So who the hell are you?
This is assuming that there are some of you reading this who are not my close friends and family (who will feel they have to read it, no matter how awful it may be!), and you do not have a clue who I am or why I am writing this blog.
Although if you have read my previous post you will know that I can’t seem to shut myself up, so spilling my words over onto the internet is probably the next logical thing for me to do.
My murky little story, as murky little stories always do, starts when I was a teenager. In quick succession I came down with glandular fever and then was involved in a serious car accident on the M6 motorway, involving a huge multi car pile up, lots of debris and a four hour standstill on the motorway.
For those of you who are not from the UK (or those who are but are fortunate enough to never have encountered the M6), the M6 motorway is the busiest motorway in the UK. This also makes it one of the most dangerous. Particularly for 17 year olds who have only just passed their driving test and who think they are perfectly capable of navigating their way along the M6 to college.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those two events would turn out to be life changing in a long-term and (in the beginning) subtle way.
As several years passed, I became more and more and more tired. The 18 year old who used to work from 3pm-11pm in a pub, go out with the rest of the staff to the local night club, get home at 3am, and yet still get up at 6am and head into work with time to go and collect the obligatory morning papers on my way in, was long gone.
Over a period of about five years, I developed this incredibly long list of mainly subtle symptoms (The list is based on the following list from Stop The Thyroid Madness)
• Less stamina than others
• Less energy than others
• Long recovery period after any activity
• Often feeling cold
• Cold hands and feet
• High or rising cholesterol
• Bizarre and Debilitating reaction to exercise
• Dry cracking skin
• Nodding off easily
• Requires naps in the afternoon
• Inability to concentrate or read long periods of time
• Foggy thinking
• Inability to lose weight
• Always gaining weight
• Moody periods
• Excruciating pain during period
• Aching bones/muscles
• Acne on face and in hair
• Breakout on chest and arms
• Exhaustion in every dimension–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional
• Inability to stand on feet for long periods
• Complete lack of motivation
• Extremely crabby, irritable, intolerant of others
• Handwriting nearly illegible
• Broken/peeling fingernails
• Dry skin or snake skin
• Lactose Intolerance
• Dizziness from fluid on the inner ear
• Low body temperature
• Tightness in throat; sore throat
• Swollen lymph glands
• Sore feet (plantar fascitis); painful soles of feet
• a cold bum
• irritable bowel syndrome
• Extreme hunger, especially at nighttime
That is one huge list. When I look back at it now, I always think “how did you not know that something was wrong”. It feels like it was staring me in the face all the time and I didn’t see it or acknowledge it.
The truth is, when you actually look at each of the symptoms in isolation, they don’t really tell you anything. Lots of those symptoms could be as a result of poor sleep, poor diet, not enough exercise, which all would have applied to me at that point in time.
I had been to my GP (General Practitioner – the doctor you see first who considers your symptoms and carries out some tests before deciding if you need to be referred to see a specialist) on several occasions and I had a whole battery of tests done.
They all came back negative…. Except for one. I had a blood test done for thyroid antibodies. I think the level should be below 60 to be normal. Mine was, and for the decade since, sitting in the low 300’s.
Yes, the low 300’s. Quite a bit above 60. Yet the standard blood test which measured my thyroid function (TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was completely normal.
It turned out I had an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos disease. My body had decided that my thyroid (which is the gland at the front of your neck) was a foreign body and had decided to attack it (causing the raised thyroid antibodies). This caused my thyroid to not operate properly and did not provide my body with the hormones that it needed in order to function.
Even stranger, my thyroid was so out of sync with the rest of my body that my pituitary gland (which produces the thyroid stimulating hormone) was not recognizing that my thyroid was not providing enough hormones, and so was not asking my thyroid to work harder (increasing my thyroid stimulating hormone past normal levels).
In short I was a mess. My endocrinologist’s first question to me, the second I had sat down in his consultation room, was whether I had been in a car crash or had glandular fever before all my symptoms had started. He was not surprised when I said both. Apparently they are the leading causes of thyroid problems, in someone who was already vulnerable to thyroid problems. Along with running marathons. Which I have never done, and which he instructed me never to do, instructions I follow with great ease!
As with any autoimmune disease, the road back to full health is long and full of bumps along the way. A decade on from my diagnosis and I am still learning.
I’m learning that it’s not just as simple as replacing the thyroid hormones with tablets and getting on with my life. That what I put into my body, day in and day out, is just as important, if not more important than the tablets I take. That supporting my thyroid and the tablets (so that they can do their job) takes dedication and a complete change of mindset.
I have made more changes in the past 12 months than I have made in the last decade. I am already reaping the benefits of those changes, and I hope that I continue to do so.