“A 27-year-old woman was initially diagnosed and treated for depression with suicide ideation. Thirteen months later, kidney stones, an elevated parathyroid hormone, and elevated calcium levels led to a diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism. The patient was treated for hyperparathyroidism by resection of the superior right parathyroid gland. When the calcium levels were regulated, the patient’s moods, concentration, and memory were back to baseline.” (Source: The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Sept. 2010. The rest of this article continues here.)
I rarely talk about this but sometimes I experience brief lapses into depression. I’m not sad or unhappy. Nothing’s wrong. I just feel stuck. It’s a symptom of a physical condition called primary hyperparathyroidism. Most people with PHPT don’t get it until their sixties or seventies but I was in my late twenties (yay me for being so special!) when a kidney stone led to my diagnosis. PHPT occurs in 112 of every 100,000 persons (that’s only 0.11% – yay me!) The article above also states that, for about 20 percent of patients (again, yay me!) “the symptoms of PHPT include fatigue, weakness, kidney stones, depression, decreased bone mineral density, abdominal pain, and anxiety.”
I don’t talk about feeling depressed because part of me is afraid people will say, “What do YOU have to be depressed about?” I have a great job, a wonderful family, stability and security and, most of all, a joyous relationship with Jesus Christ. But that just goes to show you how far we still have to go in understanding what depression is. Yes, some people are just sad and gloomy and negative all the time and a lot of that may have to do with their choices and attitudes. Many others, however, cannot control when depression will hit them, when their bodies will betray them. I thank God that my bouts are brief and infrequent.
As much as I hate how all of this feels when it does flare up, I’m thankful for the insight it has given me into the lives of those who are clinically depressed and really suffer. I have more compassion for them now. It also makes me wonder how many people are walking around feeling depressed (or experiencing instances of depression) when a simple visit to the doctor and a blood test might reveal a treatable cause, such as high calcium levels, as in my case.
I would encourage you, if you or a loved one experiences inexplicable bouts of depression that are unrelated to any issues or problems in your life, to talk to a doctor about it. You may be surprised to find that it’s something manageable.
In case anyone’s wondering, I don’t take medication for this condition. I have had surgery a few times to try to correct it but it looks like it’s back. At this point, we’re just monitoring my calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels and I’m dealing with the down days by not being hard on myself and through prayer. God is good and He’s got my back!
“I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)