I generally try to avoid talking about my health in a public forum because it always feels self-serving and attention seeking, but I’m going to step away from judging myself momentarily because I feel like this is important. I’ve spent the last decade of my life getting weird results from thyroid tests. One would come back showing a problem and the next would come back fine. I’ve also spent the majority of the last decade without consistent medical care. I have a tendency toward gypsy-like roving and have unvaryingly been under-insured in my travels. Thus any notable patterns in these thyroid deviations went undocumented and untreated. Mostly, though, it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference, so I didn’t pursue it. Fast forward to the last couple of years, though, and I have felt utterly exhausted. I’ve pulled away from people to avoid social engagements. I’ve withdrawn. I’ve watched myself do it and known it was out of character, but felt incapable of making changes. I’ve gained weight and dealt with a whole host of other things and the only thing I thought was that I was being lazy and just needed to shake it off. It’s rotten to feel so completely useless. I reached the point where doing the things I loved just felt like way too much work. It was heartbreaking. Finally it got to the point where I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, when the Marketplace opened up, we made the investment in the good insurance and I made the choice to take advantage of it. I found a fantastic primary who has been so helpful and informative and who ran a full thyroid test rather than just giving one element a cursory glance. And when that test came back and said things weren’t right, I just about cried. But not from sadness, from relief. I know it’s completely backwards to hope to be diagnosed with something, but when I started doing my research on thyroid issues, every single issue I’d dealt with in the past several years was potentially linked to an underactive thyroid. Things I knew like exhaustion and weight gain, but also many things I didn’t like depression and anxiety. I mean, it’s bizarre to be happy to have a hormone deficiency, but I’ve spent so long calling myself lazy and unproductive, that it was like a giant burden was lifted when I found out that what I was scared was laziness and chronic depression was a renegade thyroid. Halle-freaking-lujah! The more I learn, the more things make sense and the more I wish I had pursued a concrete answer years ago. I’ve only been taking medication for five days, so the jury is still out in terms of results, but the very real change has been in attitude. Two weeks ago, I would feel defeated by exhaustion and feel like a loser. Now I know there’s a reason and that I am actively trying to fix it and that it doesn’t make me lazy to succumb to exhaustion. It just means something’s not working right and I have to give it time to regulate. I’ve spent a good amount of time over the past few years trying to manufacture hope and convince myself that things will eventually get better, but this week I’ve had isolated moments of real hope and optimism and those moments have made a real difference in how I face the world. I know it’s a process, but I feel like I’m getting back on track. And I know it’ll take time. Maslow theorized that health was on the second tier of his hierarchy of needs, which means that I can look forward to being able to put the rest of my life back together as soon as I get a handle on this part. And that’s not nearly as daunting of an idea as it used to be.
So that’s the story. And here’s the reason I’m telling it. I’m not in an incredibly small minority with this kind of problem. While many people can be borderline and not require treatment, many more just never know there’s a problem. Over 12% of us will deal with this at some point, though most will go undiagnosed. A lot of times we end up treating the symptoms as entirely separate from the root cause. I’ve been treating stomach issues for two years, never contemplating for a second that something other than my stomach could be causing them. Now I know that it’s possible that the GERD I’ve been treating stems from this thyroid issue. It’s bizarre and yet it makes sense. All of our systems are interconnected, so if we throw off one, chances are there’ll be ripples in others. I guess what I’m saying is to be proactive, especially when it comes to getting your thyroid tested. 1 out of 8 women will end up with a thyroid condition in their lifetime and my doctor advised me that most problems start from mid 20s through mid 30s. And this is kind of a big bad for that age range because thyroid issues can cause a host of fertility problems and 25-35yrs is pretty much prime time for baby making. And the thing is that if you get a borderline result, a lot of doctors follow up on it. But I highly recommend pursuing it further if there is any chance there could be a problem. Because when it gets bad, it gets really, really bad. I’m not even in the worst category and I’ve spent the last few years feeling crummier and crummier. Not. Worth. It. Get tested. Please.
Here’s a great link that gives a huge list of symptoms that could be associated with thyroid problems. I kid you not, I counted over 90 that affect me and a lot of them I never would have connected. I mean who thinks that a faulty thyroid is gonna leave you with dry skin? It’s worth a look. It helped a lot of things make sense to me.
So that’s that and I hope you’ll forgive my foray into personal medical issues. I’m not one to advertise this stuff, but I feel like it’s important that people are aware enough to advocate for themselves. I wish I had been.