What’s all the Hype about my Hypo…thyroidism?

It is about to get a bit personal in here…so if this bothers you and you are coming here from some crafty goodness, you might want to come back tomorrow for a Christmas related tutorial!  But I wanted to share a little bit about what has been going on with me “behind the scenes” if you will.   I don’t share a lot of personal stuff on here but today I wanted to share with you something that I have been dealing with for the past couple of years now that I FINALLY have an explanation for.  I do this for myself and hopefully for others who may be finding themselves in a similar situation.

Ever since giving birth to my fifth and last child, I have felt a bit “off”.  Nothing big or alarming, but I just didn’t feel like myself.  I had this feeling to a certain extent with the birth of all my children as my body went through many changes from pregnancy, delivery, nursing and then through recovery.  I felt like with each pregnancy my body took longer to bounce back to its pre-pregnancy condition.  But when I gave birth to my last child four years ago, I just never felt like my body “bounced” back.  I felt like I am still waiting to get my body back.  Does that make sense?

I was still suffering from a lot of the side effects of pregnancy.  I just kept thinking it was eventually going to get better.   But instead of getting better, it seemed like my symptoms were getting worse.  I was feeling sluggish and fatigued to the point where I would wake up from 8 hours of sleep and want to crawl back in bed and take a nap.  This was so unlike me.  I have never been able to take naps because I would lay there thinking of all I wanted to get done.    I was also having brain fog and memory loss issues frequently to the point that it was interfering with my functionality.  I was also beginning to develop some pretty serious carpal tunnel in my forearms and my elbow joints to the point that I would wake up with them numb and aching. 

I was also starting to experience some mild hair loss and my hair started to feel coarse and dry.  I attributed this to the fact that I had been spending a lot of time in the pool swimming and training for the triathlon I had completed earlier in the spring.  I also started getting mild headaches more often, though they never really got to the point of becoming debilitating…just more of an annoyance really.  Then…my neck started to feel swollen, like I had a tight turtle neck on.  My hands and feet would swell sometimes as well and since it was summer time I chalked it up to the heat. 

But then I started seeing pictures of myself like this one below.  What???  Why is my face so swollen?  I would ask my friends and family…”Does my face really look like that?”  And they were like…”not at all!”  But there was the proof staring right back at me.  Then it was happening more and more often in my pictures.  And look at my neck in that picture…see how swollen it is on the sides?

amy thyroid  image

So back in the summer of 2010 I decided to figure out what was going on.  I KNEW something was wrong but didn’t even know where to start.  I went to the doctor and had some tests and everything came back normal.  I got the “your getting older and your metabolism is slowing down” speech.  So I tried to put it out of my mind and concentrate on eating better and getting more exercise.

I started eating better and started running again more regularly.  I did start to feel a bit better and thought things were going to start changing.  I decided to run a half marathon and thought that would be the perfect kick start to lose the 10 pounds of baby weight that I still hadn’t been able to lose.  But with all the running and training and eating right I started to slowly gain weight.  I thought…maybe I am gaining muscle since I was running up to 20-30 miles per week for a while. 

image  image

(When I look at this photo of my race, I can see the face swelling as well.  I feel like this other photo of me, in front of this famous landmark (haha), is more what my face actually should look like.)

I started to feel really anxious and irritable about the littlest things.  When I was running, my feet felt like two bricks.  I look back now and can’t believe I was even able to run my half marathon.  I was tired all of the time and always felt cold.  I was slowly gaining weight and I just felt “crazy”!  My brain was foggy and I was forgetting so many things.  Things that I had normally been so on top of.  I started to feel like I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  And I had no idea what to do about it.   It was affecting me and every aspect of my day, and people were beginning to notice.

Then right before my race in August of 2011, my hair started falling out by the handfuls.  I would wake up in the morning and my pillow would be covered with hair. This perhaps was the most alarming symptom for me for some reason.  I could not explain it away I guess…and I liked my hair Winking smile!  I had previously shared my concerns with my friends and family when one day my mom suggested that I could have Hypothyroidism.   My mom actually has it and it can run in families.  So I found a new doctor and went to get a TSH blood test.  This doctor was one of the rudest, most condescending doctors I have ever been too.  She did not listen to one thing I had to say and kept shrugging off the list of symptoms I was sharing as “part of getting older”.  Then she proceeded to give me the “exercise and diet talk”…like training for a half marathon wasn’t really an exercise plan….really??!  I was so frustrated!  She did tell me that my resting heart rate was unusually low…49 beats per minute, and that my Thyroid gland did feel enlarged.  She sent me to the lab to get some tests and told me she would contact me with the results.  A week letter I received a letter in the mail with my test results and a typed message that all looked “NORMAL”!  Gah!  I knew I was not my “normal” self…regardless of what the normal test standard said.

So I kept researching and was pretty positive I had an underactive thyroid.   I had about 95% of the symptoms.  Here is a site that lists many of the symptoms I was having.  And then my voice started getting noticeably more and more hoarse.  People would call me at 9:00 in the morning and ask me if they woke me up.  And I was like…”no”!  But they would never believe me.  Then I started to notice it more and more often and during the middle of the day and in the evening.

My husband found a doctor who had some really great reviews from people who had been told they were “normal” when they did indeed have a low functioning thyroid.  I went to see him in October and he was so great.  He sat and really listened to me and asked me a lot of questions.  He was so great!  He said that even though my TSH test was in the normal range, it was on the high end nearing the abnormal range.  So, because of that he ran several more blood tests including a T3, T4 and T antibodies, Vitamin D and Calcium tests.  Well, it turns out that I was right.  I am hypothyroid and…not only that, I have a Vitamin D Deficiency.  I was really surprised at this news since I spent so much time outside.  But the doctor told me that having a low thyroid production can affect your Vitamin D levels.  I also found out that I have Osteopenia (pre-Osteoporosis).  Yikes! 

He immediately started me on some Thyroid medication at a low dose and I go back in a couple of weeks to get my blood levels tested again.  This could be a long process to get my medications to the point that they are just right to control my condition.  But I have to tell you…when he personally called me on the phone to tell me about my condition I just about cried from relief.  Not that I was happy to have a condition that requires medication for the rest of my life, but I felt vindicated and relieved that there really was an explanation for all of my symptoms.  I have tried to learn all that I can about what this mean for me and my health and the best way for me to get back to being myself again.

I already feel a little bit better…but I am not sure if it is because I have an answer to my many frustrations the last couple of years or if the medicine is starting to work.  Probably a bit of both. 

I found the following from Livestrong.com that explains pretty well what was happening…

“Hypothyroidism is the result of the thyroid gland not producing enough T4 and T3, causing the metabolism to slow down. As a result, people with hypothyroidism may experience weight gain (from not burning enough energy), as well as feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Patients may feel cold because the burning of energy creates heat, which helps to maintain body temperature. Hypothyroidism can also cause dry skin, constipation, hair loss and irregularities in women’s menstrual cycles; all normal body processes slow down due to the decreased use of energy”.

With all that being said, I know that this a health issue that can be managed if I take my medication daily.  But anytime you feel out of sorts or not yourself, every area of your life suffers. The thing I feel the worst about is that is was affecting how I was being a mother to my children. I didn’t even realize just how much it was affecting me and them. When momma ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy! My doctor said that pregnancy can trigger hypothyroidism in women and feels that my last pregnancy my have triggered it and that my symptoms continued to worsen over time.

So, my resolution for the new year is Balance.

I really want to focus on developing the best habits for me to become balanced again…Balanced physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I also hope that by sharing my story with you that it may help some of you who may be experiencing some the same issues and to encourage you to continue to find someone who will listen to you.  I have learned that there are many others like me who are told that they are “normal” when in fact they are not.  The longer a diagnosis gets put off the sicker you and your body will become.  I would also love to hear from some of you who may also be hypothyroid and may have some advice for me as I begin to try and get this under control. 

As always, I want you to know how much I appreciate being able to interact with you.  With all the craziness in the last few months, my blog, other than my husband and kids, has been something that has kept me motivated to keep doing things I loved!