Monday, July 13, 2015

FIVE things I want the world to know about living with Hashimoto's:

There are times people feel misunderstood, or feel like they can’t always express how they REALLY feel to others. Sometimes we deliberately shut people out it’s because we think persons won’t fully understand what we’re going through. This post is really just scratching the surface on some of the emotions I go through living with thyroid dysfunction, but I hope it educates and inspires:

5 things I want the world to know about living with thyroid disease: 

1. It hurts when you call me lazy… and question my sleeping habits. 
Yes I JUST woke up at 8 o’clock. I also JUST went to sleep at 3 a.m. AND my alarm JUST woke me up at 6:30 a.m. to take my thyroid meds, so this is JUST my “post taking meds” nap. Get over it. The debilitating exhaustion which accompanies thyroid disease is something that I don’t think I can ever get used to. No matter how much I sleep I am always tired. Ironically, even with being so exhausted, at night it’s difficult to turn my mind off and fall asleep. Persons who are hypothyroid in particular can have very low energy levels, so there are days when we just can’t get things done as quickly as you’d like us to. But bear with me, I make up for it on days when I feel better!

2. I have mirrors at my house
It also really hurts when you call me fat! Trust me on this, I REALLY don’t need you to remind me about my weight every single time you see me. If you are on any kind of weight journey you know all too well, that sinking feeling you get, when you finally get into that skirt you haven’t worn for months and the first person you meet when you go out comments on your stomach.  Stop it people, I saw my stomach in the mirror before I left home, I know what it looks like. Be mindful also that not every overweight person you come across overeats! Some of us even exercise too, imagine that! The same is also true for persons with overactive thyroids. They may actually eat quite a lot and be unable to gain weight. The eating disorder jokes are uncalled for. Stop the body shaming, please.

3. Yes, this is a fake smile today

Day 1: Friend: Hey, how’s it goin?     Me: My whole body hurts today. 
Day 2: Friend: Hey, what’s up?     Me: I'm so nauseated this morning.
Day 3: Friend: Hi, how you today?  Me: Exhausted. Wish I could go back to bed.
Day 4: Friend: How you doin?     Me: I feel depressed. My body still hurts, today.
Day 5: Friend: Heya. How you?  Me: My mind is racing, it’s overwhelming!

No one wants to be that person! But the fact is there are weeks when EVERYDAY is a challenge for me! There are times when I may be dealing with multiple symptoms at once. It’s overwhelming. And I imagine that it may be overwhelming to other people as well (after all, who likes a Negative Nelly). So I pretend. Which is often easier than having to deal with any weird comments or give explanations as to why I’m always feeling sick. Or feeling like I’m always burdening other people with how I’m doing. Soooo what is my response most days: “I’M FINE.” Am I saying this is the ideal way to approach it? Maybe not. What I am saying is, be patient if your friend or loved one doesn’t always want to share how they feel right away, sometimes we are still trying to come to terms with the magnitude of all of this. A lot of times we downplay the way we feel not just because we don’t want to turn other people off, but for our own sanity (coping mechanism much?)

4. I’m scared sometimes
This is kind of scary at times. It’s a lot to deal with, the unpredictability of it all. Will I develop more autoimmune diseases? What if the other half of my thyroid goes bad? Am I going to be able to beat this? Am I doing enough to get better? Of course I put a brave face on, but there are times when I do have fears and concerns, and I do wonder about everything that’s going on with me. If my body is able to handle all of this, if my MIND is able to deal with it. 

5. I miss you. I miss me too. 
I speak for myself when I say that living with Hashimoto’s has dramatically changed the way I interact with society. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but I’ve become even more of a recluse, because there are times I really just don’t have the energy, I really don’t feel like subjecting anyone to my moods, or I really am feeling awful, so I’d rather just avoid social contact. So sadly, I’ve lost some friends along the way and I miss some of them tremendously. I vaguely remember the person I was before hashimoto’s disease, and I honestly have not felt like myself in a very long time. 
I miss that person too. 

July is THYROID DISEASE AWARENESS MONTH at Just Bee You! So be sure to check back here during this month for more posts on the thyroid. You can also follow Just Bee You on Facebook and Instagram (@justbeeyoutiful) for more posts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hashi WHO? My experience with Thyroid Autoimmunity.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which your thyroid gland is attacked by your own immune system. Prior to my diagnosis, I had just a basic idea of what the thyroid did or why it was important. My vague understanding (or maybe I should call it misunderstanding!) was that persons whose thyroids didn't work properly struggled with their weight, or grew goiters. 

Until one day my aunt and I were chatting and she noticed a lump at the front of my throat and said I should probably check it out. I hate going to the doctor but I figured I might as well, after all I hadn't been feeling by best lately, including feeling reaaally tired ALL the time. But I figured working in a high stress environment and the fact that I was preparing to relocate to another country (Cuba) were all just too exhausting. 

The doctor I saw did blood tests and an ultrasound on my throat area and told me it was just swelling "probably from lifting something heavy" because everything in the tests appeared normal. He gave me some pills to take anyway and some antibiotics too (can't leave those out, right?) The pills made me feel SICK to my stomach, but I tried to take them because I wanted to feel better, I finished the antibiotics, but couldn't bear to finish the other meds. I didn't feel any better and that curious lump was still at the front of my neck, but then I thought: “Wait a minute, I'm moving to Cuba, and everyone raves about their healthcare system, I'll go get it checked out when I get there.”

A few weeks later, I walked into the department of general medicine at Cira Garcia Hospital in Havana. When I sat down in front of the doctor he immediately asked me: "I'm guessing you are here to be referred to the endocrinology clinic?" He explained that I had facial signs of thyroid dysfunction (did you know your thyroid even messes with your eyebrows too?) and then pointed to the same lump on the front of my neck. To make along story quite short, I begun working with the endocrinology clinic to deal with the lump or nodule that was growing in my thyroid. I was subsequently diagnosed with Hashimoto's

I was fortunate to work with a very good endocrinologist who encouraged me to do my own reading and to ask him questions when I came for visits. In addition to working to get my meds right, he also incorporated lifestyle changes into my programme, such as suggested dietary changes, an exercise programme and spoke to me very seriously about reducing my stress levels. 

As much as my doctor gave me very good information, it was during the times that I did my own reading that I really started understanding what the thyroid did, how important it was that it function properly, the seriousness of the condition I had, the changes I had to make to help me get better. I realised then how many symptoms I had over the years without knowing it: the menstrual issues, the fact that I had trouble sleeping at night and even more trouble getting out of bed in the morning, the exhaustion (I've been exhausted to the point of passing out on my street while walking to work), my perennial tummy issues, elevated cholesterol and so much more.

It is REALLY important that you be proactive about your own health! I had never really developed the habit of asking doctors questions when they said things that didn’t make sense to me, or researching medications they prescribed, so I know exactly what I'm taking. Or calling my doctor if the pills they prescribed didn’t agree with me. Thyroid disease often masks as so many other diseases that it can go undetected for a long period of time. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, and if you feel like you may possibly have a problem go to a doctor and get a PROPER thyroid function test (not just TSH, as many indicators as possible: T3, T4, thyroid antibodies, etc).

July is THYROID DISEASE AWARENESS MONTH at Just Bee You! So be sure to check back here during this month for more posts on the thyroid. You can also follow Just Bee You on Facebook and Instagram (@justbeeyoutiful) for more posts.

BY THE WAY, I am by no means an expert or endocrinologist, this is just regular ole me =) sharing my experiences with thyroid autoimmunity. Always do your own research and also follow directives of qualified medical professionals.