Mental illness and steroids.

I have a long history of mental illness, carrying multiple diagnoses including bipolar, eating disorder, OCD, and PTSD. I have had my fair share of experiences with psychiatrist visits and even inpatient mental institutions. I am not ashamed of these facts. But the diagnoses I carry are hefty and cause extreme turmoil in my life.

I have spent many years in therapy, working through past traumas and the altered thinking I sustained because of those events. I had made incredible progress and was off my anti-anxiety medications and only required two mood stabilizers. I felt confident in myself and in my thought processes. I finally felt stable and that I had reached a place of “normalcy.”

Then three months ago my adrenal glands shut down and stopped producing the natural steroids your body makes to keep you functioning. This required me to start an oral steroid regiment twice daily.

It is heavily documented that corticosteroids cause mental health issues to develop or worsen. According to leading research, symptoms of hypomania, mania, depression, and psychosis can occur during corticosteroid therapy, as can cognitive changes, particularly deficits in verbal or declarative memory.

The full list of possible side effects that are related is daunting:

• Difficulty sleeping

• Increased appetite, weight gain

• Nervousness, restlessness

• Anxiety, depression

• Sudden mood swings

• Avoidance of social situations

And I am unlucky enough to be suffering from all of the above. I cry for no reason — just an intense and overwhelming need to cry multiple times a day. I can fluctuate from fine, to irritable and cranky, to completely sad within the hour. I am trying to find joy in my daily life and focus on the moments of happiness and clarity, but then this intense fog comes over me and I am left helpless.

The steady weight increase from steroid use has also been very stressful. I have a history of anorexia and bulimia, and while I have not acted on those urges in a long time, I still have the loud thoughts telling me I am a failure because of the weight. I try and exercise a little or eat healthy, but I am so fatigued and depressed that just getting out of bed is a true feat of strength; therefore working out or cooking meals is too daunting.

What is really upsetting is when I compare myself to where I was just a year ago realize I am broken now. This makes me sad. I’ve exhausted every effort to stop the disruptive thoughts. But the healthy coping strategies I developed over the years do not have the same effects they used to.

I have a terrific support system, including a loving husband and nurturing parents, not to mention a kick-ass psychiatrist/therapist who helps me immensely. BUT I NEED MORE HELP. And that’s where you come in! If you have experience with depression or mania due to corticosteroids and have advice I would love to hear it. Drop a comment on this post or contact me privately through my contact page. I am in need of support, guidance, and advice.

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