Over the last 18 months life has thrown a lot at us. It has been hard and at times, unbearable. We have struggled with the usual disasters that crop up, but the thing that I have struggled with the most is the feeling that I was losing my mind. I have felt more unlike myself in the last 18 months than I have ever felt before. There wasn’t anything in particular that I could point to and say was the problem, but I knew there was a problem. It is hard to explain to people that there is an issue when I look perfectly fine. But I wasn’t.
It started when my period returned when Emma was 10 months old. It was a few months before I realised what was happening but when I look back on that time, I realised that it started as my period returned. Every single month without fail, I would become insane in the 10 days leading up to my period.
It is such a frightening experience. I wouldn’t be totally unhinged for the entire 10 days but I would have at least one ‘mental’ episode and then be completely irrational for the rest of the time. As soon as my period would arrive, I was normal again. The first time I realised it what was happening, I had provoked a fight with Michael about him not cleaning the house, whilst he was cleaning the house. It made absolutely no sense but once I started I couldn’t stop. In the end I was crying and laughing at the same time and then a sense of peace and calm came over me and I was fine again.
How Michael put up with me, I will never know. He was the one who always got the brunt of it. He knew when I was gunning for a fight and wouldn’t engage but that would just make me worse. It is a complete miracle we ever got married.
Christmas 2015 was a particularly bad time and I decided I had enough and that I would go to the doctor. I genuinely felt like I had a hormonal problem. I have long suffered with depression and to me this wasn’t that. I didn’t feel depressed, just crazed. I explained to him how I was feeling and that I thought that this was a hormonal problem, but unfortunately he just brushed me off. He told me that I had post natal depression and that I needed to stop breastfeeding immediately and take antidepressants. I asked him could we check my hormone levels and I was advised that there was no need. How could I have PND for only 10 days of the month? He couldn’t answer that but was insistent that I needed to take antidepressants and that was that. I was told to come back in 6 months.
I never took the antidepressants. I didn’t feel like they were the answer to the problem, or that the problem had actually been identified. I plodded along through the early part of 2016 and was managing okay. I knew what to look out for and we coped. But then new symptoms started to appear. I started to lose my hair. I put it down to my period returning and my hormones changing. I began to suffer with anxiety (which had never happened before), I found that I had an inability to cope with stress of any kind, I was exhausted and was putting on weight. I put every symptom down to the fact that I was working 100 hours a week and didn’t have time for anything else. I just assumed it was work related stress. On top of all of this, the mood swings related to my period were getting worse. I genuinely felt like I was going insane. I didn’t feel like me any more and I struggled to cope with the simplest of things. Everything was sending me into a tailspin and causing me to shout and lose my temper.
In the middle of August, I had a minor car accident. I had a whiplash injury and unfortunately it triggered a flare up of my (very dormant) fibromyalgia. I was being treated by a orthopedic surgeon for the whiplash and it was he who referred me to a rheumatologist. During her assessment she requested a full blood panel and lo and behold, it showed that I had an issue with my thyroid. Further testing showed that I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – an autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack the thyroid and cause it to become under active. It explained every single one of my symptoms, including my mood swings. I couldn’t believe it. I was prescribed medication and told to come back in two months.
Medication takes time to work, and unfortunately Murphy’s law (and my shit luck) meant that when my period was due in October (on my wedding day no less) I had the worst week mood wise, in the lead up to the wedding. People who traveled to be with us must have thought I was bat shit crazy and that Michael was worse for marrying me. No amount of me explaining that it was like an out-of-body experience that I had no control over was reassuring anyone that I wasn’t a bitch. It was awful. I spent the week cycling up and down. Depressed to manic, sad to elated and I couldn’t stop snapping and shouting. It was awful. But of course my period arrived the day of the wedding and it was all roses in the garden after that.
Life was okay throughout the rest of October and November but I could feel a change coming in later November. I could feel that I had been too lucky, the mood swings started again in late November. I had my thyroid levels checked and I was in optimal range, borderline, but still optimal. But I still felt awful. I felt as if this was someone else’s body that I was in. I felt that I had no control over how I behaved and I was sick of it. And I had enough of Michael getting the brunt of it. He didn’t deserve this and I didn’t deserve to feel like this.
I spoke with the doctor and he agreed to increase my medication ever so slightly. I was optimistic that this was going to be a miracle cure. Unfortunately, during the month of December my fibromyalgia symptoms look a dive and I had to start on an antidepressant to try to control the pain that I was in. Dealing with a fibro flare is no fun and I spent many days in December despairing at the situation that I was in. My pain levels were off the charts. I felt trapped within my own body. How could I be nearly 30 years old and feel like a 90 year old? I was stressed out and not getting any better. I had been working with a physiotherapist who had suggested that I try something like a B vitamin to help settle my mood swings and hopefully help me feel more like myself.
During this time, I had been doing research on the treatment of muscle cramps, thyroid symptoms and mood swings and how to treat them with the addition of supplements to my daily medication routine. I found an article which suggested that the use of 50-100mg of b6 daily was effective in treating mood swings associated with periods. I was willing to try anything at this point and just before new year, I decided that in addition to my prescribed medication I would take omeaga 6, zinc, calcium and magnesium and 100mg of b6. I wasn’t looking for a miracle cure but I was hoping that the addition of these supplements to my daily meds would help ‘settle’ me a bit more.
I have had 2 periods since I started all this additional medication and I can easily say that it has made the world of difference. Both times I had to check my trusty app (I have always had irregular periods and as a result I have always tracked them) to see when I was due. This month I found that I had a few moments when I was a bit iffy and the rage was starting to creep in, but I was able to pull back and reorganise myself and avoid all hell breaking loose. It may not sound like much, but this is a miracle compared to 3 or 4 months ago. I am feeling so much more like my old self and I don’t think that my mood is as volatile during the week leading up to my period as it has been. I don’t know if it is the supplements, the antidepressant or the increase in thyroid meds that has made a difference. Chances are it is a mixture of all 3 of them, but regardless the improvement in my day-to-day life has been incredible.
I had my thyroid levels checked just after Emma was born, so I am unsure as to when the Hashimoto’s started but I am so glad that there has been an improvement in my mood, nonetheless. Living in a situation where there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong but you don’t feel sane is very difficult. Not only is it difficult on the person who is going through it, but it is difficult for those who are close to you and who may be getting the brunt of your emotions. I do wish I hadn’t fobbed off the symptoms I had been experiencing for so long as it would have been nice to have dealt with them sooner, but I am glad they are undercontrol now.