The Symptoms You Can't See
To the outsider's eye, I appear "normal". I appear like a normal-functioning, happy, normal human being. There are things stirring around in my soul, brain, and body that aren't apparent when you look at me, or someone else with Cushing's Disease. This post goes over my experience on the emotional side of things.
It all started when a young cousin of mine looked at me and said, "You look different." Kids are brutally honest, and I'm actually glad that she said something because it validated my suspicions: my appearance was changing. I often felt guilty and ashamed for eating food. I, of course, was unaware that my weight gain was NOT MY FAULT, but I still felt guilty for eating. When I ate something like a burger, or maybe I wanted something sweet like an ice cream cone, I felt judged by others even if they didn't say anything. I felt like they were thinking, "You don't need to be eating that". Funny, when I was at my normal weight (130 pounds), the thought of being judged for what I was eating never crossed my mind. I can now say that I have been on both sides of the "shaming" spectrum, though at this weight (170 pounds), I am really the only one doing any "fat shaming" when it comes to my body. Before, I was told that I needed to eat more to get more meat on my bones. Now, I am told that I need to exercise and eat right to lose weight.
I stopped going out (even before COVID19). I stopped taking pictures. I started avoiding my friends and family. I suppressed my personality and have become a background character in my own life. One thing that is definitely noticeable is how people treat you based off of your looks. I don't mean to sound like I am conceited or anything, but YO, when I tell you that I was just... BAAAAAMMM! before Cushing's, I'm not lying LOL. Now, having gained weight and my facial features appear different, people treat me differently. I used to get a lot of attention (not like this is needed, it's just an observation), people treated me nicer, etc. People were more attentive to me when I was "more attractive". Now, people don't even look twice. I often feel over-looked. I feel like when I speak, people are distracted. It really is a shame that people are treated differently based on appearances. It isn't right at all. I am left with low-self esteem, low-confidence, uncertainty, and shame for what this disease did to me physically. Now that I am 9 days post-op, I am determined to get my self-confidence, self-esteem, and BODY back.
It's no secret that Cushing's Disease causes psychological issues due to high levels of cortisol and overall "quality of life". I've experienced different flavors of depression for short bouts of time when I was first experimenting with hormonal birth control pills, but this taste of it is worse than a can of sardines. Along side irritability and loss of emotional control, depression is the straw that is TRYING to break the camel's back. When I am put in a stressful situation, or I am experiencing emotions that do not sit well with me, I get overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is an understatement: I want to end it. That is the depression talking. I drown in these emotions and I do not know how to handle them, so my resolution is "ending it." Now, when I say "it," I am referring to feeling whatever it is I am feeling. What is the easiest way to stop feeling emotion? I sleep. Thankfully I do not resort to outside substances such as drugs and alcohol to "numb" myself, but I would be lying to you if I said I've never wished for death. Personally, I know I would never "off" myself, but that doesn't mean I haven't asked God to do it for me. I know that this is depression talking, and it isn't' ME. I remember myself being a 100% whole, happy, lively person. Cushing's has truly pushed me off of that yellow brick road, but I'll find my way back.
I know dealing with traumatic experiences and life-threatening health conditions make you see life through a different lens, but I'm a little extreme on this spectrum. I've been cognizant of how short life can be, but lately my imagination has been running wild with this thought. There's a line between being aware that life is short, and boxing yourself and loved ones in because you are so terrified that something bad is going to happen. Not only that, but I get anxiety when I think I've said or done something wrong. I get anxiety and panic attacks when I am emotionally triggered by a situation. I explode. I lose all control and Brandy the Beast is unleashed. I've never met this side of myself prior to Cushing's disease, and I wish she would go away. If someone's actions or words upset me, I go beyond just being upset by it. I completely lose my sense of self and self-control. Typically I'd shed a few tears, express some words in a calm manner, you know, normal reactions to situations. With an elevated level of stress hormone (cortisol), all sanity is thrown out the window and everything is on the table. I'm just glad I haven't gone as far as lighting someone's car on fire :) All jokes aside, I can't help but sympathize with those who have provoked some negative emotional response from me. I truly am sorry.
If you have Cushing's disease, what was / is your experience like? Or maybe you don't have Cushing's disease but have experience with these mental health/body image issues; I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments.