Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 is for opening up.

Call it the promise of a new year, the need for a place to get my thoughts and feelings out, or the urge to be as transparent as possible in this space I've created for myself, but I'm coming clean about a recent development in my life. I have Hashimoto's disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Hashimoto's disease is a disorder that affects your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck, below your Adam's apple. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body's activities. In Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. The resulting inflammation often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United State."

Basically, Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder, which means that my body is attacking my thyroid. Over time, my thyroid (which controls a large portion of the body's systems, functions, and hormones) will become weaker and eventually "die," putting me into a permanent state of hypothyroidism.

Honestly, I think I'm still processing all of this -- trying to understand what's happening inside my body and how it makes me feel. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that I'm not truly a healthy 22-year-old, even though I feel like I am most of the time. Mostly, I'm scared. Scared my current symptoms won't subside, scared about how I'm at risk for developing other autoimmune health problems because my immune system is already compromised, scared that I'm unknowingly doing something that's making me worse (or unknowingly not doing something that could make me better). And I'm scared about what the future holds. I want to be healthy and live a full, happy life.

The good news is that I can. Based on the reading I've done, it seems like I'm one of the lucky ones who caught it early and sought early treatment. So yes, I feel tired and cold a lot of the time. My hair is falling out, my face is broken out like I'm a gawky 15-year-old, and my joints ache like I'm 60. I occasionally have mood swings and am constantly on the lookout for other symptoms (which can take it's toll and make me feel like a Debbie Downer 24/7). But, I'm okay. Luckily, I'm not special in all of this. Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism are very common conditions. In fact, my mom has both (genetics for the win). These symptoms are all normal, and I'm on medication to treat them and control my hypothyroidism. So, I'm okay.

Just FYI, this isn't a call for sympathy. It's just an "it is what it is" kind of thing. This is a new challenge that I'm facing, but I'm doing everything necessary to make sure I stay healthy. No sob stories here :)

Sure, all of this is scary, and a little bit unfortunate, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (poor word choice?), and I've already learned a lot about myself through all of this.

Of course, there's a back story to this, including a few weeks of hyperthyroid craziness, a trip to the ER, frustrating doctor appointments, a new doctor, lots of blood work, etc., etc. I might write about all of that one day, or I might not. I haven't decided yet. But I have decided that this "disease" (still don't like the sound of that) won't be a major topic of discussion here on this little bloggy of mine. Why? Because although it's a big development (life changing?), it doesn't define me, and -- to be honest -- not much has changed except that I now have more frequent doctor appointments and take a pill every day. I don't feel great all the time, but I've felt this way for a little while now. In fact, I feel like myself, and I'm happy, which is more than I could say a few months ago when I was going through the period of hyperthyroidism. Now, I know why I feel the way I do, and that in and of itself is a good thing.

So for now, I'm trying to take better care of myself, and these efforts will continue, well, forever. I work out 5 times per week, I try to eat healthy, and I do my best to listen to my body. If I need to take a nap, I do. I pay attention to my symptoms and candidly tell my doctors what's going on. And I don't take no for an answer. From my research, I've learned that one of the biggest complaints among thyroid patients is that doctors don't listen to them or undertreat them. I'm the biggest advocate for my own health, and I'm sticking to my guns.

So really, maybe this year will be less about opening up and more about learning, experimenting, treating, accepting, and healing. So, 2013 and every year after, bring it on. I have too much big wonderful life to live to let something like this get me down.

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