Those who have been following my blog for a while would know that I suffered a significant health incident a few years ago. I burnt out. Medically, that meant my adrenal glands were not operating optimally and I developed an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. From a lifestyle point-of-view, that meant chronic fatigue for several years, so bad that I could not work or function normally for a long time.
I had to make a lot of changes. I had to learn how to function with reduced energy, which is somewhat challenging for an achievement-seeking A-type personality. I had to learn to be patient with myself and my body while recovering. I changed almost every aspect of my life: my career, my relationships, my beliefs and my behavior. My life looks very different now and I’m grateful for that as I’m a lot happier overall.
I was an achiever without goals which is an unnatural state of affairs. I could not focus on ultra marathon achievements or professional success because I could not exercise at all initially and I could not work. So, I set my focus and determination on getting better. I treated it like a project. I subscribed to newsletters, I listened to podcasts, I registered for summits and I read anything I could find online about thyroid and adrenal health.
I found wonderful groups of supportive people. Others in my network recommended treatments, tonics, supplements and healing. I did almost everything that was recommended by a credible source. I changed my diet on the advice of my doctor and the recommendations of friends and online sources. I discovered spirituality and dabbled in healing on the emotional, spiritual and mental levels. I learnt how to meditate and embraced mindfulness which was somewhat of a struggle. I found a therapist who specializes in burnout who helped me to make sense of getting so sick.
I also sought the support of multiple types of medicine and practitioners. I have a homeopath, an endocrinologist and an integrated (functional) practitioner in my panel of doctors. I am open to trying alternative treatments that support my recovery. I have taken ownership of my own health and not left it up to any medical practitioner. No one can accuse me of being complacent with my health as I believe that I have done everything reasonable I can do to recover as quickly as possible. Of course there is more that can be done but we also need balance. At some point one starts to feel it’s too much in terms of time, energy and money spent on more interventions.
On my most recent batch of blood tests, the results showed something very interesting. My adrenal glands have recovered and I no longer need to take any medication for them. I have felt incrementally better over the past few years and I’m so pleased to be at the point where I don’t need to support my adrenals with medication any longer. This shows great progress.
However, my thyroid results were worrying. Most people who have my illness, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, do not have a working thyroid any longer. The thyroid function is damaged by years of attack by the immune system. My thyroid works which means it produces the hormones that give the body energy and enable metabolism to work. I’m one of the few people with this disease who doesn’t take medication for it.
However, my antibody levels are very high which means that my immune system is attacking my thyroid more than it ever has before. If that continues, my thyroid won’t work any longer and I’ll be forced to take medication to simulate what the thyroid does. Millions of people take this medication and it’s not the end of the world. However, it is my aim to allow my body to work optimally and all the work I have done for the past few years is aligned to that. If the attack continues I am at a higher risk for other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
I really want to avoid my immune system from ravaging my body. There is the possibility that my immune system has spikes and dips and is mostly working fine. I have young children who bring home colds and flu. When I had the blood tests done I had one child sick with the flu and I came down with it shortly afterwards. So, were my antibodies elevated from that? Or is it an ongoing attack?
I’m telling you all this because I’ve made a decision that is quite unusual and significant for me. My endocrinologist put me on medication to calm down the immune system. His aim is to prevent me from losing my thyroid and developing other autoimmune diseases. This is also my aim of course. The medication tastes terrible, is administered at an inconvenient time of day and has to be stored in the fridge. It ramps up every week and by the time I reached week four, I was a different person.
The side effects include depression, hopelessness, worthlessness and inability to feel joy. I lost any interest in writing, I felt completely worthless and I could not feel joy. I grappled with what to do for a while and eventually decided to stop taking the medication. I know I stand the risk of losing my thyroid. I am also risking developing more illnesses. But I cannot live without joy. I am all about joy. It’s absolutely everything to me.
It was a hard decision to make but at the end of the day it is my decision. I’ve stopped the medication and instead, I’ll use a homeopathic equivalent. I want to give myself and my body the best chance to be as healthy as possible. But if I have to choose between health and joy, I choose joy. I believe that I’ve done as much as I can do towards living a healthy life and recovering as much as I can. At some point, I need to let go and trust that things will turn out the way they need to.