As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been taking a break to focus on getting myself healthy, both mind and body. I explained a good bit of my journey in this Instagram post as well as on our podcast. I wanted to take to the blog and discuss this topic because this is the platform that I love to open up and really share on.
I weaned MacKenlee from breastfeeding the last week of January, earlier this year. I had already been slowly weaning her down, slowly dropping feedings one by one. By January, I was only nursing her at bedtime. That single nursing session was a fight every night. She didn’t want to nurse. It took too long and she had things to do (I have a busybody on my hands, people). So when I came down with a UTI in January and needed antibiotics, Matt and I decided it was a good time to stop breastfeeding altogether. My goal had been to nurse for the first year, and I had made it 13 months, so that made me feel accomplished. I felt a little sad to be closing the chapter on this part of my motherhood journey, but I also felt relieved to put that breast pump AWAY… Pumping mamas know what I’m talking about!
That UTI in January turned into 8 weeks of sickness. I just couldn’t get healthy. I truly believe that weaning caused my immune system to tank. I literally couldn’t catch a break. I hadn’t been sick like that in years, so it was crazy discouraging that I felt so bad for so, so long. At the end of that 8 week sick cycle, one night I couldn’t sleep. That night of no sleep turned into another, and then another…. It then turned into two weeks without a solid night of sleep and I knew something was up. I went in to see my OBGYN and asked to have my hormone levels checked since I had recently stopped breastfeeding. That night, I took two Tylenol PM’s and woke up at 2:30am with my first ever panic attack. Luckily, Matt knew the what a panic attack looked like and was able to calm me down. The next morning I went in to see my primary doctor and he diagnosed me with postpartum depression. More specifically, post-weaning depression or delayed postpartum. I had NO clue you could suffer from postpartum for up to three years after childbirth until my doctor told me. He knew what it looked like because his own wife suffered from very similar symptoms after weaning at 18 months.
My doctor wanted to discuss medication, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I allowed him to give me something for sleep and that was it. I was convinced that my postpartum was due to hormones. So I waited for my test results from my OB, which came back normal. And yes, she ran a full panel on me to check everything including my thyroid, vitamins levels, etc. The only thing we learned was that my progesterone and estrogen were a little low, but not enough to treat.
After I had the results and both my OBGYN and primary doctor said that they were normal, that wasn’t enough for me. I sought out a naturopath. I did additional blood work and a stool test, but before any of those tests were even back, this doctor put me on 13 supplements. THIRTEEN. With no test results. That should have been a red flag to me. But it wasn’t. I bought every supplement she suggested.
Guess what? None of those supplements made me feel better. I continued to not sleep. I lost more weight. I developed some major anxiety. My anxiety was best described as the feeling of an electric current constantly running, buzzing through my body. Feeling it from the bottom of my feet all the way to the top of my head.
As the days turned into weeks of no sleep, my mornings started to become really dark. I would wake up so depressed. By lunchtime, the depression lifted and I would be somewhat back to normal. Then night would roll around, and I would start with the anxiety just knowing that I wouldn’t sleep.
What is it with nights being so hard when you are dealing with anxiety, or really any sickness? It’s as if the darkness ushers in an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. You feel like you’re the only person in the world who is awake, you feel so very alone. I began to fear the nights, only for them to be followed by my severely depressed mornings.
After my initial diagnosis, Matt suggested that I start counseling. We have an amazing counselor that we have worked with in the past and I didn’t even hesitate to reach out to her. Our first visit with her, she reassured me that what I was going through was normal, way more common than I realized and not talked about nearly enough. I cried more tears in that session than I knew possible. I’m not a crier normally, so this emotion was basically uncharted territory for me. When I left her office that evening, I felt like one thousand pounds had been lifted from my shoulders.
Unfortunately, the depression, anxiety and insomnia all worsened. One morning, three weeks ago, after yet another bad night of sleep, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was so deep in my depression that I didn’t want to move. Matt convinced me to get up and go for a walk… And I couldn’t stop crying. I looked at my husband and said simply, “I need help.” I was so depleted of everything that he started making phone calls, trying to get me seen that day. We were able to go back in to see my primary doctor and I just sat in his office and cried out of exhaustion, desperation and hopelessness. He told me that I was suffering and I was doing so unnecessarily. He talked about anti-depressants to me again, and this time I was listening. A lot had changed in three weeks for me. I had always had such a negative view of anti-depressants, swearing that I would never need them. Now here I was, with no other option. The supplements, massages, acupuncture, essential oils, cupping, sleeping meds, apps, podcasts, and all the other crazy things I tried in my desperation hadn’t helped me. As for sleeping meds, I tried, lavender, melatonin, valerian root, magnesium, along with so many essential oils.
I filled my prescription that night, but was too afraid to take the medication. Instead, I stayed up all night and experienced my darkest morning of my life. I was so depressed that this time I couldn’t get out of bed. I wanted Matt to take me to the hospital and have me admitted, I was positive I was having a nervous breakdown. My sleep deprivation had taken me so low that my mind was convinced that there was no coming back. I believed this was my new normal. Matt called my parents that day and got them on a flight for the very next day to come help take care of me and the baby. That evening, our counselor came over to our house and sat with Matt and I and helped me take my first dose of medication. I was so emotionally fragile that I required the extra support to do something that I normally wouldn’t think twice about.
I’ve now been on the medication for three weeks and I’m slowly reclaiming my life. My sleep is still not back on track, but it’s better. I’m eating better, and gaining my weight back slowly and in a healthy way. I now love my time with Kenny, I look forward to getting her out of bed in the morning, instead of feeling that I’m not capable of caring for her. I actually have experienced joy the past week and no longer have dark thoughts about why am I even on this earth.
The meds had a couple side effects, but so has the anxiety, lol. The havoc that anxiety and depression wreaks on your body is absolutely insane. I developed gastritis, eye floaters, sensitive urinary and reproductive systems, all of which is due to the anxiety. I had nausea the first couple of days, then a lack of appetite, which caused more weight loss from the meds, but that has disappeared and my appetite is healthy again. I had headaches, frequent urination and blurry vision. My doctor feels that as my system continues to level out, these symptoms will all start to go away. I can’t wait for the day that I wake up from a great night of sleep and realize that every symptom has disappeared.
If you’re experiencing PPD symptoms, please don’t be embarrassed. It’s so much more common than we women let on. After I opened up about what I was feeling to various women in my life, I was blown away by how many of them also experienced something similar. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor, spouse, family and friends. Don’t feel bad about needing support from the people who love you. If you need help, ask for it. This truly is a season, but get the help you need to get through this thing.
Here is a video of me sharing about my struggle with PPD. Just a warning, I do get a little emotional in it.
If you want to hear more in depth about my struggle with postpartum depression, then check out Hello Baby Podcast.