By April 19, 2012 14 Comments Read More →

Falling into an Abyss of Sadness

[media-credit id=5 align="alignleft" width="300"][/media-credit]Life throws many curve-balls. You can duck and hope it misses hitting you squarely in the head; or you can try and swing at it with a good chance of nailing it over the bleachers…okay, why I am referring to my mental state with baseball references? I am not a baseball fan but a movie fan. Well, maybe I will chalk this one up to the significance of Field of Dreams because Ray Kinsella was considered off his rocker when he heard voices telling him, “If you build it, he will come.” My voices over the past year, however, were just disengaging me from a world that I believed was once safe. And I thought I was entering a mid-life crisis.

“What a cliché!” Those were the words that were constantly popping up in my head. I am in my 40’s now – this is just what happens, right? “No way, not me”, I tried convincing myself. But I kept waiting for these feelings of anxiety to pass but they only got worse.

I believe it began awhile back. A few years ago I survived a life-threatening illness and was on cloud 9 afterwards. The high lasted for a few months. I cheated death or circumvented it. Surpassing something as horrendous as an infection that was slowly destroying my heart and fighting tooth and nail to have a specific cure to fix it so I would remain sane was all that was on my mind for months. Once that was over I couldn’t stop focusing on my triumph. I became selfish, in a way, but happy – elated, in fact.

Selfish? How? It’s easy to explain, now. For months I lay in hospital beds or recovering horizontally elsewhere without having to do one thing for another person, not even my children, so I became preoccupied with me and only me. This was a rare thing. Of course, people think about themselves – it’s a requirement to being human. But when you are parent, a spouse, a daughter, a business owner, etc…the time left to contemplate one’s thoughts become cluttered with life’s daily interruptions and responsibilities. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing really is subjective, but when you are forced to stop being all those things and think, what’s left to do? You got it. Reevaluate! Now that can be dangerous, if you let it.

As I mentioned, I became selfish but I didn’t realize it. After my recovery was over, life went back to its hectic schedule but I started writing. This was not normal for me, at least not for about 20 years. I was an interior designer but something compelled me to start writing, and for a while that’s all I wanted to do. What did I write about? ME! And I kind of didn’t stop. What happened then? Pandora’s Box was opened and then the anxiety began. I had spent two years, prior to my illness, trying not to think about myself – I was a mother now. My concentration was on my children; where it needed to be. But when I started writing all I thought about was what I wanted. I suppose from time to time you need to do this for cathartic reasons, but when you discover things about your life that make you question nearly every decision you made, perhaps it wasn’t a good idea. Or was it?

Those are the questions that have taken me nearly three years to answer. But something else happened along the way, I began to slip into a depression. However, other details popped up that kept me from realizing that I was falling into an abyss of sadness. First, I stumbled onto movie reviewing and discovered my calling. I have never felt so good or proud of myself at doing something.  It made me so happy. But on the flipside, my moods started to dwindle when I wasn’t watching movies or writing about them. Second, I soon started resenting nearly everything and everyone in my life. I thought I changed and others weren’t accepting the new me. I stopped calling friends, attending functions, and I started finding ways to spend more time alone. All appeared fine at first but this last year my emotions stayed more on the negative than the positive. I tried shaking these feelings but increasingly it became harder and harder to find the good in life. Slowly, I thought I was going insane.

If I wasn’t distracted with something like movies or writing, I was finding ways to not cry. The days were long and sleep was hard to come by even though I was exhausted. Most nights I went to bed early but just tossed and turned. Some nights I would write while others I would blank out and watch mindless television programs. Very few people knew about all this. I wanted to put on a smile to let everyone think I was happy, while really inside I was miserable and unable to see the hope of finding happiness again.  

 

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Summer 2011

 

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Winter 2011

Physically I started changing as well. I lost my appetite and quickly lost weight. Eating became a basic requirement just to have enough energy to get through the day. The tunnel of sadness soon started closing in, growing darker and making me feeling worthless.  My only escape was film, whether I was talking, watching or writing about it. It was the only thing that gave me some sort of temporary hope.

Eventually, I did start seeing a therapist but the talks almost made things worse for me. Some sessions were fine while others just made me look at the problems in my life. Ones I didn’t want to face – ever.

By this past winter my weight had gotten so low that I started fearing for my life. I kept losing weight even though I was eating. I had heard stress and depression can cause some to lose weight but never thought it would happen to me. I had my final emotional breakdown one night and needed to get some help. But where should I go? I was an adult but couldn’t seem to take care of myself, my children or any of my daily duties like cooking, cleaning, etc….But I needed find respite. So I called my parents and told them what was happening to me.The next day I drove to their place.

When I arrived later that night, my father kept saying, “Missy, you look terrible.”  I couldn’t disagree as I was 15-20 pounds underweight, extremely pale and I hadn’t had a decent night sleep in over a year. He informed me I was going to see their doctor as soon as possible. Two days later I was in the waiting room feeling like a twelve year-old but didn’t mind because it was the first time I felt that maybe someone could give me an answer to what was going on with me.

After my blood pressure was taken, weighed on the scale and blood withdrawn, I realized that doctor was looking at me with deep, sympathetic eyes. I had seen that look from him once before. After my heart surgery he came to my parent’s house when I was in severe pain. He gave me that same look in his office. I was in pain, again.

A day or so later my blood results came back. Besides being severely anemic and having extremely low levels of vitamin D, I was also low on a specific thyroid level. He prescribed some anti-anxiety medication for temporary use and a thyroid medication that I would have to be on for the rest of my life. All I could do was sigh, heavily. I didn’t want to take medication, especially something for the rest of my life. I thought I could fix what was going on with me by myself, but I realized therapy didn’t help, making drastic changes in my life didn’t work, and I couldn’t watch movies ALL DAY LONG. I complied into taking the anti-anxiety medication but refused to start the thyroid meds.

A week went by, I went to a movie everyday and I started taking iron pills, vitamin D and the anti-anxiety meds.  But my appetite didn’t increase, my moods didn’t really lighten and all I wanted to do was stay still. Crying still came easily and soon all I wanted to do was sleep. My parents and my therapist finally talked me into taking the thyroid medication. In the meantime, my mother found some of old medical paperwork that had some blood work results. My mother noticed that my thyroid level was off then. That was three years ago. I was upset especially when I started looking up symptoms of hypothyroidism. I had almost all the symptoms. Although one was very different.

With hypothyroidism, weight gain is the usual issue but I did read that 15% come in under weight when finally diagnosised.  But it was the fatigue, sleep issues and depression that really stood out. It described my problems. Right there on the screen! I just stared at the laptop and silently said, “That’s it!” And then I became angry because over the course of the last three years I have had yearly physicals with blood drawls, visits to my cardiologist and even an emergency room visit where it was probably assumed stress was the main factor causing my physical issues then. More blood drawn at the ER and nothing, not one word, was said about my thyroid levels. Even my general doctor didn’t check my thyroid levels last fall when I went to him and listed all the problems I was having. Without taking a blood sample he just wanted to put me on anti-depressants. That infuriated me. I refused to fill the prescription.

About two weeks after taking the thyroid medication I slowly felt like myself again. I stopped crying and I could eat a meal. I smiled. I even laughed. My patience was coming back and the small things that over the past year pushed me towards the negative and dark thoughts were fading away. One thing remained, however; I wasn’t ready to talk to or tell anyone what happened or what I figured out, not even my closest friends. I was too embarrassed.

It’s only been about two months since figuring out the source of my emotional issues; and I am not blaming all of them on my hormone levels but it’s a relief to know what was the underlying cause. I wasn’t crazy; my hormones levels were off. My life isn’t perfect now, far from it.  And I still have a lot of work to do before I feel the discoveries I had, the changes I made and how I want to live now are fully integrated. But I know I need to keep my eye on the ball from now on. There, I did it again…more baseball references… anyway some movie had to use that line or something like, somewhere, right? I am not crazy, trust me, I know….now.

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14 Comments on "Falling into an Abyss of Sadness"

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  1. avatar TJ Lubrano says:

    Oh my goodness. Such an open & honest post, Katy and what a scary ride it has been. I’m really glad things started to turn out good again and that you found out what was wrong, but not fun to go through at all! Smiling while feeling out of balance and not like yourself is one of the hardest things to do. Also, the feeling selfish part…this is very familiar to me and I still feel this from time to time, especially when I made the drastic switch to illustrating. Funny, I wrote about this in my draft regarding “quarter life crisis” which I’ll publish somewhere soon.

    Big Hugs from across the ocean!!!

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      Thank you, TJ. I was unsure whether to post this as I am still embarrassed but I hope figuring out that I had an issue with my thyroid, which I am finding out is very common, maybe this will help someone ask their doctor to check theirs.
      You and the rest of the EP folks helped keep me sane this past year, something I will never forget. Thank you, my friend

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  2. avatar Cher Duncombe says:

    Katy, what a dreadful spiral this must have been for you. I am proud of you for writing about it because I have no doubt there are others suffering from lack of proper diagnosis who may feel inspired to pursue answers. You have so much to offer in this world. Never forget how deeply you are appreciated and admired, not only for your talent as a writer, but for the depth of character you possess.

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      Thank you, Cher. Hypo & Hyper thyroid issues, as I am discovering, are so common but doctors don’t check it automatically. A simple blood test is all it takes. It baffles me why the medical field will just want to prescribe anti-depressants and not figure out the root of the problem. I suffered long enough and truly hope no one goes through what I did. I do hope my experience helps others.

      Another thing that made me angry after my discovery -- thyroid issues can lead to heart damage/disease. My doctors should have been more proactive especially when I listed all my symptoms. I already have a high chance of having another heart surgery in the future, but I would really like to avoid that as much as possible. Okay, enough ranting…I’m off to watch a film and smile (for real this time) :-)

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  3. avatar Janene says:

    Holy smoke, Katy. What a ride it’s been, huh? I’m so glad you went to your doctor. So many people with depressive symptoms fail to realize the case could be physiological. I’m so glad you did. Here’s to more sunny days in the future!

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      Janene: I was happy to find out it was physiological rather than psychological. It amazed me how quickly my emotions changed once I started taking the medication. What a difference. Sunny days ahead!

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  4. Great article, very brave to put this all down for every one to read. I’m sure it will help others who may be going through the same thing and can’t find a solution to their problems. I’m surprised you didn’t find an answer in the all the movies you watch though, as Steve Martin said in Grand Canyon, “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      More movies? That’s all it could have taken to figure this out? Drats!
      Thanks, Garry. I hope this does help others. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I did.

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  5. avatar Judie says:

    My son, now 33, was born without a thyroid gland, so he has been on the medication for all of his life. I can always tell when he needs it checked because he gets sleepy and depressed.

    I wish you good luck with your recovery!

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      Thank you, Judie. I wasn’t aware people could be born without their thyroid gland but I do know many who have to have them removed. I hope your son is doing well.

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  6. You are truly a marvel. Thank you so much for sharing this with such open honesty. Just…thank you.

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  7. I never left a comment for this? Shame on me.

    It’s amazing how long it can take to get a correct diagnosis. I’ve struggled with feeling lethargic, bloated, depressed and anxiety-ridden most of my life. I was told I need to sleep more for my lethargy, and workout often to cure my bloat. I’ve been told my anxiety was because of a mental disorder and I needed medication (I never went on it.)

    After 10 years of questions, and 3 years of my own independent research on the internet, I discovered that I have a mild gluten intolerance. When I don’t eat gluten I feel like a completely different person. I was so mad thinking about all of that time I lost to feeling like half of a person. I’m just glad to be this person now, and I’m sure you feel the same.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

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    • avatar Katy Kern says:

      Jen: I am happy to hear you figured out what was going on with you. It doesn’t surprise me that you had to figure out your own issue. Doctors today seem to have to rush through so many patients. I was at my doctors last October for less than 5 minutes before he whipped out the script pad. When I think about it now, it still angers me that I could have been on anti-depressants and my hormone level would still have been off and could have damaged my heart.

      We must become our own advocates. And I hope sharing this information will help someone to ask the question to their doctor -- a simple blood test is all is takes.

      Thank you for your comments. :-)

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