I’ve Kept This Under Lock and Key in My Soul
I have hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed in 2006. But let’s turn the calendar back to 1999. Up until that point, I had been a normal, healthy, if obese, 17 year old girl who had hopes and dreams of working in the field of music, either as a performer, songwriter or as a teacher. I had normally been a happy, bubbly girl who enjoyed playing her guitar or trumpet, writing poems and short stories and dancing whenever I could. I was usually on the honor roll and honestly enjoyed all of my classes (well, except for Renaissance Lit…. sorry, Mr. H!)
Then I turned 18. Little by little, I became disinterested in most of my courses. I chalked that up to “Senior-itis” as I was going to graduate the following spring. It was hard to stay warm. I put on even more weight. I blamed that on my sweet tooth and my near lack of self control where candy was concerned. HOWEVER, I hadn’t been eating any differently than I had been for the past 8 years. My skin turned paler, which was somewhat of a surprise, seeing as my grandmother was a Native American and I had inherited a lighter version of her coloration. I chalked that up to my preferring indoor activities after I had hurt my knee, which discouraged me from continuing on in the softball league. My skin became so very, very dry. I had no answers for that problem and went on to make Lubriderm my “friend,” but it never seemed to do more than to stop the itching, I was still painfully dried out on my skin. I resorted to wearing long dresses, skirts and pants to hide my legs because I was so embarrassed! I didn’t know why I was so tired and sad more days than not. I also started feeling “foggy brained.”
Somehow, I thought I would start feeling better after I graduated. I was wrong. On what should have been a day where I felt accomplished and happy, I was a numb shell of a person. I was cold, tired, and itchy because of my dry skin, exhausted and depressed. My mom has a photo of me in my cap and gown receiving my diploma from the superintendent; I looked like a person with no emotion, a shell. It makes me sad to look at that photo; I wish Mom wouldn’t keep it in a frame. In any event, I was still as stubborn and bull-headed as I am now and applied to the state university intent on getting a degree in music education. I was accepted and made the 5 hour drive across the state to begin college. I managed to muddle through my first 2 years of school and began to enjoy my courses. However, all my other symptoms just got worse.
I reached my breaking point when I realized that something was wrong with me during my first semester as a junior. I realized that I ran back to my dorm after every class and cried until I was too exhausted to do anything but lay there on my bunk. If I was lucky, I would have enough energy to wash myself up (so no one would think there was anything wrong) and get to my evening class. I went from being tardy once in a while to skipping classes because all I would do is cry myself stupid and try to numb myself. I couldn’t pull myself up by the proverbial bootstraps, despite frequent attempts at it. I didn’t want to get kicked out of school, so I dragged myself to the student health service and made appointments with the doctor and the counselor. The sessions with the counselor were not helpful, to be blunt. As for the doctor? All he did was take my vital signs, asked me how long I had been feeling as I did, then gave me a prescription for Paxil. That. Was. It. No tests, no asking about previous medical issues, if any. The Paxil did jack and shit for me…. aside from making me lose 10 pounds in one month because I constantly puked up anything I ate or drank (besides water). I went back to the doctor and he literally just gave me some samples for Lexapro and told me to take that instead. If anything, I became even more depressed. By that time, my grades had plummeted so low that I had been suspended and kicked out of that school. I still hate that doctor to this day. He could have gotten me the medicine I needed years earlier and I could have possibly not have been kicked out of music school if he had done ONE SIMPLE DAMNED BLOOD TEST!!
I spent the next couple of years feeling hopeless and defective. I was even more out of shape, out of energy and my memory was questionable. I began keeping a journal at that point just so I could have a record of what was going on. I didn’t trust my own mind to remember it. That old book is full now, and more than a few pages are tear-soaked. I don’t go back and read it, it’s too painful. Eventually, I was dragged to the local low-income health clinic by my mother because she was tired of me spending most of the day in bed and spending my waking hours in a numb state. It was then that I met an angel who went by the name of “Kathryn.” She was a nurse practitioner. She noticed that I had taken antidepressants before and asked if I’d be willing to consider taking them again. I told her in a polite way, “when hell freezes over” and she RESPECTED my wishes. Next, she began looking for other causes for my problems. She ran -shock of shocks!- tests and exams! She did everything that the doctor at the college SHOULD have! She arranged for a TSH blood test, and found that my levels were quite low. I was Hypothyroid. She told me that there was treatment for my condition. I was nearly in tears when I heard that. I didn’t have to always feel like I was stuck in the non-smoking section of hell! I began taking Synthroid that week. Within 2 months, my brain fog was virtually gone, I had energy, and I was seeing the tail end of my depression!
A while after that, decided that I wanted to do something with my life again. Playing guitar and trumpet still bring back my sadness, so I didn’t return to music school as I’d hoped. Instead, I applied to the local college. Despite my poor grades, they accepted me under the condition that I retook the classes I’d failed (that they teach at that campus). I worked my ass off and made the honor roll my very first semester there. Then I applied to the nursing program. I decided I wanted to help save lives like Kathryn had saved mine. I might not be alive today if it she hadn’t helped me. As I type this, I am now a student nurse at my school. No one knows about the hell I’ve been through aside from God, my family and my advisor. I’ve been too scared until now to let anyone else know that I deal with this illness.
Sign me as,
Thankful to Be Alive in Big Sky Country