I’ve been thinking about writing this for quite some time. Years, in fact.
There is something on my mind every single day. In the back of my thoughts – like constant low buzzing you can’t cast away. On the outside no one can see the struggle. They probably noticed the change in me over the past few years, despite my desperate attempts to conceal and control it.
It’s an internal battle against myself.
My body attacking itself.
I have an Autoimmune disease.
The first time I heard the word Thyroid I was sixteen. I went to the doctor because I had a cold that was reaching the six month mark. Totally normal, right? He decided to do blood work. (It was my first time getting blood drawn and I passed out. Don’t worry, I’ve gotten over that!) He told me I had Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, and would have to be on a medication for the rest of my life. It was a minor inconvenience, but at least he knew why I was always sick!
Fast forward five years, while I was in college my symptoms were getting worse. I had multiple tests and labs done but everything was coming back “normal”. Finally, I went to an endocrinologist (glands and hormone specialist) who looked at my past labs and found something no other doctor had. I didn’t have the run of the mill Hypothyroidism, oh no, I have the autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. My antibodies are attacking my thyroid causing Hypothyroidism. The treatment is the same it’s just a little more aggressive and a bigger pain in the butt.
I have 12 of the 15 common symptoms listed on the Mayo Clinic site:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy face
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Enlargement of the tongue
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Memory lapses
All such fun things to deal with on their own, but roll them all together and it makes everyday an adventure!
I follow Benjamin Franklin’s life advice, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. I get 8 hours of sleep a night, and I’m still exhausted everyday. I workout six days a week, but I’m still gaining weight and losing muscle definition. I work hard to strengthen my legs and knees but I have pain in my joints everyday. My hair falls out in clumps and my nails break if I bump something. My anxiety has gotten worse, which causes depression, which increases my anxiety, which worsens the depression. Get the cycle?
I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy.
The worst symptom is the weight gain. Uncontrollable, unforgiving weight gain. I’ve always been self-conscience, so this is by far the hardest part for me to talk about. I really didn’t want to write this because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.
I now hate taking pictures and buying clothes, two things I used to really enjoy. This is me in 2012, 2015, and 2016. I’ve gone up three sizes since the first picture, which wouldn’t be a big deal if I didn’t feel so rotten. I’m all about being strong over skinny, but over the past few years I feel unhealthy and I’m concerned about additional consequences due to weight gain.
I’m tired of headaches making me cancel dinner plans. I hate that fatigue makes me fall asleep at 5pm causing my husband to spend the evening alone while I snore on the couch. I’m over feeling three times older than I really am due to my achy knees.
I’m doing everything right. My doctor said so. I take the thyroid hormone replacement pill everyday, I’m active, I watch what I eat, but there is little relief.
Some days I feel crazy. According to every lab and test I should feel fine. But I don’t. So the journey continues.
I don’t let these things dictate my life. I still wake up early, go to the gym, head to work, and write at night. I won’t let a stupid disease take away more than it already has. It’s hard. So, so hard. Most of the time I’m okay. My version of okay, which may or may not be normal. It’s been too long since I’ve been “normal” for me to remember what that felt like.
I had another development two years ago. I went to a consult with a thyroid consult to discuss my case. I can away feeling validated that there was more to my illness than needing to take a pill. So many of my health problems were linked together. The migraines, knee pain, and weight was all interconnected. Only problem, their service is $6,000+ and no insurance is accepted. That’s quite the chunk of change for a college student working part time!
The one thing they freely told me to try was switching to a gluten free diet. I cried. Sobbed, actually. I didn’t want to give up bread, cookies, even flour tortillas! But I felt so miserable that I decided to start the very next day. Within two weeks I had more energy, less headaches, and only one migraine in the first month(HUGE improvement over the 15+/month I was having)!
I’m gluten intolerant. Gluten causes inflammation in the body and since my little army of antibodies are already causing enough of that I saw improvements by cutting out all gluten. No, it’s not a diet plan. No, it’s not a trendy choice. It sucks. It’s hard. And it is so expensive!
(If you haven’t seen this video, you need to watch it now! It’s hilarious)
I’ve learned a lot going through this. I’ve realized how quickly I used to judge. You never know the struggle people are going through. Not all disabilities, not all illnesses, and not all challenges are visible.
I encourage everyone I talk to about health concerns to list their symptoms and talk to their doctors. I’m the queen of hypochondria, but we should be comfortable talking about getting help when we don’t feel right. Like with mental health, we don’t alway see the symptoms on the surface.
My goal with writing this is to let even one person know that I understand how hard health challenges can be. I certainly don’t have the worst of things, but I can relate. I know what it feels like to be pushing a boulder uphill all day everyday with no relief. There may not be a cure, but there’s always hope things can get better.
I try everyday to love myself and love my body. I’m grateful for all of the things I can do and I try not to dwell on the things I can’t.