This year was exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically. Adding another child to our home through the foster system with less support and higher needs than expected was harder than I thought–that doesn't mean it isn't worth it, it's just that it used up most of my energy that I had. Several months ago we received some information that affected our family and meant that even more would be required in regards to my time and attention. I felt that my energy reserves were depleted and although I knew I could advocate and learn and do all I needed to do, I didn't want to. I felt like I had nothing left in the tank to give. My body responded accordingly and shut down. I wanted to just stay in bed but I was able to still parent– anything beyond that felt like too much.
I assumed that the overwhelming weakness and fatigue were the tell tale signs that my autoimmune disease, Graves, had returned due to stress. A blood test indicated that my TSH levels were just fine. A doctor suggested depression and I said that it couldn't be– I didn't feel sad or hopeless even though the state of being overwhelmed caused tears to roll down my face. I asked for more blood tests. Nothing was out of the norm. I couldn't believe that the level of fatigue and the brain fog I was experiencing could be anything but autoimmune or a viral infection. I went to my family doctor and he said based on the experiences of the past year it was likely situational depression also known as adjustment disorder or stress-response syndrome. I said that I didn't have time for that–joking yet so serious. How can I raise these four kids with their unique needs while all I want to do is lay in bed and read books and watch Gilmore Girls? My body was just so tired.
Fortunately situational depression is a short-term condition and once the individual processes and works through the situation they will likely recover. Now I am focusing on what is required to try to heal my body and mind. I'm back to eating healthier (less refined sugar), taking yoga classes, resting (taking time to read in bed), getting my 10,000 steps a day, saying "no" to social events that exhaust me, taking fish oil pills and vitamins, and talking to a counselor. Even though I've always suggested counselling to others, I've never done it myself. To be honest, it comes down to the money. However, I realize now that it is worth it and I don't want to mess with my mental health.
I'm frustrated with myself in that I often try to push myself to do more than I should. I thrive on feeling productive and have to learn, again, that taking care of my body and mind means I need to let it rest. This is something I didn't grow up learning and it is a lesson I want to teach my kids. We only have one body and it can only handle so much–treat it kindly. I had no idea that depression can have such a physical response in regards to the fatigue experienced.
I am now a couple months in and am starting to feel much better. I was able to run a 5 km race this weekend and although I still have huge waves of feeling overwhelmed and some panic/anxiety about all that needs to be done, I know that taking care of myself will allow me to be the mom and wife that I want to be. To anyone who is experiencing clinical depression, I cannot imagine how it feels to deal with this long term and my heart goes out to you. I hope that you are getting the help you need and have great supports in place. If you are ever wondering if this could be something affecting you, there are is a self-screening test here.
Be kind to yourselves, friends.