Remember the days when we worked together like a well-oiled machine? You responded to my every need 24 hours a day, keeping me feeling healthy and happy. It makes me sad to remember those days because I know that they are gone forever. You knew way before me when things started to go wrong. I suspect it was about 10 years ago. First I completely lost my sex drive, and then I started to lose my hair. Then came the chronic low-grade depression — I no longer experienced the joy in life that I used to, I no longer wanted to listen to music, I no longer wanted to go out but preferred staying in. I had trouble staying awake to watch a movie and sometimes almost fell asleep driving. I didn’t have the stamina that others had. None of these symptoms were so extreme that they alarmed me. I easily found reasons to explain them away — just getting older, out of shape, overworked.
Then over the past 4 years we experienced a large amount of stress, both physical and emotional. I pushed you and the rest of my body to the limit to deal with these stresses. I don’t know if it was my pregnancy that finally pushed you over the edge or if it would have happened anyway, but you no longer suffered in silence. You let me know in no uncertain terms that you were not healthy and could no longer be there for me. Quite the contrary, you needed help.
First came the extreme fatigue and very heavy periods. Then came the abdominal discomfort, weakness, body aches and pains. And, of course, there was the inability to lose any of my pregnancy weight, not one pound. Then came the changes in my emotional and mental state — irritability, brain fog, memory problems. I was no longer myself and I was scared. I tried to get us help. We went to doctor after doctor and listened, as we were told everything was normal, even though we knew it was not. I listened to you and knew that you were most likely the problem; I just had to find a doctor who would listen. Finally we found a doctor who gave the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s and we both breathed a sigh of relief that someone had figured it out. The relief lasted for a minute and soon faded away as the next words out of her mouth were “your symptoms can’t be from your thyroid because your values are normal. There has to be something else.” Now what?
So together we began the long and harrowing journey to find out what the “something else” was. We saw every specialist there is, drove hundreds of miles, and spent thousands of dollars. We listened as we were given possible diagnoses of fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, autonomic neuropathy, depression, anxiety. And all along the way you were screaming, “It’s me! I am the problem! Please help!” My previous symptoms became worse and new ones appeared — swelling of my hands, cold feet/hands, joint pain and arthritis, extremely dry skin and hair, and trouble breathing. You were trying to make it so obvious, and to me it was. Each time we went to a new doctor we were sure that this time the doctor would listen and see the answer that was so clear. Instead we were given anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and one pain med after another and, of course, none of them worked. We listened to doctors say things like:
“You have Hashimoto’s? Oh, that is no big deal.”
“Everyone blames everything on their thyroid. It is not your thyroid.”
“Well, you probably have something that is going to affect your quality of life, not shorten your life. Just try to ignore it.”
And with each disappointing visit we became more stressed and sicker. You just couldn’t take it anymore, and honestly I couldn’t either. We even thought about ending it all because it was just becoming too much. But I listened to you and knew that you were the root of it all. So I started to research everything I could about thyroid disease and found groups of thyroid patients online talking about their experiences. And in those thyroid communities we found the support we needed to hang on. Now I had the knowledge and resources to get you help.
Finally, we are in the care of a doctor who understands you and the havoc you can wreak on the body and soul. He understands your suffering and the effects it has had on the rest of my body, including adrenal insufficiency and multiple vitamin deficiencies. I am sorry that it took so long to get you help. I am sorry that you are so misunderstood by doctors.
We have been through a lot together, thyroid. At first I was angry at you but I then realized that you didn’t ask for this either. The immune system that is supposed to protect us, turned on you and is slowly killing you. I will survive the attack but you will not. I have to say farewell to you thyroid, and I will miss you greatly. I am not sure what the future will hold without you, but I have hope that I will be able to enjoy life again someday. I maintain hope that I will be able to live each day rather than just try to get through it.
And in the end I have to thank you thyroid. You have taught me so much about Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. Through our fight to get through this I have learned a lot about myself as well. I have always been very shy with no self-confidence or self-esteem. You taught me that I can be strong and confident. I stood up for you and myself when it mattered most and didn’t give up until we got the help we needed.
Through you I have also met and read the stories of so many amazing people. Like many, I was ignorant about the seriousness of thyroid disease and the impact it has on people’s lives. There are so many strong and courageous people living their lives with thyroid disease. People who go to work every day, raise families, make a difference in their communities, all while fighting this disease. Hopefully the day is coming when we can focus all of our energy on fighting the disease rather than fighting to be heard and understood by the medical community.
Farewell, thyroid. I will miss you and thank you for everything.
Bio: I am 43 years old and have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. It was several months after her birth that I started to get really sick. I have been battling the horrible symptoms of hypothyroidism and, as I recently learned, adrenal insufficiency resulting from dysfunction of my hypothalamus and/or pituitary. I have been on cortisol and Armour for a little over a month now and am already functioning better. I remain hopeful that someday I will be able to do simple things like take my daughter to the playground or go grocery shopping with no problem. Simple things that I used to take for granted and that are now so hard.