What Is Dysthymia? [Mental Health Monday]

In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ten years later, in January 2020, another diagnosis was added to my list: Dysthymia.

Mental Health Monday: What is Dysthymia? | Mental Health Matters | Mental Health | Depression | Dysthymia | Self-Care | RachelPoli.com

When I left my doctor’s appointment last January, I checked my updated chart and noticed a new diagnosis. My appointment was a routine check-up but I also wanted to touch upon my mental health.

Since being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2010, I never understood it. I didn’t take the time to learn about it, to learn about myself. I thought a diagnosis meant something was wrong with me. There’s no “cure” for such a thing, but I wondered how I could “fix” myself. It was until 2018 or so that I started to dive into researching this mental illness. I started to understand the way I think and why I think that way. I read stories from other people with similar problems and it was nice to see I’m not the only person who would react in such a way during a certain situation.

2019 was rough

This is no secret. I probably complained about 2019 as a whole, countless times – to friends and family, on the internet in live streams, social media or blog posts, and more. It was a weird year where a lot of things happened and my mental health wasn’t great on top of it. What bothered me the most was that I didn’t know what was causing my dip in mental health.

Was it because of all the hardships that 2019 brought with it? Was it my anxiety finding a new way to present itself? I wasn’t sure, but I was sad. All the time.

I still worked (for the most part – some things fell to the wayside, like this blog), I still went out with friends and family. Deep down, I was sad and moody though. Some days there was a reason for feeling like this and other times, there wasn’t. On most days it didn’t matter how I felt, I was tired. I was beyond drained all the time.

Anxiety does this to you but I had never felt like this before. I wasn’t sure if it was my anxiety getting worse for some reason so I tried all I could to keep it at bay, dong things I learned from my therapy sessions years ago. I wondered if I needed to go back on medication for my anxiety. I toyed with the idea of going back to therapy. I hoped I could figure it out on my own though.

In the end, I waited for my physical to arrive and I would get my doctor’s opinion.

From April 2019 to January 2020

The end of April was when it started. Each day, I kept thinking it would get better. A lot of real-life things were happening and I figured I was stressed out and my anxiety was having a field day because of it. Some days were better than others, of course. On those better days, I thought I was good and there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it never lasted too long.

My grandmother was in and out of the hospital from November 2018 to February 2019. My sister had a baby in March 2019, which was great. Then my grandfather was in and out of the hospital from April 2019 all the way until December 2019. As you can tell, 2019 was filled with a lot of hospital visits, a place that already gives me anxiety regardless. So, as you can probably tell, this is why I thought I felt sad and stressed all the time. Things were weird.

I want to take a quick minute to apologize to 2019

I’m going to interrupt myself for a second.

2019 sucked, but I have to admit that I’m grateful now for all those things happening when they did. My grandparents are both home and well (as well as they can be, at least).

I can’t imagine my grandparents and my sister having a baby in 2020 in the middle of the Coronavirus. 2019 took one for the team, I have to say. If my grandparents didn’t have their problems in 2019, they would have had them in 2020.

Due to the virus, I wouldn’t have been able to visit them. My grandfather’s immune system is shot and my grandmother’s fragile. Both of them probably would have caught the virus and not been here with us today.

So, despite my complaining and nasty words to 2019, I’m changing my perspective and apologizing for being rude to 2019. It was rough, but my family got through it, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that it happened then and not now.

I’m lucky enough to save my thoughts and prayers for all those who are being truly effected by the virus right now.

I suspected I had depression

Anyway, I knew anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand. I wondered if I was depressed (it was a question when I was diagnosed with anxiety ten years ago) but some part of me didn’t think that was the case. 2019 had a lot going on. (There’s more to it than what just happened with my family, but I’m not going into the other details.)

When I talked to my doctor, he mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder – which is something else I’ve noticed about myself. I tend to get down more so in the winter months than any other time. However, since this was going on for nearly a year and it started in spring, he was hesitant about it.

Dysthymia was the conclusion

We had a good discussion and, honestly, I’ve felt better since talking to him. I still have my days, of course, but the sadness wasn’t as prominent once I officially was diagnosed.

Of course, I looked at my chart and noticed “Dysthymia” was listed. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it – my doctor never mentioned it. I Googled it when I got home and, according to Google, Dysthymia is “persistent mild depression.”

So, there we have it. After ten years, ironically to the month, I have a type of depression. After ten years, my suspicions about myself were right.

I knew there were different types of anxiety but when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I hadn’t heard that specific type before. Dysthymia is the same way. I know there are different types of depression but dysthymia is not something I’ve ever heard of.

What a decade

While so many people were looking back at their decades from 2009 through 2019, during the month of January 2020, I looked back at my mental health from the last decade. I feel like I was just beginning to make strides and truly understand generalized anxiety disorder and myself. Now I feel like I’m going back to the drawing board.

This isn’t a bad thing – it’s who I am, it’s the cards I was dealt. I’m older and have a clearer head on my shoulders now at the age of 26 rather than when I was 16. I won’t shove my diagnosis aside and try to be “better.” I won’t wait eight or nine years to learn more about my mental illness and myself. Yet, while I feel a little better having an official diagnosis, I feel sort of bad at the same time. I thought I was doing great and, while I suspected this for a while, it seemed to have come out of nowhere.

But I’m okay and I’ll figure it out.

Mental Health Monday

This is another reason why I decided to turn Mental Health Monday into a weekly feature instead of monthly. I want to learn more about my mental illnesses. I want to learn more about myself.

I know I’m not the only person dealing with mental illness. I know I’m not the only person who’s trying to figure things out. I know I’m not the only person who is confused by their diagnosis. I know I’m not the only person who hates their mental illness one day and then is at peace with it and accepts it the next day.

I know I’m not the only person who sometimes feels I’m the only one in the entire world with generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymia.

Let’s learn about it together.

Let’s cope together.

Let’s talk about it.

Take care of yourself.

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2 thoughts on “What Is Dysthymia? [Mental Health Monday]

  1. Never heard of dysthymia before – but I can totally believe it’s real. As major depressive disorder and PTSD here, it makes sense that this would probably go well (and horribly) with GAD. Stay healthy!

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