My friend and I chatted while sitting on my couch, ice cream bowls in our hands. She told me about how her sister was recovering from some thyroid issues after working night shift had thrown her hormones out of whack.
“She’s back to days now—and she’s doing a lot better.”
“Wow.” I said, my mind whirring. “No wonder so many moms get thyroid issues after having a baby. Your body is just wrecked by no sleep.”
“Yep. And depression issues too. Serotonin is made while you’re sleeping so if you’re not sleeping…” Her voice trailed off.
I soaked in her words, absorbing this information while a dozen light bulbs turned on in my head.
My friend has her doctorate and teaches Physiology at the local university. If anyone knows the human body and the way all its systems work and interact, it’s her.
Serotonin does a lot of things in the body but it is one of the major hormones in balancing mood. A lack of serotonin is a major trigger for depression.
Serotonin is made while you sleep so if you’re not sleeping…
I wanted to laugh, sardonically, and also with relief.
Even though I am more than comfortable with telling people about my depression and the fact that I am now on medication (medication that helps my body make and utilize serotonin), there was still the niggling bit of shame digging into me, like tiny, painful burrs, mocking me with thoughts like this:
You’re weak, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
But here’s the truth that my friend confirmed for me, after nearly two months of being on antidepressants:
I’m pretty sure I’ve had post partum depression for the last 2 years, since I had my last baby.
In the last four years, I’ve gone through 3 pregnancies, one miscarriage, 2 births, and 46 months of breastfeeding.
Adding together all the sleepless nights of pregnancy and caring for two babies, that’s four total years of not sleeping fully through the night.
My oxytocin (that feel-good, bonding hormone from breastfeeding?) kept my head above the waves for a long time, but once I fully weaned Eli in December, right before his 2nd birthday, I went under.
My hormones crashed hard. My serotonin was wrung out. Dried up. There was nothing left.
My symptoms were emotional and mental but it was my physical body that needed help.
I couldn’t just snap out of it, take enough vitamins, do enough yoga, apply the right oils, or drink enough water. I needed physical help to get better.
And I knew all this. I knew it. But somehow, my friend saying that, “Serotonin is made while you sleep” made it all click into place.
Because for the last four years, I have not slept, not really, not fully.
It’s getting better. My toddler sleeps through the night 6/7 nights (most weeks).
But good heavens, people. It’s no wonder.
It’s no wonder so many women deal with thyroid issues (depression being a symptom, along with many other physical challenges) and post partum depression after having a baby. Exhaustion can wreck havoc on your body and all its systems.
The brain fog, the moodiness, the irritability, the rage, the hopelessness, the disconnect, the intrusive thoughts—that’s not you.
Your hormones are probably out of whack and all the serotonin has drained out of your body after a million sleepless nights.
It’s time to let go of the shame. You are not weak. Your body may just need help to get back on track.
Tell someone how you’re feeling today—your spouse, a friend, or your doctor.
You can get better.