I have been suffering from hypothyroidism for the past 13 years and since the diagnosis my daily battles consist of ‘not knowing’. I will explain what I mean by ‘not knowing’ further down this article. First I need to explain what it is.
Hypothyroidism affects both men and women however; it’s more common in women. In the UK, it affects 15 in every 1,000 women and 1 in 1,000 men.
One in 4,500 babies are born with an underactive thyroid (called congenital hypothyroidism). All babies born in the UK are screened for congenital hypothyroidism by having a heel-prick blood sample taken after the first week.
Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland, located in the neck, does not produce enough hormones.
Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed.
Medically known as hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid is not usually serious. It is easily treated by taking hormone tablets to replace the hormones that your thyroid isn’t making.
The thyroid produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls how much energy your body uses. When the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine, many of the body’s functions slow down.
An underactive thyroid cannot be prevented. Most cases of underactive thyroid are caused either by your immune system attacking your thyroid or a damaged thyroid.
Common symptoms include:
- being sensitive to cold
- weight gain
- slowness in body and mind
- muscle aches and weakness
- muscle cramps
- dry and scaly skin
- brittle hair and nails
- heavy or irregular periods
So back to ‘not knowing’ , prior to being diagnosed I began to be labeled as ‘lazy’ by family and friends , what I now know Is that I was experiencing chronic tiredness which left me unable to do anything apart from sit on the couch after coming home from work. I began to believe I was lazy and had no idea that there was something actually wrong. It can be extremely harmful going without medication as it increases the symptoms and causes further damage to the body. I am not sure in the end how long I was suffering for but once I was tested and diagnosed there was a sense of relief – finally an explanation to tiredness and weight gain. Since then I have been taking thyroxine on a daily basis, there is no cure so medication is for life. This has not bothered me but what has is the ‘not knowing’.
How do I know when I am actually tired and when I am ‘thyroid tired’? How do I know I am putting weight on be because of over eating compared to ‘thyroid weight gain’ , how do I know when I am normally cold compared to ‘thyroid cold’ and it goes on ……….. So this illness resembles not knowing for me, and not knowing creates feeling out of control, feeling out of control leaves me vulnerable. Not knowing also drives you mad and then leaves you feeling depressed as you are in vicious cycle of just not knowing.
Hypothyroidism is a physical problem that is impacting my body so how has it suddenly become a mental health issue causing stress and depression symptoms caused by not knowing and every now and then a thought pops into my mind ‘ you are lazy stop complaining’ , your over weight because you eat too much, ‘stop using thyroid as an excuse you are pathetic’
I started therapy for other reasons bust soon realized that I was using time up in my sessions ranting about this particular issue! my therapist helped me make sense of my process, to de-tangle my not knowing and to come to the conclusion that actually I can still be in control of this if I accept I will never know what is causing what , and accept that what I am working with is managing tiredness, managing weight gain and managing symptoms .
Acceptance has allowed me to set free the ‘not knowing’ I am not defined by the label of hypothyroidism now – I am just managing the symptoms I have.
I hope this article helps all those hypothyroidism sufferers out there, I am sure your experiences are different to mine and I wish you good luck with your own personal journey whether it has impacted you or not.
What would make it better going forward ……
What would help sufferers is to have people around them that understand what hypothyroidism is, too not be judgmental or critical, to be supportive and to not label people as ‘LAZY’!
Writer wishes to remain anonymous
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