Swimming Through Jello

It happened so gradually, I attributed the symptoms to normal aging. But over a few years all the excess energy I had in my 20s, 30s and early 40s evaporated. Pfffftt! Physically, mentally, and emotionally I began to feel that I was swimming through Jello, though more recently, giant clumps of peanut butter fell into my pool. Everything inside me was in slow motion, yet my life continued on at a breakneck pace.

I was so tired, at times I shouldn't have been driving. Because my brain was thickening into sludge, I started joking about getting early Alzheimer's. But it wasn't really all that funny. And my emotions were in the deep freeze, too, causing a deeper darkness than I'd ever experienced. But I had an answer for everything. Fatigue? Sure! I have nine kids, and life hasn't become a smidge simpler now that they are older. Brain fog? -  Dementia runs in my family. Depression? - We've had a zinger of a difficult year.

Way too often I delude myself into thinking I'm great at self-diagnosis. Boy was I wrong this time!

(Oh yeah, my hair was falling out in great globs, and I was losing my eyebrows. I didn't really have an answer for that one.)

Happily, several months ago during a routine physical, my new family doc discovered a goiter, and further testing (blood, ultrasound) showed that my thyroid, that controller of metabolism, hormones, and so much more, was completely out of whack. She put me on a thyroid medication like my body should be producing which has made an astounding and almost immediate difference in energy level, mental sloth, and emotions. We're still working to reach the correct level of medication, and with each increase, I'm feeling better. Finally, I'm climbing out of the Jello swimming pool!

I decided to mention this for a couple of reasons. First, in the past five months I have learned that thyroid issues are very frequent, but often overlooked. So many of my friends are dealing with similar issues. I found out that both my parents and a sibling are also hypothyroid, which isn't surprising because there is often a strong family connection in thyroid problems.

Second, as I have read about thyroid issues I learned about something I've never heard of: postpartum thyroiditis. Apparently this is a common event, affecting 5-7% or more of postpartum women. It occurs in different forms, but a typical scenario is that sometime after birth the mother enters a hyperthyroid phase which later switches to a hypothyroid phase. 

Researchers have found that many cases of presumed postpartum depression are actually misdiagnosed thyroid issues. In most cases everything resolves and metabolic functions return to normal by the time the baby is a year old. Occasionally, though, a woman will remain stuck in the hypo state. This is more likely for women like me with a family history of hypothyroidism. My guess is that I frequently entered hyperthyroid states for a while after birth. I often looked forward to middle of the night feedings, and if I still wasn't tired after my little sweetheart conked out, I would work on lesson planning or some other activity, enjoying the quiet of the wee hours. With my last baby, my high needs preemie, this hyper state lasted a long time, but when it wore off, I entered a decline which never stopped. 

Fatigue is normal after you've had a baby, of course. But if the fatigue continues on and on, lasting past a year, then you may be dealing with something beyond normal, and it would be worth looking into.

Psalm 30: 1- 4 I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.


Lisa Marie said…
Thank you Anne...well said. Amazing that all it takes is a simple blood test to check your thyroid.....something that I put off for far too long. So encouraging to hear that you are feeling better.

Anne said…
Lisa, I am so glad that you now know that this is going on and have begun treatment. I hope it won't be long before you start to see some real improvement!

Love to you,
SarahD said…
I'll tell you this little story in the hopes that it makes you feel better about missing this detail in your health. My sister, who is herself a family practice doctor, had a goiter that actually became visible enough for one of her nurses to say, "Um, Doctor B? You really need to get your thyroid checked!" Of course, my sister had all the symptoms, and had even noticed the swelling in her neck. But she still had some other quick diagnosis for all of it, until someone was bold enough to tell her to get her blood checked! So, even doctors overlook or find other reasons for their thyroid issues. I'm so glad you figured yours out!
Michal said…
Dear Mrs. Wegener,

I'm glad you figured it out. Thanks for the heads up about post-partum thyroiditis. I had never heard of it, but after reading your post and a couple other articles, it quite probably explains my sudden weight loss (to less than what I weighed in high school), paranoia, depression, nervousness, fatigue, and insatiable appetite that kicked in a month after Zion was born and lasted several months, then resolved itself. I chalked it up to post-partum depression and stressful conditions from moving into a fixer-upper just weeks before Z was born. But this makes more sense. I figured if the weight loss had been a result of the depression, it would have been because I was depressed and not eating. But the fact is, I was eating ALL THE TIME!

Thanks again. I can't believe I had never heard of this!
Jenna said…
I'm so glad you wrote about this. Mary Lee forwarded me your post, after Michal told her about it. I have experienced postpartum thyroiditis after almost every birth and miscarriage (5 times...) and didn't realize what was going on until the 3rd time. Now I dread it, but don't know what to do because it always resolves itself on its own.

It helps so much though to know what's going on and be prepared for it, and I know the possibility is high for developing permanent hypothyroidism like you did. I am so glad you're feeling better!

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