I try to be quite an upbeat and positive person, I’ve had phases in my live where I’ve been down prior to having a thyroid condition but they’d generally be linked to something that had been happening or had happened, as does everyone. And I don’t think I’d noticed my state of mental health until I started doing a bit of research in hypothyroidism and noticed that depression and low moods are symptoms.
When I realised this, I just thought this would be something I’d have to deal with – that’s life, right? I have to admit, when I first started taking Levothyroxine, it felt like I was taking ‘happy’ pills, especially as I was in a good space mentally when I got diagnosed – I was the happiest person around. However, this effect soon wore off and the down times came back in waves, and got worse each time they came around.
Depression certainly isn’t picky and doesn’t look for reasons to bring you down. During these down times, I felt like I was living my life in a daze (not helped by the brain fog). I would get up, go to work, come home and sleep. My social life suffered, my diet suffered and so did my health. I can’t even say how I got out of these slumps, just that suddenly I could see a light at the end of the tunnel and my positivity peaked through. I also couldn’t tell you whether my friends noticed from the outside but luckily I have some very good friends who I could open up to. And they got me through.
Asking For Help
Admitting you have depression to even your closest friends is extremely difficult. So when I felt the time had come to ask for help, explaining how I felt to a doctor (effectively a stranger) was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I was lucky he was extremely understanding and gave me a card to the local mental health trust where I went through a couple of tests and was then referred for counselling. I opted for telephone counselling, for the sole reason that I wouldn’t have to take time off work once a week and have to explain why.
Along with depression I suffer from chronic (high-functioning) anxiety. This is more common with hyperthyroidism, however I have recently discovered people with Hashimoto’s can often experience symptoms from both hyper- and hypothyroidism. More on that in a later post.
I didn’t actually realise I suffered from anxiety until I stumbled across a description when researching. I think I just thought it was normal to worry about things (even tiny things) and it didn’t occur to me that I was worrying for nothing – I was working myself up over little things I had no control over and definitely weren’t worth wasting time over.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
My counsellor was lovely and took me through different cognitive behavioural therapy techniques which I still use today. Most significantly was the ‘worry tree’. This is where you think about whether there’s anything you can do about your worry. If you can’t, stop worrying. If you can, think whether you can do something about it now or not. If you can, do it, if not worry about it later when you can do something about it!
Doing this made me realise that most of what I worry about is out of my control, whether it stops the anxiety is another matter and generally down to my state of mind at the time.
I have also found that yoga and meditation help my anxiety and depression. Having that bit of time to focus the mind takes the attention away the worries and as I really enjoy yoga it lifts my mood too! A combination of these approaches get me through the bad times, although it does take a lot of strength to lift myself that bit to put these into practise. I find it still so easy to get swept up in the anxiety and down into the depression so spotting the signs when they are approaching and acting on them is the best method I have found.
If you are based in the UK and feel you need help with your mental health, speak to your GP who can give you details for your local IAPT service. You then have to talk through an initial screening where the counsellor will determine what are your best next steps. This is much less daunting than it sounds and definitely worth it.
Mental Health and the Thyroid
I have recently discovered that if a thyroid disorder is treated correctly all symptoms, even mental health symptoms, should be very minimal (if not depleted completely). So as I continue on my journey to heal my thyroid I hope to see this and will definitely keep you updated.
To learn more about psychological symptoms of thyroid disorders visit the British Thyroid Foundation’s page on the subject.
If you would like to share your experiences with mental health and hypothyroidism or have any tips, please get in touch. The more tips, the better!