Here is today’s subscriber story from my “How To Heal Autoimmune Diseases Without Meds” Summit Series.
Thank you for your Summit Series. I thought I would let others know who are watching that they are not alone in attempting to manage their autoimmune disease. My autoimmune disease, a common one, is hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.
I was first diagnosed by my OB/GYN about three months after my daughter was born. That was 22 years ago just so you have an idea of how long I’ve been faced with this challenge. I told my doctor that I was so devastatingly tired all the time, not like “I’m a new mom tired because I’m breastfeeding and get no sleep,” but a recognizable and often frightening “deep fatigue” tired as in not able to get out of bed some mornings because I also felt very weak. I had never been weak in my life! He felt my throat and ordered a thyroid test. When my results came back, I was clinical with a number of 112 (my number should have landed somewhere between 0.3 – 5.0), so I was immediately prescribed medication.
For the next year while I continued to breastfeed and take my medication, which was adjusted twice to a higher dose, I still felt a sense of permanent exhaustion. My family and friends convinced me that eventually “this phase” would lessen because the diagnosis post-pregnancy is quite common. However, that was not the case for me. Some days I simply felt spent before the day had even begun. It was incredibly depressing to feel so tired upon waking that often I’d start crying first thing in the morning knowing how tired I was going to be for the entire day. What was worse was I felt no one understood what I was going through, which made me equally depressed and anxious. Some days I would “fake” my enthusiasm and energy to others because I couldn’t stand being asked if I “felt better,” which of course I didn’t.
About my third year in with Hashimoto’s, I decided to consult with some well-known endocrinologists, all in Los Angeles. One, who practiced at UCLA asked me what I ate each day, and more importantly what I ate first thing in the morning. I answered my green soy protein drink of course. Wham! For three years I had taken my medication and followed it with what I thought was healthy (BTW I’ve been a pescatarian for over 25 years). Within about four months of removing that drink, I began to notice a difference. I felt grateful for his knowledge about the effects of soy on thyroid medication (especially taking it within four hours), as no one had brought this connection up in any conversation about Hashimoto’s. But, unfortunately that change faded as well.
I began to realize diet, exercise, and stress all contributed to my sense of wellbeing. There were many months when I ate as clean as I possibly could, stayed on an exercise program that typically involved training for a marathon or other event, and kept stressful circumstances at a distance with a reasonable amount of yoga. But there was no denying the facts. I still had long stretches of imbalance that would knock me out and down, down the path of insomnia, dry skin, hair loss, intolerance to cold, and incapacitating brain fog. And, monthly migraines I could predict to the day and hour. (Yes, I know this is often genetic and sometimes related to your cycle). What I can honestly admit now is that there were years where I didn’t look or feel like myself. Even today, I struggle.
Then, after more than 16 years (which included two miscarriages and a divorce) of being told, “Your numbers are within normal range,” two years ago I decided to try various protocols on my own. I believe that when you have lost all hope, that’s when that little voice in your head says, “Don’t give up! There’s got to be something that works that you just haven’t tried yet.” That something was the Medical Medium. I read the book and followed the suggestions and advice as though it were my Bible. I quit eating nightshades (I love and grow tomatoes so this was especially difficult!), removed any sign of corn, and stopped my morning oatmeal between other recommended shifts to my diet. Foolishly, I attempted this “cold turkey” change by substituting my body with iodine and sea kelp without consulting my internist first. Within forty-five days, I crashed hard and fast. This is BY NO MEANS a reflection upon the book or his long-standing reputation for improving the lives of thousands of people with autoimmune, specifically thyroid issues, but more my own realization that the adrenal system, so profoundly unique to each human, cannot possibly function the same for everyone. When I visited my internist on an especially awful day, he commented that I had been “playing with fire” (I had conceded to daily episodes of scary heart palpitations) and told me to get back on my medication stat! So I did because I had no other choice. It took about six months to feel better, and I mean “better” in a fuzzy-kind of way, if that makes sense.
Since then, I have found that slowly integrating a variety of alternative modalities have transformed my overall healing bit by bit, day by day. I believe in the power of ritual and that alone has been revolutionary. I exercise daily (or rather stick to my “waking and walking” three miles before checking email or anything work-related) and I continue to eat what I think may be the right foods, as well as take the purest herbs and supplements for my body. I am in the middle of menopause now and endure bouts insomnia and fatigue. Although these things are not new to me and still a part of my every day life, they have somewhat lessened. Recently I’ve had breast pain on one side and was told it could be part of menopause but of course after a spin around the Internet, I find it has some relation to hypothyroidism. Doesn’t everything?
I tell myself “I deserve to feel better,” and I’m devoted to supporting my self-care, which is why I am grateful for Pirie Jones Grossman, and others like her who have brought forth into our communities the truths about autoimmune diseases. I look forward to incorporating more meditation, the latest IV therapies, and other forms of alternative modalities to increase my overall health. Now I wake up knowing there are people who are working diligently on improving the wellness of those with a myriad of autoimmune diseases. I’m thankful for any and all new information, as these perspectives confirm that I’m not going crazy. When things pop up in my body, I am now aware that I probably share them with over 50 million Americans with autoimmune diseases.