During the years I dealt with Cushing’s disease symptoms, I increasingly became unlike myself. Before that, although I had always been shy, I usually felt comfortable around my closest friends and family.
While I generally had been a quiet person, I also was bubbly at times, and I was a calming presence to those around me. I also constantly wanted to get into something fun and have joyful experiences with my loved ones.
But during college, I began experiencing moods that were very different than what I was used to. Some signs of change included increased anxiety, sadness, grumpiness, annoyance, and anger.
When I was 9, I had a traumatic experience at school that involved sickness and caused me to have a phobia. It was the first time I experienced anxiety. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong. When my family moved to a developing country for my dad’s work, I had my first panic attack.
I didn’t realize until I was 13 that I had been dealing with a phobia and generalized anxiety. Eventually, cognitive behavioral therapy helped me through middle school, high school, and the first part of college.
When my Cushing’s symptoms began appearing, I was a lot more anxious and depressed than before. It seemed that my anxiety had been triggered out of the blue. I didn’t know my body was starting to produce excess amounts of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Stress is a normal feeling in college, so I just attributed it to my last years of school.
But as my symptoms progressed, I became depressed and concerned about my physical appearance, anxiety levels, and other uncomfortable feelings. I no longer was driven to finish school. And waking up in the morning hurt physically, particularly in my back, head, and knees, as well as emotionally.
I didn’t want to go through another day of pain just to go to bed and start all over the next day. I wasn’t even excited to talk to my fiancé anymore. I felt so down about myself, and how I was slacking about working out, dieting, studying, and maintaining my physical appearance.
I gained over 50 pounds quickly, and I was disappointed in myself, even though I now know there was nothing I could have done at the time to stop it. I looked like a stranger in the mirror. I didn’t know where the real me had gone.
I knew I had to find a reason for how I was feeling and for what I was seeing.
Because of depression, I became annoyed, grumpy, and downright angry with myself and others around me. Everything seemed difficult, and it felt like such a bother to have anyone expect something from me. Eventually, I lost friends during this process, because none of us knew what was happening to me.
All of this was a big strain on the relationship with my fiancé as well. He tried to be supportive during this mysterious and difficult time. But should he have stayed with someone who was rude, showed no interest in him, and gained weight despite saying she was dieting and exercising? Luckily, he did, because he had a big enough heart to help me search for a solution.
Today, we continue to be happily married.
Once I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, my emotional symptoms subsided significantly. I felt hopeful when I discovered that everything I was experiencing had a name. When I had the adrenal gland with a tumor removed, my emotions lifted immediately. I felt lighter, freer, and excited for my future.
As for anxiety, unfortunately, it hasn’t improved since my diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s related to Cushing’s or not, as some people I know with Cushing’s have seen their anxiety improve with treatment, while others like me have seen it worsen.
The emotions I experienced, including feelings of helplessness, loneliness, isolation, and fear, left me with a lot to process. I had to learn that I am no longer helpless, that I can manage anything I put my mind to, and that I am not my illness.
In the five years since surgery, I have come a long way with my mental healing, and I have become a stronger woman than I ever thought possible. Half of the battle was in my mind. My body hurt, but it’s how you cope with feelings that determine how miserable an experience with a rare disease will be.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.
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