Last year at this time, I found out that I had Hashimoto’s and graduated from grad school all within the same week. I spent a lot of time wondering if there were enough hours in the day to sleep as much as I felt I needed. I wondered if I would always need a heating pad to sleep through the night and I felt highly skeptical that a thyroid could cause so much havoc on how I felt. I was constantly inflamed, I had nerve pain in the weirdest places, chronic pain, and I had horrible brain fog all of the time. I walked around for months completely confused feeling and flu-like.
The diagnosis itself was stressful, but also so relieving to have a name for what I was experiencing. So much of my life has improved, but ironically, the hair loss was what was hardest for me. I spent more time covering up the bald patches in my hair than I actually did fixing it for a long time. Thankfully, my hair started growing back almost immediately after my improved treatment began. As it is now, my hair currently feels like someone buzzed everything close to my scalp and it is incredibly itchy. However, it is pretty amazing how our bodies start to repair.
I’ll admit that I was a little naive though. I thought that my medicine would be a quick fix and my levels would return to normal again and quickly. However, medicine side effects are sometimes just as bad and incredibly hard to separate.
Have you ever used the bathroom on yourself in public? Well, I have now. Four times. I never thought it would be something I could laugh about, but it is, and one story in particular is pretty humorous. I’ve spent months nauseous with flu-like symptoms with people constantly asking me if I’m actually pregnant (and tummy checking me!). I wouldn’t use my autoimmune illness as a means to hide pregnancy and after repeating myself several times, I finally just started taking pregnancy tests on my period to validate to people that nope. This has really brought home that invisible illnesses are hard to explain to others. Admittedly, I would have never understood prior to this and now I do.
All in all though, it really hit home a few months ago that this is chronic illness and doesn’t have just a super simple fix. Sometimes my body and how it is acting feels very foreign to me as I begin searching internet forums to sympathize.
There have been weeks where our house is a disaster while I’m having a flare up. I’ve had friends offer to bring me food. I’ve had to say no to things I otherwise would have done or service I would have rendered because I’m just too tired. I’ve learned that intense exercise that I used to love makes me incredibly inflamed. I’ve taken more several hour naps during the day than I can count.
However, I’m also learning things about my body I never knew before. I’m learning to reduce my flare ups with food modification. I’m learning that stress literally hurts me because I can feel it in my body and I have to find ways to relieve it. I’m seeing how chemically based so much of anxiety is as my body is beginning to ease up on my thoughts for the first time.
There are so many things that have been a surprise and I’ve had a lot of blood vials taken at the Doctor’s office. What I’ve found is that there is an amazing community of people with autoimmune illnesses. I’ve reached out to others who have been figuring this out for years and I’ve received messages from others who have felt lonely in their recent diagnosis. I feel gracious for a husband that gives me the rest I need and lacks resentment for the many issues I have had. I feel especially grateful that I have had a great Doctor who listens and responds to my needs when so many people in this community have been ignored.
I would never wish an autoimmune illness on anyone, but I’m happy for the things I have learned in this past year and I hope to continue learning.