Did you know that Oct 6th -12th is Mental Health Awareness Week? I didn’t. I also didn’t know when Garrett was born 6 years ago on October 11th (ironically), that I would be 1 in 5 women affected by postpartum mental health issues. Sure I’d heard about postpartum depression before, portrayed in the media like it’s some “choice” we willingly make the moment we become a mom. But there was one thing I’d never heard of until a fellow blogger shared her struggle with postpartum thyroiditis. As I kept scrolling through her blog post, I couldn’t help but feel cheated. Cheated by an already failed postpartum maternal health system. Cheated by the doctors I trusted. But most of all, cheated by my own mind and body out of what’s supposed to be one of the most euphoric experiences of your life – becoming a mom for the first time.
The Truth About Postpartum Thyroiditis
Truth is, I’d been managing (very poorly at times) my hypothyroidism for the better half of 15 years. So how could I miss the signs? I mean, I knew when I started to feel overly fatigued or gaining weight unexplainably – that it was time to check my levels. But that’s just the thing, I didn’t feel fatigued (other than the obvious lack of sleep everyone goes thru with a newborn), I felt anxious. So much so that my mind would race and race until I’d worked myself into such a state, that any sleep at all was a miracle. And when most moms I knew were frustrated about losing that post baby weight, I had dropped down to a weight so much lower than I’d been pre-pregnancy. When I returned to work, people even felt so compelled to comment on it because it was that noticeable.
On top of all that, what I remember being affected by the most – was the extreme boughts of anger. I was always known by my friends and family for being so laid back, and I had every intention of carrying that attitude into motherhood. Well the joke was on me because I literally could not have been more uptight which would lead to awful anxiety attacks, ultimately followed by so much pent up anger. I was angry at myself for not being able to handle these emotions. I was angry because I had felt like a complete failure at being a mom. Why was I able to be so good with babies my whole life, a “natural” people would say, and yet I felt so utterly clueless with my own? Because I just flat out wasn’t myself. My husband knew it. The rest of our family even knew it, and yet I was just so scared to admit it to myself.
Battling mental health is like waking up in the middle of a scary dream – where you can’t seem to make out reality from what your subconscious is telling you to be true. So you listen to the malicious voice in your head telling you that you’re not enough. That this baby, this world, would just be better off without you. I’ve never been in such a dark place in my life, and I can tell you I never want to go back there again.
I’m so thankful for my husband, friends and family who know me best and didn’t hold back when I broke down and asked them for help. I had just met a couple of new moms through a local “first-time moms” FB group, and they listened to my concerns as I worried anxiously about having to return to work full-time. They suggested I get my thyroid levels checked even though I just had a month or so before, but I’m so glad they did. It turns out my thyroid hormone replacement medicine needed adjusted yet again, and my doctor reassured me they would keep checking it since postpartum thyroiditis can cause fluctuations in hormone levels for up to 18 months postpartum. The first 4 months typically start out as hyperthyroid symptoms (racing heart rate, tremors, anxiety, extreme weight loss), and then completely shifts to hypothyroid which is what I was used to my whole life (fatigue, weight gain, depression, etc.).
Honestly, as crazy as it sounds, I feel like one of the lucky ones. Most women who experience the symptoms I just explained often get misdiagnosed as postpartum depression or anxiety and never get the proper treatment like I did. At least I had a preexisting thyroid condition that was being treated, even though there’s absolutely no way I would have ever imagined the postpartum implications of this disease. In fact it frightened me, because I’d read there was a 50% chance of having it happen again with my next pregnancy. So when I changed OBGYNs while pregnant with Charlotte, I made for darn sure she knew what I’d experienced before and we were all prepared to tackle it head on. To my amazement – I never once had to have my levels adjusted while pregnant (with Garrett I had to adjust my meds nearly every other appt). Then when I had my postpartum check up, I can’t tell you the relief I felt as I admitted to my Dr how different and calm I felt this time around with hardly any anxiety. She very compassionately said she wished she knew what caused our bodies to react one way with one pregnancy versus another, and it just made me realize just how far we still have to go in understanding the depth of maternal mental health.
Still, I’m hopeful. Hopeful every time I see another mom, influencer, celebrity, etc. use their platform to share their story and give a voice to ones who are fearfully silent – because that was me 6 years ago. So I’m here today sharing my story, in hopes to connect with even just one other mom who needs to hear that you are enough. Enough may feel broken right now, but believe me you’re not. You are here right where you need to be, and I promise there is help out there. Here’s a group I joined for support and has helped so many struggling with postpartum thyroiditis. Whatever you may be going through, it starts by opening up and telling someone – I’m so glad I did, and I know you will be too.
National Postpartum Depression Hotline: 1-800-PPD-MOMS