Hi there. It's been a while.
If you follow my blog at all or subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I am a pretty regular blogger. However, it's been a month since I last blogged. I kind of hate blog posts that are about apologizing for not blogging or being absent on social media because it seems kind of silly to stress about those things. We're all busy and sometimes the balls we're juggling hit the floor. But here I am, blogging about why I've been quiet anyway.
I decided to share because hey, maybe you've been there or maybe someone else might find the post and it can help them. Here are the obvious reasons why I've been quiet: (1) I had the biggest book release of my life in January and that involved a lot of blogging for other sites and promo work. (2) I'm behind on a book deadline and have been writing (3) Holiday time is always crazy busy. (4) My mother in law moved in temporarily for a couple of months and even though we get along fine, as a creature of habit and solitude, that threw my home routine off. Oh and (5) I got the flu TWICE in a month (yes, even with the flu shot).
However, none of those reasons turned out to be the real reason why I wasn't doing the things I normally do. It took me almost two months to figure it out, but recently I nailed down the culprit: a hormonal imbalance which led to six weeks of anxiety and depression. See, early in December, I was having some issues with PMS stuff and got diagnosed with mild PMDD (being a woman is so fun!) and my doctor decided to try me on a low-dose birth control pill to balance things out. I hadn't been on the pill since I was in college. I went off it back then because it flattened my mood too much--not depression, just blah-ness. So going back on it, I was slightly aware that it might not work for me.
However, even going in with that knowledge, turns out, I completely missed the signs that this change in hormones was wreaking major havoc on my system. Like I said, it was a high stress time anyway--new book series coming out, hosting Christmas, new guest in my house, getting the flu, behind on book deadline. I thought it was normal stress making me feel not so great. But signs started to show up in January that all wasn't right with me. I lost interest in the things I normally love to do. I wasn't into decorating my planner (which seems minor but if you know me, you know I heart my planner. It should've been a sign to me that something was amiss, but I thought, meh, maybe I'm just over it.) I didn't feel like cooking, which is normally a relaxing outlet for me. My creativity just wasn't there writing-wise, and I was blocked with my book. And get this, I read NO fiction. I read only 2 books in January, both non-fiction. That's nuts, y'all, but again, told myself it was because I was so busy.
I might've kept going on this way, but then I hit a week (which would normally be my PMS week) where I had a huge spike in anxiety and this feeling of - what's the point of doing anything at all. Now, outside of a brief bout with post-partum blues, I'm not one to get depressed. Anxious, yes. Me and anxiety go way back. But depression has never been a thing for me. This felt different than sad or blue, and maybe because I used to be a therapist, I was able to step outside of it a bit and go--whoa, this isn't me. Something's up. That didn't mean I could change how I felt (despite doing yoga daily, taking my vitamins, eating healthy, talking to friends/family about it, getting out of the house, doing all the things I knew to do to get out of a funk, etc.) but I knew that something was going on with me chemically. And that's when I realized the pill was doing what it did to me in college but multiplied times a hundred.
I went off of it immediately. Literally within 24 hours, I could feel the difference. A few days later, I was back. Like the sun had come out. I felt like myself again, had energy, wanted to read, had renewed interest in the things I love. The anxiety and this weird desire not to be alone (I usually love/crave being alone) went away. It was like waking up from a really bad dream. I feel enormously lucky that I was able to get rid of those bad feelings by stopping the birth control. I am very aware that depression has an endless number of causes and most of the time, there's not a quick fix solution. I also know that when I get to PMS week again, I'll probably have symptoms even without the pill like I did before, but hopefully milder and I'll be as prepared as possible.
So, I know this is an intensely personal post (which is not the easiest thing to share) but when I was going through this, I found a number of women who had posted about similar struggles and experiences and I found it enormously helpful and comforting. So I'm trying to pay that forward by being honest and sharing what I went through. It's scary to think that even as someone trained to recognize signs of depression (and who diagnosed it in other people!) couldn't easily recognize it in myself. It was subtle at first and wrapped up in a very busy/stressful/flu-ridden time, which disguised it.
And I'm not saying don't go on the pill or anything like that. This is NOT medical advice. I know I have weird body chemistry and have always been sensitive to hormonal shifts. I can literally map on my calendar when I'll be most creative and when I'll feel tired and creatively blocked. I try to use it to my advantage and plan my tasks according to when I'll have the most energy. But I'm just sharing a personal experience because I think a lot of times we go through these things and are too embarrassed to share it with each other. But we can learn from each other and help support each other by being open.
So, good news is I'm back to myself. I feel great. I'm still behind my deadline, but I feel back on track and excited about the book again. I plan to be back on here more regularly, and newsletters will resume. But I've learned a good lesson: pay really close attention to yourself, especially if you've lost interest in the things that usually make you happy. Stress can be an easy "excuse" but it isn't always the root reason things are going haywire. Other things can be going on. So if you ever find yourself where I was, dig deeper than "oh I'm just really busy and overwhelmed right now." Take care of yourself. *hugs*