I’ve been wanting to write this down for a while, not only to help someone else who may be going through the same battle but also to put all of my thoughts on paper and help put this into perspective for myself that it is now (hopefully all) in my past. I was diagnosed with a rare thyroid condition called postpartum thyroiditis. I will start at the beginning because my story starts out the same as most women who are going through postpartum depression, yet it turned out to be so different.
My second baby boy, Leif, was born in June 2015 and everything was perfect and I do mean everything- not only was life great but the actual birth and beginning postpartum period was nothing short of total happiness. It was around the end of August that I started noticing some of my postpartum symptoms such as sweating were not going away but were instead becoming much, much worse. I also noticed that my resting heart rate was very high and I was having awful mood swings. I didn’t think too much of it because we had a lot going on- new baby, we were buying a new house, our businesses were doing really well and growing so I just assumed I was a bit stressed.
By mid to late September things became drastically worse, my resting heart rate was always above 120, I started feeling very anxious and panicked, I would go days without sleeping, sweating profusely, trouble concentrating, memory loss, major weight loss (50 pounds in 3 months) and I had almost nonstop tremors. I came to the conclusion that I had postpartum depression and I immediately made an appointment with my midwife. It was at that visit to my midwife that I told her my symptoms and that it felt like I was losing my mind. I was laying on the exam table shaking uncontrollably and crying. I felt like I was going to die and I was so scared. They sent me to the emergency room and they said it was most likely postpartum depression/anxiety disorder. I followed up with my family doctor the next day to determine if I should begin taking medication, luckily my doctor decided to do bloodwork that day and a few days later I received the results. I had extreme hyperthyroidism. Cue the anxiety attack- it seemed like my life was so out of control and hearing this just scared me even more.
I was so lucky that I was able to find an amazing endocrinologist who fit me into his schedule that same day. He took one look at my labs and said that each of my symptoms was a direct result of this hyperthyroidism and not postpartum depression/anxiety. Those two illnesses produce a lot of the same mental symptoms, so if you are suffering the way I was please get your blood checked! I was somewhat relieved to hear that I was not losing my mind but that I was actually sick and that is why I was feeling the way I was. We discussed that I most likely either had graves disease or postpartum thyroiditis, we wouldn’t know for sure until I had more blood work to check for the trends in my thyroid levels as well as check for the graves antibody. I’m forever grateful that my doctor spent so much time with me that day reassuring me and helping me find safe medication to take while breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding was just not an option for me, but luckily one of the medication options was a beta blocker called propranolol which is okay to take while nursing. It is not a treatment (there are none for postpartum thyroiditis), but a medication used to protect the heart while someone is in the hyperthyroid phase. So the next step was to just wait it out, I ended up testing negative for the graves antibody so we were sticking with postpartum thyroiditis as the diagnosis.
Postpartum thyroiditis involves two phases- hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism and can last up to 18 months. Women may experience both or just one of the phases. My hyperthyroid phase lasted from August- November and it was nothing short of a nightmare. Even with the beta blockers I still had most of my symptoms. Besides the physical symptoms it was the mental symptoms that were the hardest- I became really isolated from both my family and friends, although I feel like when I did go out I was able to hide it somewhat well, but as soon as we would come home I just completely crashed physically and mentally. Those few months were the absolute toughest months of my life. Looking back now I am so sad about all that I feel I lost in that time- precious time with my children and husband, the excitement of buying our dream home as I was too sick to even feel any emotion or sense of happiness, I gave up on a friendship that once meant a lot to me,I had to close down my thriving business for a bit and perhaps the biggest of all is that I would not have anymore children, not because it causes fertility issues but that I knew I could never have this happen to me and my family again and the chances of it happening again are very high, around 50%, after having it once.
Once the hypothyroid phase hit it was initially a welcome relief from the physical and mental torture of being hyperthyroid. That soon changed when I became so exhausted that a whole new level of depression hit. I was so tired I could barely take my kids out for playdates, work on my business….live. I became so depressed when I would see my friends going certain places or even working out. I was jealous that their bodies weren’t holding them back from these normal activities. I honestly hit such a low I thought I might never recover. The hypothyroid phase can last up to one year so I tried my best to stay positive and start the countdown to recovery. It’s now late January and I had my first bit of good news in months, my levels are stabilizing and returning to normal! I will follow up with more blood work in a few weeks to confirm that this may finally be over and in the meantime i’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
If you’ve read this story and can relate to all of it or just a small part of it in some way and it has helped you, then I am so glad I shared this. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety please have your thyroid levels checked, although thyroiditis is very rare it is a major cause of mental illness. Perhaps it is so rare because it goes undiagnosed. Have you suffered from postpartum thyroiditis? If so leave a comment below with your story so we can all help each other. One of the biggest challenges of this disease is that it is so rare and there are not a lot of personal stories or even research available online.
So, that’s my story…. Often times when you hear about someone with a thyroid disease you don’t think much of it but having experienced it now I will never take my health for granted again. Your thyroid controls your entire body and that’s why there are such a wide range of symptoms from physical to mental. I feel like it has scarred me in some way and I still deal with the mental side of it because it was that difficult. I’ve also learned a lot about how to take better care of myself in a holistic way including eating a much healthier diet and adding acupuncture into my routine. Here’s to health and happiness for all of us!
Maternal Mental Illness affects 1 in 7 Mothers. I’ve linked up with 3 amazing women who have shared their experience, and continue to spread awareness. No mom should ever feel alone because we are all in this together!