If this is seasonal depression, then why am I still feeling so sad?
June of 2015, last year, I got married. We were having fun and enjoying married life and all the new adventures that come with it. I had a fun job at a new up and coming tech-company, life was perfect!
About 5 months into the marriage, I started feeling “off” and I couldn’t figure out why I was so down. I thought maybe I needed a change at work; I tried a few things, nothing helped. Still assuming work was the problem; I ended up quitting my job. During that last stretch of employment, I was having a hard time getting to work and I was calling in sick cause I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I wasn’t feeling typical “sick” symptoms, but I felt heavy, sad and empty.
I started looking elsewhere for employment. I filled my days with interviews and was lucky enough to receive a few offers. After all that, I didn’t even end up taking any of them! For some reason staring a new job didn’t seem like the right thing to do. This was really discouraging to me, but thinking about starting a new job, feeling this way, was SO overwhelming.
My husband left for a weekend for work and honestly I cried the whole time he was gone! I am usually fine being alone and I took this as a warning that something deep was going on. I started scouring the internet, plugging in symptoms, trying to find an answer. I thought it was possibly post-nuptial depression; it’s sounds strange but some women experience it. That didn’t seem quite right though. Typically I am eager to mix things up and look forward to change…and I was happy with being married. I was just confused at this point.
Over time I was feeling more and more unmotivated, sad, emotional, anti-social, frustrated, easily irritated, empty and I couldn’t get myself out of bed and definitely not out of the house. If I did go anywhere – parties, family dinners, church, etc it took everything out of me to pretend I was fine and avoided talking about how I was at all costs. Part of avoiding conversation was because not only did I know I was unhappy, I didn’t know why, what would I say to people?! Thinking about how I felt inside brought me to tears every time – – not really a reaction you want to have with neighbors and friends. Trying to hide it all was exhausting!
I started to get fearful, was this my new normal, is this me now?
I started treating myself for seasonal depression. The winter being as gray, gloomy and yucky as it was, I was sure this was it. I took magnesium and vitamin D, started exercising more, sitting by a UV light I bought, taking myself on walks; ANYTHING! Although, I still felt empty and blah, I thought I was managing and just needing to make it until spring.
During this time, my husband and I moved and our family had a lot going on so I was distracted, but still couldn’t shake the emptiness. My days were hit or miss days and I was taking things one day at a time. I also was feeling quite guilty; knowing this couldn’t be easy for my poor husband to deal with. To come home from work and see your new wife still in her pajamas and laying on the couch crying for no reason…all I can say is I felt SO bad.
It’s not like I didn’t realize I had a happy life, I knew this very well. I had nothing to be sad about and everything to be grateful for, but the more I felt sad, the more sad I got about feeling sad in the first place! It felt like being in a prison and you’re only allowed to look out a window and watch everyone else have a good time.
Finally a sunny day arrived, the first sign of spring. The temperature was forecasted to reach about 70 degrees! I was so excited, made a plan for the day and got myself out of the house to soak up the sun. I started on my errands when a wave of sadness came over me. Not being able to hold back my tears, I pulled off into a parking lot where I sat and cried. The frustration was too much, I thought: If this is seasonal depression, then why am I still feeling so sad?
Finding myself back at square one, I was beyond discouraged. By this time it had been going on for 5 months and I had gotten 20 lbs. heavier. I KNEW I had to go see a Doctor. This was the last thing I wanted to do – me, taking the initiative to make an appointment to talk to a stranger about how I was feeling? UGH! It was not easy, but I had a feeling, with my situation, that there was something underlying that was causing all this.
I found a doctor, made an appointment and went in. We talked, they did some blood work and within a few days I was called in for a follow-up. I was diagnosed with chronic hypothyroidism and was prescribed Nature- Thyroid medication. The doctor that treated me was knowledgeable, fast, and arranged for my medication to be mailed to me – the best experience I’ve ever had at the doctor… like ever!
Finding the right dosage was rocky and my moods went up and down while I worked to get it right. It also was making me nauseous at first – the medication is shocking to your system and it’s normal to have to ease into it. Even just increasing by half a pill can make a big difference. Once the dosage was right, I felt a clear, night and day difference. Not only did the depression and sadness stop, so did other weird symptoms that I didn’t know were correlated.
During the 6 months of the depression I felt:
-colder than I had ever been (feet, hands, my whole body) which played into me staying in bed
-my periods would start about every 2 weeks (and I was on birth control)
-unexplained weight gain
-slowed heart rate
-excessive sleepiness & fatigue
-irritability & mood swings
-depression & symptoms that come along with that!
As you can imagine, these factors all play into one another and begin to compound. It starts you in a downward spiral and you truly cannot get yourself out of it. The thyroid gland produces hormones that: regulate metabolism & body temperature, assist your muscles & organs in working properly, & is essential for every cell in you body. When it’s not functioning you are at risk for hypo or hyper-thyroidism and when it’s not functioning it’s a toxic whirlwind of symptoms. But once I was started on the right dose, all of these issues were resolved. The result has been me feeling better now than I did before.
Interestingly enough Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune reaction. My doctor wasn’t able to give me an exact reason as to why someone develops it, but I was able to find some risk factors. A few of the risk factors that pertain to me are being a Caucasian woman and having Celiac Disease (there are others). Celiac Disease is also an autoimmune disorder that I’ve known I’ve had for about 12 years now.
If you happen to find yourself in a rut, feeling unexplainably depressed, riding waves of sadness, not being able to move or get yourself going, go see your doctor. It’s not easy, but a doctor is the only person who can truly know what’s wrong and that has the tools to help.
My heart goes out to those who battle chronic depression and anxiety; to those who struggle everyday. Those who fight everyday to get out of bed, to feel sincere joy, who struggle to combat the dark intense feelings. I only got a glimpse into how it feels and I would not wish it on anyone. I am really thankful my husband was here for me everyday to support me. He held me when I cried, he didn’t judge but, he encouraged and protected me, and all with such patience (which I think I tested, I don’t think he knew he had that much in him).
If you are reading this and know someone going through anything similar, I’m sure it’s hard to know how to help. Let me just say this: During this time, my mom came to visit one day and brought me a card and something to eat and we just sat on the couch and talked. I cried when she left cause it meant everything (it still makes me emotional). It told me that she understood I was struggling. All I wanted was someone to show up and tell me that they cared. It took so much for me to leave the house, so someone coming over was exactly what I needed.
So…visit, show-up, call, and listen, show empathy and compassion even if you don’t fully understand it. It’s likely that those suffering with depression are hiding it, walking around smiling and saying they are fine. Be kind and thoughtful to those around you. If you are noticing a loved one is becoming withdrawn or not acting like themselves, it’s probably because they are hurting. Be patient. Care enough to take the time to say something and not let them suffer alone.
Pain is a part of life and love, and it helps us grow. It’s sad that with pain, often brings feelings of shame, guilt and fear for feeling such a way (I do this ALL the time). It’s human to feel sad, depressed and alone, it’s not realistic to be happy 365 days out of the year. Feeling and facing pain is an art; it is through our hard times in which we gain experience. From our new experience we can learn and reach understanding so we can become stronger people and help others in their low times. The moments of joy and happiness that life offers should be cherished; those are the moments that can provide us the hope we need, to be carried through our times of difficulty.