Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Journey with Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism definition is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain important hormones via Mayo Clinic.
Is that not the most vague definition of a medical condition? No wonder so many of us suffer from this condition.  I believe medical doctors have such a general understanding of the thyroid gland that they misdiagnose or over look its complexity.

The Mayo Clinic website further states that this condition affects mostly women over the age of 60. Well, well, well....news for you, I'm no where near 60 and, hey, it is affecting me!!

My Many Years of Misdiagnosis:

I believe my journey began not long after my daughter was born in 1997. My life had been turned upside down in March of 1996. My husband and I were transitioning from a life of military to civilian. We had moved back to his hometown in Summerville, SC. I had lost contact with my bestfriends shortly prior due to their own change of duty clear across the US. Mind you, in 1996 emails were just beginning and the World Wide Web was at its infancy. Correspondence were via the US mail not the internet. So staying in touch could take weeks even months. It was hard and then moving to a new place surrounded by family I had only had minimal contact with was extra tough. The stress was tremendous on top of finding out I was pregnant as well.

So transitioning to a new life and finding new doctors was my first few years after arriving in Summerville. No longer did I have free access to a gym and the ability to workout for an hour and a half per day. I spent an hour per day driving back and forth from work and then once home making dinner and adjusting to my new surroundings.

The first year we lived with my husband's parents. We purchased land and began building a home. So many issues arose during this process and I was pregnant with my daughter at the time. My husband worked out of town throughout the week and I was left to deal with many building issues. Plus living with people I barley knew. The stress was unreal but we survived and I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful little girl.

After giving birth to my daughter I could not lose the weight. The humidity and heat of the Carolina's was unbearable. I developed eczema over 40% of my body. This was a sign of an under-active thyroid. I went to our family doctor and had blood work done as well as a dermatologist. No amount of cream or cold showers ever helped. I also was very lethargic and had to have naps nearly everyday. Yes, I was napping at 5:30 in the afternoon everyday.....  I was 27 years old and felt like I was in my 50's. I would have to push myself to get through each day and each outing just to collapse at night into bed.

At this point I was also suffering severe migraines each month. Ones that required complete darkness and hours of  laying in bed. We also began the second phase of building our home. I went to my doctor complaining of being tired and my migraines as well as my skin condition. He diagnosed me as being overly stressed and put me on anti-anxiety medications. Oh, I was also going to college, working 40 hours a week, and being a full-time mom and wife at this point on top of remodeling and adding onto our home. This began my 6 years on anti-depressants. The first prescription was Lexapro. This is a horrible drug but not as bad as the next one my doctor placed me on, Effexor. Effexor should be banned. I gained 30 pounds on this med. I must say that during this time in my life I was even more stressed. I was still going to college, working 2 jobs, and being a Mom and Wife. We had also falling on some major money issues due to a loss contract with our employer. Our salaries were nearly cut in half. We had to sell the home we spent so many years building and making a perfect home for us and our children.

I was soon after placed on Wellbutrin. This was  a better drug that leveled me off perfectly, but I still thought something was not right. I ended up having a hysterectomy in 2001 due to uterine fibroids. But I believe that it also stemmed from an under-active thyroid. Even when I would have blood work done the doctor would always say my numbers were normal. Now the scale is such a wide variance that what might have been normal for one person might not be normal for me. I then started taking HRT in 2001 which of course caused my hormones to really go out of wack.

My job was becoming more and more stressful as well as my husband and my relationship with his parents. By the way, our employer was his parents. Ding, ding, ding you got it. Working for family is not great. In 2006 we decided it was time to make a change. We set in motion a 2 year plan to get out of debt and move. We moved back in with my husband's parents, filed bankruptcy and began researching where we would move to.

During these two years I worked 2 jobs as well as my husband. We still maintained all social events as well as keeping our kids active in after school activities. We were the normal late 20 early 30 parents with active kids. We juggled it and got through those years. I still suffered from migraines occasionally and still spent many weekends just napping my days away. I joined a gym and worked out 4 to 5 times a week. I still was not losing weight. At this point I was around 165 pounds. I was active and could go snow skiing, jet skiing, and biking but I was still over weight. During these years I was plagued with allergies and had many sinus infections.

I was going to the gym but in late 2007 I began gaining weight again. I had loss 20 pounds of the 30 I had gained in 2005. I now gained back those 20 pounds plus 10 more. Another 30 pound gain. I was miserable!! I was still making our ski trips throughout the winters. I was still going to the lake, but not jet skiing as much as I once did. No matter what type of diet I went on I could not loss weight. I became even more depressed, but kept it hidden from all around me. In July of 2008 we made the big move. We moved from Summerville, SC to Park City, UT. We had no jobs lined up and had no clue if we would make it. We just went for it.

My Diagnosis:

Looking back on this jump of faith, it was scary. But we did it and we are so glad we did. Our kids thrived in this community and adjusted so good to new schools and new friends. I found work within a couple of weeks moving here and my husband began his career as a ski instructor. We are happier but we still have had plenty of days, months, and years of stress. It is just life and we have learned how to deal with it. I got off of all anti-depressants and have never got back on them. Within a year of moving here I was diagnosed with borderline hypothyroidism. My doctor also changed my HRT regiment. After a year of being on the thyroid meds and new HRT, my eczema cleared up. I had energy to burn. Life was going great. I had loss 30 pounds and was well on my way to lose the rest when I tore my ACL and meniscus in 2014. During my recovery phase I ran out of my thyroid meds and needed a new prescription. We also had switched medical plans and I would have to go through the process of new doctor and new everything. I was feeling really good and thought maybe I did not need the meds any longer. Well, 6 months later I gained 10 pounds and began needing naps. My eczema returned. I then gained another 10 pounds. So I broke down and went to a doctor. My thyroid was the culprit again. I was placed on Levothyroxin again and went through the process of finding the right dosage. I thought I was back on track in July of 2015. I had began losing weight again and gained back my energy. I was working out 6 - 7 days a week. I felt awesome!! In September 2015  once again my thyroid began  zapping my energy and putting back on the pounds. My eczema came back in full force. I went from working out everyday to napping everyday. The month of October is a blur. I worked and slept pretty much the complete month. In November I went back to my doctor and had blood work completed again.

What do you do when you have done the work, took the meds required and yet again you are hitting rock bottom. I had eliminated sodas years prior as well as most processed foods. I was living a clean and healthy life. My doctor decided it was the generic brand that was causing the issue. I was not receiving the full dosage. It took 2 months before my insurance approved the name brand. I began taking it in January. In these past three months my weight has fluctuated between 189 and 181. I am now starting to feel a difference. I am going more weeks with energy compared to before being only days. I am waking up earlier in the morning and maintaining a full day of wakefulness. I still have some days where I need a nap. I take the needed nap and go on. I still have a long ways to go with my weight, but I am getting there. It is just so sad that 20 years ago I started showing the signs of an under-active thyroid, but because of my age and the lack of medical diagnosis I have suffered and I am still suffering.

Living with Hypothyroidism:

Living everyday with a chronic illness that no one really sees and understands is hard. When you don't have the energy the next day like you did the day before can become depressing. When your spouse cannot comprehend the efforts you make each day to be normal is depressing. I cannot fault others who do not have the same issues, they do not understand. It is hard to go to your doctor and explain to them that you are not feeling right. All the doctor says is that it comes with your age, but I don't buy it. How can you explain to others that yes today I am feeling great but tomorrow I might not? When your hormones get out of balance you cannot notice the changes at first. The sudden irritability and snappiness you become. How do you go to your doctor and say okay I know something isn't right because my attitude isn't right? They then want to place you on anti-anxiety meds. And then if you do get all the right test and the doctor comes up with a plan that will correct your hormonal imbalances you cannot go on the medications or supplements because then your insurance will not cover the alternative solutions. And if you are struggling to make your everyday bills how can you place more strain on your family by adding the costs of alternative medications and supplements?

I wake each day and assess how my body is going to feel before I rise from bed. I start off strong in the mornings with a plan to attack the day, but by the time work is over my body is zapped and all plans of working out normally are out the window. I push myself to prepare a healthy dinner and by 9 pm I am collapsing into bed just to start the day over again and push myself to the finish line. On days I know I have an activity planned I am drinking energy drinks just to have the energy to begin the activity. I will keep doing the work and keep striving for balance hormones, but each day is hard even if I don't show it physically outwardly. Each day is a push but I will keep pushing.

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