Friday, July 27, 2012

Aside from weight gain and fatigue, depression is one of the most prevalent symptoms of hypothyroidism. Bottom line: if you are hypothyroid, you will tend towards depression. And it's not that you might be predisposed toward depression naturally. It's more that when your thyroid is distressed and is underperforming, depression will often rear its ugly head and bite you on the butt. There is not really anything you can do about it. Even if you normally would never tend toward depression, you will often get depressed if you dip into being an EZH*. Distress and a sluggish thyroid, your slower metabolism, the weight gain, the slowing down of all your bodily functions, all of these things combine to depress you even if depression doesn't normally figure into your world view or your physical symptoms (not to mention the fact that the sluggish thyroid is a depression cause all on its own).

That's kind of what I go through. You see, I'm not normally a depressed person. So, when I first went very hypothyroid, one of the things that I noticed was that everything looked bleak. I found myself being depressed for the first time in my life. What the hell? I thought. Why was I depressed? My life was full. I had a partner I loved. I had good friends. I was doing work I enjoyed. So, what on earth was it that was making me depressed?

When I got the diagnosis, I found out. Since I had hypothyroidism, I was also likely going to be depressed. On top of all the other crap you have to wade through, on top of all the murky fatigue and other symptoms, I was also going to be depressed, perhaps too depressed to do anything at all about the thing that was making me depressed in the first place. So, as I've gotten myself together, and as I started treating the hypothyroidism, one of the things that started happening was the depression reached a manageable level without me needing to address it specifically, at all (this might not hold true for people who tend toward depression naturally).

In fact, one of the clues that tells me that I'm very hypothyroid is I get depressed. When I get depressed, for no reason, I know that I need to check my thyroid. But the tricky thing is that when I get thyroid-depressed, fatigue usually follows closely behind. And if I get it to that point, I might spiral down into the "why bother?" place and that is a bad place to be if you are an EZH. That is hard to come back from.

Normally, I don't feel that things are bleak. In fact, I tend to have a sunny disposition. I tend to want things to work out. I tend to hope that they're going to work out. But when the hypothyroidism grabs me by the throat, I don't think things will work out and I sink into depression. And here's the sneakiest part of all: if I'm all stressed out, the depression gets worse. That's one of the funny things about being hypothyroid. Hypothyroidism is supposed to make you tend toward depression. Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) is supposed to make you tend towards anxiety. But, if you're under stress and hypothyroid, then you might achieve that most egregious of double whammies: both anxiety and depression.

So, how do you deal with it? How do you handle your depression if it's coming on because of hypothyroidism? The trouble here is it's a double-edged sword. Your depression makes you feel that it's too much work to fix anything at all (and that it probably won't work so why bother trying)?  The hypothyroidism makes you so tired that it's almost not worth it to push out of bed and do the things you need to do, the things that you must do, in order to make yourself better. There have been times in my life when I basically turned myself inside out trying to maintain my life and when depression compounded the trouble, it became practically impossible to fix.

Nowadays, I try to take it easier on myself. I try to catch things early. I do daily check-ins. First thing in the morning, I ask myself how I feel. Here are some of the questions I try to answer:
  1. Am I fatigued? (More often than not, yes)
    1. What can I do about it? Sleep? Maybe. Exercise? Only a little.
  2. Am I aching? (Ditto)
    1. What can I do about it? Yoga, ultrasound, massage, bath, or passionflower supplement (before bed).
  3. What is my outlook for the day? 
    1. Open ended answer but it often depends on what my deadlines are for the day.
  4. Do I feel stressed out? (Often, yes, though I try to mitigate the stress with my daily yoga practice.)
    1. What can I do about it? Breathe. Breathe. Breathe (at least five, deep, full breaths before I do anything else). Yoga or Tai Chi. Reach out to a friend or my husband. Do something I enjoy even if it is only for a few minutes before I jump into my day. 
  5. Do I feel anxious? (Again, this depends on the deadlines for the day)
    1. What can I do about it? This one depends on the time of year. A cup of hot tea (no caffeine) will often have a soothing effect. I go for a hike with the dog and focus on the things I see in nature. And breathe breathe breathe. Taking full, deep breaths is one of the best ways I've found to handle anxiety if it comes up as part of my hypothyroidism. We'll talk more about how to breathe in the next post.
  6. Do I feel sad? (If the answer to this one is "yes," I start looking at other indicators that I might be in thyroid-depression. This is because I'm not generally prone to sorrow.)
    1. What can I do about it? This one often necessitates an increase in kelp in my life (the iodine in kelp helps in thyroid hormone production). Then, I try to do something I enjoy even for a minutes. For example, I play one of my favorite songs to dance to and I go crazy dancing. I move my body, even for a little bit. It helps break through the layer of sorrow very nicely. 
  7. Do I feel depressed? (If this one is a "yes" well then, I need to be ready to try to deal with it.)
    1. The answer to this one is similar to the one for sadness. I know I need to look at my TSH level if the depression persists for any length of time. So, in addition to trying to mitigate the depression, I will get my TSH levels tested. Here's a place where you can order and conduct the test online (not sure if you then have to have your doctor read the results, since I've not used this particular company before).
There are more things to be done. And next time, I'll list more possible ways to combat depression. First on the list: Breathe. We'll talk more about how to breathe to get the most out of your breathing apparatus. Please note: I am not telling anyone to not see their medical professionals to treat their depression. This is a blog on treating the issues naturally so the topics of medication will not be addressed here.

Until next time, Izolda.
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*EZH=Exhausted Zombie Hypothyroidic

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Please Note

Welcome to Natural Thyroid. This blog details my process of treating my hypothyroidism naturally. Please note: I am not telling you *to* do or not to do anything with my posts (remember to work with your medical practitioner, whether it's an allopath or an alternative medicine practitioner).