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Day 12: Akaroa and PMDD

This morning when I woke up, I did not want to get out of bed. I felt tired even though I had slept soundly for 8 hours. I found things to do on my phone, making excuses to myself that I was “getting things done” so that I could put off pulling myself to standing. This unexpected stagnation prompted me to check my cycle tracking app and–yep, we’re about a week away. That checks out. After 20 minutes or so of catching up on emails and trying to get a local bank account setup, I sat up with a sigh. I’ve had a good run of keeping up a healthy morning routine over the last several days and I don’t want this hormonal lethargy to ruin it.

I drag myself to the bathroom, then to the tea kettle. I slip on my shoes and a hoodie and take my tea mug outside. My headphones are dead so I don’t listen to a guided meditation today, but try (and struggle) to stay mindful and present as I walk around a few blocks. Back at the motel, I try to start ticking off some items I had on my to-do list. A couple will have to wait until I hear back from people, so after I have breakfast I decide to head down to Akaroa. I had tentatively planned to go there on Thursday, but today seems like a good day to get out of the city and finally go for a proper hike.

The journey to the nature reserve takes a little under two hours, as I took the more scenic route that traverses large fields of grazing sheep high above the turquoise and deep aqua waters of the bay. As I climbed higher, the clouds rose up to

meet me and blew across the ridgeline. Lambs followed their mothers through the thick, bright green grasses. The radio lost signal long ago, so I sang softly and enjoyed the quiet country drive. The roads were very windy and required a lot of attention to slow down and hug the narrow curves.

Eventually I arrived at the nature preserve, feeling sleepy and not very motivated to hike, but also feeling a bit antsy to get out of the car. I donned my rain jacket as an extra layer against the chilly wind, and headed down the path toward the visitor center. There was one other car in the small grass parking area, but I encountered no people during my few hours of exploring. Just birds who startled me almost as readily as I alarmed them into frantic flapping.

As I continued my descent down through the thick hillsides, past waterfalls and over small creeks, I kept thinking about how I would have to come back up eventually. I chose a small loop, around 2.5 miles, but did not realize how steeply it would drop. I took in my surroundings at a languid pace, stopping frequently to examine unknown flowers and trees and ferns, and taking pictures on my camera. It felt nice to move slowly through the vegetation and soak in the fresh, cool air.

The last waterfall I came to had boulders at its base that made for a perfect lunch spot. Enjoying the relaxing sound of water rushing by, I ate my peanut butter and banana sandwich and took big gulps from my water bottle. Then I hit the trail again, quickly reaching the intersection of tracks where I turned to return upwards. There

up we go!

was a steep set of 30 or so steps that started like a staircase and ended as a ladder. Then switchbacks at a steep grade encouraged me to take several breaks along the way, and I could really feel my lowered energy levels by this point. Soon enough, I was back at the information sign at the start of the tracks. I dropped a few coins into the donation box and then walked the last section back up to my car.

I took a moment to do a few stretches before climbing into Valentino (thanks to a new friend for throwing out that name for the 1999 Nissan Tino that I bought a few days ago). I took my damp t-shirt off and laid it on the warm dash to let it dry a bit on the drive down. It wasn’t too much further to the small, French-influenced harbor town of Akaroa. When I arrived, I found a parking spot near the wharf and walked around a bit. My body temperature lowered now, the wind felt cold even as the sun warmed my face.

Feeling satisfied with the amount of time I spent outside, I decided to find a cafe where I could have a cup of coffee, do some photo editing, and maybe stay long enough to have dinner in a couple of hours. I walked in and ordered a flat-white (my first one in NZ!) then tried to find a spot near an outlet so I could charge my phone, but the only one was already occupied by the single other patron in the restaurant. Mildly annoyed, I took a spot by the window instead and pulled out my laptop.

I’ll try not to bore you with all the details of my frustration but here's a brief overview: before editing photos, I would need to download Lightroom (which I should have thought of days ago). That requires WiFi, which this cafe did not have. But I saw that I had hardly used any data on my new NZ local plan, so I set up a hotspot and started the download. Within 2 minutes, I was getting messages saying I ran out of data. I looked at options for topping up, and also gave Vodafone a call because my plan was supposed to change this morning anyway. To no avail though, as they require further verification that I am actually in New Zealand. I can’t complete the download and I’ll also have to navigate back to Christchurch with an offline map.

The frustration was really building in my body and I shut my laptop with a sigh and rubbed my temples. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to get anything done, I decided to leave the cafe and head back towards Christchurch. My mind was beginning to spiral about the difficulties and minor inconveniences, and all the things I want to do and fear I won’t have time for. (It’s amazing–in a terrible way–how these little things can set off thoughts of my life as a whole and make me really question the big stuff). This is the part I really hate about PMDD: feeling completely out of control. In general, I think I am a pretty easy-going person. If this whole scenario had happened a few days prior, I probably would have taken it as a sign that I should spend more time exploring where I was rather than burying myself in editing on my computer. I would have given up sooner and with a lot less stress. Instead, in this week before my period is due to start, my fuse is remarkably short.

there is at least 1 sheep in this photo...

As I drive, I try to take some deep breaths. I think about how lucky I am to be here, how beautiful this countryside is and how cute the lambs are. But I can still feel that tightness of irritation in my body. I’m reminded of the particularly rough episodes I had in Alaska. There, too, I tried to reason with myself that life is great and I don’t need to be so frustrated and catastrophizing. (Cue the guilt). How can I be so self-centered and anxious and depressed in a beautiful place like this? It is very hard to be logical when your hormones are fueling irrational emotional responses. It’s difficult for me not to feel defeated on this first day of PMDD symptoms showing up, because I know that it’s going to be a difficult week ahead (and god knows how many more like this in my future). I try to remember some of the lessons I took away from this video, and think about what I’ll do in the coming days to take care of myself and stay in-tune with my needs.

If you struggle with PMDD, I see you. I feel you and I’m with you. If you have PMDD or love someone who does, check out this video (same as the one above ^). There were parts I found helpful, a lot that resonated, and some things that didn’t quite align. If you want to discuss it, or if you have any of your own tips for coping or just want to rage in solidarity, you can always reach my inbox on this page, or send me a message on Instagram. If you're wondering what PMDD is, here's a quick overview.

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