How living with Cushing’s disease has affected my mental health
My increased levels of cortisol can cause or influence periods of depression
Cushing’s disease, which falls under the umbrella of Cushing’s syndrome, is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. Its patients have excess cortisol, which is often referred to as the stress hormone. It affects our immune system, blood pressure, and emotional processing.
Many people with Cushing’s, including me, have experienced feelings of depression. In fact, according to Cushing’s Support & Research Foundation, “No other medical disorder is associated with such a high rate of depression as Cushing’s syndrome (50-70% of cases).”
My mental health
When I started to experience symptoms of Cushing’s disease, the depression was overwhelming. I’d lock myself in the bathroom to sob at least once a day. The pendulum of my emotions swung from numb to hopeless. I had panic attacks at least once a week and trouble communicating anything other than anger. It was devastating, and it changed my entire personality.
Mental health is difficult to discuss, especially when it’s an ongoing issue. Physical symptoms are easier to talk about because they’re more clinical. It’s easier for me to say, “Well, my pituitary tumor is releasing hormones, causing muscle weakness,” than it is to say, “The hormonal imbalance in my body is making it difficult for me to function. I can’t believe I have to go to work today because getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Through therapy and treatment, I’ve managed to get myself to a place where my mental health is no longer debilitating, but its issues are still there. Hormones have cycles, and as they change or my medication changes, so do my emotions. There are weeks when I can barely get out of bed and nights when I cry myself to sleep.
When I was looking for ways to help myself, I turned to the internet, but a lot of articles there let me down. Some would tell me to exercise, which I couldn’t do because my legs weren’t functioning. Others told me to remain positive, which is hard to do when I’m facing a life-changing diagnosis. I had to carve my own path.
To improve my mental health, I’ve accepted my bad days and embraced them. I’ve chosen to be honest with myself about how I’m feeling and learned to take time to focus on my emotional needs. I let myself be negative because sometimes life really isn’t fair. And I let myself give in to sleep because honestly, that’s never failed me.
If you’re feeling similarly, please know you aren’t alone. We’re dealing with our illnesses, health trauma, and hormone imbalances, so it’s no wonder that our mental health takes dips. The journey is different for everyone, even if many of us share this particular ailment.
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.