Graves Disease and Depression

There was a time, before I was diagnosed with Graves, that I was in a very dark place emotionally. It could be a coincidence, but it came after a series of stressful events. Stress is known to be a big trigger for Graves. And I wonder if there is also a true correlation between Graves disease and depression. If you want a better description of my stressful events, you can read about them in a previous post, Graves Disease and Stress.

Did stress cause my depression? Did it cause Graves? Or was the depression simply another symptom of Graves? I wish I knew. But even though I don’t have the answers, I still wanted to share this.

What I was feeling

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started. But I do know that it was around the same time that my husband was returning to work, after healing from injuries of a car accident.

I was having trouble sleeping, and didn’t have much energy. When morning came, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Literally my only comfort was laying there with the covers over me. It took everything I had to pull them off and get ready for work.

Work was another issue. I dreaded going. Didn’t want to talk to anyone or even be around people. And I could hardly concentrate when I was there. I’d make stupid mistakes. Forget what I was doing so things were only getting half done. Then when people pointed things out to me I’d get agitated and angry. Not because I didn’t believe them. But because I felt so isolated that I took everything they said as an attack. I’ve never felt so alone and lonely in my life. It was like I didn’t even know myself anymore.

During lunchtime I’d leave the office just to be alone. I’d drive to a busy grocery store parking lot, sit in my car and cry. Then one day it was brought to my attention that my coworkers were tired of my behavior. They felt that I was arrogant and stuck up because I didn’t want to ‘visit with them’ during lunch. And my short temper was also getting on their nerves. Eventually I did what was best for all of them and left.

What I did about it

First, I worked hard at hiding it from my husband and my family. Everyone always comments on how happy and upbeat I am and I didn’t want them to worry about me. And even more, I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. Isn’t that sad? I was ashamed of feelings I had absolutely no control over. To this day I haven’t told them what I was dealing with, and I have no idea if they even noticed.

The job that I left was an odd situation to begin with. There was a period of time during my husband’s recuperation when I took on temp jobs instead of working full time. This office was one of those. As I had more time available to spend there, it sort of just morphed into full time. Once I was gone, I didn’t want to work again at all. I wasn’t sure I could even go on an interview. But I’d always worked, and my husband kept questioning if I’d lined anything up. 

So I started looking for part-time positions. Working just 2 1/2 days a week seemed far less overwhelming than taking on a whole new full time commitment. When I told Jim that I accepted a part-time position he of course didn’t get it, and I didn’t care.

On my days off, I took long walks. I’d just get out and go without a destination in mind. At home I watched old sitcom reruns because they felt comfortable. I also made and drank pots of tea. I love all kinds of tea, and the whole process of making and drinking it always soothes me.

Things changed

My work days were doable. It was a small office that wasn’t very busy so I didn’t have to interact with crowds of people. I only had one coworker and I was able to work independently much of the time. I still didn’t want to be there, but it wasn’t as awful as it could have been.

Then very slowly, after forcing myself out of bed every day, muddling through my work days and walking until I was exhausted, things started to shift. 

Again, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. It must have been so gradual that I just didn’t notice. But eventually I felt like myself again. Not only did I not dread going in to work, but I started to crave something more. I was eventually ready to embrace a new challenge. Finally the thought of being with people didn’t terrify me. 

It was about this same time that my physical symptoms of Graves were becoming more prominent. Lots of sweating, stomach issues, heart palpitations, etc. While looking for a new job, I started what became a long series of doctor appointments to try and figure out what was going on with the rest of me. 

The moral of the story

I was lucky. That’s all there is to it. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was dealing with depression. It just didn’t occur to me that I should get professional help. Maybe if I would have told someone about it, they would have advised me. I probably could have felt better much sooner if I wasn’t so stubborn about keeping it to myself. I feel like I know enough about it now to recognize it quickly if it happens again. And I also know for certain that I won’t try to fix it on my own. I will talk about it and I will get help. 

This post only moderately describes what I felt. I didn’t want to completely relive that time in my life because it still scares me that it happened. But I feel like it’s important to share. Because if you’re feeling anything similar to what I’ve described here, please talk to a friend. Call your doctor. It’s ironic that I’m telling you to talk about it when I already know the last thing you want to do is talk at all. But do it anyway. I was somehow able to shrink my world to reflect what I was feeling at the time. But it’s not always possible to do that. Please seek the help and support that you need.

‘The bravest thing you can do is ask for help. You don’t have to go it alone.’

This post is based on my own personal experience. It is not intended as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical condition.

Anna Baumann

Annoyingly cheerful Graves Disease Warrior and Dental Office Lifer. Eager to share, help and connect. Big fan of kindness, food, ocean cruises and reading books while drinking tea.

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  1. Melody says:

    I feel exactly like this. I’ve already been diagnosed with Graves and am on methimazole to treat it. The problem is that I still feel off even though my numbers are normal. I also still have issues with itching and insomnia. Any suggestions for me?

    1. Hi Melody! I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well. I think it’s very common to feel the way you do on Methamizole though. When my doctor first put me on it, the only thing that improved for me was my heart palpitations. She told me the reason they put us on it is so that we will hopefully go into remission. It’s not something she keeps patients on long term though. Once I reached the point of being on it for 18 months with no remission, she told me we had to make a decision for a more permanent solution; either RAI or thyroid removal. I chose removal because I was not comfortable with the whole process of RAI. My advice to you is to speak with your doctor. See how long he or she plans to keep you on it, and ask what all of your other options are. I felt an improvement in myself almost immediately after my thyroid was removed. I’m currently dealing with other hormonal issues due to my age. But for me, having my thyroid removed was the best thing I’ve done for my Graves. Everyone is different so I cannot tell you what’s best for you. Your MD will be able to give you the best advice. I hope you’re feeling better very soon!

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