beaches and the warmth of its residents.

Professionally, I have a background in psychology and specialize in social and personality psychology. On a personal note, I’m in a committed relationship with a wonderful partner who’s been my rock, especially during my recent mental health journey. We share our home with a playful golden retriever named Leo, who never fails to light up our days. 

Besides my work, I’m passionate about yoga, mindfulness practices, traveling, journaling, and exploring local cafes. Each of these passions helps me maintain balance in my life and gives me moments of solace.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

My struggle was with a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). At first glance, it may sound similar to the common PMS, but in reality, PMDD is much more intense. It wasn’t just about the physical discomfort.

The real challenge was the emotional and psychological symptoms. Think about really strong mood swings, being super irritable, and having moments of heavy anxiety almost every month.

I first noticed these symptoms about 3 years ago. At the beginning, I just thought they were regular menstrual changes, but over time, I saw a clear pattern. These intense feelings always hit right before my period, and to be honest, the stresses from work and life probably made them feel even stronger.

As time went on, these symptoms went from just being annoying to seriously affecting my daily life. There were days when PMDD would just take over, making it hard to be my usual self, both personally and professionally

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

At my lowest points, PMDD felt like an anchor weighing me down. It made even the smallest tasks feel mountainous. I’d often find myself trapped in this cycle of self-doubt, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness. My happiness? It felt like it had been siphoned off.

Moments that should’ve been joyful or just neutral became shaded by this heaviness. Simple activities, like catching up with friends or working on a project, suddenly felt so draining. It was as if a constant cloud hovered, casting shadows on my usual upbeat self.

To the outside world, I did my best to wear a mask. I pride myself on being a relationship and lifestyle expert, so showing vulnerability wasn’t easy. But, as with most masks, it had its cracks. 

Close friends and family could sense when the cloud descended. They’d notice the subtle changes – maybe a hesitation in my voice, or the lack of enthusiasm in activities I usually love. However, to most others, I kept my struggle tucked away, hoping to navigate it without drawing too much attention.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Yes, there was. About a year and a half into my struggle with PMDD, during one particularly challenging cycle, I remember sitting in my San Diego living room, Leo by my side, journal in hand. I remember a moment of clarity — I realized I needed to actively seek change. Writing had always been therapeutic for me, but that evening it was more like a compass pointing me in a direction.

I’d say turning things around was about 80% my actions and 20% circumstantial. I sought professional help, adjusted my lifestyle, and leaned into the practices I advocate for at Twin Flamesly.

While the supportive environment of my partner and friends played a part, it was my proactive approach that truly steered the change. The therapy sessions, the self-awareness exercises, and even the dietary changes were all deliberate actions I took to regain control over my life.

Before this pivot, I grappled with PMDD’s intense symptoms for nearly 18 months. It’s incredible to reflect on how transformative that one evening of introspection was, guiding me toward the path of recovery.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

The first step for me was recognizing and accepting that I needed help. It’s often the hardest step, but crucial. For me, reaching out to a therapist who specialized in hormonal mood disorders made all the difference. 

In one of our sessions, I remember sharing a particular instance where a minor disagreement with my partner spiraled into a massive anxiety episode. My therapist introduced me to the concept of ‘cognitive reframing‘.

Instead of getting entangled in the intensity of the emotion, she taught me to pause, step back, and reframe my perspective. It was transformative. The best part was that it enabled me to respond rather than react to emotional triggers.

Journaling was another game-changer. What really helped me was setting aside a dedicated time every evening to pen down my feelings. It’s not just about writing what you feel, but understanding why you feel it. 

For instance, during one week when my symptoms were flaring, I identified certain dietary triggers. This led me to research and eventually adjust my diet — I started reducing foods that seemed to exacerbate my PMDD symptoms.

Finally, mindfulness and meditation. While it might sound cliché, integrating mindfulness practices into my daily routine genuinely helped. I began with just 10 minutes of focused breathing exercises in the mornings. Nothing special — I just relied on Goop’s 10 Minute Morning Meditation for Clarity, Stability, and Presence on YouTube.

This video was my go-to guide and offered easy-to-follow techniques that really grounded me. Taking those 10 minutes each morning to center myself made a world of difference.

Over time, this not only helped manage my PMDD symptoms but also improved my overall mental well-being.

To anyone in a similar situation, I’d say: be proactive and take charge. Seek professional help, stay self-aware, and never underestimate the healing power of simple practices. I know you might think you’re all alone, but you need to convince yourself that no, you’re indeed not alone, and there are tools and resources out there that can help.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Yes, I did share my struggles, but it took time to gather the courage. At first, I confided in my closest circle: my partner and a couple of dear friends. They’ve seen me at my best and worst, and with them, I felt a sense of safety because I just knew they’d listen without judgment.

On the other hand, sharing with colleagues and acquaintances was a big challenge. Given my profession as a relationship and lifestyle expert, I worried about how it might affect their perception of me.

Would they doubt my expertise if they knew of my personal battles? This fear made me hold back, choosing to keep a boundary between my professional life and my personal challenges.

Opening up about mental health is never easy. It’s a deeply personal journey, and while I advocate for open conversations, I also understand the hesitancy. It’s the vulnerability, the fear of being misunderstood, or judged.

But with time, I’ve come to see the power of sharing. It not only aids our healing but can also provide comfort and guidance to others walking a similar path.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

If I could share one piece of heartfelt advice with someone going through a struggle, it would be this: Take one step at a time and reach out. We often believe we have to navigate our battles alone, but there’s immense strength in seeking support.

Whether it’s confiding in a friend, joining a support group, or even diving into a helpful YouTube tutorial – every small action you take is a victory.

Looking back, I wish I had acted sooner. I spent too much time underestimating the power of tiny, daily actions and the comfort of shared experiences.

You don’t have to have it all figured out today, but taking that first step, whatever it might be, can make a world of difference. You might think it won’t work for now, but trust me, your future self will thank you.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Lachlan Brown’s exploration into Buddhism not only deepened my understanding of its principles but also offered practical advice on living a life with purpose and mindfulness.

The chapters on minimizing ego provided invaluable tools for personal growth. Reading it was a turning point throughout my journey with PMDD, and I believe it contributed to improving my overall well-being.

  • Book: “What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry

This compelling book by Oprah and Dr. Perry shifted my perspective from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”. Their conversations on trauma shed light on its deep-rooted impacts. This indeed offered me a compassionate approach to understanding and healing.

After reading the book, I also recommend watching their interviews on YouTube.

In this podcast, Dr. Santos discusses scientific research on happiness. Through her stories and actionable tips, I gained tools to nurture a more contented life, especially during challenging times.

  • YouTube Meditation: Goop’s 10 Minute Morning Meditation for Clarity, Stability, and Presence

This quick morning meditation from Gwyneth Paltrow quickly became a staple in my routine. The 10 minutes of focused guidance ushered in clarity and stability, setting a positive tone for my day, especially during PMDD flare-ups.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

I am the founder of Twin Flamesly, an informative website for dating and relationship advice. You can read more about me on my author page.

Is there anything else you think we should have asked you?

One aspect that I believe is immensely crucial, which wasn’t touched upon, is the role of daily routines in managing mental health challenges. For someone struggling with a condition like PMDD, consistency can be both a challenge and a savior. 

One practical thing that grounded me during my toughest days was a ‘wind-down ritual’ in the evenings. This wasn’t something grand but rather a simple, consistent routine: a warm cup of chamomile tea, a brief walk outside, followed by jotting down three things I was grateful for that day. It might sound basic, but this routine gave me an anchor, a small space of predictability in a sea of emotional chaos.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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