Disclaimer: This is a very raw, honest account of some of the not so fun parts of womanhood. Women, you may be able to empathize with this (hopefully not though). Men, this may give you an insight into some of the women in your life (hopefully not many though). Apparently there are some women for whom this isn’t an issue at all. They are lucky and I wish I was among their number.
My slow-but-steady journey towards beating depression seems to derail any time there’s any fluctuation with my hormones. Yes, the St. John’s Wort is working. No, it’s not up to the level of being able to manage my hormones yet.
I read this article the other day about how hormones affect women. Hormones can be affected by circumstances and how we deal with life. It’s a vicious catch-22: if something goes wrong and we don’t react to it well, our bodies can take the reaction to the next level, which means it gets harder to react well to the next challenging obstacle life throws at us.
There’s hope and help. Certain medications can really help. I’ve been on mild hormone-regulating herbs for a number of years. I’m doubting now if they are as effective as they used to be, or maybe the chemical roller coaster I’ve been on this year is still going so fast that everything is still out of whack. I mean, the first time my doctor tested me in August he said “Anessa, your hormones are so unbalanced that you couldn’t conceive a baby if you tried. It’s like they said ‘nope, she’s under too much stress, let’s take away even the possibility of a pregnancy'” That made me cry, because I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was three (but then again, in July/August, what didn’t make me cry?). He didn’t do the same test this last time I started St. John’s Wort but I’m guessing if he had, my hormones would have been almost as bad as they were in August. September and Octobers’ cycles were actually fairly decent. Almost unnoticeable, so I know it’s possible for me to not go crazy while I’m experiencing the joys of being a woman.
I keep track of my cycle with an app called Natural Cycles. Yes, it’s a birth control app. I heard about it and researched it back in 2017, before we got engaged, and liked it because it’s a natural form of birth control – I take my temperature every morning with a very exact thermometer and record it. The algorithm then figures out where I am in my cycle. I’ve heard too many stories of women who started hormonal birth control when they got married, took it for only a short amount of time (months, in some cases) and then struggled with infertility for years. Since my window of fertility is not that long anymore anyway, I didn’t want to risk that for us. We wanted more kids. So I bought the app on January 1st and faithfully took my temperature until we broke up in May. Then I took it sporadically until we broke up again in June. By that point I was already thinking “why am I doing this? We’re not going to get married any time soon, there’s no need for me to keep doing this.” So I pretty much stopped for all of July. In August, after getting more help for my depression, I realized that there was still value in tracking my cycle and now I rarely forget to take my temperature. If I miss a day, it’s because I forgot, not because I decided not to because I don’t see the value in it. It’s been really useful to see the correlation between my hormonal fluctuations and my depression.
For example, roughly two weeks ago when I went suicidal and got back on St. John’s Wort, I was ovulating. Ladies, what happens roughly two weeks after ovulation? Yep, like clockwork, I went down again at the first signs of PMS. It was the first sign, actually. I wasn’t suicidal right away, but it was bad enough that my family didn’t want me around and told me so. Is it bad when you can tell when your period has started because that’s when you no longer want to kill yourself? Then the physical crappiness kicked in and all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and die (but not by my own hand anymore – I’d let the cramps do the job). I do take ibuprofen at those times, but the main side effect of St. John’s Wort is that it intensifies any kind of brain-affecting substance. So I can’t take much, but now not much is usually enough to pull me out of the corner and back into the functioning world. Rinse and repeat, once a month. Yay.
What boggles me is that some men really want to become women. I don’t get that at all. Going the other way – female to male – makes sense to me. It’s tempting, actually – not having to deal with the mood swings (I’d say they’re pretty extreme for me right now), or the physical side of it – once the transformation is completed anyway. I’m not going to go trans because thankfully gender dysphoria is a mental condition I don’t have, but I can see the appeal.
I’m very thankful I know why I’m down because of Natural Cycles. It does make it somewhat easier to bear it when I know the reason why I can’t fight the lies very well. It helps to know that it won’t last forever, and I’ll feel better again as soon as whatever process the hormones are doing is finished, for a week or two anyway. I think that’s my family’s main strategy for dealing with me and my depression: wait it out. It’s kind of a good strategy. After all, right now, my depression is down to about 3-5 days a month, then maybe hours of being down here and there, not always being down, like I was in July and August. It also helps to look back and realize why I acted the way I did at certain times while Trent and I were together. Like the weekend we went to Indy to Weekend to Remember in April. It was a great weekend – my period started the day I got there. Trent and I had never been in a relationship and in the same geographical location while I had my period up to that point (long distance dating has some positives). But now I understand why I cried all through our dinner during date night. The dinner was wonderful, but I was already on the road to depression then, not really in control of my emotions thanks to my hormones, and so I cried, and then cried harder because I felt so bad for crying. I ruined date night; it was absolutely nothing that Trent did or could have fixed. I’m so sorry, Trent. It also explains why I reacted the way I did the day we had our last fight, the day before he broke up with me. I was PMSing that day, got my period the day after the break-up. Curse you, you meddling hormones!
I need to get a handle on these unruly chemicals coursing through my body. I want to be in charge. Not them. The worst part is how they (through the lies they pave the way for) make me doubt and question God. I really hate that. I am so thankful that God understands what is happening in my body better than I do, so when all I can pray is “I’m sorry I’m like this, God” He understands. He knows. He still loves me.
I’m going back to the doctor for my two-week(ish) post-restarting anti-depressants evaluation this week. I’m going to talk to him about my hormones. See if there’s anything more we can do (I know, I know, more regular exercise would probably help), or if it will get better the longer I’m on St. John’s Wort and my serotonin levels keep improving. I’m already dreading Christmas for a few reasons, but it would be nice if horrible hormones is not one of them.