It all started one day in July 2017. On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I found myself sitting on my bed telling my husband that I didn’t feel like getting up. The last few days I'd been very sleepy, and I felt like a sack of sand was on my shoulders. I didn't want to do my usual tasks (clean the house, prepare food or put the clothes in the washer or dryer), and at night I felt uncomfortably cold. Overall, I felt depleted, like nothing could motivate me to move forward.
As I divulged my feelings to my husband, I wondered:
What is wrong with me?
Do I have depression?
Do I need to go to therapy?
Am I just bored?
Why can't I handle my life?
I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew something wasn't right.
At first, I chalked it up to the passing of my paternal grandfather. I believed that his absence continued to affect my well-being. My husband asked for advice from his pediatrician friend, who recommended that we see an internist. This was the first time I heard of an Internist as a care provider. We immediately began to investigate different medical profiles. After 3-4 days, we found a doctor and made an appointment.
At first, the doctor asked very casual questions. It honestly seemed as if we were chatting as friends. How is this kind of conversation relevant to my symptoms? I definitely had my doubts, and feared my new doctor wasn’t qualified. Fortunately, this conversational intro was just that: an intro. We eventually talked about everything I felt, and the changes I noticed in my body and demeanor. She sent me to do a few blood tests, including one that I had never heard of: a thyroid profile.
The lab needed 5 tubes of my blood. And I’m 100% needle phobic, so anxious was an understatement. I wanted to jump and cry every time the tube was changed. At the end of the blood draw, I gazed hopefully at the tubes of blood tagged with my name. I prayed that they carried the answers to my uncertainty.
After receiving the results, the internist informed me that I had a slight hormonal imbalance, suggesting that my thyroid gland was not working properly. Considering my enormous list of symptoms, she diagnosed me with hypothyroidism.
Wait a minute, what's that? I asked myself…and then I asked the internist (out loud, of course). She tried to explain it to me, but it still seemed so foreign. Nowadays, I know a little more about the role of hormones, but back then, I was totally blank.
My doctor recommended that I also see a psychiatrist due to my depressive symptoms. Of course, the word “depression” scared me. Even so, I still went along with the psychiatric appointment. During that visit, the psychiatrist asked me some very basic questions, and immediately prescribed antidepressants. What?!
Suddenly I felt very sad; I wanted to cry. How did I let myself get to such a bad place? I left with the prescription in hand, and I began to google it, what it contains, how it acts in my body, and the potential side effects.
One of the side effects was excessive drowsiness. Well, I guess I'll be asleep 24/7! After a few days of analyzing the effects, I decided not to take them. In fact, my research led me to realize that hypothyroidism causes depression! Without treating hypothyroidism directly, you are just masking the symptoms.
While I’m still not finished with my thyroid journal, I have taken steps to empower myself with knowledge before moving forward in my treatment plan. If you believe you may be suffering from hypothyroidism, reach out to a medical professional and ask for a thyroid panel! Also - do your research. You are your own best advocate.
Written by: Yuli Blumen