Thursday, October 26, 2006

But You Don't Look Depressed

I've been taking an antidepressant for about two and a half years now, and, well, I'm still depressed. The pit is back, or still here, and that really depresses me. Do I have "real" depression? Whatever that means. Or do I have a depressed mood-- or depressive symptoms--on occasion? Maybe it's actually anxiety and I've been on the wrong medication all this time. Or maybe it's not depression at all, but symptoms of my thyroid disorder. Or disease. My Thryroid Disease- Autoimmune Hashimoto's Thryroiditis-the type I'll have for life, where my body is destroying its own thryoid gland, resulting in extreme fatigue and depression, and therefore, the pit.

And take my progesterone deficiency (please--take it far, far away!) with unopposed estrogen lurking around. Is the progesterone deficiency/estrogen dominance and resulting brain fog, mental confusion, and Pre Menstrual Dysmorphic Disorder causes or effects of my under-active thryoid? Are these hormonal imbalances precursors to one another or do they exacerbate each other--or both? Does it matter? Will I ever know? And where does my adrenal fatigue fit in? My extremely low cortisol levels that have been clinically proven, mixed with low blood sugar, (hypoglycemia) food sensitivities, and migraines that make me vomit. Like yesterday.

Don't even get me started with the stress in my life: a demanding job, two small kids, one of whom has special needs, continued grief over the loss of my mom, and trying to manage this insidious chronic illness that just doesn't seem to get better. The world is too much with me sometimes, and just when I think I have things figured out, the pit comes back.

What does the pit feel like? We've all felt the pit at some points in our lives. Depressed people just feel it more often and more deeply. Or so I guess. I'm still not even sure I have depression. Take this checklist, for example. I don't feel worthless, but I do feel guilty. I'm not suicidal but I am sad and irritable. My depression surfaced after the birth of my second child, but I never felt like I had postpartum depression. But, the pit. You know, that pit in your stomach feeling that you get when you absolutely dread something that is coming up--like maybe a test that you haven't studied for, or a conflict at work that you have to resolve. Or that hollow feeling that you get when you realize the one you love doesn't love you back, or the emptiness you feel because you'll never talk to your mom on the phone again. Ever. Except in your dreams. Like when she calls you from Heaven and tells you that you have your glow back. But then you wake up and you don't have the glow, you have the pit. And the jitters, and heart palpitations. You tell your therapist who says it sounds more like anxiety, but then you find something on the internet that links a racing heart to an over-active thyroid, and that it's common for autoimmune thryoid diseases to sometimes flip-flop back and forth between hypo and hyper.

You're thankful that the internet leads you to Mary Shomon, thyroid patient, writer, and advocate, but frustrated and even a little scared that with a few key words typed into google, this site comes up that links autoimmune thryoid disorders with MS, a disease that runs in your family, that your paternal grandmother had.

I don't think I have MS, but I do think I have a multi-gland endocrine imbalance that is screwing my brain chemistry up in ways that make me think I am going crazy sometimes. Because I'm usually a sharp thinker who can focus on many details at once. But then once a month, religiously on day 12 (women will know what I'm talking about), it's like my brain stops working and I forget why I go into stores, and I worry about myself driving home from work because my brain is just in a fog, and I have a terrible time concentrating, and I feel so much utter tension and inexplicable rage that just stays with me until I rub my brain cream on. The bio-identical compounded transdermal, natural progesterone cream that I have to get at a drugstore in Cary, that I rub on my arms that makes me feel almost like myself again. The cream I absolutely cannot function without anymore. But then I get home and want to just lie around, and at the same time, I don't want to. I want to see David and my kids and hear about how everyone's days went. But I don't have the energy to play Batman with Johnny or make up one more story about "boy going to the dentist" for Grace. I just don't. So, I lie around and play quiet games with them, and plead with David one more night to fix supper and bathe the kids. I always have energy to read to them, but too often fall asleep alongside them, just to wake up the next day in the same vague daze.

I don't question why all of this is happening, it makes sense to me. On March 7, 2003, the day before my 31st birthday, my mom died after a lengthy battle with non-hodgkins lymphoma. Five months later Johnny was born. Two months after that, we thought Grace had autism. That was a triple dose of real life thrown at me and enough to tip my endocrine system into distress.

I have good days and bad. Good enough days to think I can actually run a 1/2 Marathon in less than two weeks. But bad enough days where David tells me I'm bringing everyone down and bills pile up and get paid late (again) and where I forget about dentist appointments and wake up on Saturday just to tick off each hour waiting for an acceptable time to call it a day and crawl back into bed.

But most of the time, the outside world doesn't notice. I've had colleagues and even doctors tell me that I don't look depressed. One co-worker put it this way: "It's not that you ever seem depressed to me. But when you've just come back from a family reunion, or a weekend away, or a night out with your friends, or when you talk about your blog or reconnecting with friends, it's striking, really striking how bright and up and alive you seem. It's almost like you're high or something."


W.0-o said...

Get it... "ought-O"? Anyway, you probably already know this, but dooce linked to an article about depression today that was, in her words, "eloquent".
You've definitely got a lot to sort out there, but hopefully eventually you will have both the right diagnosis and the appropriate meds to help with whatever the fuck it is! I, for one, am pulling for you! Hard!

Bird Spot said...

I saw Dooce's post this morning. Haven't read the article yet. As always, thanks for your support. I just thought of another one: W.O.: Western Omlette

Now start your own blog, dammit! I want to read it!!

Western 0-2 said...

Well, if I knew how to work this dern newfangled pooter thang better I might. I always did want to be a weather reviewer- hindsight being 20-20 and the competition virtually non-existent. I'd probably be at the top of the list when people Googled "weather review", don'tcha think?

W. Oddo said...

Oops. I Googled it and there are shitpiles of weather reviews out there! But I bet none of them actually deal with the weather as Art, which is my idea. I've been pretty critical of the weather all my life, and I damn well know a "tour de force" rainstorm when I'm caught in one...