Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hormone Junkie

Hello, my name is Annie, and I am a prolactin addict.

Four years of being pregnant and/or nursing ended for me at the beginning of February. I was two months pregnant with Jay when Miss E eventually weaned, so I have not had any 'break' from pregnancy or nursing in this time.

At the time, having weaned Jay was a bit of a non event. He was ready and so was I. It was a gradual process that I really didn't realize had finally happened until I took stock one day and realized it had been a few days since he'd nursed. He was done and that was that - life went on as normal.

Except it wasn't. Normal.

I have felt progressively gloomy over the last couple of months. To the point of asking myself 'what the hell is wrong with me?'. Constant tiredness, lack of motivation for the simplest things. Doing the bare minimum to keep my kids fed (and not very nutritiously so!), poor appetite, headaches, not sleeping great, and the crying, a lot of crying.

About a month ago I did briefly let the thought wander around my mind, 'what if this is the start of depression?' Not knowing what depression is like, and certainly never thinking this could happen to me, I dismissed it after a short while and told myself to 'shake it off'. This happens to all mothers.

Except, I can't shake it off.

I have worried my poor husband, who knows that I am down in the dumps, but can't understand why. When he asks me 'what's wrong?', I talk in circles, and I can't explain why because I didn't understand it, either.

I would never win any housekeeping awards, and I am totally okay with that - we keep the house pleasantly 'lived in' - it's clean but rarely tidy - and I may have periodic laundry backlogs - but nothing that couldn't be fixed catching up one morning. Now? My house is trashed - and last minute laundry is my specialty.

I've spent a few weeks mentally chastising myself for being lazy. I have had to force myself to stay off the computer realizing that time spent here was time away from my kids - and that made me a bad mommy. So I backed away from my blog, and sat on the couch - pleading with my kids to entertain themselves because 'mommy has a sore head', 'mommy's tired', 'just let mommy watch something that isn't animated and full of music - just for once, PLEASE?!'

My self confidence has nosedived. My skin is breaking out like an unfortunate teenager - and since I never was that unfortunate teenager, this is the first time in my life that I have felt self conscious about my skin.

I compare myself unfavourably to others and let myself feel inferior to them. I know nobody can make me feel this way - only if I let them! I know the theory of not letting people make me feel a certain way - yet putting that into practice is a different ball game.

This all came to something of a head last weekend when after a wedding on Friday where I felt so out of place compared to all the 'beautiful people' in attendance - I cried with my husband about how bad I felt. Once those floodgates opened, I spent the most of Saturday in tears and he patiently and supportively listened while I talked in more circles and tried desperately to make sense of this.

Then the penny dropped and I figured that I could pretty much pin the start of this downward spiral to the time that Jay was finally, and completely weaned. I struggled to understand if this meant anything in terms of how I felt and dismissed any sense of loss at the end of the nursing relationship. As I said - I was ready for him to wean (at last!) and so was he. But maybe I shouldn't be so hasty to dismiss the weaning as an emotional issue. I've spent four solid years nurturing a child - be it as they grew inside me, or as I breastfed them. These were done by me - all me. These are confidence boosters - it's amazing to think that I had that capability and I executed it beautifully. And now it's over.

More than this though - I think the hormonal adjustments that my body is undergoing is what is really messing with me. Prolactin has been coursing through my veins at varying levels for four years - and now its presence has significantly dropped. That feel good, 'happy hormone' was giving me a maternal high, and I'm going through withdrawal, I'm sure of it!

I have been reaching out to various individuals over the last couple of days. Seeking validation that my suspicions are correct - and looking for advice on what to do about it. I have had amazing feedback from La Leche League - and from friends.

I have received great advice on steps I can take to help me get out of this 'funk' and I'm working on them already - exercise being the top of my 'feel better' priority list. Maintaining the motivation to keep at it though is going to be my challenge, as it always is where exercise is concerned.

Ironically - at a time when I had taken a step back from blogging - several people advised journaling as a positive outlet and something that could help me feel better. I have always felt cathartic benefits from writing through certain things on this blog - but I struggled lately to articulate anything about what I was feeling, and figured it would be too depressing to read so I stayed clear of discussing any of this before. But writing through it may be just the thing I need to do - and if I can carve in time to do it before the kids get up, and after running on the treadmill - I will do just that.

A La Leche League leader, who also happens to be a therapist, spoke to me at length this morning and I feel so much better after speaking to her since she not only agreed that a hormonal shift is definitely involved in how I feel right now but she also suggested looking into herbal supplements - Kava Kava, and 5 HTP - so - now I'm reaching out to any of you who understand these, or have used them? I've never heard of them and what I'm reading online is mixed - any feedback you have would be appreciated.

Also - if you have weaned, particularly after nursing for an extended period - did you go through this weirdness? And, how did you get yourself out of it?

I feel better today than I have in the last couple of months, better for knowing that there is a reason for me feeling this way and that I'm not just quietly going nuts here.

I don't expect to feel better overnight - but I will do whatever I can to help myself and make myself feel happier - for me, and for my family. I don't want to feel this way - and I don't want to have Miss E frequently ask 'Why you sad Mommy?'.


Deborah said...

Annie I had the exact same thing happen when I weaned Ciara. I have a genetic boob issue and barely produce any milk, so breast feeding meant I was constantly attached to a baby or pump in order to extract a potential 1oz a day. It was awful, but I was determined to give her what I could as I felt I'd let Ella down after giving up so soon. I stuck it out for five months and then said enough is enough. About a week or two later the clouds came. I was so miserable and couldn't explain why. I saw my GP and she thought post-natal depression, which she said can happen up to 3 years after birth or weaning!!! I opted for the narcotic route and did a light dose of something or other. After a month I was feeling better emotionally but there were some other side effects that I didn't like so I stopped. Also tried the whole exercise route. Been fine since!

I hope you figure something out and am glad you are getting support... it's a horrible state to be in! Cyberhugs, as they say! :)

MoziEsmé said...

Well put.

I've had mixed feelings about weaning - I am soo ready for it, but I think you've described what I fear. Let us know how it goes.

jennifer said...

Annie, I've missed you. I'm so sorry to hear that you're having a hard time these days. I haven't weaned yet, but plan to very soon, and have heard that this can be a common thing to happen.

We're all here for you.

The Laundress~JJ! said...

Woman, you'll get there...You're too good a mom not to.

And a happy mom = happy family....

I'm here always if you need me.

Sarah said...

Sending you a virtual hug for now, I'm saving up a big one for when I get to see you too!

Heather J. said...

You're back!
I've missed reading your blog!

I wasn't able to breastfeed my children, so in terms of breast feeding adjustment....I know not.

But my body has had some major ups and downs in the past year. I have battled with a depression of sorts and can relate to your feelings on that level.

Talking it out, and understanding what's going on within you seems to be the best medicine. You have acknowedged that something is wrong, you've sought help....

I believe you're on the road back!

Missed you, Annie.

slackermommy said...

I typed a long comment and then Firefox booted me. Why does that always happen with the long comments?

Basically what I wrote is I know exactly what you are going through. It's the reason I ended up having 3 kids in 3 1/2 years. I seemed to have lost myself when I became a mother. An identity crisis. It took therapy and antidepressants to straighten me out although I still tend to get buried under my mommy role.

I think herbs are also a good alternative. I used them to regulate my periods while trying to conceive. Treat them like a drug though except herbs are not FDA regulated so you are smart to educate yourself about them.

I can't remember what else I wrote. Just know that you are not alone. This whole mommy gig plus fluctuating hormones can make the sanest feel like they are losing it.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Oh good god did I go through the hormone crazies. I too had four solid years of pregnancy and nursing. When my youngest weaned, I was on a hormone roller coaster from you know where for about a year. (Sorry, I know it sounds long)

Wacky periods, outrageous PMS, emotional ups and downs. I know it's hard while you're going through it, but there is a light. And hey, there's nothing wrong with speeding the process along with some herbal remedies and exercise.

jen said...

i am so glad you are talking about it, i've missed your words and you.

Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

I'm sorry to hear you've been going through all this, and I hope things get better soon. I have no advice to offer, just support.

moosh in indy. said...

I was never able to nurse but I can only imagine the huge change that would have happened after four years of baby fueled goodness. I'm just so happy you figured out what the heck is going on and pray that you'll be able to come out of the clouds soon.

Feener said...

sorry to hear you are going through this. i didn't experience this with weaning but i did (do) am -experiencing some sort of ppd and taking something ow. as long as you are getting help, you are half way there. good luck !! and good talking about it, it helps others.

Mrs Furious said...

I found this through a link at Feener's site.
I nursed my oldest for 3.5 years and only weaned her when I was pregs with my 2nd... who I am still nursing so I have yet to go through my final weaning.
It never occurred to me that there could be a hormonal downturn/readjustment when I wean my 2nd (I won't be pregs!).
I'm glad I stumbled upon this and will keep in in the back of my mind when I do.
Good luck.

Iota said...

I'm so glad you wrote all this - I'm sure it helped you and it might well help others too.

I never had any hormonal adjustment to do with breastfeeding, but during pregnancy, my feelings were often out of control. I remember being pregnant with my first, and crying down the phone to the NCT headquarters, asking if they had any books to recommend on ante-natal depression. Did this exist? I asked. The woman on the other end of the phone was very sympathetic, but the extent of her advice was to join a local bumps and babies group (there wasn't one, actually). She certainly didn't recognise ante-natal depression. Months and months later, a friend told me she had felt really depressed in pregnancy - it was like a life raft being thrown to me. I was normal after all. That was 11 years ago, and I think things have come on a long way in recognising the out-of-control feelings that the hormones associated with motherhood can bring - thank goodness. Well done you for admitting to all this. It's not easy.

I think the herbal stuff is a good idea, and I wonder if you've thought of homeopathy.

You strike me as a very sensitive person, always looking out for your kids and for others. Don't forget to take care of yourself, and don't feel guilty (we all advise each other not to, and we all do anyway!)

Iota said...

Annie, the other thing is, can you plan a break? Even just a night away from the kids? On your own or with husband? It really is such a huge boost. Please think about this seriously, and if I wasn't going away for the summer, I'd say come and visit me for a day or two. If you haven't got anything fixed by August, then the offer is there.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you are back.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh how familiar that sounds. How I struggled. How my doctors struggled. And then when I developed odd allergies and my body began making prolactin off and on and my breasts began leaking, we got a vital clue. Thyroid and pituitary.

If you've definitely ruled out thyroid and pituitary issues (and don't let them fob off the silly random blood draw...it needs to be drawn under proper conditions at right time of month), then I'll tell you what else I did (after being SO GLAD you have a good support network that is telling you it's not YOU, it's your body and you are not alone).

I went the diet-exercise-homeopathy-herbs-positive outlet route.

Let me tell you it works. A thousand percent works.

People can SEE the difference and I can too.

Allergies went away too and I don't even need the epi pen anymore.

Hang in there hon and THANK YOU for writing this post. So many women need to see it.

Pendullum said...

Hope it is getting better...And it truly helps to vent...As this way you can realize you are not alone...
It is hard... no question about it...
And you will get through...
But your body just needs sometime to adjust... Damn Mother Nature anyways!

Gail said...

I found this board while googling hormones and headaches. I have been breastfeeding for 4.5 years and figured my constant headaches were hormone related as breastfeeding is down to only once per day. Just reading that others are sharing the same issue helps. I realize now that I have been fighting depression as well. Hope you are feeling better.Thanks so much for sharing.