Reassessment, But Never Retreat
(Written by Jennifer, patient with Graves’ disease and Graves’ Opthalmopathy)
As I type, my peripheral vision keeps getting distracted by the bruise on my arm. It’s no longer so purple but yellow and brown. It creeps down from the elbow line about an inch. It’s a visual reminder that you get checked. A lot. Well, it seems like a lot. Sometimes it’s every two months, but this last time it was after six weeks. You see, you’re sick. You’re being attacked by an autoimmune disease called Grave’s. This disease doesn’t like you much. It wants to over-activate you, so you rebel. And six weeks ago, I discovered that you had been rebelling mightily for about two months. Instead of your levels aligning so that I could continue to decrease the blocker I take to keep you in line. I had to raise it. This means that you became even slower, but I felt better. Because being in grad school, that T3 number is really important. When you allow it to go high, I can’t learn or study. I can’t write papers. It takes me two weeks to figure out a philosophical idea. I’m smarter than that!
I was talking about you to a professor today. Were your ears ringing? I was telling her what happened last June, when I was writing a paper for her class. When I had to email her to say, “this is going to be late, I’m getting diagnosed with something, but I don’t know what, she was great. And she was still understanding today. I told her that when I found out you were sick, it was all about getting some quick treatment and moving on. I had plans to go study in Israel, and you weren’t going to stop me. I did go and we can write a different letter about that experience. But as I told her, since it was all so quick, when I came home and returned to school I began to think. I began to read. And as I processed the situation that I was now in, I realized that you were forcing me to reassess. Because of you, I realized that I wanted to be a rabbi, not an academic. But, also, because of you, I don’t know how much activity I can handle. I have high expectations of my stamina. Ask my parents, well you may remember too, but I have been on the go since I was a baby. Always out ahead of the pack. Always achieving and striving for more. I was the ultimate multi-tasker: organized and energized. I thought I could do anything, even if it was hard for me. I knew how to climb intellectual and logistical mountains. I hiked and worked out without thought. Now, at 28, I know that if I have a full day of classes and events or whatever, that I will be exhausted that night AND the next day. I know that if I don’t relax the next day, I will be nearly non-functioning by the day after. I make these plans, plans of accomplishments. And every day, I fall short.
I resent having to reassess myself in this way. Because you are slowing my dreams down and narrowing my world. I know that I will end up getting stuff done. The stuff that my dreams are made of. But I resent you, thyroid. I resent having an autoimmune disease that drives you crazy, forcing you to sap my energy, make my nails crack and chip, and my skin dry. I resent how you make my heart beat hard and fast. And that you remind me daily what tired feels like in my head.
Dear Thyroid, I promise to support you. I do already! I’m eating dairy and gluten-free food. I’m taking my supplements. I’m walking everyday and trying to do more low-impact exercise each week. But you need to do your part too. Fight back against the crazy! Say good bye to the autoimmune disease. Go into remission!
Bio: Jennifer is closing in on the end of her M.A. in religious studies, graduating in June. Diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in June 2009, she hopes to gain remission by the end of 2010 (you can do it!). Jennifer is passionate about reading, writing, friendships, and coffee shops (both the coffee and the company). Jennifer can be found at www.phranklyphred.wordpress.com and PhranklyPhred on Twitter.