I was happily nursing my 15 month old when I was suddenly faced with the opportunity to get treatment for a health condition that was having a great negative effect on my life. Nursing wasn’t possible to do while using the treatment. So I had to make a choice quickly: stop nursing and start treatment or keep nursing and delay treatment. I reasoned that my daughter was doing pretty well with solid foods, was relatively independent, and could make an easy transition away from nursing. I thought everything should be okay.
Everything was okay for her. She weaned easily within a week's time. But unfortunately for me, I was not okay. Roughly three weeks after she was weaned, I 'went crazy' for lack of better words. I initially thought that I must be having new PMS symptoms. I never had those mood swings that I heard other women complain of, so I just thought that there must be a first time for everything. I was feeling unusually angry, nasty, and had an overall negative outlook on things. It would come along in waves. I would go from depressed one morning to anxious and irritable that same evening. I would get up from a nap totally pissed off for no reason whatsoever. I felt sad for long periods of time for no reason. Then there were the 'crying jags' that I heard them referred to somewhere. I would just roll up into a ball and cry.
Anxiety mixed with irritability was also commonplace especially in dealing with small children. My teeth would start to grind or chatter and I would get shaky. Also, sometimes I would have problems hyperventilating.
Many times I had to play absent minded mommy with my girls as I was afraid to deal with them for fear of losing control. They got away with doing a lot of things that I normally wouldn't have allowed. I had two young children 18 months apart and was dealing with a lot of stress in caring for them as my husband didn't participate much in their care. Also, there were the worst feelings of all. I had fantasies of really bad things happening to my children. I had no idea why they were filling my head. None of these fantasies were of me doing any harm to them, but still disturbing to say the least. Even this didn't convince me that I needed help.
I had never in my life felt so out of control of my own emotions. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm quite an even tempered person. These strong feelings were very debilitating as one could imagine. I know for a fact now that people who have never gone through this truly have no understanding of what it is like to go through it.
All these symptoms came to a head one night when I was alone with my children. It was then that I knew something was seriously wrong with me that neither I, nor my family could ignore.
"Richard*, I need you to come home now. I need to go to the ER. Something's wrong with me," I say to my husband with slow slightly slurred speech. "Maryam, what's wrong-" he asks. "I don't know, I don't know," I repeated to him. I hated to have to call him for this. He was going in to work some overtime hours and he was on his way into work when I called him on his cell phone. It was about 9pm. I had been feeling very depressed that evening. He had pretty much ignored my foul mood and I ignored him. It was better that way. That way we wouldn't conflict with each other. I was basically lying on the couch all evening, only getting up to do the robotic actions of making sure myself and children were fed. I was pretty much a walking zombie. That was when it started, what I call the Tourette's syndrome-like ticing.
It was eerily similar to the descriptions I remember hearing on some of the talk shows I used to watch. My head, neck, and shoulders had started to twitch (or tic) uncontrollably, perhaps every thirty seconds or so, sometimes more or sometimes less. Only when I would concentrate and focus really hard, I could try to stop it, but when I did try to suppress the ticks, more would come out with greater force. Also, my speech was really weird. It was slow and slurred, with a bit of a stutter to it. It was almost like I was having a stroke or something. I couldn't talk normally. My older daughter was almost three at the time and I could tell she was concerned about what was happening to me.
My husband then told me that he was going to pick up his mother and sister. My sister-in- law was going to stay at our apartment with the girls, while he and his mother accompanied me to the emergency room. By the time we got to the ER, the intensity of the tics minimized somewhat, but were still there. The wait wasn't too long. When I got in to see the doctor, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had no idea what could be wrong. He asked me what was happening with me before the symptoms started and I told him that I had been feeling depressed all evening. "Why didn't you tell me you were depressed-" my husband asked as if he had some concern now. I just ignored him like usual as I didn't feel like explaining it. I felt like he never seemed before like he was even willing to understand what I was going through, so why should we try to discuss it in the ER, especially in front of the doctor-
The doctor asked me some more questions and ordered some blood and urine testing. Then we had to wait inside the room for the results to come in from the lab. When the results came in, there weren't any abnormalities. The doctor offered me some anti-anxiety medication, which I took. Before I knew it, the tics were gone after taking the medication. He also gave me a prescription for alprazolam (generic Xanax), which is an anti-anxiety medication, and a recommendation to make an appointment to see a psychologist.
I went in to see the psychologist who was a man, unfortunately. For religious reasons, I didn't want to be alone in his office, so my husband came in with me, even though I don’t think the doctor really wanted him there. Of course my husband had to butt in and give him the same song and dance he gave me about my mental 'issues' having to do with a deficiency on my part in my religious faith. I knew this was absolute bull, which is why I tried my hardest to ignore his comments even though my extreme irritability caused me to want to explode at times. He had no idea whatsoever of what I was going through and I guess I shouldn't have expected him to.
I had a hunch that the problem I was dealing with had something to do with the shift in hormones which occurred as a result of my quick weaning. At the time, I didn't have enough information to make a knowledgeable argument to anyone. I told the doctor that I had just weaned my daughter recently. That seemed to be a trigger as I never had any emotional problems like this before. He just brushed that idea off. I figured that his training wouldn't allow him to entertain the thought. Some doctors can be so closed minded at times much to the detriment of their patients they're entrusted to care for.
He did offer to let me consult with his partner psychiatrist so I could try a different medication. He offered me the option of a drug called Buspar, which was supposed to help me with the anxiety and depression symptoms. The drug I already had a prescription for was anti-anxiety alone and one of the possible side effects of it is depression, which of course I didn't want a worsening of. I declined that offer for the time being. The psychologist wanted me to come back again, but due to some miscommunication, that never materialized, and I didn't pursue it.
I was really uncomfortable with the idea of being on medication for emotional problems, but I obviously needed it. I hated the idea with a passion. I'm not the one to just take a prescription without looking into alternatives. That's always been my methodology when it comes to health. I did fill the prescription 'just in case', but I started researching my alternatives to help my situation. I'd read that St. John's Wort was helpful for relieving mild depression. I took that, but it didn't help me at all. At this point, I had a strong feeling that the bigger issue was hormonal in nature.
I headed to my local library to do some research. I learned what I was actually experiencing was a kind of post partum depression. I didn't know that it could be considered that after weaning. It was also a relief in hearing stories of other women about how hormonal imbalance can have such life altering affects on a woman's life and family. The similarity of the women's stories to my own was quite eerie to me. It was almost like they were in my head and knew my exact thought processes.
I started looking into different alternative treatments for hormone balance. I tried using compounded progesterone cream from an online pharmacy, which helped initially, but started to lose its effect over time. There were some times that I felt the anxiety and irritability increasing, but most of the time I was able to quell it with my own personal relaxation techniques. There was another time when I couldn't and I needed to take my pill. I felt a bit defeated when I needed to do so, but looked at it as something temporary.
As I was going through this dark period of my life on a roller coaster ride of emotions I learned so much. It became so apparent to me the reality of mental conditions. There's an unfortunate stigma that people who suffer with it have some sort of personality flaw or something and that they need to just snap out of it by taking a walk or seeing a funny movie or some other oversimplified “cure.” Even though I needed the medication as a temporary treatment for my condition, I chose to try alternatives. The good thing for me was that it began to fade away after about four months before I needed to implement radical diet and lifestyle changes. Now as my nursing relationship with my son comes to an end, I'm much more cautious about the weaning process and my personal dietary needs to facilitate hormonal stability.
*names have been changed