Living with Hashimoto’s: How I Navigate My Thyroid Disease and Tips for Other Women Struggling with it
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease in September of 2015, but my journey begins before then. Two years and two months to be exact.
What I remember the most is the feeling of being tired. Not “I Need a 15 Minute Catnap” tired, but extreme fatigue from basically walking and existing. I took a trip to Boston in July 2013. I had fun, but I yearned to lie down the entire time. I found my eyes closing as we toured Fenway Park. I drifted off as we took a ferry. I would ask to sit down on a bench as we walked the Freedom Trail because the bones in my feet ached so badly. I am an active runner, so this was unusual to me. After I got back, I chalked it up to just the weariness of traveling. However, although the tiredness subsided a bit, the aches in my bones persisted. Thus, my two-year journey on the path to Hashimoto’s began.
The first doctor I saw was a podiatrist. He thoroughly examined and x-rayed my feet. Somewhat puzzled, he proclaimed that I might have a slight stress fracture. He suggested a boot for a few weeks. Feeling silly, I obliged. I wore it for the prescribed amount of time, all the while thinking that it had done nothing to help and we really weren’t getting to the root of the problem. Goodbye money.
Several months passed with some dull aches and pains present, but overall, nothing too extreme. I continued running and living a normal lifestyle. My pains came back with a vengeance in the spring, but they were different this time. The muscles in my limbs hurt as well as my joints. I even experienced, what I would describe as tingling and numbness in my arms and legs from time to time. It was much worse this time around. I felt a constant need to stretch everything out or lie down. I needed to seek some help.
The second doctor that I saw was my primary care doctor. She seemed perplexed too. My blood was drawn and when the results came in, she suggested a medicine that did nothing to help at all. Goodbye money.
Summer 2014 was here, and I would experience the pains for weeks with them subsiding for a few days. I tried icepacks. They worked for the time being. I revisit the doctor’s office, and this time she prescribed me anti-depression pills. I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t depressed and never even had told her that. I refused to take them. Goodbye more money.
The third time I saw my PCP she suggested I get a scan of my brain because maybe it was Multiple Sclerosis. “We just want to rule everything out.” I stared at them in disbelief. Sure, they would never conclude that I had MS just because I ticked one box. But there I was getting my head scanned, the first of many due to developing an unrelated brain aneurysm the following year. The results came in and just as I expected everything was normal. Goodbye money.
By this time, I was fed up with the cocktail of drugs they tried to force upon me and the number of futile tests I had to endure. I switched doctors in September of 2015. My new doctor, the amazing Dr. Amy Bruton of The Whole Woman in Raleigh, NC, ran some blood work and informed me my thyroid levels were off. She sent me to what was now the 4th kind of doctor I had seen, the endocrinologist.
There, he confirmed that I had Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. In all, it means I have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). His response to my question on where do I go from here was vague. He was the kind of doctor that couldn’t make eye contact and talked in hard to understand medical language. I left with the impression that I just do…nothing?
A couple of months later I went back to my new doctor. In dismay, she shook her head when I told her of the endocrinologist’s advice. I left her office that day with a referral to a new endocrinologist, Dr. Glenn Stall of Raleigh Endocrine, and a whole list of medicine and vitamins to take: Nature Throid, Inflavonoid, Methyl B12, and Vitamin D. As I scanned my credit card for medicine and some new procedure for the umpteenth time, I prayed this time it would pay off.
A few weeks later after taking the medicine, my prayers were answered. I felt the best I had in years. A renewed energy. The road to recovery was underway.
At once, Dr. Bruton recommended that I cut back on the gluten and sugar intake. I laughed. After all, all things good were sugar and gluten, but I nodded my head in agreement and avowed to radically change my diet. I already ate healthily, but eliminating all gluten and sugar was a little bit of a stretch. I probably cut back 10-20%, but in all I skated by on the medicine alone until one day that simply was not enough.
After having more good days than bad for a while, things started to shift, and my bad days outnumbered my good. My joints and muscles started aching again, and my neck started to feel swollen. Trips to the doctor and endocrinologist yielded medicine changes and dosage switches, but I realized that I had to get serious about my diet.
First thing I did was bought a well-reviewed book called, “The Root Cause.” In the book the author details her journey with Hashimoto’s disease and treating the root cause rather than “putting a bucket under a leak.” The medicine was the bucket. Sure, it temporarily fixed the problem, but it didn’t stop it. After reading the book, I decided to stock up on the vitamins: Vitamin D, B12, Ashwagandha, Magnesium, Selenium, and Inflavanoid. Then, I undertook a big challenge: An Elimination Diet.
For three weeks, I cut out 8 trigger foods: gluten, dairy, soy, shellfish, nuts, eggs, corn, and preservatives. It was really important to avoid these ingredients in their entirety, which I was shocked to learn that one or more of those things are in mostly everything, especially soy.
After a nightmare of three weeks in the food department, I was salivating to begin bringing back these foods one by one into my diet. What I learned was that I had a gluten sensitivity and maybe a slight corn and soy one as well. But for the sake of my sanity I decided to go cold turkey and eliminate gluten all together. And I did for over a year. I was strict with myself and probably really annoying to everyone else, but I felt great!
Then, I got pregnant and two months into it I craved gluten. After a few weeks of battling morning sickness, I caved and ate my first taste of gluten in over a year. Not too long, I completely fell off the wagon and was eating gluten like it was my job. If it affected me, I didn’t notice because well…pregnancy. Finally, I had my son and decided to be gluten free 50-75% of the time. My friends and family can’t keep up, but I definitely can tell when I coming down from the high of too much sugar and gluten. My neck feels tight and I have little energy. One of these days I plan to get back off it 100% of the time, but for now I will savor every last drop of it.
Not only does diet affect Hashimoto’s but so does lifestyle. The more stressed I am the more the disease flairs up, and the more it flairs up the more stressed I become from my tiredness and overall pain. It’s a vicious cycle. To counter that, I must really learn to manage my stress. How I do that is by practicing taking deep breaths when I feel a huge wave of overwhelming feelings coming on. I have to pause, shut my eyes (if I am not driving), and take those breaths. It helps. I also learn to cut back on unnecessary work and commitment, and I lie down to rest when my energy is completely zapped. It’s a lot of letting go, but my overall wellbeing and happiness is really important. Some other strategies that help:
· Writing down lists
· Doing a little bit at a time
· Saying no
· Asking for help
· 7-8 hours of sleep every night
· Recognizing my limits
· Calming music
Ups and Downs
With Hashimoto’s Disease, Dr. Bruton warned me that there would be ups and downs. I’ll have good days when the medicine is really helping, and then I will crash and have to learn to readjust. For example, after I gave birth I switched from hypo to hyper and was full of boundless energy, which rocked, so I went off my pills. Then, bam came the big crash, and I was back to being hypo and with that the need for my medicine again. Overall, I don’t love the disease, but I do love the feeling of having to be so attuned to my body and its needs. It’s a part of me, and it’s my journey.
Welcome to Raleigh, Ya’ll. One of the happiest cities in America. Home to low depression rates, people who get adequate sleep, and satisfaction of career and income. Raleigh has been my home for almost 9 years, and in that time I have learned to navigate their unique Southern language (parking deck and not parking garage), their obsession with college basketball (who knew the shade of blue could be so controversially), and their affinity to barbecue sauce (Eastern vs. Western). But what makes me love Raleigh so much is more than that. It’s sitting outside on a clear night eating a taco, sipping a beer, and talking with friends. It’s running on one of the multiple paths throughout the city or strolling among the sunflowers in a park. It’s driving to the mountains and then the next month driving to the coast. It’s my son running around at one of the multiple museums. It’s the languages and cultures all mixed into one city. It’s the people.
1.) The Food/Drink Scene
I wouldn’t call myself a Foodie or a beer or wine connoisseur per say, but I appreciate both casual and fine dining. Raleigh certainly doesn’t lack in those areas. Our city has two food halls, a pay what you can restaurant, and one of America’s best chefs who owns multiple restaurants. We have restaurants which have been featured on TV: The Pit and Cousins Maine Lobster.
A perfect day would be spent brunching at The Flying Biscuit Café located in the heart of Cameron Village, an open-air shopping center. My husband and I would then drive to a brewery, sit outside, and enjoy a beer while our toddler runs around in a kid friendly beer garden. Later that evening, we can head to downtown Raleigh and stroll the streets while nibbling on bites from different food trucks at a Food Truck Rodeo. Finally, we top it off with dessert at any one of Raleigh’s numerous bakeries or ice cream parlors.
Americans are craving a more authentic eating experience. We simply don’t want to always have to deal with the hassle of kids in a traditional restaurant where we sit in a crowded booth in a dimly lit space. While Raleigh certainly does have those styles of restaurants that are both great and classic, the city offers up experiences for all kinds. Whether you want to sit outside, choose to eat from multiple places at once, or let your kids roam (mostly) free, Raleigh has something for you!
2.) The Active Lifestyle
Having run cross country and track for years in high school and college, I was so happy to find out that Raleigh had miles of trails around lakes, through the city, and so close to home. The running community is thriving here. I have found friends from going to run clubs that meet at breweries or running stores. These friends and I have participated in multiple road races which have people running in kilts or lederhosen or eating a dozen donuts in tutus.
Also, I have opportunities to be involved in other activities. Raleigh offers many free weekly workout classes once the weather gets warm. I can drive to a local park and do free yoga every Wednesday, or I can head to a green space to do aerobic and station workouts with a large group. These are great ways to get your family or friends out for a midweek fitness session. And did I mention it’s free!
Even more, Raleigh has a professional hockey team, a professional soccer team down the road in Cary, and a minor league baseball team in Durham. The people here seem to care about getting fit and staying healthy. It is great to be a part of that!
3.) Central Location
Raleigh has the best of both worlds. Because of its prime central location in the state, you can drive about 2 ½ hours east or west and arrive at the coast or the mountains. You can make a short weekend trip or even a day trip out of it.
We prefer more of the mountain side of the state and definitely have taken advantage of that by making multiple trips to Asheville and its surrounding areas. Going there in the fall is a must for anyone who loves the color of fall leaves and the crisp, cool weather. For me, the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure area are on my bucket list.
On the other side of the state, the coast, we have made trips to Wilmington, New Bern, Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Ocean Isle. You can spend a nice day soaking up the sun, strolling the boardwalks, or taking a leisurely bike ride. Beaufort is on my bucket list.
4. The Museums/Libraries
I have never been one to frequent museums much before arriving to Raleigh, but now I am thrilled that our city has so many to offer. It's a free way to spend an afternoon learning or letting your kid be amazed. Raleigh has an Art, Science, History, and Kids Museum to name a few of our larger ones. The Kids Museum is by far my favorite because it allows Henry to run wild, and everything's safe and kid friendly. The museum also offers 21+ nights where adults can drink beer and be kids at the same time. The science museum also offers traveling exhibits. I have been able to see the Titanic and Race one, both which have been fascinating and full of wealths of information. I highly recommend these museums.
Conversely, I have always been a fan of libraries, but I am really impressed at what the libraries in this city have to offer. Story times, resources, book clubs, community classes - to name a few. It's comforting to know that Americans spent more time at libraries than movie theaters in 2019. And after visiting the libraries in Raleigh, I can see why.
5. The Diversity
The number one reason why I love Raleigh so much is the people. It's a melting pot for cultures all over the world. Rarely, do you meet someone who is actually from Raleigh and when you do, you are charmed by their Southern hospitality. Go to the mall, a restaurant, a festival, or the State Fair, and you will see all kinds of people coming together and largely embracing one another and getting along. We have cultural festivals multiple times a year. We have one of the most integrated school systems in America. We have people speaking different languages and practicing diverse religions and looking differently helping each other.
From my neighborhood I can walk in one direction to a Spanish tienda and in the other to a Chinese market. I have had students and their parents from Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Somalia, Tanzania, Georgia, Morocco, Austria, and India. I have been in meetings where a Spanish and sign language interpreter are going at the same time. It's amazing! It's not perfect and we have a long way to go, but we are trying and for that I love Raleigh.
What every happened to predictability? The Tanners and Fullers might still be wondering in 2020, but they must not have looked too hard to find it because it is sure living in my household. I love routines just as much as I love finding change on the ground, watching airplanes take off and land, and doing crosswords in the morning. They're a pretty big deal to me. I love reading other people's routines. I love watching stories on people's routines. There is something about that tantalizing taste of predictability that really gets me pumped. The satisfying smell of familiarity that tickles my fancy. And the pleasant performance of doing the same thing day in and day out.
With that said, it's important to keep in mind that routines are not rigid. They are flexible to deal with changes, to spice things up every now and then, and to keep you safe. Here are my routines for the weekdays and weekends.
My Weekday Routine
And that is our routine! It is isn't set in stone and varies from weekend to weekend. Remember routines are flexible. Sometimes do we have to postpone a nap or skip it entirely? Yes, that's life. Occasionally, do I have to "ignore" Henry, so I get get necessary work and household projects done? Yes, it happens. From time to time, do we stay inside all day because well we don't feel like leaving or changing from our pajamas. Yes, of course. A routine is what works best for you and is subject to change. Let me know your routines!