Life Redefined: The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever noticed that depression is not an illness that’s easily discussed? People who aren’t depressed don’t talk about it. People who ARE depressed don’t talk about it enough. Why? I think because it’s equated to weakness. There’s this stigma surrounding depression that suggests that to say you are depressed is to say you are weak. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A few months after I was diagnosed with cancer, my mom told me she thought I was depressed based on several different things. I was tired, I wanted to stay in bed all the time, and I had no desire to do the things I love, to name a few. She told me in a totally appropriate way and it was completely out of love; however, I thought she was wrong. I told her my thyroid medication needed to be adjusted and that would fix things. Depression and thyroid disease tend to have a lot of cross-over symptoms, so I just knew that changing the dose of my thymeds would get me feeling more like myself again. After changing my dose a couple of times within a few more months, I still didn’t feel right. I had no energy. I had no desire to get out of bed. I wasn’t me. And I realized that I was depressed. I think I knew my mom was right when she told me several months prior, but I didn’t want to believe it then because I didn’t want to be seen as weak. My breakthrough moment came when I realized that seeking help was not an act of weakness, but a necessary step in my pursuit of healthiness.
I went to see my endo, and when I told him I felt depressed he told me he wasn’t surprised. I was NOT expecting him to say that to me. He went on to explain that I’m in my 20s, in grad school, trucking along with life, and then cancer comes into my life out of nowhere; OF COURSE that is going to throw me off track. Did he tell me I was weak? NO. He told me that depression so very often comes along with cancer and he was expecting to have this conversation with me at some point. Before I left his office, he gave me a prescription for an antidepressant. And gradually, very gradually, I started to feel more like ME. Now, I’m comfortable with my emotional and mental state, and so is my doctor. But he doesn’t even want to start weaning me off my antidepressant until we are pretty sure I’m cancer-free. Why? Because he knows that my depression is situational, and until we can really change the situation (ie, get rid of the cancer in my neck) we will continue to treat the depression. We cannot cure cancer, but we can manage the side effects.
Illness can be life-changing. If you are depressed as a result of having to figure out how to live with illness, THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU WEAK; IT MAKES YOU HUMAN. I cannot reiterate this point enough. Accepting you are depressed does not mean that you are a pessimist. It does not mean that you are unworthy. It does not mean that you are unwanted. Cancer may completely change your life; it may be accompanied by other illnesses like depression. But you know what? It’s still YOUR LIFE, and your life is worth fighting for. If you need help, please reach out.
Is anyone else in a similar boat I was in? If you think you might be feeling like I was feeling—no energy, do desire to carry out my daily activities, like I’d lost my sense of self—then please reach out for help because YOUR LIFE IS WORTH IT. I don’t want to sound like one of those horrible commercials, but if you think you might be depressed, be sure to talk with your doctor. And yes, there are a lot of cross-over symptoms between thyroid disease and depression, so make sure your doctor looks at your situation from all angles.
Depression tends to be the elephant in the room, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s talk about it. Do you deal with depression as a result of living with another illness? Did/do you equate depression with weakness? Who did you reach out to for help? Talk to me, peeps.
Tags: cancer, cancer survivors, depression, Life Redefined written by Joanna Isbill, side effects of living with illness, situational depression, The Elephant in the Room, thyroid cancer, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults