Thursday, March 4, 2010

Allergies and Depression

I grew up in a house with a Michigan basement. If you don't know what a Michigan basement is, here is a photo:The definition of a Michigan basement is: a scarier-than-hell hole in the ground, right underneath your house, into which parents send their young children to retrieve firewood or dead rodents, a reason for which those children - now adults - need ongoing therapy. There is only a stone wall separating said hole from the rest of the underground world and it doesn't do much for keeping out various organisms, such as mice, rats, spiders, and mold. I have to admit the basement in my parents' house is slightly more civilized than the one in the picture: there is paneling on the walls of the stairwell.

As you may have read the other day, I'm not kidding about the therapy. However, it's probably not due to those descents into the basement of terror. It may be due, in part, to this: Yes, my new research has led me to believe that mold causes depression. Well, not directly. But I do think that allergies may have played a part in creating the basket-case that I am today. Thinking back to the days I lived in that house (the house my parents still reside in and I dearly love and if they ever sell it, I will cry myself to sleep every night for the rest of my life), I had frequent headaches and a chronic stuffy nose. Of course, that is pretty much true for my entire life, but I have to wonder if it started there. And I've never lived in a new-ish house so as to be able to test my theory. The house we live in now, as well as most of my other dwellings until now, have been built in the 1920's and no longer have Michigan basements, but their basement-building technology wasn't nearly what it is today, and many of the aforementioned creatures - including mold - still live and breed in these basements.

I am also allergic to:

Sadly, all 3 of these things - mold, dust, and pet dander - reside in an ongoing way in our house. We've tried to get rid of the mold, but it just won't stay away for long. We are too in love with our feline children to get rid of them, so we have to make a few changes to help me not to suffer as much from their presence - like keeping my bedroom cat-free (which I haven't done yet) and having someone else scoop the litter box (YES!!!) And dust? Ha! Like dust will ever be gone from our house.

I read a Yahoo article recently, which stated, "But nearly everywhere, dust consists of some combination of shed bits of human skin, animal fur, decomposing insects, food debris, lint and organic fibers from clothes, bedding and other fabrics, tracked-in soil, soot, particulate matter from smoking and cooking, and, disturbingly, lead, arsenic and even DDT." Um, no wonder I'm sick.

But still, what the heck do allergies have to do with depression? Well, my allergic reaction to any of these 3 things is usually a stuffy nose or a headache, or both. (I have actually developed a rash after coming into contact with vinegar and other mold-containing elements, but that's not too much of a concern, since I'm not in the habit of rolling around naked in mold-infested places.) And for me, stuffy nose and headache usually equals tiredness. Fatigue. Wanting to sleep until someone drills out the inside of my sinuses.

I've spent much of my life feeling like I didn't have enough energy. Even in high school, when I should have been able to pull an all-nighter with no noticeable consequences whatsoever, I was the cheerleader who would take a few spoonfuls of instant iced-tea powder and chase it with a can of Mountain Dew right before a game so that I would have enough energy just to stand and possibly be as peppy as cheerleaders should.

S-o-o-o-o, it's a stretch, but let's see: ongoing headaches and that feeling sinus cotton-itis equals fatigue equals me not being able to do as much as I'd like to do. Ever. I think that, over time, this has worn me down.

Current research also suggests that there is a definite correlation - if not a causal relationship - between allergies and fatigue and depression.

I wish I had known that 20 years ago.


  1. Well....good luck with THAT!!! I've had sinus issues since I moved to Michigan, actually - 1920's house and brand new apartment, both....

    Mine is clearly weather-related, though.

  2. That basement is seriously scary! I live in Florida, and we don't have basements; something about the water table is to close to the surface so they'd flood constantly.
    I think after reading this...I'm pretty happy about that.
    Good luck getting better!


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