Last Friday I was sitting at my desk at work and finishing up my work for the week. Around 6 PM, I my mood changed like the flip of a switch. I’d been feeling good all week, and then all of a sudden I was feeling anxious, isolated and very alone. And I kinda freaked out a little. I spent the next hour and a half trying not to cry, slogging through my work and trying to figure out what happened to feeling good that day.
Somewhere in there, it dawned on me that I have felt the exact same way before. Last year at the beginning of allergy season I felt that way, and the year before that, I spent most spring evening drives home from work desperately wondering what in the fuck was wrong with me after having an otherwise normal day, and before I knew it sometime in the fall or winter I realized it had been a while since that had happened. Last year when I began feeling it again around the middle of March, I assumed it was my over the counter allergy medicine causing terrible side effects, and I got pissed. I set up an appointment with an allergist and had the pleasure of getting a scratch test on my back skin, which resulted in finding out that I am allergic to every (or almost every, can’t remember) pollen they tested me for, including local trees, grasses and weeds. I started using a new OTC allergy medicine and a prescription nasal spray, which worked pretty well for my allergies.
I started getting seasonal allergies about 5 years ago. I had already lived in town for a few years so I was a little disappointed because Juniper is such an unfriendly tree to me as well as most other seasonal allergy sufferers in the area, and there were a bunch in my neighborhood and I think even in my backyard where I lived at the time. I was also disappointed because drinking beer made it worse, and the medicine I started out with said not to use with alcohol, so I had to miss out on the fun or pay for it way too dearly. Boo hoo. I once made the mistake of letting someone convince me that “a little wine” from the art walk wouldn’t be too bad to mix with Benadryl. I was home and in bed at 8 PM that night. So I found out that alcohol, especially certain kinds like microbrews which I had come to enjoy, were not treating me well during allergy season. I also found out that not taking allergy medicine was not an option. Overly sleepy/tired and internally inflamed is not a great way to spend my time.
So back to last Friday, the distinction that I had been feeling good all week is important not only for the contrast to how I started feeling about 6 PM, but also because last summer things were still going poorly despite figuring out a better approach to my allergies and long story short I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder which is also known as clinical depression. The last month and a half have been the best I have felt for about a year, and after struggling for so long through finding the right antidepressant, it’s incredibly frustrating to have something else once again take away the happiness and good feelings that I’d been missing from my life for so long.
I’m very thankful for the perspective that I have from the last two allergy seasons, and the contrast in feeling fine and then very overwhelmed and isolated. It allowed me to connect some dots and realize that something I had kind of theorized for a while was not just a theory – allergies are responsible for that abrupt shift to feeling so negative and upset. I went home and googled something like “allergies depression” and “allergies anxiety” and maybe a few more combinations of those things and thankfully found this site about depression anxiety, which conveniently linked allergies directly to depression anxiety, backed by a published clinical study, and made me feel a whole lot better about my situation. To paraphrase the site, allergens enter your body/bloodstream, trigger an inflammatory immune histamine response, and release substances called cytokines into the brain which causes brain inflammation and subsequently leads to depression anxiety. It also explains that stress as well as gut sensitivities to foods can have similar results and there is a two-way connection between your gut and brain (the “gut brain connection”), and that symptoms can long outlast the toxins, inflammatory substances and gut damage that caused them. It’s actually a really radical site, which insists that depression anxiety is not a mental illness, and is caused by underlying physical problems. I’m not sure what that means in regards to my diagnosis, but I feel it is an avenue worth exploring and also have felt that allergies just had to be connected to my depression, even if only in a minor way. I want to start changing my diet and seeing if there are positive results with an anti-inflammatory diet and other suggestions from this train of thought. I don’t think it could hurt.
If you’re still with me, awesome. It’s important to me to share my experiences with others in the interest of assuring other people they’re not the only ones going through depression, or allergy-caused depression anxiety (which I have not heard much about). If you yourself aren’t afflicted by depression, it’s likely that you know several people who are depressed, whether you’re aware of their affliction or not. Whether it’s a mental illness or caused by underlying physical issues, it’s also important to learn about it, so it’s not so scary, and so we can share information on the topic and find better ways to deal with it and support our friends and family who have to deal with it.
Honestly I’m a little nervous to publish this because:
- I don’t like being vulnerable and this stuff is a big thing to share
- I don’t want people to treat me differently after they read this
- I don’t want people to stop being my friend because my problems are too much for them (I already had a friend kind of disappear on me after he asked me a bunch of questions about my depression. It disappointed me but I guess I don’t need friends who would evaporate over that kind of information)
But, I’m hoping any negative consequences are outweighed by positive ones, like sharing experiences and information with people, increasing understanding about depression and making it less scary. I definitely have more I could share but that’s all I feel like sharing for now.