I was about to turn 40 and I thought I was losing my mind.
There were so many things going wrong with my mind and body, but they were all so disjointed that it never occurred to me that they were related.
My mind seemed to be in a perpetual fog. I couldn’t remember anything. I could walk from one room to another in my house, for specific a purpose, and not know why I was there. I’d have to pace back and forth between rooms in an effort to figure out what I was looking for and wanting to do. Some days I never did remember. Running errands I’d find myself sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store and having no idea how I got there.
I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking, and my nails became sugar glass brittle. If they didn’t snap at the slightest pressure, they would peel like an onion. Running my fingers across my head while shampooing in the shower, I would come away with handfuls of hair. What I lost from my head, began to sprout on my chin.
I started gaining weight at an alarming rate. At the time I was an exercise fiend. I worked out with free-weights, I ran or biked nearly every day, and trained in martial arts at least five times a week. Still the pounds kept piling on, and it was fat and not muscle.
You know those annoying eye tics you get that make you look like you’re winking at everyone? Typically those last maybe an hour or so, mine would go on for weeks.
It was never warm enough in the house. I was always freezing. It was the hottest part of the summer and I dressed in sweats, wrapped myself in a fleece blanket, wore thick wool socks, and shivered.
Everything hurt. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit down, it hurt to simply stand still. And the migraines! The ones where light and sound are amplified 100 times, where you feel like your eyes are going to explode out of your head, and the nausea is so severe all you want is to go ahead and die… yeah, those.
I would suffer from vertigo, and be so sick and dizzy that I longed for the relief of a migraine. The best I could do was close myself up in a completely dark, quiet room, curl into a fetal position and wait for the storm to pass.
Then there was the total exhaustion. It became a family joke that if Mom sat down for even a minute, she’d fall asleep.
It came to the point where I believed I was clinically depressed, or going insane.
Still, I didn’t go to the doctor. What was I going to say? “I think I’m going crazy because my nails break, my eye twitches, and I’m cold.” I did have my annual gyno exam coming up, so I thought I might as well bring up my concerns with her.
Her first response after I listed off all my many and sundry symptoms was, “Well, you are turning 40.”
If I hadn’t been so friggin’ tired, I would have enjoyed breaking a nail smacking her.
Despite her less than sympathetic answer, she did order some blood work, including a fasting check of my TSH levels. She wanted to see how well my thyroid was working.
Apparently it wasn’t. Not only was my thyroid on strike, but my body was rebelling and attacking it. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder called Hashimoto’s Disease. Once that was determined all of those other symptoms made sense.
Hormone replacement was prescribed since my butterfly shaped gland had basically decided to quit working. Apparently your thyroid is much more important than you might think. It regulates things like body temperature, fires up your metabolism, and a low functioning thyroid can also trigger migraines and vertigo. Who knew. Every other symptom could also be traced back to my whacked out thyroid.
I wish I could say that once my thyroid levels were back to normal that so was I. For the most part my symptoms have abated. I rarely have vertigo episodes, and the migraines only show up when I fail to stick with my meds.
Losing weight is still a Herculean task, and my body temp is at least two degrees below normal all the time. There are days when I am ridiculously tired and my short-term memory is shot, but I’m not lost in a constant brain fog.
I have blood work done every six months to monitor my thyroid levels. An added bonus to having an auto-immune disorder is that it makes you a higher risk for more. About five years ago I was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I literally shake, rattle and roll with all the meds I have to take and the toll all of this has taken on my body.
In the grand scheme of things, I still have it better than some people. I’m about to turn 49, I can still function, I can still work, I’m still alive…. There are times when I feel sorry for myself, but most days I’m just happy to be here and still in my right mind.
Day 12 – 30 Days of Shamelessness: share about a health struggle.