Hyperthyroidism

goiters

After dealing with thyroid disease for almost 9 years, I finally, for the first time, can definitively identify the symptoms that are coming from being hyperthyroid. When they found the goiters on my thyroid and diagnosed me with Graves Disease, I didn’t know my very overactive thyroid was doing anything to my body. Unlike these stories you hear (like Dr. Amy Myers‘s), I was not telling an unbelieving doctor that there was something wrong with me. Quite the opposite. I had multiple doctors see my test results and look at me, perplexed: “You haven’t been shaking, anxious, losing weight? Have you been losing hair or had temperature problems?” Nope, nope, nope. I had been hyperthyroid for so long that I just thought of myself as someone who had thin hair and could eat a lot. Everything else I chalked up to my high-stress job: I was “type A”, I didn’t sleep well because I had a lot on my mind. I wasn’t anxious, I was BUSY. Give me the radioactive iodine already and let me get back to work!

A few weeks ago, I started getting very stressed out about my upcoming trip to California. So much to plan, rentals to find, plane tickets to buy, packing lists to make, food to prepare and freeze, prescriptions to fill. And for the doctor I’ll be seeing, I have to write my history, years of tests to sort, scan and email, release of records forms to ten different clinics… Of course I was feeling overwhelmed–especially with finding places to stay since every day that I didn’t make a decision, more options would disappear. My sleep had (has) gone to hell, I’m waking up with a sore jaw from grinding and my teeth feel unstable. I keep telling my husband, “There’s too much to do. I can’t breath, my heart is racing, I feel like I’m going to have a stress-heart attack.” I lie down to rest and my mind … my god, it just races and my body feels full of electricity. I give up, come downstairs and speed talk at my husband. The other night he asked me, “How do you have so much energy right now, you didn’t sleep at all?” And I said, “It’s not energy, it’s adrenaline, it’s stress. Once the trip is sorted, this will stop.” That was my explanation.

I lost a little bit of weight and thought it was because I cut back on eating so many nuts. But I’m eating more in general: one minute I’m complaining about how full and uncomfortable I am and, five minutes later, I’m back in the kitchen looking for snacks. I said to my friend, “I’m stress-eating.” That was my excuse. I said to my Mom, “My hair has started to fall out again and it never even grew back from before.” In my mind, I was blaming the hair loss on weight loss, even though I’m only down a few pounds. That makes no sense! Such a small amount of weight loss hasn’t caused hair loss, your thyroid has caused both, you myopic fool.

A week or two before I started to notice all of this, I had increased my thyroid medication from 100ug to 125ug a day. I’ve changed my dose so many times over the years, I don’t give it a second thought. I certainly don’t monitor my body’s reactions because I am an expert at ignoring the signs, even when they’re not subtle. Just like when I was a workaholic and feeling these same physical symptoms, but thought they were just from job pressure.

When the penny dropped (I was recently told that Americans don’t know that idiom — it means you put two and two together or the light bulb went off), that all of it is overactive thyroid, I was so excited, so soothed. And it was suddenly so very obvious. This is textbook. I’m not an anxious person, I never have been. My neuroses are canted more towards rumination and second-guessing. It’s a fine line, but this tight, breathless, buzzing, heart-hammering feeling in my chest is not normal and is awful. Such a sad thing to realise that, even after all this time, with my body yelling its head off, I blindly make excuses. I could be standing here, cold and jittery, with a handful of hair in one hand and my third sandwich in the other, saying, “Gosh, this trip planning is stressful.” It reminds me of that scene in The Man With Two Brains when he’s looking at the portrait of his dead wife and asks her to give him a sign if his new girlfriend is bad news. After the ghost turns the room upside down, Steve Martin says, “Just any kind of sign. I’ll keep on the lookout for it. Meanwhile, I’ll just put you in the closet.” I’ve been putting my body in the closet. I’m so happy to finally know without a doubt exactly what my hyperthyroid symptoms feel like and even happier to know I can fix it.

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Dog Days Are Over

Yesterday, I was finally going to write an exciting update about my strength returning, my one good night’s sleep, and the lovely sunny day, but then this happened: I decided to throw the ball for the dogs for the first time since March. They have been starved for Mama play time, so I reasoned a few throws were my first choice over stretches or walking laps around the garden.

One would think that in my sickly state these throws would be pathetically weak, but I’m using a Chuck-it and an extra large squeaker ball and I’m giving it my all because I know I only have a few throws in me. But this Chuck-it is huge and we don’t have enough space and it is always tricky to get a decent lob. Well, my first attempt, flung with all my effort, drilled directly down in front of me instead of in a nice arch away from me… and bore straight into my big beautiful brown-eyed baby’s eye.

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This dog doesn’t cry or yelp ever. He injured his back and never made a peep, he just shivered and drooled and couldn’t walk. But the tennis ball today made him cry out and then bolt and kind of run around confused, tail tucked, not knowing where to go. When I got close to him, all I saw was red inside his eye orbit. It looked like his eyeball had been driven back into his head or flipped backwards or something. I had the house locked up, his leash on, my shoes on, my car keys in my hand and my husband on the phone in seconds. I said, “I’m going to the vet. My phone is dead. I need you to call and make sure someone can see him now.” My husband said, “Do you have the strength to do that?” I stopped and sat down on the front steps. I hadn’t even thought about whether I could manage. It wasn’t until I then-when I became still- that I felt the adrenalin like a tidal wave through my body. My legs were jelly, my hands were shaking. I glanced at my heart rate monitor: 125. “I’ll find the strength,” I said. But as I looked at my dog, I realised the red I saw in his eye socket was the inner lid – it’d been completely covering the eyeball and the effect was gruesome. Now that it had retracted halfway and I could see his pretty brown iris, I calmed. The vet could wait until my husband got home.

As I write this, the world is spinning. I haven’t had acute emergency-type stress in my life (luckily) in so long and the feeling is alien. I was mowed over by a speeding epinephrine train and I realised four things:

1. I would be able to handle an emergency. I would be able to mine down deep into my cells for the resources necessary to fight off danger or rescue my loved ones or whatever might crop up… The question is what would (will) the physical ramifications be in the days that follow.

2. I lived with a chronic case of that stress response for YEARS in my job. The feeling was all too familiar. I used to never turn off. There was always a crisis, always a problem, always a fire to be put out (figuratively, not actually, thankfully). And, when there wasn’t an immediate concern, I was looking for one that hadn’t been discovered yet, so I wouldn’t be blindsided. It was a constant stomach queaze, the dull adrenal hum of my sympathetic nervous system stuck in hyper-vigilance, anticipating the next restaurant catastrophe.

3. I, myself, created a lot of that intense stress by being a controlling perfectionist who holds herself to unreachable standards and unsustainable responsibilities. And I still do. It takes work to not blame yourself for getting sick and it takes practice to let yourself off the hook for not getting better. It takes restraint to not take care of the house and it takes discipline to not forge ahead with the life you always wanted. And I try every day to forgive myself for not being the employee, friend, sister, daughter, wife I want to be.

4. I miss it. I miss crisis management and learning how to fix a problem and finding out how to do it better in the future. I miss being an honest adviser, without judgment. I miss jumping into action, making mistakes, figuring it out. I miss being the one that doesn’t need help ~ being the rock and the confidant and the reality check for those I love. I’m kind of sick of calm, quiet, peaceful boredom. I thrive on excitement and stress ~ as long as it is a positive atmosphere and a supportive team with a for-the-greater-good outcome. I knew I should have been an emergency room doctor.

Gratitude for the day: no orbital fracture or scratched cornea or dislodged eyeball. Just some pain and spooked tail-tucking. My pup is okay. But the sunny days are over for a while.

bowie1

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