“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates
It was the day before my 26th birthday, I sat across from my doctor for my annual physical, reporting to her my usual lack of complaints or concerns. She nodded her head and smiled kindly, anticipating my answers, aware of the type of lifestyle I led. This was exactly how my physicals had gone for years, short and predictable, a healthy girl living a healthy lifestyle. However, that year I requested some basic blood work, just to make sure everything was in tip top shape. My doctor thought the request reasonable and wrote up the requisition form. I took the paperwork and contently went on my way.
The very next morning, I had my blood drawn before heading into work. Throughout the entire day, my coworkers, friends and family showered me with birthday love; I was on cloud nine. My week was simply going great. Twenty-six was treating me pretty darn well. Several days passed and the curiosity for my results began to peak. I was anything but anxious, rather excited to see just how stellar my results would read. I could not wait for my ultra-healthy lifestyle to be reflected on paper and confirm what I already knew.
That weekend, I got an email notifying me that my results were in; without missing a beat, I logged into my patient portal and began clicking through each test result. Interpreting lab work is part of my job, so I knew exactly what numbers I wanted to see. Everything was looking decent, until I clicked on my thyroid labs; my jaw almost hit the keyboard. I stared blankly at the screen while my brain attempted to register the data in front of me. My TSH was 42.7 uIU/mL (for those unfamiliar with thyroid labs, conventional ranges are 0.5-5.0 uIU/mL, optimal being 1-2 uIU/mL). Never had I seen a TSH so elevated. This result meant my thyroid was functioning at an extremely low level, if even at all. My thyroid hormone levels (Free T4, T3, etc.) were equally as poor, almost non-existent.
I will never forget how I felt in that moment. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of exactly where my thyroid gland was; I could almost feel the butterfly-shaped gland in my neck ache. All at once, a million thoughts flooded into my mind. This must be an error, how could these results possibly be mine? I feel fine! Great even! I’m a Registered Dietitian who tirelessly dedicates her life to health…this makes zero sense. I needed more answers. Days later, I was back in my doctor’s office, the expression on her face mirrored mine; a mix of bewilderment and sympathy. And for the very first time, I knew what it was like to be the patient, feeling vulnerable, unsure, and disheartened. An odd feeling for someone who is used to being on the other side – treating others, not being treated. She proceeded to order additional testing and handed me another requisition form. This time I left the office feeling more than uneasy.
I was anything but calm waiting for my lab results this time around. I had micro anxiety attacks anytime I received an email alert, dreading the information to follow. I did my best to keep a positive mindset, reminding myself that any information, good or bad, was still useful data I should know about my body. When the email finally alerted from my patient portal, I wasted no time and was once again my eyes were fixed on my laptop screen. Slower this time, I began to click through each result with an unsteady hand. My heart sank. To my dismay, I had tremendously elevated thyroid antibody levels. This confirmed that the cause of my hypothyroidism was due to the autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. As with all autoimmune diseases, my immune system was mistakenly attacking my own tissue, specifically my thyroid gland. Imagined or not, I felt the ache in my neck return once more.
The days following, a new wave of emotions came pouring in. I felt that I had failed myself. I felt a sense of guilt and an overwhelming disconnect from my own body. My collective lab work indicated the autoimmune process likely began years and years ago. How did I not notice any of the signs and symptoms? I stopped to reflect on how I actually felt over the years. My mood swings, listlessness, and uncharacteristic bouts of anxiety, I always brushed off as stress. I blamed my inability to control my weight with simply not being disciplined enough with my diet or exercise. My freezing extremities and annoying intolerance to the cold, I attributed to being female. My history plummeting energy levels and intense fatigue I thought were normal for any full-time college student, part-time employee, and periodic social butterfly. This was the moment that everything clicked for me; my symptoms were anything but normal and far from healthy.
The realization of my past symptoms was a reminder of just how diminished our society’s baseline of health currently is. Sadly, it is so common to be exhausted, stressed, unhappy, overweight, and constantly sick that we have come to believe it’s normal. I am here to tell you that just because something is common does not mean it is normal. We should refuse to accept our “normal” state of health. At the same time, we cannot fully blame ourselves, many of us are complacent with the way we feel (including myself) because we have never truly experienced optimal health. My diagnosis was a reality check and showed me I had been settling for sub-par health for years.
I was determined to not let these discouraging thoughts and emotions paralyze me. The plot-twist in my health narrative propelled me deep into the research, which ultimately enriched my understanding of both thyroid and autoimmune conditions. I immersed myself in relevant and reputable books, research articles, podcasts, and science-based literature. Ultimately, I knew no matter what the cause, I was the only person responsible for my future health and well-being. The following months, I educated myself on how to balance my immune system and support my thyroid through healing my gut, addressing nutrient deficiencies, managing stress, implementing proper exercise, enhancing my sleep, identifying environmental toxins, and so on and so on. Initially these changes were hard, but I soon began to enjoy the process of knowing and healing my body. What excited me even more was knowing my newfound knowledge and experiences would benefit my clients too.
My diagnosis was hard to swallow, but undoubtedly a blessing in disguise. Many may be horrified that I labeled an autoimmune disease a blessing, but I would not be the practitioner I am today without it. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis does not define me of course, but it did force me to grow into the person I am today. Not only have I learned how to care for my body, but I can effectively guide my clients in caring for their own. I appreciate every day for what it is and view any challenge as something I can overcome. I am also more aware and grateful for the health I do possess. Yes, there are days that are more challenging than others, but by no means do I let that prevent me from loving and living my life to its fullest. If there is anything I want others to learn from my story, it is this – you are the author of your own life and well-being. You have much more control than you believe when it comes to the healing process and enjoyment you experience daily. Focus on the power you do possess and create a life you love. If I can do that, I promise you can too.
Don’t let anything or anyone stop you, especially yourself.
If my story resonates with you, please share with me. I would love to know your unique story and the insights you’ve gathered along the way. Feel free to comment below or send me a private email.
If you are struggling with an autoimmune condition or chronic illness yourself, know you are not alone! If you are seeking professional help to begin healing your body, it would be my pleasure to work with you. Don’t hesitate to contact me and start bettering your life today.