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pg/bf hormones & depression?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
does anyone know of information relating to hormone levels and depression? i have a friend who is currently very depressed. depression runs in her family, but she has somehow kept it at bay until recently. looking back over the last few years, its obvious now that it she has been depressed for quite a while.

however, she was VERY happy during her pregnancy and while nursing. honestly, i think she is the only mom i know who didn't suffer from some post-partum depression or post-partum stress disorder. she was upbeat and blissful during pregnancy & post-partum. once her child weaned, she started to act differently. she recently became pregnant again, and was very happy...but then miscarried and has now slumped into a very deep depression, isolating herself from almost everyone around her.

i know being happy while pregnant and being depressed after a miscarriage are all normal reactions. i also know that weaning can be something to grieve, since i certainly did when my dd1 weaned. however, the fact that her emotional state changed so dramatically give me pause. it was like someone flipped a switch. i really suspect that her depression, and also her blissful state when pregnant and nursing, are hormone related.

since there is depression in her family, i think she is having a hard time admitting that she herself is depressed, since she has always felt like the one 'normal' one in her family...but i am so scared that she is not asking for help for something that very well may be chemical and out of her control.

post #2 of 4
Depression is also very strong in my family -- mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins, second cousins -- you name it. Sadly, aside from my mother, I never knew any of the others dealt with it until I was hospitalized with clinical depression a year ago. Funny how that happens.:

I think I may be able to shed a little light on your friends situation with what I have learned the past two years on my journey. First, I was worried about how getting pregnant this time would affect me since I wanted to go off my meds during the pregnancy if possible. He told me that for some people pregnancy seems to have a very protective effect and they don't have problems while pregnant (and possibly while breastfeeding.) The guess is that for some people the hormones seem to take over and keep us on an even keel. Keep in mind that this doesn't happen for everyone, but it seems to be the case for me, and likely your friend also.

For as long as I can remember my mother has lived with clinical depression. She was hospitalized several times when I was a young child. She was on tranquilizers during brief periods when I was a child, but I don't remember it. She said that she would always go off because she didn't like the side effects. She and my dad basically lived as roommates and didn't have much of a marriage. My mom was always sort of sad and "depressed" is what most people think of as depressed -- blue, down, etc. You would think that growing up around this I would have a clue about depression. Turns out that I didn't. At age 32 I wasn't able to see it in myself because it wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

I always thought that my mom was sort of "weak." I didn't think that she should just snap out of it, but in the back of my head I thought that she wasn't strong enough as a person to stand up for herself to my dad, to take control of her life. I was so wrong.

I was 32 when my problems started. I began to have anxiety about a lump in my breast. That was resolved and I was told there was nothing wrong, but I couldn't shake the fear that they were wrong (my mom had breast cancer at age 30.) That lump eventually went away, but the beginning of that summer I began to have periods where my heart would race, skip beats, I would feel hot. I was terrified. I knew there was something very wrong with my heart. Many EKG's visits to my internist later I was told that I was fine. My internist told me I was a hypochondriac and that there was nothing wrong with me.

Then in August, a couple months later, I really started to go down hill. All the symptoms were continuing but adding more. I found myself totally fatigued all the time. I was constantly nauseated and couldn't eat. I worried constantly that there was something seriously wrong with me but the doctors were overlooking it. In August of 2002 I weighed 115 pounds. One month later I was below 100 pounds. I couldn't care for my kids, I couldn't get out of bed at times, I would still have attacks with my heart beating fast and all those symptoms. One night after a trip to the er because of the symptoms the doctor told me I was having panic attacks and sat down and showed me all the symptoms and explained it to me. He also told me to go to my doctor the next day, that he would call her and she could start me on something. Saw her the next day, she put me on Paxil and Xanax, but then proceded to ignore my calls for a week and a half that I was getting much worse. At that point my dh took me to the er again because I was at the lowest he had ever seen me and was really scared. I couldn't even function and I didn't know why. Once again those wonderful er doctors took over and I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression with Anxiety and admitted to the hospital to start on meds to ensure they worked and to begin eating again and gaining weight.

My guess is that your friend doesn't necessarily have all the anxiety symptoms I had, that is just how my illness begins to manifest itself. The reason I told you that whole novel is to show you that someone who has grown up around depression can be so ignorant about what it really is and does when it comes to them. I had no idea what it meant that depression was a chemical imbalance. I thought that those people had flaws in there personality that made them somehow weak and suseptible. I was always the strong one in my family -- there was NO WAY I could possibly suffer from depression. I was way too strong. Looking back I can see that my depression began around the time my ds2 was a year old -- a year before I was hospitalized. I just failed to see the symptoms because they sort of crept in slowly at first. It was so slow that they felt somewhat normal. My trigger was severe sleep deprivation. I hadn't gotten more than four hours of sleep a night (and not in a row) in two years. You just can't live like that.

Your friends depression is indeed a chemical/physical illness, but if she is like me, she can't see it because she is the "normal" one. I was exactly the same way. Depression is an imbalance of the neurotransmitters in the brain. The chemistry is off and the brain isn't able to function the way it should. The result is depression in general and a myriad of other physical symptoms that can follow -- anxiety, rage, social phobia, nausea, heart palpitations, etc, etc, etc -- if the disease is left untreated.

I would encourage you to contact a local counseling center or psychiatric office. They will have literature you can take and read. Check the web for information. Sometimes seeing the sympotms and the explanation of what depression really is can help. Be warned that much of the information will come from drug companies though and will be biased toward their medication. Talk to her about your concerns and if she would like to talk to someone who has been there, I would be happy to "talk" to her. It sounds like we have a lot of the same attitudes and history. I would be happy to PM you my email address. Show her this post and this forum. Life is too short to feel like she does.

Good luck, I've got to sign off and pick ds1 up from school.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
beth - thank you so much for sharing your story and your advice. actually, it reminded me of things i hadn't thought of. my friend actually HAS had some of the same anxiety problems you mentioned. she has been labeled as a hypochondriac before...and actually her lack of health issues was one of the things i noticed while she was pregnant and nursing. ailments and complaints she always had pretty much stopped. after weaning, it started up again.

so, my next question is how to bring this to her attention? you mentioned talking to her, but i don't know if i can be the one to do it. as much as i want to, my hands are tied. we just had our second child, and she has not been to see us yet because she is still grieving over her miscarriage. therefore, i don't think i can be the one to talk to her.

i CAN talk to her husband though (okay, so here is my admission - her dh is my brother, this 'friend' is my beloved sister-in-law). i worry though that her husband does have a 'snap out of it' attitude, which problably is NOT helping. i also know that he feels she is the 'normal' one and stonger than the rest of her family, so he also may have an equally hard time seeing things for what they are. there are numerous people around them right now who are all concerned (mainly, my family and some of their friends)...but no one is sure of what to say.
post #4 of 4
If you don't feel you can talk to her at this point, I would definitely talk to your brother and see where he stands on how she is doing. I would still arm yourself with information about depression from the sources mentioned above or whatever you can find, but if you can find small bits of informative information rather than long books, it would be better. One of your best places to look might be to do a periodical search at the library of recent magazine articles. I know that in the past couple of years Time, Newsweek and many other well know magazines have helped bring depression out of the closet. This would give him the information that he needs without having to wade through a lot of medical info or jiberish. This should allow you to see if he has that "snap out of it" attitude or if he is truly concerned for her well being as far as this is concerned.

If he isn't, you still may be the best person to talk to her. I would try to do it at a time that you don't have the distraction of your own baby around. Do it one on one and voice it as concern about clinical depression rather than post partum type depression. That eliminates you and your new baby from the mix and the focus. Please feel free to print out this thread and show your brother or sil. They can email me or phone me if they would like. I'd gladly give you my number. I would hate to see anyone go through what I went through. Especially since it sounds like we could each write out our stories and they would nearly match.

Tell your sister that you are concerned about her. Tell her that you have a friend who was in a very similar situation (you don't have to tell her how you know me, or that we have never actually talked in person) and tell her my story. I can give you the really long and drawn out version of the year between when it began and when I was diagnosed, as well as the road of my recovery and the year that has followed so you can really be prepared. Tell her about my family and how I was always the strong one. How I had a mother who suffered from depression, yet at age 32, I still wasn't able to see it in myself. How I had such a deluded idea of what depression was, thinking of it as a personality/weakness issue, rather than a physical, chemical, medical illness.

The best you can do is hope that by sharing my story and giving her the information you are able to find, that she will see it in herself. Seeing you mentioned that she has some of the health anxiety issues I did makes it even clearer that she is suffering from depression. An SSRI would do wonders for her. I was on Lexapro and Zoloft (not at the same time) and they both work wonders for both anxiety and depression. They won't take away the pain of the miscarriage, or take away the daily trials, but meds will put her on an even plain to be able to deal with life.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to post or PM me. I have to go start dinner -- bad mommy.
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