Monday, January 06, 2014

Thyroid Awareness Month- My Thyroid Story

I know everything has a month these days and this is a little off topic about writing and books but January is Thyroid Awareness Month and since I have hypothyroid I thought I'd try to take some time this month to post about my experiences with hypothyroidism and changes I've made in my life since I was diagnosed three years ago.

When I was still in high school or college my mom began having issues with her thyroid. I remember her telling me at the time to be sure to start getting my thyroid checked sometime in my mid thirties. Since my mom had hyperthyroid I was totally on the lookout for those symptoms. I'd always tried to avoid some of the things I thought brought on my mom's symptoms. So while I was waiting for the rapid heart beat, bulging eyes, and weight loss I missed some of my own symptoms. Lesson- thyroid problems run in families.

I'm not exactly sure when my symptoms really began. I know that even though I go to the gym, ride my bike, and sometimes my job is fairly active it is still pretty difficult for me to lose weight. Even during a time when I did workouts that are now well known for results such as kettlebells and running I still carried a bit of extra fat that I just couldn't get rid of. Lesson- love your body the way it is and be proud of what it can do and not what size it fits into.

I often took naps in the afternoon and usually set an alarm so that I would be able to wake up in time for work. Sometimes waking up from these naps was really difficult.

Many of my friends were starting or had started families at the time and I have to confess that just spending an afternoon babysitting or even hanging out with my friends and their kids was often enough to exhaust me. I totally understand that kids have a lot of energy but I think at some point I began to understand that parenthood wouldn't be a thing I could do because somedays I didn't even have enough energy to support myself much less meet the needs of a small person.

An injury and a car accident put a stop to my intense workouts, which often amounted to two hours a day. At first I put on weight slowly like one might expect to if they stopped doing kettlebells and running three to five miles. But I was still active, still biked, still went to the gym, still had an active job. At some point in time I started gaining weight when all the math would have said I should have been losing weight. During a two month run of a show I gained ten pounds and I was biking to work plus working on a really active show. Lifting costumes, running around like crazy backstage, picking up costumes, carrying laundry baskets full of clothes around. Yeah, this is the kind of show I should have been losing a few pounds on.

As time went on the napping only got more frequent. At first it was just a nap in the afternoon, then it was a nap in the morning after I'd gone to the gym. Sometimes in the morning I was too tired to shower so I often took baths instead because I could sleep or close my eyes or at least I wasn't standing up because I was sooo tired.

Also I was hungry. All. The. Time. But I wasn't eating irresponsibly. I wasn't eating junk food. I was eating healthy, tracking my calories. It was just that my metabolism wasn't working so my brain was telling my stomach that I was still hungry, or something like that. During this time my interactions with people were often crabby and I know that I was crabby because I was hungry because yeah my metabolism wasn't working.

At a certain point I stopped making the effort to get together with friends because I was so tired. I knew that I needed to nap before work and meeting up with friends would have gotten in the way of that. I basically couldn't commit to anything socially because I knew I would be too tired. I remember once telling a friend I couldn't get together because I knew would be too tired and I remember that friend being really hurt about that.

In my writing life I would often sit down to write only to find myself needing to lay down and take a nap.

Finally a friend got me to sign up for a fitness competition at my gym. I managed to gain weight while tracking my food and increasing my activity level. I made an appointment with a doctor and asked to have my thyroid levels checked.

When I went to the doctor I asked to have my levels checked based on weight gain. I don't remember if I even mentioned all the napping because that had, over the years, become normal for me. Because of the mentality of people towards weight and the idea that weight gain is attached to poor choices it was hard for me to ask to have my thyroid checked based on weight gain I knew shouldn't have happened. But I'm glad I did.

My levels came back saying I had subclinical hypothyroid, some doctors will treat this, others won't. Thankfully my doctor did treat me. The difference was  amazing. I didn't need to nap all the time, I wasn't hungry all the time, I wasn't tired all the time. I have to say that while things aren't perfect all the time and in addition to my medication I take several vitamins and supplements to keep my energy levels up I'm thankful to have supportive doctors.

In addition to medication, vitamins, and supplements I have made a number of other changes. I eat gluten free, try to avoid dairy, and yeast as well. I shop at a natural foods coop and get a summer and winter CSA share so I have vegetables I can cook all year round. I cook for myself all the time.

Here is a list of some thyroid resources that I've found helpful over the last few years.
Gena Lee Nolin's website- Gena is a celebrity who is open and honest about thyroid issues.
Hypothyroid Mom- Another great blog and resource
Mary Shomon's articles


Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Interesting. I didn't know this had a month. I'm on thyroid meds, too. As is my dad and a bunch of my aunts and uncles. I've had to readjust my meds every time I've had a child, it messes it all back up again.
Glad you're feeling better! It really does make a huge difference.

Barbara Watson said...

So much can interfere with living our lives and general health and well-being is something we take for granted -- and really should not.