Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The small little organ in my neck

The concepts of depression and the feelings of despair are complicated.  The body and mind are connected, yet separate at the same time.  The mind and spirit are interconnected yet distinct.  Finding myself at a loss of how to begin, I resort to an old standby used by countless numbers of  uninspired writers-I decide to begin with a definition and  I drag out the hefty old volume from my bookshelf, dusty from disuse - The American Heritage Dic-tion-ar-y- obsolete in the days of free apps.  It is a heavy 2140 page book and the only one that I can think of that has more pages than a bible.  As I turn the thin yellowed pages to look up the word, I suspect in this modern day of instant gratification and Wikepedia, many people under the age of 30 probably do not even know how to use a dictionary. The dictionary accurately defines depression as "...the condition of feeling sad or despondent..." and also as "A psychotic or neurotic condition  characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, and feelings of extreme sadness, dejection and hopelessness."  Apparently since the average reader has the ability to conjure a mental image of a depressed man or woman  in his mind the contributors and editors of the dictionary did not feel the need to illustrate the word depression  with either  a drawing or photo.  Nevertheless I found the illustration of the derailleur especially useful.

Depression can have a variety of causes.  It can be a character flaw, or a clinical mood disorder.  Or it may even be attributed to an organic cause such as a brain malfunction, illness or imbalance.  Nevertheless depression is not always a bad thing.  It might serve a purpose and become the catalyst for change.   It is a fact that the Holy Spirit may convict our conscious for a purpose, and this may cause feelings of healthy depression which encourage us to seek out a solution.  Just read my testimony- an account I wrote about my younger years, (also on this blog site) The story on how I was saved, as proof that my depression in my youth, led me to my salvation and eternal life.  My depression was the product of the Holy Spirit convicting me and leading me to a new and changed life. 

Yet over this past summer, I experienced a new level of depression and lethargy.  Once again I had every symptom in the book (in this case - The American Heritage Dic-tion-ar-y).  On the surface it seemingly began as a normal reaction in response to grief. (That is another story!)  But as physical and emotional symptoms intensified it became apparent that not only was it an abnormal depression but that there was a medical cause.  I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and immediately started on a medication to replace the thyroid hormone that my thyroid was no longer producing.  Within two days, literally, I felt like a changed person.  A wave of depression had been lifted.  I had renewed mental clarity and focus. For the first time I realized that my negative grim and gloomy attitude and short temper and lack of initiative was not a normal part of my personality or character. I figured that my depression was a spiritual problem  and that my short temper and laziness were character flaws that I had to work at to overcome on my own. And work, indeed, is what I did.  The years of  my tendency toward laziness and despair was not simply a  usual personality trait that I had grown accustomed to and had accepted.  Simple thyroid replacement medication- NOT antipsychotic drugs, NOT anxiety NOR depression medication- is what I needed.  My energy was renewed as well as my emotional health- unexpectedly to boot! That summer I was not even looking for help or a change- I was only looking to find out if I had contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite- that's all!  Imagine my surprise  when I learned that I had  autoimmune induced thyroid failure. How God used a tick......

It is a known fact that excess drinking and mind altering drugs will have an effect on even the strongest of personalities. Even lesser drugs- prescription drugs for anxiety and hormones may have an impact on a person's emotional and mental state.   Personal fortitude and mental steadfastness is no match against mind altering chemicals- natural or unnatural.  To some degree the lack of thyroid hormone can impact my abilities and mood.  For example when one feels depressed, uninitiated, lethargic and short- tempered one minute and the next rejuvenated, energetic and at peace- or vice versa- it is obvious something external is going on.  I have noticed on some occasions my mood and energy level will decline.  This occurs for example, if I take my thyroid medication too late in the day.  But it also occurs if my thyroid goes into an acute state of  decline- a signal that means my thyroid medication needs to be changed. My thyroid condition is progressive.  If  I feel unusually tired, lethargic and depressed, it is not normal, and it means that my thyroid function needs to be addressed.

I have a unique insight.  Sometimes it seems as if I am on the outside looking in, observing my physical and emotional status from an objective viewpoint.  Fortunately  the declines  are infrequent, yet when they occur it feels like an overwhelming looming wave of despair and fatigue.  It is followed by attempts to refocus to fight it off.  The depression and lethargy seem out of place and makes no sense- it approaches as if out of the blue with little warning.  Yet redirecting my thoughts feels futile and I am completely aware as I feel myself losing my positive focus as I sink into senseless indifference and despair.  I know it isn't supposed to be like this and its so frustrating and crippling to feel this way, yet not have the emotional or physical strength to overcome.  

  It is humbling and ironic to think that a small little organ located in my neck has this much control.  Nevertheless, even if my thyroid is failing,  I am fortunate that medicine has provided the means by which to replace what is not working.  Yet even in the worst of times, in my weakness, I draw on God for my strength.  In my worst moments when my thyroid is failing and my emotions and body cannot keep up, I know my spirit is not failing.  My spirit is distinct from my body.  My spirit and soul are distinct from my emotional state and mood.  My personality, in part,  is a product of the chemical composition of my body- apparently- but my spirit is a product of the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit I am a changed creature, a new creation regardless of my thyroid.  I cannot lose site of my salvation and eternal hope.

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