The sounds of his six-week-old cried filled me with terror. My brain had yet to reconcile itself after his birth. A screeching noise bounced around my head. I was so desperate for quiet. I clapped my hands over my ears.
As I alluded to in https://www.mentallyinteresting.com/shit-just-got-real, it did not occur to me that it would be wise to take an anti-anxiety medication and “pump and dump” breastmilk for a couple of days while my son drank formula. I was locked into “no formula–no meds” mode. I was so out of my mind–I’m lucky I didn’t hurt myself.
I was very lucky that my husband was able to take three months paternity leave and stay at home with us because I was not capable of taking care of a newborn.
I saw my psychiatrist when Jonah was three weeks old. I remember how strange it felt to have a newborn in a psychiatrist’s office. I listened desperately as my doctor told me there was nothing he could do so long as I continued to breastfeed. He also gave me a new diagnosis–pregnancy-induced Bipolar Disorder II, rapid-cycling. I was blown away by this diagnosis. I had watched my Grandpa struggle with Bipolar Disorder but I was surprised that I had it too. Up to this point, my diagnosis had been Major Depressive Disorder.
I breastfed for a year and my illness continued to get worse. It morphed into an awful cyclical beast that produced symptoms during the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle. Every two weeks, I would get agitated and irritable followed by several days of anxiety and depression and then, finally, relief when my period began. I was given an additional diagnosis–Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD).
My gynecologist and psychiatrist agreed that a full hysterectomy would be a good way to stop the PDD. So, in 2012 we scheduled a hysterectomy. I waited nervously in the pre-surgery area with Jesse and Judy. We joked and kept things light. I was given something to knock me out and the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery area and Jesse was trying to explain a hitch in the operation. “They accidentally knicked your bladder so you’re going to have to wear a catheter for a week until it heals.” They did what?! I kept rousing from the anesthetic and asking about my bladder. I was terribly concerned with having to wear a catheter. But it really wasn’t bad.
Unfortunately, the operation did not stop the rapid-cycling. I think my body needed time to adjust and I wanted to see results NOW. My gynecologist put me on hormones and we waited for things to get better.
The cycles are gone now, wiped out by the hysterectomy and psychotropic medications. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not rapid-cycle any more. It was so exhausting and disheartening. I only got brief periods (a day or two) where things went well. As of today, I have been stable for four years (with some minor hiccups…more on that later). But that stability has been eroding over the last year. I typically have an episode every 3 years. I have to take a lot of medication and participate in therapy weekly to stay semi-stable.
I also was unable to have more children because of the way my brain reacts to hormonal changes. I had already bumped things up from depression to bipolar disorder and I did not want to explore any other mental illnesses. I had a really hard time with this decision and shed many tears over my son being an only child. I had always pictured having two children, but that just wasn’t meant to happen.
It took me about five years to get over the fact that I couldn’t have more children. Every time I saw a pregnant woman or heard that a friend was pregnant, my heart filled with jealousy and I would often cry.
I’ve accepted it now and love our family of three.
If your hormones interfere with your functioning, contact your gynecologist to see what can be done.
Let me know what, if any, problems you’ve had with your hormones in the Comments.
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