Copper Overload: My Journey Understanding and Healing my Depression

I lived the nine months of my life plagued by anxiety, paranoia and depression. Nights found me sleepless and mornings found me hopeless. 

I watched idly as my grades took a hit, finding myself completely apathetic and unable to be present in class. I self-sabotaged and caused relationships to fail because I didn’t love myself and couldn’t take the time to care for someone else in that way. I broke bonds of friendship I took for granted and retreated into the safety of my room, with the door shut, crying on the daily. I’m not proud of that person.

Fast forward to a month ago. 

I’m waking up from another night of restless sleep, struggling with the thought of going back to school in two weeks. Checking my phone I find a voicemail from my psychiatrist, whom I was seeing for depression, telling me a blood test came back with abnormal results. I had a worrisome amount of copper in my blood. 

For those of you who don’t know what copper toxicity is, I’ll explain. 

Copper buildup occurs when your body can no longer break it down at the necessary rate. For some, like me, the onset of this occurs when taking oral contraceptives or other forms of birth control. For others it is genetic, your chances of being copper toxic often rising if you are the third generation to experience this medical issue. Copper toxicity shows symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and extreme mood swings but has intense effects on the brain such as depression, anxiety disorders, paranoia and a short attention span for a prolonged period of time.  

But the worst part about copper toxicity is it often goes untested and untreated. I was lucky enough to end up at a psychiatrist with a wide range of knowledge regarding nutrient therapy, but I was in a rough spot because of how long this had been going on in my body. 

Between the time I was diagnosed with copper toxicity and the date of my appointment to start nutrient therapy, I found myself Googling the condition for hours at a time. The more I read, the more I started freaking out about what was going on inside my body. 

When your body tries to eliminate excess copper, a wide array of symptoms can occur. For me, copper elimination brought along symptoms mimicking a heart attack -- chest pain, lightheadedness, nausea -- and it was happening from three to five times a day. I was ready to take the next step and start detoxing the copper out of my system, but I was nervous about the pain I would have to go through to get there. 

My doctor put me on a number of supplements including Zinc, which breaks down the copper, B6, Magnesium, Calcium and a few others that I needed to aid the process. I knew the detox would be hard, but not NEARLY as hard as it turned out to be. 

I was experiencing intense anxiety (I was luckily forewarned about this by my doctor), fatigue and muscle aches, all on top of me stressing out about the semester that just started. 

It only hit me how seriously I was going to have to take my recovery one night after a trip to Target. My muscles were sore and my legs were so heavy I felt like I could hardly walk through the store. I came home in tears, realizing I needed to cut back on daily activities and focus on rest. Class was still a necessity, but I was having to turn down things I loved to do like writing in-print stories for my internship, hiking and even just grabbing coffee with friends. Yes, that’s how fatigued I was -- even Starbucks was too much effort. 

Through the tears and through the pain there finally came a good day. And with that good day came positivity. 

I experienced a string of great days in which I felt empowered and capable for the first time in a long time. I was able to invest time in my friendships again and I felt like I was finally zoning back into my life. I couldn’t believe how much time I had lost. 

The process continues, however, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t days where it’s all I can do not to fall to my knees crying in frustration. It’s a long journey, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the promise of a new life waiting for me just around the bend. 

I’ve learned a lot about what is truly important in my life through this journey. 

Friends and family are the two reasons I’m still here to tell this story, and I truly don’t know what I would have done without them during this hard time. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and devotion to those who helped me through the past nine months and I have become an even better friend, daughter and sister for that. 

Time spent to re-charge myself is also of utmost importance. If we don’t take time to breathe and to rest, we will find ourselves striving too hard in days to come. Resting doesn’t make you weak, it shows appreciation for your body and mind. 

There comes a time when you have to realize you are more than the pain you are experiencing. You are more than nights spent on the bathroom floor and days engulfed in anxiety.  

I’m so much stronger now than I ever thought possible, and pain can hardly touch me now.  When it comes I greet it with a smile and let it run its course, always thinking of the peace that will follow. 

I’m getting stronger every day.