During the past couple of months, I’ve been stuck in a frightening state of melancholy. It was as though the lightbulb of my brain had been dimmed and, sometimes, like it had been switched off completely.
All of my natural, joy-inducing remedies—endorphins from running and working out, smoothies packed with nutritious goodness, reading and relaxing, playing with my son, and walking the dog—did nothing to lift the grey, filmy layer that seemed to be covering the sunnier parts of my brain. I was in a deep fog and my inspiration was lost somewhere in the thick mess of it all.
I blamed the weather. The long, hard winter had taken its toll on my spirits, causing the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I figured. Somewhere in my being, however, I knew that couldn’t be all of it, yet I couldn’t put my finger on the culprit.
One moment I was laughing big and spontaneously dancing around our kitchen with our toddler, and then I flatlined. A tidal wave of energy turned to a meek ripple.
There was the constant lethargy and inability to concentrate on any task for more than a few minutes at a time. I couldn’t write and was frequently getting sick with the flu, colds, and killer throat ailments that made it hurt to swallow. People noticed. Or at least I think they did. I wasn’t trying to hide my state of mind; I didn’t even have the strength to.
While I am not sure why it took me so long to connect the dots, I can only say that my thoughts were sluggishly moving along until one day the most obvious reason for my decline came to me—my thyroid.
I’d been there before.
When I was 22, I was diagnosed with thyroid disease after I’d slept for a 24-hour period, waking only to use the washroom.
To give you an idea of the importance of this smallish, butterfly-shaped gland residing in the front of the neck, when it is not functioning properly it can cause feelings of chronic fatigue, excessive sleeping, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate, depression, mental lethargy, impaired memory, weakened immune system, fertility problems, change in appetite, dry skin, and an intolerance to cold, among other issues.
According to the American Thyroid Association, the thyroid "regulates the body's metabolism—the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen—and affects critical body functions, such as energy level and heart rate. Although relatively small, it produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body."
So, as you can see, it's a powerful little thing, this thyroid gland.
After years of successfully managing my thyroid, I give it little thought—that is until I couldn’t manage to shake the exhaustion and blues that had taken hold of me. I finally went to see my doctor to get blood work done.
A few days ago, her office called to say my levels had dropped and that I needed a higher dose of medication. I felt instantly relieved knowing the root cause of the severe doldrums that had left me listlessly struggling through the days.
Immediately, I started taking the new meds. It will take six weeks for them to level off in my system; however, I am already starting to recognize my old, cheery self again. My focus has improved, my smiles have returned, and here I am click-clacking away at the keyboard again.
June is Thyroid Month in Canada and a good time to take note of any of the symptoms I mentioned above and get your thyroid checked.
According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, an estimated 200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. Recent studies have found that one in 10 Canadians may suffer from a thyroid condition and as many as 50 per cent are undiagnosed.
Though I feel foolish for not visiting my doctor sooner, I am thrilled to say that the lightbulb is back on and my brain is starting to shine again.
This morning my son and I danced in the kitchen for the first time in ages. We giggled and I felt alive. I can't tell you how much I've missed that person during these past months, or how happy I am to see her stepping back into the light.
Read more posts by Tanya Enberg, such as How We Can Learn Happiness from our Children and Daily Exercise is Essential for Health and Balance.