As you may have read here before, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) in February 2015 and in the 20 months since then I have had the dosage of my medication very slowly increased and a few months ago I started to feel great (almost WELL, which I hadn’t felt for a very long time!)
Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland which stops it producing the thyroid hormone. It’s a complicated thing and I still don’t fully understand it all myself (and it’s not through lack of trying!) The medication gives my body synthetic thyroid hormone. So you’d think, being on the medication would make it all better, right? Oh, you have no idea how much I wish that was the case.
Hypothyroidism, when untreated or being treated at too low a dose, makes you so exhausted that you just can’t function properly. It affects your metabolism and because it is so slow to develop and be diagnosed, I had gained 70 pounds by the time I went to my doctor in December 2014.
With the benefit of hindsight I can almost pin-point the exact time this disease took hold, because I now know that one of the first symptoms can be a sudden and rapid weight-loss, followed by a steady gain over a long period of time. So, towards the end of 2007, then. I recall going to my then-doctor for something else and mentioning I had lost an awful lot of weight and he told me not to worry, that I should be happy! And without any other symptoms, I was very happy about it because I (wrongly) trusted him that all was OK. I was the slimmest I’d ever been since becoming an adult and for the first (and potentially last) time in my life I was really happy with how I looked.
Over the last 20 months, I’ve had So. Many. Blood Tests. This is one of my most hated things to have done and I’ve had so many I’ve lost count. Each blood test with a nurse was followed a week later by seeing my present doctor, who would either keep me on the current dose of synthetic thyroid or raise it slightly depending on the results.
Earlier in 2016 I was getting on OK with the dose I was on. I was starting to feel human again. There was light at the end of the tunnel and I thought this is it, I’m going to improve now and maybe I’ll stabilise at a feeling-good point and then it’ll stay that way forever! Being on thyroid medication saw me lose over 20 pounds, have less fatigue and better skin and things were starting to really improve. My doctor thought this was good; my last blood test confirmed everything was OK and he said I should stay at that dose and come back in 6 months for another blood test (so, January 2017).
However, over the last couple of months I’ve started feeling really unwell again. What a lot of people don’t realise about my illness is that it is forever and it is a chronic illness. For those that don’t know, the term ‘chronic’ means persistent and recurring. Maybe I didn’t quite grasp that myself.
Right now, my skin has got all dry and itchy again, my sleeping pattern has gone crazy again, I’m feeling the cold again (I’ve had hypothermia more than once since developing this disease), my body hurts, my weight-loss has reached a stand-still and my hair is falling out at a really alarming rate. I have very little energy each day – enough to get the most important things done, like washing the dishes, feeding the cat and putting the laundry on, but that’s about it. It’s exhausting to have to do more than that. Sometimes I have to force myself to do more, like actually leaving the house, but I pay for it later. The exhaustion is all-encompassing. I have good days and bad days, and right now they’re mostly bad.
(Side note: have you read about Spoon Theory? This explains very well how I have to conserve energy and what happens when I overdo things.)
Clearly, things are on the slide again and I need to make an appointment for another blood test much sooner than expected and hopefully have my dosage raised again. The problem with blood tests is that they are only a snapshot of how you are on that particular day.
Meanwhile, I’m not on any medication for my depression (worsened by the thyroid disease) due to the near-fatal Serotonin Syndrome I was diagnosed with last year, so with that and the hypothyroidism, life can be pretty hard going at times.
So why am I telling you all this about hypothyroidism?
At the time of writing this post, it is Thyroid UK’s Thyroid Awareness Week (15th to 21st October 2016) and I wanted to use the little bit of Internet-land I own to bring about some awareness of how it can affect people.
Thyroid conditions affect 1 in 20 people in the UK. That’s really common, and I can tell you from experience that hypothyroidism is life-changing and it’s limiting in many ways. I feel that if the first doctor I went to when I lost all that weight in 2007 had thought to test my thyroid function then maybe it wouldn’t have got this bad. If you have some of the above symptoms, please go and ask to have your thyroid function tested.
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