Honestly I do not know when my health started to take a turn for the worse because there wasn’t a drastic all of a sudden change, which caused me to seek medical attention. Rather there were small changes that occurred gradually over time causing me to not pay much mind to what was going on with my health until certain symptoms became more prevalent.
I enjoy being busy and because of this I purposely fill my calendar up with events and activities leaving no time to just sit at home watching ungodly hours of mindless television. In fact if I sit at home too long I’ll start going stir crazy (The Shining comes to mind because I too would go on a killing spree for being cut off from the world too long). Due to needing to expend energy and get out of my house I decided to pursue an advance degree.
Approximately 4 years ago I enrolled in a MBA program at a local university. When I started graduate school my days consisted of working 8+ hours during the day and taking classes at night. Since I only had classes 2 sometimes 3 nights each week I was able to join some of my friends in playing softball and sand volleyball on nights I was not in class. A year into my MBA program I started feeling worn down. It did not matter if I slept 2 hours or 12 hours, I felt completely drained from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. At the time I contributed this as part of being a graduate student. Of course I was tired during this phase of my life, I didn’t have much down time to just recuperate and lets face facts at this point I wasn’t the spring chicken I once was. In an effort to keep my grades up and not get behind at work I started dropping activities from my schedule. It seemed like with each passing semester I would drop another activity until my weekly schedule consisted of me working full time and attending class one night.
As my energy level decreased my weight started to increase. At first I contributed my weight gain to just being tired from being a graduate student. Gaining weight was rough for me because before I started graduate school I had finally managed to lose the 20 pounds I had put on when I was recovering from rupturing my Achilles tendon. So gaining weight again did not sit well with me and in an effort to get my weight back on track I started tracking my calories within the MyFitnessPal application. I figured that if I didn’t have the energy to work out like I was use to, I could eat a balanced diet that would allow me to maintain a healthy weight (you know what they say abs are made in the kitchen as it is 80% what you eat and only 20% working out). After a few days of tracking calories it was obvious something was wrong because I was consuming on average 1500 calories, which for my body type should at the very least help me maintain a steady weight if not lose some weight. Instead I was putting on weight as if I was eating 3000+ calories a day, which is not fair because if I am going to gain weight I want to truly earn those extra pounds by indulging in all the treats.
During my 2014 annual wellness visit I had mentioned my frustration with my current weight gain and lack of energy to the physician assistant at my primary physician’s office. I let her know that I felt like something was wrong because it didn’t make sense to me why I would be gaining weight if I wasn’t eating a surplus amount of calories every single day. She listened to me and replied that it sounded like there might be an issue with my thyroid, which she can order some bloodwork that would let us know if this was the case. She also mentioned that if it is not my thyroid it could be that I am suffering with Type A Depression. About a week after my wellness visit I received a call from my primary physician’s office letting me know that my bloodwork came back normal and therefore the physician assistant was diagnosing me with depression and recommended that I start seeing a psychiatrist. This diagnosis didn’t sit well with me as I didn’t feel depressed. I mean come on I was working full time while working towards an advance degree. Needless to say I did not seek out a psychiatrist. Instead I just continued living my life as I had before the physician assistant diagnosed me with depression with the hopes that my desired results would eventually come.
Months passed since my wellness visit and I had given up on losing weight until I was done with graduate school. My energy level was at an all-time low and it took everything I had to get up go to work and do well enough in my 1 class (C’s get degrees was the mantra I had adopted by the end of my program). By this point I was so spacey that if I didn’t make a note I would forget about it. Work assignments and classwork went undone. It took me missing 1 big homework assignment and having my overall grade within that class get knocked down 2 letter grades that made me paranoid about leaving myself reminders everywhere. The wall next to my desk was covered in sticky notes reminding me to do tasks that I use to do without having to be reminded. Even my bathroom mirror was covered in reminders. Then one fateful afternoon I just happened to be watching the Dr. Oz Show while studying for an upcoming final. On this particular episode he was addressing hypothyroidism. As he listed out the common symptoms (which are fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, mood swings, hair loss, insomnia, and sensitivity to cold) my ears perked up because I realized that I had all of these symptoms. He even mentioned that you could still have a thyroid issue even though your bloodwork shows your thyroid level falls within the normal range.
So there I was convinced that I had hypothyroidism and I had no clue what to do about it since my primary physician’s assistant had already written my complaints off as depression. Luckily, at the time one of my aunts was suffering from a hyperactive thyroid and was working with an endocrinologist to get her hormone levels balanced out. She recommended that I give her doctor a try. So without wasting much time I called and scheduled a consultation with him. On February 4th, 2015 I sat down with my endocrinologist for the first time. After talking with me for over an hour he ordered bloodwork and let me know that until he gets my lab results back he will not know what exactly is going on with me. A few days later I received the call that changed my life forever. My endocrinologist himself called me to let me know that while my thyroid levels were normal my anti-thyroid levels were high, which indicated that I had an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. He continued to explain that this autoimmune disorder causes my body to attack my thyroid resulting in my thyroid to be unable to produce enough hormones to keep my body functioning normally.
At first I felt vindicated. I knew I wasn’t crazy and that there was something wrong with me but I had no clue what and I refused to accept depression as the answer. Then after my snarky self finished her gloating session the fear of having an autoimmune disorder that I will be dealing with until the day I die started to sink in. While I was excited to know what was going on with me since knowing is half the battle I had no clue what any of this meant.
Learning About Hashimoto’s
After I got off the phone with my endocrinologist I consulted Google for the answers to the questions I was left with. Questions like “Will I ever get my energy level back?” and “Will I be able to live a healthy life with Hashimoto’s?” and even “How long will it take me to lose this weight I have put on?” Through my limited Google search on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis I was left with the impression that all I needed to do was take the synthetic hormone prescribed to me by my doctor and I would go back to being the same active girl I once was.
Over a year later and I am sad to report that my medication did not work that way. The 40 pounds I had put on did not magically disappear overnight. Nor did my hair grow thicker or my skin become flawless or my nails become stronger. Don’t get me wrong my medication did make a difference in my overall well-being. What it did do was it helped increase my energy level so I was able to start adding back activities into my life. It did help me to maintain my weight instead of packing on the pounds like I was. It also helped lift the brain fog that had made me so spacey and forgetful. What I learned after the first year of working with an endocrinologist is that while synthetic hormone is a vital part of overcoming the effects of Hashimoto’s it is not a cure all.
At the start of this year I was motivated to start looking deeper into Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in order to see if there is something I can do in addition to taking my medication to help get my health to where I want it to be. So here I am at the end of July (7 months later) and I am only so far into this health journey I have found myself on. Why am I so far behind? Because I have gone through moments of denial (apparently it takes me awhile to accept hard truths). Since I have only scratched the surface of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis it won’t take me long to catch y’all up.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis 101
This disorder was discovered by a Japanese surgeon, who it is named after, in 1912. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. This gland is apart of the endocrine system which is responsible for making hormones that coordinate a number of the body’s activities. While the thyroid gland is being attacked it can become hard for it to produce enough hormones to keep the body functioning properly.
Those who have Hashimoto’s share a lot of the same symptoms as those who have Hypothyroidism because in both of cases the thyroid produces an inadequate supply of hormones. Since these two conditions share a lot of the same symptoms it is easy to assume one has Hypothyroidism when they really have Hashimoto’s. Symptoms include but are not limited the following:
- Enlargement of the thyroid
- Weight gain
- Dullness of the skin
- Puffing of the face, fingers, and/or toes
- Joint and/or muscle pain
- Cold intolerance
- Thinning of the hair
- Brittle nails
- Brain fog
At the moment there is no medical cure for Hashimoto’s so physicians will treat the low hormone levels by replacing these hormones with medication. While the hormone replacement can help with regulating hormone levels and restoring normal metabolism it does not stop the body from attacking the thyroid gland.
“Hashimoto’s Disease.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., 2 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 July 2016./basics/definition/con-20030293
“Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.
Milas, Kresimira. “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Overview; The Most Common Cause of Hypothyroidism.” EndocrineWeb. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 July 2016.
Oz, Mehmet. “How to Know If You Have A Slow Thyroid.” – Why Your Slow Thyroid Has Gone Undetected. The Dr. Oz Show, 6 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 July 2016.
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Image #2 – http://hypothyroidmom.com/
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