Sunday 14 July 2013

"Invincible Summer"

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
~ Albert Camus
Do you ever have that feeling that the universe is working against you? Maybe you woke up late, missed your bus, and when you got to work you realized that you left your lunch on the counter back at home. Don't you just hate those days?

Now imagine that you are fighting a debilitating illness. Depression alone is not so great on the best of days - feelings of isolation, despair, hopelessness, and sadness. Add to that some 'fun' factors such as fatigue, weight gain, and financial strain. It can make you feel like you are fighting a losing battle.

I seem to be making the slow journey back out of depression, for which I am overjoyed. At least, I would be overjoyed if I had the energy. Just when I thought my battle was almost over, a few new ones came along. Challenge number one? Overwhelming fatigue.

Yes, fatigue is a common symptom of depression. But this time for me it has been more than that - bigger, stronger, all-encompassing. So back to my doctor for consultation and a round of tests. I was tested for possible thyroid problems, iron levels, and diabetes. All clear (phew!).

Then it was off to a sleep specialist for more testing. This time, the tests told another story: sleep apnea (a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts). My sleep tests showed that I was waking up (without realizing it) an average of 14 times per hour. No wonder I am exhausted all the time. The great news, however, is that I now know what I am dealing with. I am receiving treatment and, with any luck, I'll be feeling the positive effects in a few weeks and I won't feel like I have the energy levels of a turtle any longer (no offence to turtles).

The next challenge? Weight gain. Yes, another awesome (!) side effect of most anti-depressant medications is weight gain. Funny how the drug companies don't exactly advertise that. If that weren't enough, many of us who are depressed often eat to self-soothe. At a time when you aren't feeling so great about life and yourself, throw on a few extra pounds and see how you feel then - not so great. Now factor in the fatigue that keeps you in bed or on the couch when you know you should be exercising.

Too tired to exercise because of the depression, eating to self-soothe, gaining weight from the meds, tired because of the extra weight you are now carrying, you know you should exercise because of the physical and mental health benefits and yet you are just...too...tired. It feels like you are running in circles (or, again, it would if you had the energy).

And the final challenge? Financial. This is a tough one, a topic that could probably use it's own post. If you are lucky enough to work for a great company (like I do) that has a generous benefits program (like mine does), then the financial impact is reduced. Employees on short term disability leave at my company still earn a paycheque, just one that is smaller. We also have access to an employee assistance program with counsellors as well as financial assistance for psychologists and psychiatrists, and coverage for the required medications. Not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, I am one of the lucky ones because, although my money is tight these days, I am not in a dire situation. For others who don't have such generous benefits plans, the added stress of financial concerns can make recovering from depression or anxiety that much more challenging.

So how to approach these challenges? I will take the same approach that I have taken in the past with my depression - by treating myself with respect and care. I'll take each day as it comes and set small goals for myself. I have faced and overcome challenges bigger than a few extra pounds, some fatigue, and moths in my wallet (!) so I'll overcome these latest additions.

Is the universe against me? Nah. In fact, I think it's actually on my side, teaching me things, making me stronger. The most important thing that I have learned along my journey? Within me is an invincible summer.

KB xo


  1. Hi Kristin, wow, who would have thought of sleep apnea? I had no idea that one could awaken so many times per hour without realizing it! I also struggle with depression and think that it does help to be kind to ourselves are we are with others. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. My mom, who had bipolar, gained a lot of weight because of her medication and despite a good diet and exercise, she was never really able to go back to the weight she wanted. Her doctors all said that the weight gain was a minor detail, she shouldn't care too much about it. They did not seem to understand that it lowered her self-esteem, thus adding to the depression. Since the medication worked (more or less), the side effects were anecdotic for them...


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