A few months ago, I finally gave in to the pressure from my family to find the source of my extreme mood swings and at my mom’s suggestion, went in to have my thyroid levels tested. Naturally, this had been a concern during my pregnancy and the levels had been tested then as well.
I was told the normal range was .5 to 4.5. They continued to explain that the higher the number, the less thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) was being absorbed, meaning that an individual with that higher number had an underactive thyroid. Results of this were extreme fatigue, feeling cold, aches and pains, slower thinking, difficulty remembering things, near-constant crying fits, feeling down or depressed or not yourself and in general a lack of motivation to improve your surroundings or lifestyle.
When I went in to my doctor at around 4 months pregnant, my TSH was a 7. By the time I finally went to see him at around 5 months post-partum, my levels had skyrocketed into the 200s, which shocked the hell out of my doctor. So you can imagine that if a slightly high thyroid level can make a person feel depressed, well with a level of 200-something, I had to be damn near suicidal. It was his reaction that made me realize that I had to take this seriously because if I didn’t, not only would I lose my family and my baby boy, I’d probably wind up dead.
The days before I got help, it took every ounce of my mental capacity to care for my son and feed myself. There were plenty of days that I went two days without showering, forgot to feed myself, didn’t change out of my nightclothes and didn’t touch one piece of laundry.
I hated my life and my poor, wonderful husband was often the target of my self loathing. To distract myself from my own feelings of inadequacy, I got angry with him when he tried to make me feel better or when he took his own stress out on me. I jumped at the chance to hide from what I’d become. I’m sure there are any number of you new mamas who know exactly what I mean. You know who you are.
Everyone tells you how wonderful it is to be a parent or even how painful childbirth is going to be, but no one ever talks about how much pregnancy and birth screws with your emotions or your body’s natural balance and changes who you are…how it oftentimes grounds your self-worth into dust and then has no problem with kicking you a few more times while you’re down. Don’t get me wrong…I love my son and wouldn’t change the circumstances of his conception or birth for anything because it taught me a thing or two about real strength.
I’m sure a few of you are asking by this point why I didn’t take the medicine when I initially found out that my thyroid levels were too high. And to you I reply simply that I was afraid how it would affect my baby. I thought by sacrificing that one little thing, I could protect my child. I’ll tell you, though, hindsight is 20/20.
I realize now that I’ve probably done more harm than good by not nipping it in the bud so to speak. If I’d caught it then, maybe I would have been able to take more joy in his birth and in the early days of his life. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into so many terrible fights with my husband and said so many unforgivable things just because I didn’t want help with a problem I soon came to realize I couldn’t handle myself.
I made too many excuses because I couldn’t deal with it. I was afraid to. Because of that selfish mistake, I’ve caused my son emotional pain due to the fights and arguments he had to hear. He may not ever remember what was said, but he won’t forget how it made him feel. He’ll carry that forever. I don’t want that for my son. I don’t want him to have to carry that burden.
I have been taking the medication for two and a half month or three months now and am at last showing signs of getting better. It’s strange getting back to my old life because I feel so out of practice. There are still rough days and my doctor has already adjusted my dosage upwards once. I feel more of my old self coming through and can feel joy and look forward to things now.
I can breath and I can think and I can do what it used to take an army helping me to do. Caring for my son is less of a chore and more happiness. I play games with him, I sing to him, I talk to him in funny voices, I get him every feeding and every diaper change with almost perfect ease and I can anticipate his needs so much easier than before. The maternal instinct that I though I lacked has kicked in full force and it amazes me how much he loves me. He responds to my smile and my laughter and my touch instantly.
And I have passion again. I can do what I love and feel joy in it. I find reasons to bask in the day and welcome the sunlight in again. My surroundings bring me comfort and I can manage most of our financial and health concerns nearly as well as I used to. I won’t deny there are hard days. Along with this full-strength joy comes full-strength hurt, full strength anxiety and full strength pain. Not having allowed myself to feel these things for so long has left me bowled over with their intensity. I suppose I’ll have to adjust to that again because when I feel something, I feel it to its highest peak–the cost of being so in tune what I’m feeling I guess.
For those of you out there experiencing this:
1. Get to your doctor. There may be a chemical problem that’s causing this. A simple thyroid pill could cure you.
2. Be patient. The pill won’t fix you right away and it could take months, even a couple of years to find the right dosage to balance you out.
3. This isn’t a temporary thing. In most cases, you will end up taking this pill for the rest of your life. Your dosage may need adjustment up and down every now and then depending on your circumstances, but this will be your daily routine most likely until the day you die.
4. It won’t go away just because you ignore it. A pill a day for the rest of your life is better than the emptiness, isn’t it?
5. It’s not your fault, but it isn’t other people’s fault either. If the people around you are putting up with your shit, it’s because they love you and don’t want to see you this way.
6. If you continue on this road without accepting help, it will only get worse. YOU COULD VERY WELL WIND UP DEAD. Yes, that’s how serious this is. Once you stop feeling, you stop worrying about the pain or not existing anymore. You take risks you wouldn’t normally take and end up getting killed because you’re too absorbed to care that someone means you harm…or worse, you decide you have nothing to live for and end it without even considering what it will do to your family and friends.
GET HELP! Don’t let the emptiness convince you that you’re better off dead. If at any point you find yourself thinking this, call a suicide hotline or call a friend…but most importantly, GET YOURSELF TO A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL STAT! Don’t give up. You WILL pull through this. You might just need a lot of outside help to do it.
Remember, I FEEL FOR YOU. I may be a complete stranger, but I can see your pain and I share it. So many of us share it. DON’T GIVE UP! GET HELP!