What do you see when you look at these pictures of me? Some might say “a happy young mother” or “a beautiful smile”. And while those statements might be true, what you do not see is someone who was sick. Very sick. The reason being that hormone imbalances are often invisible. The person looks completely healthy, may be well put together and can often keep the extent of their misery hidden behind a smile.
I want to take you through a journey of each of these pictures:
My first girls night out since having my son. At this point my main struggle is with depression and fatigue and jaw pain. The doctors put me back on Cymbalta (I was on it prior to pregnancy). There is also a chronic issue with eye inflammation that will eventually lead me to being unable to wear contacts ever again. I am having to put steroid eye drops in my eyes around the clock and that forced me to stop breastfeeding. At night, I am clenching my teeth severely and that is causing a burning pain in my tongue.
Michael has decided to go to Nursing School and we are about to move out of our beloved home and in with my mom. The chronic eye inflammation is still ongoing and getting worse. I wore contacts for this impromptu photo session and took them out immediately after. My hair is starting to fall out. The teeth clenching is getting better because I am seeing a orthodontist who has me wearing a bizarre contraption throughout the day and night. The previous mouth guard created an “open bite” and this one is “harnessing” the power of my clench to close it.
On Mother’s day, a few weeks before this, I miscarried for the second time. My body was extremely progesterone deficient and couldn’t hold onto the pregnancy. I am exhausted, depressed, gaining weight, fatigued, sleeping poorly and have begun isolating myself from friendships.
Still gaining weight. The jaw pain has become almost unbearable, so I am on pain medication and muscle relaxers. I have been diagnosed as hypothyroid and started taking Synthroid. My TSH looks great, but none of my symptoms are better, infact they may be worsening. I spend thousands of dollars seeing an integrative medicine nurse practitioner, but to no avail. Stress is crushing me on all sides: my husband is so busy with nursing school that it feels like I am single parenting (he was studying on this day), we are living with my mother, I have reluctantly gone back into teaching and am in my training year for Reading Recovery. At night I sleep with ice packs and heating pads on my jaw. The one bright spot is that in August I had LASIK done on my eyes so the inflammation is brought under control.
I have started disappearing …. from pictures, from relationships, from myself. We have been living with my mom for almost 8 months and none of us can take it anymore. Michael and I, with the help of his mother, purchase a tiny 2 bedroom home that had been foreclosed on. In the midst of everything else that has been going on, we undertake remodeling it to “flip” in a few years. Ephraim is two. I am in pain most days. Every muscle in my body aches. I have no energy. When he goes down for his nap at 2 pm, I lay down too and sleep until he wakes at 4:30 or 5. While I sleep, I am often jolted awake with heart palpitations. At night, i strict and rub my muscles over a tennis ball. I am still on 125 mcg of Synthroid. I am depressed. I am exhausted. I am extremely irritable. I have few, if any friends, left. My jaw is unbearable.
This cycle continues until I find the help of a neuromuscular dentist in September 2010. He is able to relax my muscles and properly fit me to a mouth guard that I wear 24/7 at first. It helps tremendously. Later that month I see a female doctor specializing in women’s health. I tell her I think something is wrong with my hormones and that I suspect nutritional deficiencies. She laughs at me. Literally. Since I have a period every month she says that my hormones have to be normal. She tells me I don’t need the thyroid med so I should not take it. She refuses to test my B12 or vitamin D levels. She leaves me with prescriptions for ADHD meds, a sleep study, and a medicine called Giadon. My husband (who was doing his psych clinicals at the time) recognizes that as a medication used for those with schizophrenia. It has some nasty side effect, so I won’t take it. I leave there more desperate than before. I decide to try the Naturopath one last time.
She discovered I was severely hypothyroid, my adrenals were exhausted and I had almost no progesterone which made me severely Estrogen Dominant. Good times.
She took me off of Synthroid and put me on Armour thyroid 30 mg. I started using 20 mg of progesterone cream at night days 14-28 of my cycle. I took high doses of vitamin D and got B 12 shots. I removed all gluten and dairy from my diet. What happened?
By January, I was in so much physical pain and so down-trodden that I decided to try an antidepressant again. No sooner had I started it than I found out I was pregnant again. And then something amazing happened. They were checking my thyroid often to make sure I had enough to sustain a pregnancy so they kept raising my meds. They also upped the progesterone. I felt incredible. Better than I had in years. I looked awesome too. See….
I truly thought we had conquered this thing. I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl on October 5. And by November 5th, my world came crashing in around me. I could not function. I was in the throes of horrible anxiety and depression. I couldn’t eat, sleep and I was terrified to be alone. By December, I relented and went back on an anti-depressant. It helped. It really did. So much so that I thought it was ok to go off of it. I also decided not to go back to work. So, I was now a stay at home mother of 2, in a tiny house with an infant who would not nap and a 3-year-old who didn’t understand why he had to be quite. I convinced myself the house was the problem and that it was time to sell. “We can’t sell it and keep it staged with all this baby stuff around!,” I surmised. So back to my mom’s house we went while we waited for a sale. And it sold. And we found another house that seemed to fit our needs. And day by day my situation got subtly worse and worse. It wasn’t like it happened overnight. Depression caused by hormone imbalance never is. It is more like an insidious, creeping fog that finds its way into the nooks and crannies of your heart, mind, life, thoughts, feelings and relationships. The day we moved into the new home I was so breathless with exhaustion and pain that I could not even wipe down the counters. My whole body hurt!
How could this be happening again? I inwardly screamed.
I knew the answer had to lie somewhere in the blood work, so between naps and feedings I poured over every lab I had ever had looking for some hidden thread of continuity. There had to be a trend of some kind. Something the doctors were missing. I googled my little heart out and found a website called Stop The Thyroid Madness and cried and wept as I discovered myself and my situation on every page. I ordered the book, which became like a dog-eared Bible to me. I was obsessed with learning as much as I could. But it was all for nothing because I could not convince anyone there was anything wrong with me. My thyroid labs looked great, maybe even a little hyperthyroid. Even the naturopath I had so trusted was growing tired of me. “Try meditation, Emotional Freedom Tapping, take this herb or that … “
I became more obsessed. And my obsession did yield some good information. I learned that cortisol, whether too low or too high prevents thyroid hormone from working properly. I learned that iron (ferretin) could also create issues with the thyroid. But daily my symptoms grew worse. The pain was back. The anxiety came back too. This time both were accompanied by a weird inner vibration and sort of dizziness. Perhaps it was a sinus infection the doctor thought. One or two rounds of antibiotics and anti-vert and it was still there. A referral to an ENT, hearing tests and an MRI were ordered. In the meantime, 60 mg of Prednisone was ordered to combat “potential” inner ear inflammation.
I was actually kind of excited about the prednisone. You see, I had convinced myself that my issue was adrenal fatigue, i.e. low cortisol. So if that was the case, the prednisone would help. It didn’t. As I learned later, taking the prednisone was tantamount to “jumping on a trampoline with a 2×4 full of nails”. An accurate description. I really didn’t know things could get worse, but curled up on the floor of my closet while my children watched a fourth or fifth hour of TV, I BEGGED my husband to check me into the psych hospital. I was done. Another doctors appointment was made and back on Cymbalta I went (and remained). It was the right decision. By that point, my gut health was so bad and my neurotransmitters were so shot that an anti-depressant was absolutely necessary.
By this point, the naturopath had washed her hands of me and referred me to her father, an Integrative Medicine doctor. Well respected. Very expensive. He looked at EVERYTHING! Again, thyroid was under medicated and we switched from Armour to Naturethroid. My cortisol was not too low, it was sky HIGH!!! So, I began a regimen of adaptogens (herbs that lower and balance cortisol production). Progesterone was upped to 80mg and was to be taken vaginally days 14-28. This man saved my life. But the bottom-line is, that at no point in this saga, did anyone connect the dots to hormones. The early clues where there … undiagnosed infertility, early miscarriage, melasma, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, rapid aging, muscle pain, and on and on. I love this graphic explaining what hormone balance should look like and how imbalance wreaks havoc:
I am feeling better, much better. Maybe 85% of who I once remember being. My biggest complaints: weight and energy. I still crash at around 3 pm everyday and that is not conducive to having kids. I start seeing a friend (an acquaintance) post about a product called Plexus. Intrigued, I decide to try it. I feel better. Like, I have energy. I feel kind of … NORMAL. Cautiously optimistic, i decide to try the probiotic the company offers. I didn’t know I could feel better than better was a week ago. My husband tells me “I don’t know what is in that stuff, but whatever it is you are going to keep taking it!” Then he said five magical words ….
I have my wife back ….
Today, this is my daily regimen of Plexus products, Thyroid medication and Progesterone cream:
This is SOME of what I tried before … I have several more CABINETS worth!
If you would like more info on Plexus products and Hormone Harmony, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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