When a follower on my Hypothyroid Mom Facebook page named Hannah wrote a comment on my page that started with “HOW TO MAKE A BAD DISEASE LOOK GOOD” I was so captivated that I invited her to share her story at Hypothyroid Mom. She shares what it’s been like to swing from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid, while reminding us all to love our beautiful selves along the way.
Written by Hannah Wilson
I’ve never been terribly healthy. I grew up on junk food and sugar, and always thought I was fat, especially in my teen years. It wasn’t until my thyroid issue arose that I learned the true meaning of being unhealthy and overweight, unable to do anything about it, living in misery, being judged by others who just “don’t get it”. Boy, do I miss the days when I only thought I was chubby. No use in dwelling on days past though. I just have to do the best I can, with what I have to work with, right now.
I started college when I was 18, like most people do. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was quite skinny, and tad bit more in shape than I am now.
The problems started around November that year. I was constantly in the bathroom, diarrhea, puke, you name it. I was hot and sweaty ALL the time. I mean, I had the A/C on during the winter. WHO DOES THAT?! I could eat as much food to fill a house, and would not gain weight. I couldn’t climb stairs without getting winded. My heart rate was sky high. I was back home for the weekend and my mother noticed these things going on. Like all Mamas, she knew something was wrong, and decided it was time to take a trip to the doctor. Being an RN, she was, and still is, very choosy about which doctors to trust.
We went and saw a nurse practitioner she knew well, who had a good track record. I’m telling you, this lady knew her stuff. I should add that, before we decided on this woman, we first saw my lifelong pediatrician, who was…losing his touch. He decided it was some sort of mental thing. Can you believe it?! I’m having obvious physical symptoms, and he thinks I’m crazy. That was the last time I saw him as my doctor. We moved on to this NP, and got answers.
In the examination room, she was talking to me, asking me questions, the usual mumbo-jumbo. Her first instinct was that something had to be going on with my thyroid. She asked my mother, “Has she had her thyroid checked?” Nope. I had not. She had me tilt my head back and, lo and behold, I had a goiter. My thyroid glands were swollen. Very swollen. Like, this was a major problem and needed to be seen about asap, swollen.
We ran blood tests to check my levels, and, guys, you will not believe me when I tell you this. You will honestly think I am lying through my teeth. I swear on Heaven’s throne, people, this next little detail is shocking, crazy, unbelievable, but so very, very true. The “normal” reference range for T4 thyroid hormone that appeared on my lab results was 4.5 to 12.5.
MY level…. 666. SIX HUNDRED. SIXTY. SIX. Swear it.
The NP’s exact reaction upon reading the results? “HOW… are you… ALIVE?” Seriously people, she told me exactly how lucky I was we caught this in time, because I was about to go into a thyroid storm and DIE. This wasn’t a regular case of hyperthyroidism, this was a monstrosity.
We were referred to who she believed was the best Endocrinologist in the state, where we went through the options of what to do. There wasn’t much time to decide. There was no time to study and maybe find out what was causing my thyroid to act this way. It was immediately, “You have to kill it or take it out.” Of course, “taking it out” meant surgery, and at 18 years old, I had things to do that were more important to me at the time. I went with “kill it”. One dose of radioactive iodine did the trick. My thyroid gland shriveled up like a raisin, and before long, I was feeling cold all the time. I was constipated. I felt very weak, so much so that I could barely brush my teeth. I was fatigued and worn out. And I started to gain weight. Once I went into full “hypothyroid” mode, it was time to prescribe a thyroid hormone replacement medication.
It only got worse when I got pregnant and had my daughter. The weight packed on like flies on a horse’s rear end.
Now, here I am 26 years old, morbidly overweight, rapidly thinning hair (yet, hair growing in the most unwanted of places), AWFUL memory, sleeping ALL the time because I’m just so tired. One time I made it a full 22 hours of sleep without waking up. Scared me half to death. Luckily, I had taught my little one how to get her own snacks, so she’d kept herself fed all day. Smart little kid, that one.
The hardest part about all of this is having people around me who do not have this problem. I live in a small town, so it’s mostly family, a few friends, and NONE of them have hypothyroidism. I’ve been accused of being lazy so many times I’ve lost count. Usually by the same people. That hurts the most, when the people you’re supposedly closest to so obviously think you’re a good-for-nothing bum who lays on the couch all day watching TV. It’s hard when the people who love you tell you what you need to do better without making some sort of attempt to understand it.
They just don’t get that even the smallest of tasks, like washing the dishes or doing a load of laundry, wears you out, drains what little energy you have. They don’t get that waking up in the morning is exhausting, when it should be a burst of “GOOD MORNING, HELLO WORLD, HOW SHALL I CONQUER THEE TODAY”.
They don’t get that “healthy eating” and “regular exercise” are just not enough to shake off the excess weight. Admittedly, I still do neither of those things, but I have tried in the past, and failed. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back around to it, but it is not today. I love food too much. And I REALLY hate treadmills.
And then there’s the dating world. Oh, don’t even get me started. So many men are athletic and want a woman who enjoys working out as much as they do. They want a thin, beautiful, attractive woman who lives for health shakes and protein diets. Superficial is what it is, and I can’t STAND superficial people. These same people always say, “You can do it if you’d just try.” Let me tell you something, Mr. Biceps-Bigger-Than-Your-Brain. I DO try. I try EVERY. DAY. I get my daily exercise just sitting up out of bed and standing in the shower for more than twenty minutes. If “fat” isn’t your style, that’s fine. Just move on to bigger (or smaller) and better things. But don’t come up in my business thinking you know everything about me and my body when you don’t have the slightest clue.
I say all that to say this. Don’t pay attention to what other people think. The only thing that matters is what YOU think, and how YOU feel.
Just a little advice from a fellow hypo:
- Get a routine. Routines help. Do the same things in the same order every day, and that will help get your body on a sleeping schedule and keep overeating in check.
- Dress up often. Trust me, you’ll need the extra confidence boost. Even on days when you’re only going to the grocery store, put on a cute outfit and some makeup. Without even realizing it, you’ll hold your head higher and walk taller, and people notice that.
- Brush it off. Whatever people have to say, let it fall out the other side of your head. As long as there are people on this earth, there will be people who talk down to you and about you. Stop trying to impress them and love yourself the way you are. Cheers to my fellow thyroid sisters!
- That brings me to my last tip: Love yourself. Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I am worth my own time.” That ought to kick your day up a few notches.
I am often criticized for my weight, my “laziness”, my choices, you name it. I admit I have to work on eating better. But even with a change like that, it is the hardest thing in the world to deal with. What they see as overweight, I see as more of ME to love and be loved. What they see as lazy, I see as exhaustion and fatigue. I wear out quickly, get winded easily, but do what I can when I can, and that should be enough, but it never is. No one gets this disease unless they live it themselves. And that’s okay, they don’t have to. What matters is that we are doing all we can to make it a little more bearable for ourselves. One day at a time, ladies we can do this! 💋
Tip: On the days you feel the worst, look your best. Helps with confidence. Also, I need to follow my own advice.
I was born and raised in rural Arkansas, so I’m a country girl at heart. I love music, video games, and tv, but most importantly, I love my daughter and my Heavenly Father. I’m currently a student teaching and will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Education, K-6.