Thursday, 9 April 2015

My thyroid and me, the balancing act


It was a long road, a longer road than I expected, just to get my diagnosis of having an underactive thyroid. I was a little bit of a strange case, because my blood results often didn't tally with how I was feeling. It was only when my thyroid antibodies were tested that they found that they were about ten times the upper limit of the blood test. 

For a long time my diagnosis went undiscovered, so when it finally came, I felt relief. I thought that it would be a simple fix, that I could pop a few pills and get back to normal. I was wrong. 

My underactive thyroid is an autoimmune disease, so essentially my body attacks my thyroid because it considers it a foreign body. The trouble with one auto immune disease is that it leaves you extremely vulnerable to other autoimmune diseases. Those with diabetes, for example, are much more likely to develop an auto immune thyroid problem. 

It also leaves you more vulnerable to a whole host of other small problems. When my thyroid is out of balance, it affects all parts of my system. It's a teeny tiny gland that can wreck havoc on your entire body with one fell swoop, and it does. 

I am often lacking in vitamin D, vitamin B (most of them) and iron, because my thyroid disease means that my digestive system often struggles to absorb the nutrients I am putting into my body, even when I'm working hard to put lots of the right nutrients in. My eczema flares at random intervals (another autoimmune disease) and if I don't take an extremely strong birth control pill, my skin becomes covered in acne, reminiscent of a teenager, because my hormones are out of whack. 

My body, it appears, after years of working through different obstacles and blood tests and seeing numerous different doctors, is more sensitive to what I eat, how active I am, and most importantly, how much sleep I get. 

When my diet is bad, and I'm not eating vitamins and minerals by the bucketload (which was pretty much my only diet for years on end, I am a chocolate and cake fiend), my vitamin D, B and iron levels take a huge tumble. Gluten seems to exacerbate my digestive upsets and my eczema. Too much dairy seems to flare my acne. 

I'm a complete witch if I don't get enough sleep, irrationally so. I spend so many nights lying awake because when my thyroid is off, one way or another, the insomnia kicks in, and no matter how exhausted I'd been all day, I can't get to sleep for hours. 

In short, a few pills is not going to be the magic solution I had hoped for. In order to feel well, to feel normal, it seems I have to overhaul my entire lifestyle. My diet has to be mainly great, and I have to get enough rest and enough exercise. Then I have to balance my vitamin D, B and iron levels and make sure I'm monitoring my thyroid medication to make sure it is still the right amount for me. 

It's a lot to balance, a lot to keep an eye out for. Feeling well is usually sitting on a knife edge, and I'm always waiting for the next time the other shoe drops and something slips. Then it's a waiting game, to try to figure out what has slipped, what needs to be increased, or decreased. It's not always clear in the blood tests either, so often it's trial and error. 

Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time worrying about my thyroid, and what it's doing to my body. It's hard, when I feel well, feel like normal, to even remember what it is like to feel off kilter. To feel your hormones take over and sweep you away, and you feel powerless to stop it, even when you understand what is happening and why. 

Those bad days are lessening though, now that I am working out my diet and exercise. Now that I'm taking care of the slightly damaged parts of me. I'm hoping that I begin to feel normal most of the time, once we all get a little bit older and our kids are sleeping that bit more consistently. I hope that someday, my thyroid problems fall, bit by bit, to the back of my mind, that it stops being a consistent worry and concern. I hope that one day I truly get a handle on what it is that I need to do to keep my healthy, and that I have the commitment to keep it up, no matter how hard it might feel. 



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