How Hashimoto’s Disease Stole My Life

I don’t know when it started. I’ve always been tired, searching, easily disheartened.

I think puberty, pregnancies, and anxiety exacerbated my problems.

The Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis didn’t come until I was in my early 50s. I’d already lost opportunities, drive, and lots and lots of memory cells.

Being around people became unbearable. I couldn’t remember their names, what they did, why I knew them, or even how to make pleasant conversation. If I didn’t immediately insult them, I usually got around to it. It was painful – for everyone.

Depression was inevitable. I decided it was warranted so I didn’t try to do anything about it. I thought I deserved it. I didn’t like me. Still don’t, really.

I ended up quitting my jobs, one after the other. I couldn’t count on my memory enough to convince myself that I was dependable in these jobs. That became especially true when I worked as a substitute teacher. I couldn’t keep the kids’ names or schedules straight. I woke up one morning and realized I might leave a kid behind on a field trip or put them on the wrong bus or dismiss them early when it wasn’t early-out. There were so many ways I could mess up. I just wasn’t safe so I quit, again.

I couldn’t think of a single job I could do without a dependable memory, so I retired early and took up painting and writing. I suck at those too, but at least everyone is safe.

I’ve tried almost every supplement created for thyroid health. And I’ve been through almost every thyroid hormone available. I’ve tried countless varieties of desiccated. Now I’m trying synthetic. Nothing makes a difference.

My apologies. I don’t mean to sound so pathetic and disheartening. Who knows, maybe it’s not my thyroid at all.

Maybe I have Alzheimer’s. Sigh.

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The Benefits of Whining

Nobody likes a whiner. There’s some truth in that, and I was the last one who would argue against it – my family’s motto was Suffer in Silence. We should’ve embroidered that saying on pillowcases and had it embossed across the tops of our doorways, that’s how seriously we took it.

I dislocated my knee when I was 14 and afterward, instead of whining, I went to bed. The next morning my knee was the size of a soccer ball. When we finally went to see the doctor, he was not pleased. My knee is a mess to this day.

So I’ve finally come to realize there are a lot of good arguments against Suffering in Silence. If you have a problem, ache, pain, complaint, observation, injustice to right, or are just feeling puny, let someone know. Scream it from the rooftops, if you must.

And here’s why.

I’ve always been lazy. At least, that’s what I told myself. I would wake up tired. Heck, the act of waking up was itself an exhausting battle. My mom got so frustrated with trying to awaken me that her solution was to throw on the lights and yell my name at the top of her lungs. It was a great way for both of us to start our days. Not.

I didn’t know I was suffering from fatigue until I wasn’t. I really thought I was just plain lazy. I missed out on countless opportunities because I wanted to go home to take a nap or go to bed early.

I took shortcuts with homework or projects just to get them over with. I’d turn down work assignments that involved overtime, because I just couldn’t make it through it.

I didn’t want to go to a doctor or dentist because of the work involved in making an appointment and getting myself to their office, what with driving and parking and walking. The thought alone was overwhelming.

I’d eat frozen dinners because I was too lazy to cook. It was just who I was. I thought there was nothing to be done about it.

Then one day, not long after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and starting on thyroid hormone replacement pills, I felt like weeding my disaster of a flower bed. I spent a couple of hours happily digging in the dirt.

Later that same day I felt like doing the dishes. I’ve always put them off until morning because I needed the temporary motivation that a caffeine burst gave me. But that day I actually felt like doing them right after we ate. Oh, and before doing the dishes, I had prepared a healthy meal.

Eating healthy, I’ve learned firsthand, helps compound your energy levels. Then, before I knew it, I had the energy to start exercising regularly. Before long, I started sleeping better. Waking up wasn’t nearly the struggle it had always been.

I also noticed that, slowly but surely, my anxiety levels were dropping. Things that would cruelly torment and torture me suddenly didn’t seem that dire. I could actually laugh some of them away. I started wondering why they’d bothered me so horribly in the first place.

What was going on? What happened to my life-long laziness? Was this how “normal” people felt?

Don’t get me wrong, I still have occasional relapses of fatigue and anxiety, but instead of letting them defeat me, I double down on eating healthy and exercising. A good night’s sleep does wonders as well.

No matter what comes next, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know I can have happy, energetic days again. And best of all, I know I’m not lazy.

I only regret that I didn’t whine, yell, and complain about my constant fatigue. I could have whined to the right person and been told to get my thyroid checked. I could have felt better a long time ago.

So get out there and whine! Do it for yourself. It could change your life.

Does this Hashimoto’s Make Me Look Fat?

Let’s start with the science-y stuff. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an auto-immune disease in which a person’s own immune system attacks their thyroid. While being pummeled, the thyroid goes through phases of over-action followed by under-action. So some days your pulse races and you’re uber energetic. On other days you’re listless and your brain feels like it’s lost in a dense fog.

Hashimoto’s can be a tough one to diagnose because it can look like so many other things – depression, anxiety, dementia, digestive ailments, hair loss, diarrhea/constipation, mania/fatigue . . .

The first step is to get a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and a test to see if you have antibodies to your thyroid. If high and/or positive, you will be prescribed thyroid hormones. These won’t cure you, they’ll just help even out your thyroid hormone levels. You get to take these every day for the rest of your life.

Welcome to the rollercoaster. You now get to navigate the Wild West of theories, concepts, and testimonials. Some articles will tell you to give up gluten and dairy. Others will say that’s just a fad – you need grains for heart health and dairy for your bones. Some will tell you to take selenium and digestive enzyme supplements, but not too much. Some will say to exercise, others will say not so much.

Two opposing schools of thought will say to take either desiccated pig thyroid (T4 and T3) hormone because it is more natural or to take synthetic (T4) hormone because it is more standardized. Good luck figuring that one out.

If you’re like me, you will try all of these suggestions. Soon your counter will be covered in supplements bottles – magnesium, D3, Ashwaganda, calcium, the B vitamins, L-theanine, Black Seed Oil, Sleepy Time Tea, gluten-free flours and breads, dairy-free “milk” and “butter”, etc, etc.

In the meantime, you may be hyper-sensitive to any weight gain, hair loss, your wonky sleep patterns, and your brain health.

Anxiety might try to take over your life. Don’t let it. Be calm and carry on. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, take walks in the pines, breath deeply, try keeping a food journal or just a journal, and drink plenty of water.

And, most of all, know you are not alone.