Last week I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I guess I can’t say that it came as a surprise given how long I’ve felt so run down. What was a surprise is that there is a name for how I’ve been feeling, and that I’m not crazy. For years, I thought that it was stress. Stress from school. Stress from my husband being gone all of the time. Stress from work. Stress from kids. Just stress. I think we’ve all come to accept that a certain level of stress is normal.
It’s easy to brush off fatigue as stress related. It’s easy to brush off memory problems and forgetfulness as stress, which you think is probably related to being so.darn.tired. It’s easy to brush off weight gain, and constipation, and heavy menstrual cycles, and hair falling out, and brittle nails, and insomnia, and body aches, and high LDL cholesterol, and an enlarged thyroid, and heart palpitations, and not enjoying the things you used to because of stress, or genetics, or “getting older” even though you aren’t.that.old. Why or why do I feel this way in my 30’s? How will I feel when I’m 60?!
I never really sought a reason for these problems because I had come to accept them as normal. It’s easy to brush off our own symptoms as nothing. It’s easy when your doctor notices your enlarged thyroid, runs a TSH on you, and it comes back normal, then tells you “It’s just the way you’re made”. It seems normal to brush it off because every doctor you’ve had since 2007 has said that your thyroid is enlarged and they each do a TSH, and every single time it comes back as normal, and they say, “It’s just the way your neck looks, I guess”.
We trust the healthcare providers around us to tell us that we are normal. That we are ok. That we are healthy. But, knowledge is power.
A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine shared her own story of how she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I had heard of it before, but never really looked into the symptoms. Without her sharing her story, I’d still be feeling miserable, slowly letting my body attack my thyroid, and not knowing that there is something I can do to feel better. That there is something I can do to slow the neurodegeneration associated with Hashimoto’s because I haven’t gone decades upon decades without treatment.
I started researching symptoms and realized that I had almost all of them. And not just in the last few years, but since 2007. All of these arbitrary symptoms are all related and no one in the last 11 years knew to dig deeper. All of these symptoms I neglected to mention when my new PCM said, once again, that my thyroid seems enlarged…because I didn’t know. I had no idea. I did not know that any of what I was experiencing wasn’t normal, and neither did they.
A TSH is not the “gold standard” of testing for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. A TSH value will become abnormal only after your body has attacked your own thyroid so much that it no longer functions the way that it is supposed to. Had any of the numerous providers I’d had in the last 11 years known to check for a TPO, TSI, Free T3, and Free T4, they would have seen that clearly I was suffering from an autoimmune disease. That all of my symptoms made sense. That I wasn’t crazy, or depressed, or getting older, or genetically prone to having a “weird neck”.
I was sick. I am sick. I can change my diet and hopefully go into remission. Though, I’ve already made a ton of dietary changes. Thinking back, my symptoms because increasingly worse since late 2014/early 2015. I went back to school in mid-2014 and it wasn’t until late 2014 that I noticed BIG symptoms but was thinking that gaining 15 pounds in 3 months was due to school-related stress. Last summer, due to the increase and longevity of my symptoms, I started working with a friend who helped me greatly to deal with the symptoms that I was experiencing. She thought I had leaky gut and adrenal fatigue. She recommended that I go on a plant-based vegan diet. She recommended supplements. All of these things helped me feel better than I had been feeling. They helped me feel more like myself, and it had been a long time since I had felt that way. They gave me enough energy to get through my long, hard days, as a working mother and military spouse. But there was still this lingering feeling of “Why am I not feeling entirely better? What is the missing piece?”. Since then, I quit my job to take care of my family, and I am not in school anymore. Theoretically, I removed all stressors from my life, but I was still not feeling the way I had hoped I would feel. Now I know why.
Luckily, due to the diet changes (that I tried to stick with for the most part) and the supplements that she recommended aided me in getting the bloodwork done that I needed to diagnose what I had already suspected thanks to the friend that shared her story. Had I not already been such an advocate for myself or worked with a friend who advocated for me by encouraging me to change my diet and take supplements, I am sure I would have been brushed off by my PCM.
The provider was impressed with everything that I come to her with in an effort to feel better. She said that anything she would have recommended I had already done. She honestly didn’t think I had Hashimoto’s because apparently, I don’t “fit the picture”, meaning I wasn’t morbidly obese and completely bald. People shouldn’t have to get to that point before finding out there is a reason for all of their symptoms.
Be your advocate. Be the person that you are when it comes to your kids or your animals or your loved ones. We advocate to our dying days for others, yet we don’t advocate for ourselves.
Do not forget yourself in the mixed bag of what this life brings. Your loved ones need you, so be the best version of you that you can be. Knowledge is power.
Expect many of my new exploits to contain meals that are thyroid friendly or part of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). I hope that what began in 2011 has a blog about me fumbling in the kitchen can now turn into a platform for others to be the best version of themselves. I want to help others advocate for themselves.