A couple of weeks ago, I announced that I was depressed, something that took some courage to admit. I say that not to toot my own horn for being brave, but so that others who have been dealing with similar feelings know that the fear they may have to seek help — or to even admit to themselves that there’s something wrong — is totally normal. As it was, my depression was not that bad relatively speaking, and it didn’t go on very long. I’d say that before I talked to anyone about it, I had feelings of “despair,” as I called it, for about two weeks. Those feelings included severe fatigue, anxiety, irritability/anger, hopelessness, and the uncontrollable urge to cry. Oh man, did I cry. It was the tears that signaled that something was really “off.”
I’m not a big cryer. I do get tired pretty easily — especially in recent months, for obvious reasons. And one of my flaws is a short temper — something I am genuinely trying to work on. And I have suffered from anxiety during stressful periods in my life; who hasn’t? But the crying thing was out of character for me, and so I was concerned. My initial thought was that I might have delayed postpartum depression. I did some research on it and my symptoms seemed to fit, with the exception that I had no urge to hurt myself or my baby (thank God!), and I wasn’t having any trouble bonding with Jackson. Still, I had enough reason to suspect I could have PPD, that I called my OBGYN and got some referrals for therapists who specialize in the disorder. I also reached out to a mom friend of mine who is a psychologist and she passed along some names as well.
But then I considered that perhaps my thyroid medication needed to be adjusted. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a chronic thyroid condition, when I was about five months pregnant and had immediately begun taking Synthroid, a synthetic hormone, to treat it. Pregnancy wreaks havoc on the thyroid, and it can take many months following childbirth for things to settle down. Because I’d only been diagnosed while pregnant, I had no baseline for what dosage of medication I needed while not pregnant. That posed some challenges — challenges that came to light in the last five or six weeks as I felt myself slip further away from the person I knew myself to be. When thyroid levels aren’t balanced and a person becomes hypothryoid, she can feel depression, severe fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and have trouble losing weight — all the things I was experiencing (since giving birth four months earlier, I had not lost a single pound!). Anyway, luckily, I thought to have my thyroid levels tested, they were way off, my medication was adjusted, and now, less than two weeks later, I feel much, much better.
I’m not sure that I didn’t/ don’t have something else going on — like PPD — and I will be on guard for signs that I’m not well. But so far, the things I have done to get better seem to be working. In addition to the change in medication, I’ve also cut back on working on this site, and I’ve hired a daytime babysitter to watch Jackson two mornings a week so I can have a little time to myself — time I plan to spend working, but also doing things just for me (like read a book, get my nails done, and go for a bike ride). I’ve decided to hold off on therapy for now because after making these other changes, I don’t feel pressed to pursue it, and scheduling a weekly or biweekly appointment with someone it would take nearly two hours roundtrip of commuting to see makes me anxious — and anxiety is what I’m trying to manage not create.
I know I mentioned feeling uncertain about whether I wanted to keep this site going. For now, I’ve decided that I do. I was making myself crazy feeling like this had to be a job — a real career. It is — and remains — a goal of mine for this site to eventually be equivalent to at least a part-time job in terms of income so that I can stay home and raise my kid(s) and don’t have to find an outside job unless I really want to. In my mind, I felt like if I were serious about that goal, I had to work, work, work to make it happen. But there’s such a thing as working smarter and not harder, and that’s what I’m moving toward now.
Striking such a balance will go a long way in making me actually like what I do instead of feeling burdened by it. For a while, I felt like I was investing so much of myself here and not having enough energy left over for other things. This made me too thin-skinned. I’d spend hours and hours each week working and not seeing enough of a pay-off and then when people said unkind things about/to me or attacked me, which is always going to happen online, I didn’t have the emotional reserve to deal with it well — to let it slide off my back as I should. In short, it made me mental.
Of course, I don’t know what the future holds, but for now I feel like I’m moving toward achieving a better overall balance in my life. I find worth in what I do here and for now, that is a wonderful complement to the worth I find as a mother, wife, friend, and family member. I make enough money to pay for a sitter, and those hours I get to myself each week will — I hope — recharge me so that I can continue being the best version of myself that I know how to be. Or, at least a good version of myself.
This is a lot of talking about me, me, me. I wouldn’t ordinarily be so candid about my feelings, but I thought you deserved a follow-up after I announced that I wasn’t doing well and was thinking about packing it in here. I also wanted to share my experience in hopes that maybe it would help even one person. Maybe there’s someone out there who will get her/his thyroid levels checked now and will benefit from medication. Maybe there’s someone who has felt shame in being depressed and is scared to seek help and now feels a little less alone. If I’ve managed to remove even a tiny bit of stigma, I’m glad.
If you’re suffering in any way, tell someone. Tell your significant other, a family member, a friend, or a doctor. There may be a medical explanation. There could be an easy solution. But even if the solution is more complicated, you owe it to yourself to start finding it. Life is too short to spend it suffering in silence.