I've been having a really hard time for a little over a month now. You'd think that after experiencing this year after year, I would somehow be more prepared once the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder starts to hit, but no, each year it's like a whole new, miserable plummet. And this year it feels about as bad as it's ever been.
It's SO HARD for me to convince myself to leave the house. I just want to stay in my pajamas all day and mope about how isolated I feel--all while furthering that isolation by not wanting to leave the house. So I force myself out, and do genuinely have a good time once I'm amongst other humans, but then I am so wiped out by the exertion of sociability that I retreat even further into my cave and feel even more glum. Ah, the glorious intersection of introversion and depression.
It's hard for me to even sit down and write this blog post. I've been halfheartedly mulling over how I would approach it, and what to even say beyond: don't mind me, I'm just having another Eeyore moment. I barely have the energy to devote to mindlessly addressing holiday cards a month late, nevermind introspection and forming entire sentences.
Being convinced that this winter has been one of the hardest ones to get through, I did think long and hard about what was different about this year as opposed to those in the past. The one thing I could pinpoint was weaning. I've been slowly reducing our nursing sessions since the girls became more interested in solid food a little before their first birthday. We're now down to one, on rare occasions two, sessions a day.
And it's not that I'm sad about weaning. Frankly, I'm ready to be done, and pretty happy with the fact that we made it past my initial goal of six months, let alone fourteen. But Charlotte, and mostly Annabelle, just aren't totally ready to be done. Still, going from four or five sessions a day in the fall to our current one or two, has very likely been wreaking havoc with my hormones, which, let's face it, really don't need any help in the havoc department.
I did a Google search and lo and behold, all of these links popped up about an experience that many women go through while weaning that is comparable to PPD. From this article in the Huffington Post:
In the days after Jane Roper stopped breastfeeding her 13-month-old twin girls, her mood slumped. She took no joy in the things she normally loved, lost her motivation and found it difficult to concentrate.
Yes. Check. Check. And check.
But the frequency with which women experience depressive episodes when weaning their babies is far less understood. Researchers have yet to examine the connection between weaning and depression in depth.
"The intersection between lactation and mood is important, and it is extremely understudied," said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders. "There are definitely people who report mood symptoms associated with lactation."
"We don't have the data that measure oxytocin levels with breastfeeding and weaning. It's certainly plausible that losing that is going to make people feel physically bad, independent of any cognitive sadness they're experiencing," said Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OBGYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina and one of Meltzer Brody's co-authors.
When I first realized that my sadness went a bit beyond my typical winter blues, I mentioned it to my friends in a kind of baby support group, and was pretty surprised by the number of people who shared similar experiences upon weaning. So, at least I can take comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in this.
I'm due for a check up with my OB/GYN pretty soon, and I go back and forth about whether to bring this up. My previous bout of depression led to a prescription for an antidepression medication by a military general practitioner which led to questions about my mental stability when the Air Force was deciding whether or not I could "handle" a move to Germany. So, I'm pretty hesitant about adding further fuel to that particular fire. For now, I'm just upping my Vitamin D intake, starting to exercise more, researching sunlamps, and looking at pictures like this one.
They are my reason for getting up in the morning. For smiling and singing. They are everything that is perfect and sweet and pure. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.