Only a couple months after I had my second baby I started to notice some inexplicable changes in my body and mind. It started with a shameful amount of rage mainly directed at my first daughter. I thought it was probably in the realm of normal for postpartum exhaustion. I wasn’t sleeping due to the new baby and my patience ran very thin and she was a typical button pushing 3 year old, but it still felt extremely uncharacteristic. One day I yelled at her so loudly and angrily it felt like an out of body experience. I decided then that I was likely suffering from postpartum anxiety. I called my OB and explained that I did not feel like myself and needed help. They didn’t even see me or discuss with me what was going on they only sent in a prescription for Zoloft. I decided to hold off because just about the time I made the call to my OB, I began to have a myriad of other strange symptoms. I noticed that even half caffeinated coffee made me tremor. I could barely build a gingerbread house with my daughter because I was shaking uncontrollably. Then came the heat intolerance, I couldn’t live without sweating. I woke up at night drenched in sweat and wearing a sweater in December left me feeling like I was going to pass out from feeling so hot all the time. Every morning I would wake up with joint pain in my hips, knees and ankles. Lastly, I began to hear a strong whooshing sound in my ears. All day and night I heard this sound and it near drove me to tears several times. It wouldn’t stop. It was then I called an ENT to have my ears checked.
At my appointment my ENT checked my hearing and everything came back normal. He ordered an MRI for me to check for potential tumors (that was a fun word for me to marinate on) but just as I was about to leave I asked him if he would mind ordering some Thyroid labs just to be sure. I will never know what urged me to randomly ask an ENT to order thyroid labs but the hunch was eerie and I tend to listen to my gut. Thankfully my ENT listened to me fully and even said to me “If you think this is something that could be an issue we need to investigate it, trust your instinct. I’m looking at your thyroid now and it seems it is a little enlarged.” He also ordered an ultrasound on my thyroid. I will forever be thankful to this ENT because after my two horrible birth experiences, it was a huge difference that a doctor was listening to me and trusting me to know my body.
After my ultrasound and MRI, my thyroid grew even larger and I had a very large goiter protruding from my neck (apparently iodine will do this to people with hyperthyroidism). The ENT called me as soon as my labs and MRI came back but would only discuss with me in person. Naturally, I assumed the very worst. That day I was shaking so much. I stupidly wore a sweater and I was blistering hot sitting in the waiting room. Sweating, tremoring and anxious I walked back to the room.
My ENT discussed my MRI, I do have a bit of a pinched cartilage near my ears where the blood is flowing near my ear drum causing the whooshing sound. However, the reason my blood was flowing so fast was because my blood pressure was very elevated due to my thyroid levels. He told me that my suggestion to check my thyroid probably saved me from having a life-threatening, heart damaging thyroid storm and that I needed to immediately get on thyroid medication to tame my levels. My ENT was not “suppose” to prescribe me thyroid medication but in this case he was going to do anything to make sure I did not land in the hospital with a storm.
It took about 3 days on methimazole for me to notice the difference I felt. The heat intolerance disappeared first, thank goodness. Though I did have symptoms that lasted a bit longer and even stick around today some of those being the tremors, anxiety and joint pain. I had to cut caffeine completely from my diet and I also tried to eliminate food high in salt for a while. Once I saw an endocrinologist I was properly diagnosed with Graves’ disease. Graves’ is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid and causes extreme hyperthyroidism. Thankfully as of right now my thyroid levels are in the normal range, but I will always have Graves’ disease.
If it weren’t for me listening to my body and speaking up to a doctor I felt would listen to my concerns, I could have ended up in the hospital with potential permanent heart damage. It is so important to note when things feel off and if no one will listen to you, you should absolutely seek out a professional who will. Make sure you advocate for yourself, especially during the postpartum period. It is so easy for doctors to write off symptoms as being normal postpartum but listen to your gut, mamas. Make sure you are also looking out for yourselves.