Saturday, September 12, 2009

How I Deal With Thyroid-induced Depression

With our family histories of mental illness, I think Rob and I are both secretly afraid that one of us is going to crack up some day. Hence, the worried expression on his face when I wake up in tears. Literally. Coming out of the fog of sleep, there is a weight pushing down on my chest, making me feel acutely, profoundly, sad.

He asks me what's wrong. I don't know. He asks if it's something he did... No. He asks if I had a bad dream... No. He asks if something has happened... No. It's not rational. I've experienced a rational grief before when my father died. I know when it's justified. This time it's not. It feels like someone has died, but nothing serious has changed in my life.

If you have read my blog before, perhaps you know that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, which makes my thyroid under-function. This depression happens occasionally, I believe, due to hormonal fluctuations, despite the medication I take working fine most of the time.

And so the way I deal with it is this: I think of the depression as something separate from me. It's not me; it's a symptom. I deal with it the same way I deal with a bad cold. When a virus hits you, you do what you can to get through it. I'm sad for a day, or a few. I let myself be sad. I cry at sappy commercials, feel pessimistic about the world, feel lonely, turn off the chat clients, and unplug the phone (and I'm usually more productive at work- like a cold, it's not debilitating, just annoying).

Then, over a few days, I gradually begin to feel better. I giggle at something. I put on a dress and make-up. I clean something, want to go out, and at some point it dawns on me that the dark cloud has passed, much the same way you realize after a cold you are not coughing or blowing your nose anymore.

Depression is really not as big of a deal as commercials for anti-depressants make it out to be. If it went on for months with no end in sight, then it would be a problem. But temporary mild or even moderate depression is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. It's not "crazy." It's just part of life. If it weren't for depression, we wouldn't have half of the great poetry that exists in the world, or Russian novels.

I think there is too much pressure on us to be in a good mood all the time. Where does this pressure come from? Is it an American thing? I don't know, but it's just not life. Embrace your melancholia. It makes the happy times that much more enjoyable.


Quickroute said...

Interesting post Julia - My missus suffers from thyroid issues which have a knock on effect to so many other symptoms and probs - only now fully understanding all this

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I am sure you know that untreated hypothyroidism may lead to severe depression. It should be noted that depression is repeatedly aggravated by causes that have nothing to do with an underactive thyroid. I generally recommend talking through the issues with a counsellor as I find many GPs want to fill people with drugs.

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