A note from Rach Smith's digital garden.

Weaning, mental health and productivity

Added: December 9, 2021

Tags: wellbeing productivity

You can add this to the list of my losing tickets in the biological lottery: hormone shifts from weaning.

A few years ago I night weaned my first baby and then spent a few weeks feeling more irrationally angry than I had ever felt in my life. There was a general sense of rage interspersed with crying in the shower. I Googled it and sure enough, weaning is linked to increased irritability, anxiety, mood swings and depression.

The time had come to wean my second baby so I was prepared to feel like shit. I’ve done it super gradually so I don’t have a massive sudden come-down from the oxytocin withdrawel. Still, it has hit me hard.

To be clear, I am stoked to be finishing with breastfeeding. I appreciate that I have the privilege to do it, but I’ve never enjoyed it. There is no sadness about the transition, there is only the brain changes that come with the hormone changes. That is part of why it is so frustrating.

There is quite a history of mental illness in my family and I lost my dad to bipolar disorder when I was young, so I have learnt to be super aware of my own mood changes and mental state. For me, before any kind of despair there comes the apathy stage on the way to a depressive state. Rather than any negative feelings, there is the absence of feelings.

It is moments like these where I am blown away by the stark difference between being mentally well, and not. I am a classic over-achiever productive person. I like to stay on top of my mental health by eating well, working out, journalling, healthy daily habits, blah blah blah. This all works well for me, as long as the brain chemistry is on my side.

Then something like weaning happens, and suddenly I’m waking up with the attitude of a different person. Someone who couldn’t give a fuck about any of that. You couldn’t pay me $200 to look at my todo list. I don’t care. Working out? Ha ha ha. Writing for this blog? Forget about it.

In a very short amount of time I’ve gone from kicking goals to just trying to get through the day without yelling at anyone, or slipping further into the downward spiral (eating shit, not sleeping, doing a crap job at work, feeling worse, repeat).

I’m okay, and I will be okay. I feel like the worst part of weaning is over and my mood is heading up again. The other day I had a burst of fucks to give and I spent 2 hours of precious alone time madly cleaning the house. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Things or my calendar and do any planning but I did have the energy to scrub, and that was better than nothing. Today I am writing this. That’s a good sign.

I am extremely blessed to spend most of my time well. Because of that I forget what a difference it is to be mentally well and take it for granted. I will be so grateful to feel better when this stage passes. Hopefully I’ll remember that when I’m back to “normal” and being annoyed that I got 10 out of 12 todos done, keep some perspective.


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