During my first month of medical leave, I was trying to embrace what it would be like being a SAHM. Would I clean? Oh yes! I get to workout! But….I’m too tired to work out and never feel good. I could paint, read, write, watch TV, start projects around the house, I could do whatever I wanted! Most importantly, I get to play a huge part in my children’s life and figure out what the hell was wrong with me! I tried to follow my psychologist’s advice. I was trying to build a new identity for myself, a new chapter, a new part of me. But it was hard. I actually did start to feel better with the new supplements I was taking but I had kind of a set back since I was experiencing die off reaction to the gut detox I was going through. I was extremely tired and was taking naps during the day. But luckily it only lasted a month. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t shedding any weight though. I was trying to exercise and I tried to tweek my diet but it wasn’t perfect. I guess there was a part of me that felt that with these two diagnosis and taking supplements, I would feel better and I didn’t have to truly change my diet. My first month of medical leave was ending and I still didn’t want to let go of my job. I was still really stressed out about the whole thing and was depressed. So I had my general practitioner write me out for another month. I was hoping for a sign but it really was up to me and I was honestly kidding myself if I did go back to work. All I would do is get sicker, pay more taxes at the end of the year, continue to yell at my kids and fall into a deeper depression. So I had to give in and quit my job. My Supervisor told me that if I wasn’t planning on returning, that I should just call and let her know. I thought it was weird that I didn’t have to put in my two weeks but she said that if I wasn’t planning on coming back, what was the point of turning in my two weeks. I ended up speaking to my Manager and it was set for me to come and drop off my badge. I ended up meeting a co-worker for lunch that day and said my quick goodbye’s. It was a bitter sweet goodbye for me as I drove off in tears from my employer of 12 years. I was ready to start a new chapter in my life, whatever it was, but I was scared.
With my adrenal fatigue improving and my gut detox over with, I told my doctor that I still wasn’t shedding any weight. It’s not like I was doing a strenuous workout or was lifting weights, but I did what I could and felt that surely the little amount of what I was doing, should have made some type of difference rather than nothing at all. So it was time for more bloodwork. My doctor wanted to do a thyroid panel to see if perhaps my thyroid was the culprit of not allowing me to lose weight. It only took about a week to get the results and I can remember the conversation clear as day. “Your antithyroglobulin antibodies are at 1,864 which is an indicator that you have hashimoto’s.” “What is that?” I asked. As my doctor began explaining how it was an autoimmune thyroid disease, I felt my heart shatter into pieces, I got light headed and began to panic. A little voice in me whispered, “Thank God, I have hashimoto’s!” Oddly, there was a part of me that, again, felt consoled because it was yet another answer to my question of why I felt so crappy all the time. That I wasn’t crazy. But why did it have to be more? Why couldn’t it just be the adrenal fatigue and gut infection? Why this lifelong disease that I will now have to live with for the rest of my life? It will never go away, it will always be there. Why couldn’t I get news of something like this when I was older and not at the age of 36. My doctor made it not sound like such a bad thing because he went on to share how he also has hashimotos and how it is possible to keep it under control. The next step was to find someone who could prescribe me naturethroid. He didn’t want me taking the other thyroid medications that were out there because he wanted something more natural for me. So I had to wait a few weeks. A few weeks? I felt like since I knew I had hashi’s, I wanted to do something about it at that moment. I wanted the meds now so that I could help my thyroid out and feel better and lose weight.
Naturally after I got off the phone with my doctor I hopped on the internet to research my new found diagnosis. I shouldn’t have done that because I started seeing things like diabetes, thyroid cancer, high cholesterol, difficulty losing weight forever, symptoms will always be there, other autoimmune diseases, paleo, gluten free and the list went on. It became overwhelming for me and suddenly my world became dark again.
My husband thought that it would be a good idea to get a second opinion or to at least get re-tested at Kaiser so that there would be a record of my diagnosis and maybe I could get all my future blood work done there for free, rather than having to pay out of pocket thru my holistic doctor. I told my doctor why I was there, showing her my lab results from my holistic doctor and after I described to her all of my symptoms, she had nerve to tell me that perhaps I should go back to my psychologist because she felt like I was creating stress for myself. She went on to tell me that maybe the reason why I wasn’t losing weight was because I was following a paleo diet (which by the way, she didn’t even know anything about) and was eating too many nuts and shouldn’t use coconut oil. Or maybe I needed to accept that I just couldn’t lose weight easily anymore. I was infuriated when I left her office. She made me feel like I was some lunatic making up the fact that I felt like crap with all these make believe symptoms. Then to make matters worse, once I started getting my lab results back in through email, she didn’t even order the tests that I told her to order. She only ordered my TSH and I think maybe only my T3. So I emailed her and asked why she didn’t order the tests. She responded by telling me that there was no need for her to order the antithyroglobulin test if my TSH was fine. I insisted more and she finally gave in and put in another order of lab work for me to do. She had me come back a few days later and low and behold guess what my lab work showed?! That I have hashimoto’s. Dughh! She stood there in front of me saying that my lab work indicated that I have hashimotos and I told her I already knew that because I came in there the first time with lab results showing that already. She basically ended our appointment by telling me that there was nothing that she could do for autoimmune disease and to just wait and see if I get worse.
So I switched doctors because I didn’t like her anymore. My cousin mentioned getting a doctor of osteopathic medicine because they look more outside of the box and maybe it would be a better fit for me. So I found another doctor and he seemed nice. He was actually more willing to listen to me and seemed sympathetic towards my situation. He ran more blood work and I freaked out even more because my antithyroglobulin ab went up to 2,824. He said that he was going to try to find me an endocrinologist in another city who was more open to holistic medicine because the doctors he knew at the location he was at, were not too open to holistic medicine. So I waited again.
I guess my Kaiser doctor couldn’t find an endocrinologist in another city because I got a referral to go to one at my location and she so happened to be the one that “cured” my Dad of his thyroid issues. I wasn’t aware that thyroid issues could be cured but whatever, that’s what my Mom said. So I had yet another appointment with another doctor, this time with an actual endocrinologist. She was telling me that I needed to accept the fact that when we reach a certain age, our bodies just won’t lose weight anymore. That there was nothing they do for people with an autoimmune disease and I had to wait until I became officially hypothyroid. She put down my work with my holistic doctor and said that his lab work wasn’t reliable because they were with outside labs and that I should consider stopping taking vitamins and supplements because they weren’t FDA approved and didn’t know what kind of negative affects they would have on me. I told her that I was feeling better and she even accused me of possibly turning hyperthyroid because my hands were shaking. (Which they weren’t at all) I literally tuned her out and just waited for the appointment to be over because I thought she was a bunch of crock. I left saddened by the whole thing.
I fell into a depression after my diagnosis. I found myself staying in my car when I’d go to school to get my kids, when I once used to love conversating with parents until my kids got out. I would even make it a point to walk around areas to avoid people or look like I was too in a rush to stop and talk. All I wanted to do was stay at home. I literally had no motivation to do anything and found every excuse not to at least take a walk at the park. I figured what was the point of exercising or eating healthy when all I’d do is either gain weight and never lose it. Why exercise when it didn’t matter? All my hard work and effort would be for nothing.
So I searched for comfort and found it in the internet, Instagram, my cousin who has sjogren’s and my sorority sister who is hypothyroid. I soon began to feel what it was like to be a person with an autoimmune disease. I was guilty once for being one of those people that asked what an autoimmune disease was and made ignorant statements like “But she doesn’t look sick!” And here I was being told the same thing. “So how long will it take for this to go away?” Or “You don’t look sick!” Or “What can you do so that you can get rid of it?” When I would go on to explain myself of how I get tired easily, I’d hear things like, “Well it’s only one night of going out, you can push through it.” Or “You can just sleep in the next day!” Oh how I wish it was that easy! Sometimes I felt like people didn’t care or take the time to understand what I was going through so I felt really isolated and alone. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me because I surely wasn’t the only one suffering from an autoimmune disease and there are others who are suffering more than me, but this was all so new to me and I felt alone. I just wanted some kind of sympathy or compassion.
I started to learn that I needed to research just exactly what I had to do to maintain my health. I had to change my perception of things and accept the fact that this was something that would never go away. I could either sit here and be upset or I could embrace it and live my life as healthy as I could. I started with my diet, which actually was truly upsetting to me. It really was like the end of the world. I was a closet eater….well not really. I had no shame in the way I ate! When I was working, I sat close to the food during potlucks so I could be first in line. I always went back for seconds, thirds and fourths and took extra plates to save for later or bring home. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and how ever much I wanted. So to tell me that I had to go gluten, dairy, soy and grain free was devastating to my soul. What do you mean I have to eat fruit and veggies all the time? I hardly ate fruit and it was every so often that I ate vegetables. This was a whole new lifestyle that I had to take on and I didn’t know where to start. My doctor even mentioned to me that I needed to change my make-up, my cleaning supplies, laundry stuff and even shampoo and conditioner. I thought I had it down packed. Surely if I just went to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and bought anything that was labeled gluten, dairy and soy free, it would be fine, but I was wrong. I had been doing that for a little bit before my doctor corrected me. Ugh…..back to the drawing board.
I began to notice that I became so much more in tune with my body. All the little things I felt that I once excused for other things, became so much more apparent to me. I knew that these were all things that weren’t normal. I was still waiting for my prescription for the naturethroid and I hadn’t realized just how much hair I was losing everyday. I honestly thought it was normal for my brush to be covered in hair after I showered. I remember one time I was in the shower and I was shampooing my hair, I felt clumps of hair through my fingers. The more I ran my fingers through my hair, the more I would see come out. I sobbed that day in the shower and my husband could hear me. I knew he felt bad for me and tried to be as supportive as he could, but I was still coming to terms with this disease. Even after I finished my shower and brushed my hair to get the tangles out, my brush was filled with hair and I felt so hopeless.
Hallelujah my prescription for the naturethroid finally came and I felt that this was it! I was on the road to feeling better, losing weight and getting my life back. My brain fog improved, so did my focus, my mood was better, the tingling and heaviness in my right arm and leg wasn’t as prominent, no more edema of any limbs, my menses improved as well, but I still got tired very easily. I had gone from being extremely tired all the time, to getting extremely tired whenever I did something. I had a good grasp on the whole diet concept and quickly caught on to learning how to balance things in my life. I was really frustrated because internally I felt like I was a different person, screaming and fighting to come out but couldn’t because this new person I discovered was too sick and fragile. So I had to pretty much compromise everything. If I took my kids out to a bouncy house, I knew I couldn’t do anything else for the rest of the day once we got home. Or if I knew we were going to do something on a certain day that required a lot of my energy, I would have to not do anything the day before so I could build up my energy. When I would clean my house, do laundry or wash dishes, I had to take breaks in between to regain my energy. If I didn’t sleep well the night before, my day would be ruined the next day. It was all about balance and it was frustrating but it worked for me, it had to.
Six months into my diagnosis and I continued feeling okay. My doctor wanted to run more tests on me once 2014 came along because he felt like there was still something there that was driving my autoimmune disease. Great! More tests! When was it going to end? Why couldn’t I just feel better? Adrenal fatigue, gut infection, imbalanced hormones, hashimotos….wasn’t that enough? What else could possibly be wrong with me?!