It is happening already. I am 34 1/2 years old and my body feels like it is starting to fall apart. I am sitting on the floor right now with feet elevated and ankles in compression braces hoping to heal some injury that I am not sure how I even got. I am frustrated because this is just one of the many unexplainable health issues I am faced with presently. I would take a picture of my medicine cabinet to show you the stacks of prescriptions and health supplements I am taking, but that would require getting up from my perch and that is simply not possible at the moment. Try explaining this to a one year old who, thankfully, is napping right now.
I am not sure if the battles I am facing right now are age related and a combination of factors including stress, lack of sleep and hormone disruptions from pregnancy and breast feeding. I have also wondered if it is psychosomatic. All I know is I am tired of feeling sick and tired and going to the doctor and filling another prescription and paying another co-pay …all to little or no avail.
If any of you watch Oprah, you know that she has begun an international discussion on the subject of women, hormones and health care. She feels that countless women are suffering in silence, not knowing what is going on at the hormonal level in their bodies and doctors are not providing adequate (or any) treatment or information to help them understand the physiological changes taking place. I have become very intrigued by this topic because I think I fall squarely into this category: feeling like my hormones are wacked out and not really having a clear understanding of what all the hormones do. Sadly, i used to teach science and this is a subject I really do not know anything about. It was not until reading a book on peri-menopause (which begins for most women around 35 and precedes menopause) that I learned that your hormones regulate everything in your body. When they become imbalanced the whole body suffers in strange and often very subtle ways.
For me, I think a lot of this dates back to college when I battled an eating disorder and my low and fluxuating weight sent the hormones into a tizzy. I think it was later exacerbated by going on and then off of birth control. Throw in a tremendous amount of stress and lack of sleep and welcome to what they call adrenal fatigue. I have lived at this level for a few years now, I think and it has manifested in some strange ways, one of which was being diagnosed with Burning Mouth Syndrome a few years ago. Not fun! Through my own research and endeavors to get rid of this frustrating condition I realized that I have been chronically clenching my teeth for years and am now having to get braces again to fix my bite which was messed up from wearing a night gaurd. I told you it was weird.
Most of you know that it took Michael and I several years to conceive Ephraim. I suffered one miscarriage during that time and the decision was made that once we got pregnant again, I would immediately go on progesterone. I had no idea why, but filled the prescription, took the pill and that was that. It was not until later, after doing some research that I learned what progesterone actually does and why it is essential that your levels be high enough in order to hang onto a pregnancy once you have conceived. Your progesterone level stays really high throughout the pregnancy, but especially during the 1st trimester. This is why women are so exhausted those first 14 weeks, progesterone makes you feel tired. Once you deliver the little one, the level drops sharply along with estrogen as well (if you are breast feeding). Low estrogen is why getting preggo again while nursing can be difficult (but not impossible: hello surprise babies!) and also why you gotta use lots of lubricant during sex after baby.
I felt pretty good right after having E, C-section aside, up until he was about 2 1/2 months old and then I felt like the bottom dropped out. The pain in my mouth that had disappeared during the pregnancy was back with a vengeance. That combined with all the other new mom issues sent me into a state of depression. I was struggling and looking for answers. I went to see my M.D., who I adore, and he ran all the routine blood work. It all came back normal. I was starting to feel like I was either crazy or oppressed by a demon since I felt like crap but my tests all said I was perfectly healthy. At this point I embarked on my own research and became well acquainted with googling. This can be a good thing when you find helpful information. It is also like opening Pandora’s Box since there are some pretty terrifying scenarios out there. One thing I did learn was that other women (most menopausal) find relief from the BMS by using progesterone cream. Could that be why I was not in pain while pregnant? Who knows. I bought some cream and started using it. I felt better quickly. I was not cured, but I was feeling better.
When Ephraim turned 9 months old I made the decision to wean him and start taking an anti-depressant called Cymbalta. My doctor recommended it for treating the BMS, but what I felt I needed it for was ongoing situational depression (as Becky called it). Michael had noticed that I just was not myself, there was no spark or energy and I was overwhelmed by the tasks of mothering and running a household. I took the pill and started to feel better rather quickly. I have never really been an advocate for anti-depressants, but in this case I felt it was warranted and beneficial. The problem is that while the Cymbalta may treat the symptoms, I am still not sure we have arrived at the main cause. And here in lies my incredible frustration with the state of Western medicine today. It feels like there is a pill for every problem and a doctor ready and waiting to prescribe them. My thing is that I don’t want to mask or cover up symptoms. I want to figure out what the hell is going wrong in my body and fix it. If that means changes in my lifestyle and attitudes, so be it. What I am beginning to realize though is that in order to accomplish this I need to take a holistic, or whole body, approach. This may mean seeking out alternative medicines and treatments. I am okay with that, but it is also unchartered waters and a little scary. The bottom-line is that I have decided to become my own advocate.
For me, this means starting back at the beginning …with the hormones. Of all the doctors I have seen recently, the one that encouraged me to seek this information out was my eye doctor. I have been dealing with an ongoing inflammatory issue (iritis) in my left eye since September. I have had to stop wearing my contacts for weeks or months at a time and am currently putting 3 different types of eye drops in my eyes 6 times a day. Holy crap! Dr. Beddow is the one that told me that after pregnancy and nursing a woman can have tremendous issues with vision and dry eyes. The chronically dry eyes can lead to inflammation and even ulcers on your cornea. (Makes since that if your va-ja-ja is dry from low estrogen that your eyes and skin might be too, huh?) I looked up some information on the internet and found that what he had told me was true. When I went to the natural pharmacy here in town and talked to the pharmacist about the iritis he showed me a flow chart of the steroid hormones in the body. He said researches created the corti-steroid Prednisone (I have been putting this in my eye for 2 months now) to mimic that natural hormone pregnanolone that is made in the body to reduce inflammation. Pregnanolone is what progesterone is made from. It is all coming full-circle.
So, here is the deal. On the 26th of this month I will be spending the first 30 minutes of my day spitting my saliva into a tube and then doing the same thing before I go to bed that night. I will then send these test tubes full of my spit off to a lab and they will test the following hormones: testosterone (which gives us girls a libido), progesterone, estrogen, DHEA (known as the fountain of youth hormone, low levels can cause things like premature graying of your hair) and cortisol (your stress hormone). This is where I am starting on my journey to wellness. You may be wondering why the saliva test and not the blood test. Saliva is far more accurate that blood. I have already had my thyroid tested and it is off. Symptoms of this include dry skin, fatigue, heavy periods, constipation, easy weight gain (hello!), cold intolerance. I am currently all of these. Whahoo!
I could go on and on about this. I will spare you. I am just asking that you pray for me and I undertake a journey to get my health back. It’s not like it is gone, but I don’t want to be dealing with this crap or even worse 10 years from now. And of you are experiencing your own body/health issues I encourage you to seek out information and become your won advocate as well. Be open to natural therapies and treatments. I am already using chiropractic and some acupuncture. The next step will be based on the results of the saliva tests. Please just pray that there is clarity and no confusion. Thanks to you all.