[Editor’s Note: James from the blog James and Jax is our guest today to share her experience with the ups and DOWNS of post- postpartum depression periods. I know well the roller coaster of which she speaks. -Katherine]
Thanks to pregnancy and breastfeeding, I hadn’t had my period in more than two-and-a-half years. When it finally returned in April, all hell broke loose. Well, actually it was about two weeks prior to the return of dear Aunt Flo that I started to spiral. (God, don’t you hate when women refer to their periods that way? I do. So sorry for that.)
For half of April, I pretty much hated (with a capital H) everybody except baby Jax. I took many, MANY bubble baths to escape into my own lovely scented little world. Thank goodness for locked bathroom doors. I drank wine many a night. I did what I had to do, but I had no idea why I was doing it. Oh, and the cramps during ovulation? Mother of God they were the worst EVER. At one point, I laid on my kitchen floor while making dinner and waited, frozen, for the pain to end, wondering if I had some kind of illness. I can’t even imagine what poor little Jax was thinking as I laid there gripping a spatula!
Then on a Friday, I got my first postpartum period. Yay! Sort of. At least there was a valid explanation for the hormonal roller coaster I’d spent the previous few weeks riding, as well as an end in sight! The cramps eased, too.
But then May’s hormonal roller coaster made April’s look like a kiddie ride. In May, around the time of ovulation (or, the beginning of the luteal phase), I experienced INTENSE anxiety and depression. This instantly took me back to my postpartum depression days. And being reminded of those days, of those feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, sadness for no good reason, guilt, and so on, just pulled me down even further.
See, in my opinion, there’s something almost worse than postpartum depression, and that’s being reminded of what PPD felt like and being afraid that you’re not exactly out of the woods yet despite having thought so for months. Or years. Or whatever. The fear of the return of the monster, in my opinion, was actually worse than the monster itself.
For two days in mid-May I felt exactly how I’d felt at my lowest when my son was a newborn. Add to those awful feelings the fear that I was starting all over again in my struggle and the despair that I couldn’t do it again. I was afraid to leave my house because I didn’t think I could handle even the slightest challenge from the world. I wanted to curl up into a little ball on the couch in an empty house with a ton of TV shows saved on the DVR—so many that I didn’t have to use my own brain for days until the fog lifted. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t go to work. I just couldn’t. Yet I still had to be a mom. Fortunately, I had enough common sense to call my therapist (with whom I had recently “broken up”) and tell her what was happening.
She suggested that what I was experiencing could be severe PMS and that I make an appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss my symptoms. That night, I went to the OB/GYN and received a diagnosis of severe PMS and a prescription for Sarafem, which is Prozac that is used at a low dosage during only the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
The next day, I researched the compatibility of Sarafem with breastfeeding (I’d received mixed advice from several health care practitioners and a pharmacist about whether it is safe to use while breastfeeding) and concluded I prefer other non-pharmaceutical options. I’m the type of person who has greater anxiety at the thought of taking anti-anxiety meds. Not ideal, I know.
During my research, I received great advice from women I know via Twitter and other social media, as well as in real life, who have had a similar experience with their first few postpartum periods. Little did I know that it’s relatively common to experience such intense hormone-related mood swings during the first few postpartum periods. Why doesn’t anybody talk about this?
I vowed to eliminate caffeine from my morning routine, to decrease my sugar intake, and to add in some exercise and sunlight whenever possible. In addition, I trudged to the pharmacy to arm myself with omega 3s, calcium, vitamin D, a B complex, and some herbal tea. Those are some of the things I’d read (or had been told) could help alleviate the mood swings associated with severe PMS. I figured I’d give it a shot for a month and see how I felt, promising myself that if I didn’t feel much better, I’d fill the Sarafem prescription.
I’m happy to report that June was a much happier month, mood-wise. In fact, I didn’t even notice I’d ovulated. I got my period without any kind of warning whatsoever (that’s always fun)! I hadn’t spent the previous few weeks hating anybody. I hadn’t had a single anxiety attack since May. I’m feeling great. I don’t know whether any of this has to do with the cocktail of supplements I’ve been taking every day or if things have simply settled down, hormonally speaking, since I’ve had a few postpartum periods now. But I’m happy that I feel like myself again. I win!
Is it TMI (too much information) to be blogging about periods and ovulating? Maybe, but I think that if women were more open about our feelings and experiences, even when it comes to the physical stuff related to postpartum depression, we could all benefit.