I could hear the joy upstairs in the living room. My husband and five of my children were decorating the Christmas tree on a Sunday afternoon last month. Joyful, playful, innocent children were experiencing the magic of the Christmas season. There was Christmas music playing in the background, and a glorious scented candle joined to create the perfect cozy atmosphere. It was a snapshot of how I would describe happiness.
Yet I was hiding in the basement with my 14-month-old. I made the excuse that she (the toddler) would get into everything and ruin it for everyone else. The truth was that I just wasn’t feeling “it”…or much of anything really. I just wanted to be alone.
It started after Thanksgiving, Overnight, I just felt inexplicably sad. I was experiencing a constant “sinking” feeling. I didn’t think it was related to my menstrual cycle (as my ups and downs usually are) because I was still taking progesterone (medically prescribed to help with my PMS!). I usually have a few days of feeling more emotional and a little down while premenstrual, but it quickly passes a few days later. This was different.
After we got the kids to bed that night (luckily, I received the graces to appear normal and happy for my children…at least I think I fooled them!), I told my husband that I thought I was suffering from postpartum depression (or maybe eight straight years of pregnancy and nursing had finally caught up with me?), and that I might need to go on antidepressants. He was a good listener and very interested and supportive (prayers of thanksgiving for my spouse). He was more than willing to watch the kids so I could make the appropriate doctor appointments to take care of myself.
I started with my yearly OB/GYN appointment as it had been a year since my six-week postpartum check. I joked with the nurse practitioner that this is the longest that I’ve gone without seeing her for eight years (she followed me during my six back-to-back pregnancies!). After catching up on our families, I was honest about how I’d been feeling. She looked back in my chart and told me that my thyroid levels had been borderline in October 2013 (blood test performed right before my youngest was born).
“Really!?!” This was news to me. I expressed disappointment that no one had mentioned this to me back then…although I appreciate that they were focused on the delivery of a healthy baby as I was having other complications. I reminded her (actually, I have no idea if it was even in my chart or not) that my mother and all of her sisters are on medicine for hypothyroidism, so it’s definitely in my genes.
Long story short, she called a few days later to say that my levels were in fact off, and that I should start medicine immediately. She told me that it had the potential to take care of my symptoms. I was so relieved!!!
Jump ahead to my annual physical with my primary care doctor (why not cover all my bases!?). I found out that my vitamin D levels were low. Hmmm…the sun shined exactly twice in December in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (according to my first grader’s weather chart. Surprise? Not really!). My symptoms also have a correlation with vitamin D deficiency (and for the record, I do take a daily multivitamin with D and a calcium with vitamin D3 every single day).
It is now mid-January, and life certainly hasn’t become any less chaotic or less stressful…and the sun has maybe shined three times this month (with an average high of 25 degrees Fahrenheit!).
But I am back!
I realized this for the first time this afternoon. I was cleaning the playroom in the basement with the toddler when I suddenly heard laughter upstairs. It was gleeful and contagious…music to my ears. I couldn’t wait to run upstairs and celebrate life with my babies! I am back.
I am so grateful to God for a “cure” for my depression, and I pray for all those who do not have easy fixes. And…because this is my only soapbox these days (ha!), I recommend that moms do not hesitate to go to the doctor! May the Blessed Mother guide us all and lead us to any help that might aid us to be the mothers than we are called to be. Amen!
Copyright 2015, Trish Bolster
Image by Gerd Altmann, SA, Pixabay