Admitting you are sick can be one of the hardest things to admit….My superwoman, wonder-mom cape is off. The cats out of the bag. I have Hashimoto’s Disease. It feels good to type it, it feels even better to talk about it. While the disease is fairly common, the process of discovering it and recovering from it was painful physically and emotionally. I chose to tell very few what was going on with my health. I wanted to be strong. Power through, and heal without everyone knowing. Maybe I thought it was a sign of weakness?
But when others are suffering with the same pain, silence helps no one. I know I am not alone and there will be many that can relate to what I was/am going through. It took me awhile to recognize that admitting and talking about struggles helps everyone feel a little more “normal”.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
“Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease. Hypothyroidism is the result of it. Hashimoto’s antibodies see the thyroid gland as a “foreign invader” and slowly destroys the gland by the autoimmune “attack.” In the process, it is possible to experience symptoms of “hyperthyroidism” as the gland “struggles back to life”, (even more so when on hormone replacement) but eventually, for most people, the gland becomes partially to completely non functional, rendering one hypothyroid. ”http://www.officialgenaleenolin.com/. For more information and support for thyroid disease check out Gena Lee Nolin’website.
From Half Marathon to Barely a Walk – Diagnosis and Symptoms
For almost a year I knew I wasn’t feeling my normal self. At first the fatigue set in….worse than ever before. I was used to fatigue, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism when I was 18 years old (a low functioning thyroid). And now 33 years of age I was use to popping a pill once a day, checking in with my doctor for blood work once a year. Maybe even twice if I knew I wasn’t feeling my best. Not a big deal.The brain fog, feeling unbearably cold in the winter, and needing to watch closely how much I ate and how much I worked out to help stop the weight gain was pretty normal to me. I could handle all of that, besides it could be a lot worse. There are people who go through so much worse.
I knew something wasn’t right when I went from a summer of running half marathons, multiple 5K’s , and participating in sprint triathlon relays almost every weekend to barely being able to start up the treadmill for a walk. As a fitness professional and owner of my own studio I certainly did not want anyone to know that I could barely get through teaching some of my classes or couldn’t even fathom being able to do the workout I was putting my personal training clients through. Many days I would start up the treadmill with the goal of just walking and would shut it off after 2 minutes. The lower body muscle fatigue was just too much. And very frustrating.
My menstrual cycles went from normal to non existent. Which added to my frustration as we were trying to add to our family and try for our second child. In desperation I went to my OB doctor for help. After a few minutes of listening he said “ I bet its your thyroid levels, lets get them checked”. followed by “are you sure you aren’t pregnant?”. Of course I knew I wasn’t I had just taken a test a few days earlier. Besides it would be silly to go to my OB doctor to discuss not being able to get pregnant if I actually was. He was right. My thyroid levels were off and after going home and putting some thought into it I pulled out the last pregnancy test from the box. A few minutes later it showed the very faint line of a positive pregnancy test. YES! After 8 weeks of a high, being excited that we were growing our family and giving our 5 year old the sibling she so badly asked for, I miscarried. While we were devastated this also wasn’t our first miscarriage. The length of the pregnancy didn’t matter. The pain was still real. I felt we were back to the drawing board. A few more appointments with my family doctor showed that my thyroid was now over active I found myself with hyperthyroidism. I thought HYPO wasn’t the most ideal but it was bearable. HYPER wasn’t anymore fun. In my opinion it was worse. With my levels going all over the place and with the assumption that the uncontrollable levels is what contributed to the miscarriage my family doctor referred me to an Endocrinologist for more answers. This is where we discovered with either change in hormones or stress levels I had developed Hashimoto’s Disease. Many afternoons I sat on the couch in tears and frustrated. I felt like I was in such a cloud that my brain couldn’t think and I was trapped in this body that could barely go for walks.
Typical symptoms that myself and others with hypothyroidism suffer from are:
- Brain fog
- Sensitivity to the cold
- Weight gain
Being hyper for me added more…….
Anxiety. This was new to me. I would be on edge, paranoid. I went to a wedding reception and just couldn’t stand to be there for more than an hour. I needed to leave. I was also beginning to feel like I was depressed. Besides my thyroid and the miscarriage everything in my life was the best it ever has been. My husband was patient and loving, our marriage was/is the best it ever has been. The few friends and family who did know were careful not to be too invasive yet supportive.
Sensitivity to the heat. I would feel sick and nauseous after being out in the heat for more than 10 minutes at a time. This was hard when you have a child who loves to be outside.
Burning skin. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Asking my husband to “rub my arms” for some reason was calming.
And this is to just name a few.
My struggle was my secret. Why? Because other people have it a lot worse! How could I complain when I still had everyday too look forward to. I wasn’t terminally ill, I hadn’t suffered a great loss. I could walk and talk everyday.
Accepting and Healing
With time and with many adjustments to my medication I am finally feeling like myself. My energy is back, brain fog has gone and as I write this I am 30 weeks pregnant. With lots of monitoring from my endocrinologist, my thyroid levels have remained ideal throughout this pregnancy.
I have learned a lot through the process and had to respect what my body was going through.
This is what I learned……………..
To Accept Lower Intensity Days
Something is already attacking your body. Don’t give it anymore power. On days you don’t feel you can physically do much, don’t try! It will only frustrate you. If you are a runner, accept and appreciate that you can still walk. If you are used to work out for 60 minutes at a time, shoot for 20 minutes or workouts in 10 minute intervals spread throughout the day.
Write Things Down
Our memory sucks. Accept it and do something about it. I would genuinely almost put myself into a panic when I couldn’t remember a client’s name that I would see on the same days at the same time week after week for over a year! BRAIN FOG was at a new level. The best way I could describe it was “my brain is tired, it just cant think!”
I wrote this to my Dr. after another moment of raised anxiety about my memory:
“My memory is awful. Someone pointed out a cut on my leg the other day. I remember hopping around a bit because of the pain at the time, but for the life of me could not remember what happened, where it happened at or if I was with anyone. Similar memory issues like this are not uncommon. All making me feel like I went from wearing an “s” on my chest for superwoman to feeling loony “
Write things down and make a list! It will just make things easier and avoid those panic attacks when you don’t remember. What you plan to make for supper, the name of a person you plan to call that day, what time to pick up your child, etc.
Hypo or Hyper…whats it going to be?
Going from hypo to hyper can be common with hashimotos disease. Know the symptoms of both and accept it one day at time. Some days are good. Some days are bad.
Eat Well and Move
We know hypothyroidism can promote weight gain. Ask yourself, if you didn’t have a thyroid problem, does your food choices and daily movement encourage weight loss regardless? Be honest with yourself. Are you using your thyroid condition as a crutch? Log your food and know how many calories you are eating. Eat lean meats, and lots of vegetables and fruits. Cut back on sugars and carbohydrates.
Every time my doctor would change my medication I would have to wait 6 weeks to see the changes. 6 weeks at a time seems like a life time when you desperately feel bad. But there won’t be much you can do to change your doctors mind or speed up the process.
If you are struggling now or have in the past, know that you are not alone. Don’t choose to suffer alone. Its easy to feel like we are the weak ones with this disease. But we are not alone with this disease. I encourage you to join a support group or join one of these facebook pages.
If you have suffered from Hashimoto’s or thyroid disease leave your comments. How have you overcome your challenges?