I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism almost two years ago. It came on slowly, so slowly neither me nor my husband recognized the signs. I will say it was very debilitating and it effected me deeply. It infected many pieces in my life. And there were signs. Oh boy were there signs. But I missed them. And I will tell you this, it's very easy to miss the signs of hypothyroidism. That's partly why I am writing this to you.
First it effected me with my after school duties during a program called Extended School Day. I was so exhausted it was hard to get through the two hours. Sometimes I nodded off working the door duty, buzzing in parents to come and pick up their children. The buzzer would ring, and I would lift my head up to allow the parents in. But then I would nod off again as I attempted to work on projects for the classroom. I blew off this tiredness, telling myself it was stress from my job. I'm a special education teacher, and during this time I had one student that was most challenging for me to help. I figured it was just mental exhaustion and I would go home each evening to watch tv and fall asleep on the couch. This was my norm for months. And I didn't catch it. This was the first sign I should have noticed that something was amiss. And the exhaustion? It didn't just happen all at once. It was gradual. I just slowly became more and more tired. It was so gradual that I didn't realize it. And I've read that this is pretty common.
The next sign? I used to love reading. I still love reading. But as the exhaustion took root, I began falling asleep whenever I read. I used to be the kind of girl that would stay up late reading a good book. When I got home after work I would pull out my book and read on the couch. It was my favorite passing time. But suddenly I had a hard time focusing, I couldn't get through a chapter without falling asleep. It took me ages to read a book when it used to only take me a week at most. To this day, even on medication, it's challenging for me to focus on a book. It usually takes effort on my part to make myself sit down and read something. And even then, I'm antsy. Always moving, always shifting. I have to reread segments, or I'm distracted with checking my phone all the time. I just can't seem to concentrate. But I want to read, so I make it happen. Eventually I get into the story and the distractions seem to go away. But for at least twenty minutes and sometimes over an hour, my mind is everywhere but on what I am reading. I thought this would go away with medication for my thyroid, it did not. It's like part of my brain was altered and I know it's something I probably will always have to live with, that lack of focus and concentration. Hypothyroidism has changed me.
Because of the exhaustion I didn't want to do anything but fall asleep to the tv. Several of my favorite tv shows I missed what happened in them because I had been too exhausted to stay awake and watch them. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a girl that LOVES Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Supernatural, The 100, and the Blindspot, it was a big deal. I would have to watch episodes over and over again because I couldn't manage to stay awake through them.
Another sign I should mention, placing items where they don't belong. I don't know how many times I managed to put an opened, partially eaten cat dish can in the pantry instead of the fridge, or an empty cat dish in the fridge instead of in the sink. Items would show up where I wouldn't remember putting them. This is a huge sign that something is wrong and that you might have hypothyroidism. You forget where you put things and you put things in places that don't make sense. This is scary, because if you aren't remembering things then how do you think you'll remember to turn off the iron after doing your hair in the morning? Or turning off the burner after you make dinner? Luckily that never happened to me, but if this is happening to you, don't wait to get it checked out.
My driving suffered during this time too. In fact I made husband nervous whenever I drove. My processing rate had been significantly lower. It would take me awhile to realize a car was coming so I couldn't turn. Or I would be so tired I would be struggling to stay awake on the drive home. Again, this is a dangerous situation to be in, so don't wait for a second if this is happening to you. If you find yourself unable to process and you find that your thinking rate is slow, it's a sign of hypothyroidism.
All these signs, and still it took my nails detaching from my fingers for me to finally realize something was wrong. It started with my middle fingers on each hand. The nails first started to discolor at the tips then slowly it lifted to about halfway down the nail. Then the rest of the fingers followed. Only my thumbs stayed the same. This was a very obvious sign that something was wrong. So finally, after nearly seven months of dealing with this, I went to the doctor. Turns out I had hypothyroidism, iron deficiency and low levels of vitamin D.
And still, two years later on medicine, with some adjustments as to dosage, I still struggle. I struggle with weight gain and losing weight. I struggle some days with feeling just exhausted. My levels are fine, so it must not be a problem with my thyroid. That's what I'm told anyways. But I will tell you this, it most likely is it. Hypothyroidism changes you and the medicine is not a 100% fix. Some days will be better than other days. You'll feel great some days while other days you feel at your very lowest with energy and enthusiasm. Focus and concentration? I'm not sure I'll ever get that back, not like I used to. But there are things that help me focus. Music for writing. Turning off my phone if I am reading. Taking walks, or taking a bath to help quiet my mind. I still fall asleep to movies, especially on Friday nights. I think when you deal with hypothyroidism, by the end of the week you are just spent. I've realized it's okay to take a nap if you need it. It's okay to fall asleep early on Friday nights after a week of teaching. It's okay if you wait to write your book on the weekends. It's okay to read a chapter of a book a night.
I have hypothyroidism.
And it's OKAY.
We make adjustments, we adapt, and we do the best we can. If you feel the same way I do, you don't have to feel guilty or ashamed if things take time like it does for me. Do the things you love, but do them when it suits you, when you have time for it, when inspiration strikes. It's okay if things take a little longer to finish. Make goals, make lists, those are great too. Take the time to tell the ones you live with, or if you need to, the ones you work with so that some understanding from others is taking place. This will help you tremendously. Husband understands why I'm tired some days, and he helps me with chores around the house because of it. Or he'll make dinner if I'm too tired to cook. It's important they know how it still effects you every day. Don't be afraid to share this with those you love, because I know they will understand and help you. Remember, hypothyroidism, even on medicine, will be a daily battle. So don't forget the most important part of dealing with hypothyroidism.
It's okay to take care of YOU!