Depression Misdiagnosis: From Sweat Pants to Synthroid

A few years ago, I moved to Australia, dreaming of adventure and an eternal summer. That fantasy was short lived when I became homesick and realized how difficult it would be to make Australia my permanent home only obtaining a one-year visa. Feeling defeated, I returned to Chile and decided to move to Ft. Collins, CO where my sister lives.

Rapid weight gain.

To add to my crushed spirit, I gained 35 pounds in two months. Admittedly, the weight gain had a lot to do with my frequent visits to Ft. Collins breweries and the candy binges of sweets I didn’t have access to in Chile. However, I knew that something was wrong. I have a small frame and had never experienced problems with keeping weight off; if anything, I had trouble keeping it on. For most of my life, I was the girl everyone hated, who could eat whatever she wanted, but didn’t gain an ounce. All of a sudden, the only pants that fit me were my sweat pants, and I don’t believe in leaving the house wearing sweat pants!

Symptoms of depression?

This weight gain called for a doctor’s visit as it was accompanied with a series of symptoms. I had trouble sleeping and getting out of bed, frequently felt fatigued, I obsessed about food, my hair and nails became thin and brittle, and I had trouble regulating my body temperature.

The doctor’s diagnosis.

I joined a gym, which I attended four times a week, changed my diet, and kept a food log of what I ate each day—minus Starbursts, which were my declared enemy. I continued to gain weight. The doctor concluded that I was suffering from depression after my defeating year and prescribed me an anti-anxiety drug. The symptoms and weight gain continued. I was fed up with my sweat pants.

Could it be a thyroid disorder?

At a follow-up doctor’s visit, I mentioned that my mom had suffered from a thyroid issue after having my brother. They ran a series of blood tests and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. This meant that I have to take a synthetic thyroid—synthyroid—for the rest of my life. This little pill has to be taken every morning on an empty stomach. That is a less than ideal situation when you are rushed for time in the morning because you have to wait at least 30 minutes before eating breakfast. Fortunately, the medication regulated my thyroid and I lost some of the weight. Proudly, I now can wear something other than sweat pants!

Understanding hypothyroidism.

Still one of my biggest struggles relate to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Ideally, that tiny little pill should have cured everything, but it didn’t. I continue to struggle with the same symptoms, prompting me to conduct my own research. There is so much to read, but little is still known about the causes and treatments thyroid disorders. I found that doing your own research can be overwhelming and self-diagnosing quickly turns you into a hypochondriac. I recently completed a Human Nutrition course at FRCC, allowing me the opportunity to understand food and weight in a different light.

If you find yourself packing on the pounds, feeling less than yourself and frequently in a sweat-pants wearing kind of mood, would you accept depression as a diagnosis?



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Helen Satchwell grew up all over the U.S. and in Chile, where she earned a degree in English Pedagogy. Helen is a student at FRCC working toward a B.A. in Technical Writing and Editing and an M.A. in Library Science.

6 Responses to “Depression Misdiagnosis: From Sweat Pants to Synthroid”

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January 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm, Amy Pontious said:

I really enjoyed very well written. I know the writer and I’m glad I met her!

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January 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm, Helen said:

Thanks Amy!

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January 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm, Elizabeth Briggs said:

I have been going through the same thing. My doctor is going to run a test to check for Hashimoto’s disease; an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your thyroid, thinking it is an intruder. Good luck with your search Helen. I recommend Dr. Mercola’s web site. Also check out Hashimoto’s for info on what NOT to eat, that effect your symptoms.

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January 18, 2012 at 10:41 am, Helen said:

Thanks for your advise Elizabeth! I actually had my doctor run tests for Hashimoto’s and Celiac’s and both were negative. Interestingly, when I started reading about thyroid disorders, I came across information about foods to avoid, such as soy. Dr. Mercola’s site is refreshing!

Have you been prescribed a synthetic thyroid medication? Do you find that it works well? Or do you still feel run down?

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January 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm, Melissa said:

Hi Helen, I’m one of those inveterate Web researchers, but I know this from experiences of friends: adjusting the dose of your synthroid can help with those still-bothersome symptoms. I’ll bet you’ve asked your doc about this, but if not, it might be worth a try.

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January 23, 2012 at 9:42 am, Helen said:

Hello Melissa!

Thanks for your reply. I have asked my doctor about it, but never got word back about it. Do you see a specialist in thyroid disorders or just a regular health care practitioner? I wonder if that would make a difference…