Stalked By A Master Of Camouflage
You know what? You’re awfully mean. You should be ashamed of yourself, picking on a little kid like that. You stole my childhood from me””my health, my innocence, my happiness, my normalcy. And what was worse, for decades I didn’t even know it was you. A pro at camouflage, you concealed yourself well.
You hid from my parents””who, admittedly, didn’t know anything about you, and so were ignorant of your power. You even hid from my pediatrician. It’s not like he didn’t suspect something, when the previously normal seven-year old suddenly nearly doubled her body weight in no time at all. Yes, he suspected, but still you hid from him. He took blood repeatedly””oh, so much blood, inciting so much fear in a small child terrified of needles””but you hid behind “normal” TSH results every time.
So he didn’t do anything. Maybe he was waiting for me to grow out of it; maybe he thought you’d give up and move on as I got older. I’ll never know; my pediatrician, elderly even when I was his patient, is long dead, and who knows where my childhood medical records got to? On the literal trash heap of history by now, as more than 30 years have passed since my pediatrician last scribbled some notes in my file.
No matter. Ironically, he appeared to be right. I did grow out of it”¦or so it seemed. When puberty hit, I became skinny as a rail””a teenage ideal. Yippee””problem solved!
Not really. Instead of shaping up and behaving, you swung in the other direction and made me hyper. I was sleepless at night and exhausted during the day, couldn’t concentrate on my schoolwork, cried at the drop of a hat, and basically behaved as though I were in a permanent state of PMS. Well, that’s just a pubescent girl’s normal behavior, right? Hormones and all that, right? It’ll pass, right? Moving on!
But my sleeplessness continued well into my twenties. I added a general lack of energy, frequent bouts of nausea, and loss of appetite to my health problems. I was diagnosed with anemia and my mother tried to force-feed me liver. I had ridiculous bouts of constipation that lasted a week or longer each time. I started getting migraines. My periods were so irregular I didn’t know what regular was. My young adulthood was, needless to say, less than ideal, health wise.
I struggled through it and managed to have a fairly normal, if neurotic, adult life”¦until my early thirties. Then you decided to swing on your trapeze again, thyroid. You blindsided me a year after my wedding, and I became a totally different person. I’m sure my new husband must have thought he had married Dr. Jekyll””and now Ms. Hyde was coming out with a vengeance.
I didn’t know what was happening to me as I went hypo and my hair fell out and I was tired all the time and I couldn’t do anything athletic at all and my periods stopped altogether and I gained thirty pounds in less than a year and”¦well, we all know the drill, don’t we?
But there’s something you didn’t count on, thyroid. While you were resting on your health-destroying laurels, I was growing up. And when you made me hypo again, for the first time in my life I decided to fight back.
Why? All because the shadow of the fat little kid still lurked in the back of my psyche, still cowered in the dark, insecure recesses of my heart.
I remembered being made fun of and ostracized because I was obese (back in the ’70s, when kids weren’t fat). I remembered being put on a strict diet and denied the treats kids usually have. I remembered lying to my babysitter, telling her that I was allowed to have candy”¦and I remembered how disappointed my mother was when she found the candy wrappers in my jacket pocket. I remembered the look on the saleswoman’s face in the department store, when I couldn’t even cram my body into the biggest girls’ size they had, 6X. I remembered her suggesting to my mother, oh so delicately, that perhaps we should visit the special store downtown that sells husky boys’ jeans”¦they might fit”¦. And we did. And I wore boys’ husky jeans for years (but I always ripped the brown exterior tag off the Levi’s, the one that displayed the waist size, before I’d put them on). And even though it was a relief to find something that fit me, I had to endure still more humiliation as my classmates made fun of me for wearing boys’ clothes.
Worst of all, I remembered what it was like to feel guilty, because all my life my health problems were placed squarely on my shoulders. I was told that my ill health””whether it was obesity or insomnia or migraines””was because of something I was doing or not doing. But all the while, all my life, it was actually your fault. I couldn’t pin it on you, because nobody knew it was you causing all the trouble. As usual, you were hiding behind those “normal” TSH numbers.
But this time I was an adult, and I would be damned if I’d let you take my life away again. I was only 35, and I was not about to let you make me feel like I was 85. This time I was going to be in charge.
So I educated myself. I learned how to use that newfangled Internet thing to do research. I found thyroid discussion forums. I learned about anatomy and medicine””subjects that were so far outside my realm of experience that it was like learning Mandarin Chinese. Most important of all, I developed the courage to walk away from doctors who were dismissive, critical, disbelieving, and downright cruel, and keep looking till I found a holistic M.D. who could help me.
I had found you out, thyroid. You couldn’t hide from me any longer. This time, I knew your moves, your secrets. I knew, and this time I wasn’t going to rest until you accepted the blame for all my physical and even emotional troubles. This time, with my holistic doctor’s help, I grabbed you, pinned you to the wall, and forced you to confess.
It was pretty satisfying, I must say. The best part was when I got my fertility back, and I safely conceived, carried, and delivered my precious son.
But it wasn’t the end. Because even though I got you to admit that you were behind it all, it didn’t stop you. It never does. You ignore the spotlight I have trained on you, and you continue to wreak havoc.
After several years of relative stability, I’m gaining weight again. But this time I won’t just head to the gym and starve myself, and then, as usual, get frustrated and depressed (and blame myself) when I don’t see any pounds come off. No, now I know enough to also get back to the doctor and discuss our next strategy for dragging you back into line.
Let’s face it””this is a war between you and me, thyroid. But I refuse to surrender.
Yep, you sure are mean, thyroid. And you’re stubborn. But you know what? So am I. So let’s go, thyroid. I’m ready for you.
Bio: My name is Jayne Denker, and I am 44 years old. I was diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism by a wonderful holistic doctor nearly ten years ago, and I stick with her even though my medical insurance refuses to recognize her as an acceptable choice for a primary doctor. I credit my doctor, the members of the old Delphi and About.com thyroid forums, and two friends with thyroid problems of their own (who saw in my symptoms what licensed medical doctors could not) for saving my life. I am blessed to be a freelance writer and editor””meaning I can work when I feel well and not work when I don’t””and mother of a 6-year-old boy who has massive amounts of energy and no hint of a thyroid problem. You can find my ramblings on my blog, my web site, Facebook andTwitter.
Tags: Dear Thyroid Letters, holistic endocrinologists, hypothyroid, hypothyroid disorders, hypothyroid literary community, hypothyroid support, Jayne Denker, medical insurance issues, natural remedies hypothyroidism, subclinical hypothyroidism