Feelings of depression after diagnosis.
November 16, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Depressed/angry after diagnosis of a entirely treatable condition that will improve my quality of life. I don't know why or what to do next.

I have been feeling terrible for the last few years, and this past year has been especially bad. I've been tested for a ton of different things, and earlier this week I had a sleep study and was found to have Restless Leg Syndrome, which is waking me up at night without even realizing its happening. There are a few different medications to treat it, and once I am, I should feel 100 times better. When the new specialist I was seeing said he suspected it a week ago, I was elated that I might have a "fix".

Since a sleep study confirmed it Monday, I've been angry and extremely upset about it and I don't know why. I thought the first day I was just feeling really terrible because I didn't sleep well at the study and all the wires made me feel really uncomfortable vulnerable. Today, I didn't go into work and I keep going between being really angry and really upset and crying. I don't know why. I should be happy, I might finally get some relief. And yet that's not at all how I feel.

This is totally out of character for me. I usually take things in stride, and while I've been getting more and more stressed about feeling fatigued and trying to deal with life, work, and everything else, I haven't been depressed about it. Frustrated, perhaps, but this is something very different.

I don't know what to do or what my next steps are. I feel immobilized. I tried calling my doctor to get in to see her (not the sleep specialist that made the diagnosis but my regular doctor who's been with me in all this) but the doctors office is implementing a new system and the wait times are excruciatingly long. I'm going to try again after lunch time, but short of saying "Hey, can I see my doctor, I'm really sad" I don't know what to do. I'm not even sure why I'm upset, I can't seem to analyze or pinpoint what about this is upsetting me. By all rights, I feel like I really should be relieved, even happy about this. As far as conditions go, this isn't a very bad one and can be managed. I can think about that logically but it doesn't help. All I really want to do is curl up in bed and shut off.

(if it makes a difference, I don't feel suicidal so I don't think there is any need to check into a psyche ward or go to the ER room. I'm just really really upset/depressed/angry and lost.)
posted by [insert clever name here] to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you're chronically sleep deprived, even one night of extra bad sleep is enough to push you over the edge. So there's that.

There's also the fact that you've been suffering for YEARS with this and it took so long to get a diagnosis. I'd be angry and upset, too.

Medical testing can be stressful and scary.

I think talking to your doctor is a good idea. If you don't want to say you're sad, say you want to follow-up about the testing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am just a random dude who has successfully solved some personal health mysteries that were wreaking havoc with my quality of life.

I think you are mourning for the life you could have had if you'd only solved this mystery and applied this simple fix sooner.

You've missed out on a great deal because you've been feeling terrible for years.

You've also discovered that you live in a universe where this sort of cruel injustice is possible, and that some people never solve their personal mystery, even if the fix is so, so simple and right in front of them for the taking.

Perhaps think about how you'll use the totality of this experience as wisdom-fuel, compassion training (for self and others), and increased resilience for the rest of your life. Or disregard that if it's not helpful.

You really should talk to a *good* therapist to keep you company while you work through this totally normal, totally appropriate reaction. It will pass if you properly mourn for self, universe, and others, and don't pretend it's stupid to feel so very, very sad.
posted by zeek321 at 10:57 AM on November 16, 2011 [37 favorites]

Sleep deprivation (which it sounds like what the RLS has caused) can really REALLY do a number on you.

Feeling angry/depressed without a "reason" seems very reasonable for someone who has been struggling for awhile without enough sleep.

KEEP AT your doctor and you just need to say more or less what you said here -- you can't seem to get a handle on your emotions and it's causing you to miss work. You don't need to know why you feel that way. There may some medication you can use, short-term, you relieve your immediate symptoms until the RLS treatment gets figured out.

Good luck and hang in there!
posted by pantarei70 at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

"TO relieve your immediate symptoms"
posted by pantarei70 at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Today is Wednesday. The sleep study was Monday. Why don't you give yourself a few days to process this a little more?
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Echoing what zeek321 said. When I finally got a diagnosis about my strange shoulder problems, I felt like I should have been happy. I should have been thrilled that it wasn't all in my head; vindicated that after years of "stand up straight" and "why don't you just TRY to not make your shoulder do that?", I found out that there was a physical reason why "just TRYING" wouldn't help; and excited about the opportunity to make things better through physical therapy.

Nope, I burst into tears and fell into a sudden depression. I think it partly had to do with relief that there finally was an answer, and partly to do with my feelings of anger that I'd been misinformed, taunted, and feeling pain for so long.

Let it sink in for a few days. Then be pro-active in your recovery. Nothing has helped me feel better than knowing that I COULD DO SOMETHING about my shoulder (torn rotator cuff and muscle issues with my shoulderblade, if you're curious), and then I set about DOING it. It feels good to know what's up. Good luck!
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that you need more time. Feeling like something might be very wrong with you is a pretty scary thing to live with for a long time and when tension or worry is just taken away all of a sudden -- it should feel great, and often does, but sometimes what's left in its wake is leftover fear and anger that you'd been keeping a lid on to deal with the problem.

The other thing is if it was a really big deal, where you were investing a lot of time and energy in dealing with it, the center of your world is changing and that is scary.

Plus--to point out the obvious: you're exhausted.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Memailing you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even though the diagnosis will mean good news once treatment kicks in, you may still be grieving. That's incredibly normal - especially in the presence of exhaustion - and there are various flavors of help out there that you can look into.

Time will help, of course, but you absolutely can talk to your doctor or a therapist or seek out some of the literature available.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice here already. If it makes you feel any better to hear that others have gone through something similar...I have (albeit I was not ill for as long as you). Maybe you can laugh at your story in retrospect as I now do mine:

In short, I wasn't sleeping because I was feverish and sweating. During the daytime I looked like walking death. I was in the Army at the time. My doc (fresh out of Cornell according to the degree handing on his wall) decided it was: A) rare blood disorder B) AIDS or C) Leukemia.... He was so stoked about choice A that he kept scrolling on his little handhelp (always makes you feel confident in a dr's office) with a weird grin like he'd get some promotion points or something for having discovered a chick with a "rare blood" thing.

After weeks on end of daily blood draws, resulting in the need for daily fluid IV drips due to dehydration.....the verdict: mono.
posted by jilliank at 12:23 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, what Zeek321 sez.

When you find out you have a physical problem or illness, it makes deep gouges in the foundation of who you think you are. Suddenly there's a flaw in your life and even if it can be fixed...you feel ripped off and angry about what your illness took from you.
When you feel bad, it starts to feel normal. Sometimes even comfortable. So looking at a future where you feel better can be a little scary. You might think you won't be able to handle feeling good because you've felt bad for so long.

Find someone you trust and let them help you. Talk to them. Cry to them. Etc. A therapist might be a good idea, too.

It's ok to be like "Goddamn you, life! Why me!?" You'll get past that. When you start treatment and start feeling better things will look better. Give yourself time. Have someone you love and trust help you.

Hope you are doing OK.
posted by hot_monster at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I want to mark everyone one of these as best answer because everyone seems to be exactly what's going on with me. I think all the months of really struggling and feeling like its going down has finally come to a head, and I do feel a bit betrayed by my body, by the inability to find what was wrong, but also by having an illness that isn't taken seriously by many people, and the scary prospect of maybe I'll be the odd man out and medication doesn't help.

Lyn Never, I think you hit the nail on the head, grieving is the closest analog to how I feel right now.

I think I am going to take a few more days off unless I suddenly wake up in the morning and feel GREAT™. On the matter of more practical advice. I can't get in to see my doctor until Friday, should I just wait it out or see about seeing someone else, maybe calling back again to get my doctor to refer me to someone over the phone? I didn't say I was feeling depressed just that I wanted to see her asap as a follow up from my sleep study as suggested above. I was afraid if I went in too much detail I was going to break down and cry right there.

I think I may need to consider FMLA protection - I've missed quite a bit of work in the past few months and while my boss has been really good about it, I don't want to screw myself with this latest episode. Is it best to just call in and say "I'm having complications from my diagnosis, need to take a few more days off, seeking medical care." Or another route?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:29 PM on November 16, 2011

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