The word “depression” was never spoken in my family. Actually, depression was just another word for “lazy.”
That being said, at the young age of twelve and around the same time I began menstruating I experienced my first symptoms of depression. My doctor told me it was because my hormones were trying to “regulate themselves” and that I once my periods became regular I would have no problem.
Fast forward to high school, my periods never became “regular.” At this point my irritability and moodiness were attributed to me being a teenager. After going for a routine doctor’s visit it was recommended that I be put on birth control to fix my period issues. I happily obliged and began taking birth control. Needless to say that this magic little pill did the trick! I lost weight,I had regular periods, my cramping went away and I did not have to use the super tampons every single day! Additionally, my mood was better and the symptoms of depression I had experienced in the past were gone. At this point I was in college and living on my own, things were great.
Fast forward to age 25. At this point I have been on birth control for 8 years. I was in grad school and met my future husband. Once married I decided I wanted to get off of birth control. Not because I wanted to get pregnant, but because I wanted to learn my body’s unique rhythm.
After 6 months of no periods I began to worry. One year went by and still no period. I was in grad school and working full time so I attributed my lack of period to stress.
I thought, “If I quit my job everything will go back to normal.”
Around this same time I began having constant urinary tract infections that would be resolved after taxing rounds of antibiotics. I would find relief only to have another infection the next month. I started seeing an acupuncturist and a Chinese herbalist and that seemed to help a bit with the stress, the periods and the infections, but I was not cured. The stress of possibly having another UTI was becoming a daily stressor for myself and my husband. I saw specialists all over the greater Boston area. I paid thousands of dollars in appointments, medication and over the counter treatments. I read everything I could on how to treat UTI’s and how to eat for a healthy period. After all of that research I think I could write a book on the topic!
So, how do the UTI’s and lack of periods tie in with depression?
After seeing a Naturopath and a Women’s health specialist/Endocrinologist I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. I had been dealing with symptoms of depression, my hair was falling out, my skin was dry, my moods were erratic, my hormones were abnormal and I still had no period. For the first time in my years of seeing specialists someone acknowledged how the health stress I was dealing with everyday was affecting my symptoms and at times making them worse. I was told that it was possible that my long time struggle with my periods and hormones could have been managed by the birth control pill I had been on.
This theory seemed very plausible given that my symptoms only worsened after stopping birth control. After having doctors tell me that it was “not possible” for everything to be connected because the urinary system, nervous system and reproductive system were not the same, I finally felt like I was not crazy for thinking that somehow the stress I was putting on my body was impacting my overall health.
I am not saying that reducing stress is the cure all for depression, hypothyroidism and UTI’s, what I am saying is that for me, reducing my stress levels helped me manage some of the symptoms I was dealing with.
My recovering has not been easy and not without its compromises. Daily I think about my diet, have routine blood work, take vitamins and take medication to help manage my symptoms. The struggle is never over, and I still fear another UTI or that one day I will have a difficult time having children because of my hypothyroid diagnosis.
What I have learned from the journey is that I have the power to make a difference every single day. I am strong, and believe that I was given a body that has the power to heal itself. My choices in food, my choice to stay in bed longer or go to a yoga or cycle class, and even my choice to take long, deep meaningful breaths impact how the rest of my day goes. My choices impact my health, it just took me longer, and thousands of dollars in medical bills to figure that out.
Sometimes we have to realize that our bodies need a little boost and medicine can provide that, but also being aware that our whole bodies need love is important. Acknowledging that our symptoms affect our whole beings is part of the self- care process. Whether it’s in the form of meditation, prayer, deep belly breathing, yoga, knitting, running or qi gong, finding a self-care practice that works for you is important. It is okay to take your medication and also do your daily self-care practice. Finding your body’s self -care rhythm, working with the tools you have at your disposal, asking questions and keeping a health journal can significantly help you work through your diagnosis and help you find some relief.