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I’ve talked a lot about my depression and my anxiety, but I haven’t really talked about my other “invisible” illness – hypothyroidism. Living with hypothyroidism affects pretty much every aspect of my life. Sometimes, I feel like people don’t really understand what it means to have this lifelong illness, because it doesn’t always look very dramatic from the outside (sounds a little bit like depression and anxiety when I say it like that, right?).
So, this is what living with hypothyroidism is like for me
Technically, what I have isn’t just hypothyroidism. It’s an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which (very basically) means my immune system has attacked my thyroid to the point where it isn’t able to produce enough thyroid hormone. Hence, it causes the hypothyroidism. I think. It’s all very complicated and I haven’t been able to get a referral to someone who knows more about it than my GP (my condition isn’t bad enough yet….), so what I know has come from the internet (so, i’m sure it’s completely 100% accurate).
There are lots of possible symptoms and not every person living with hypothyroidism experiences all of them. These are the ones that affect me the most
Also known as “brain fog”, because that’s exactly how it feels. This is a really common symptom of thyroid issues. Sometimes, I just feel like I can’t think clearly and I have to concentrate a bit more than usual. Other times, it’s like a total mental block – nothing goes in and nothing that makes any sense comes out. It’s a bit like when you’re trying to think of a word and it’s on the tip of your tongue, but the harder you try to think of it, the further away it gets.
Brain fog is by far my most frustrating day-to-day symptom of living with hypothyroidism. When people laugh and joke “get your words out!” or similar, I feel like crying, because there is nothing I would like more than to be able to say the words going through my head at that moment. I’ll give you a hint. It ends in “off”.
OK, so I’m a mum and I have 2 year old twins, so I accept that a certain amount of tiredness is just par for the course. But even when I get a decent night’s sleep and plenty of rest, there are days when I am exhausted, from the moment I get up to the moment I crawl back into bed. Except I can’t nap or rest during the day, because I have the twins to entertain and they have way more than their fair share of energy.
When someone with hypothyroidism says they’re tired, they don’t mean they need a bit more sleep. They mean they are tired to the bone, completely exhausted and struggling to function.
Muscle and joint pain
For me, it’s mostly joint pain. My hands and feet get the worst of it, especially my fingers and wrists. My hips often ache and feel very stiff. People will hypothyroidism are are greater risk of things like arthritis, so that’s nice…
As for muscle pain, I suffer with my back a lot. But it’s hard to know whether that’s caused by the hypothyroidism or the twins! There are days when lifting my children is very painful for me and running around after them is impossible. But, again, I don’t really have the choice to not look after my children.
Gaining weight and struggling to lose it
Now, I’m not going to sit here and blame my weight 100% on my thyroid. I have a complicated relationship with food and dieting, but my hypothyroidism definitely doesn’t help. I’ve talked before about how I’ve struggled with motivation to diet recently. But I have been a dieting angel this past week. My original plan was the write a brilliant weight loss update post for today, telling you how I’d had a really good week and a really good weight loss result. Obviously… I’m not writing that post. Because I’ve lost 1lb.
No bread, no chocolate, no icecream, lots of good home cooked meat and veg, salads…. all for 1lb. I know that “a loss is a loss” and 1lb is better than the 0lb I was losing before, but I’m a fairly big girl and 1lb is a very little loss for the amount of effort I’ve been putting in this week. Thank you very much, thyroid.
My ability to lose weight is usually ok (when I put some effort in), as long as my thyroid condition is being properly medicated. When I struggle this badly to lose weight, it’s a clear sign to me that my medication needs to be reviewed. So I’ve booked an appointment with my GP to get another blood test to see if my dose needs to be increased. Again.
And now for the big ones
This is obviously less of an issue now. I have my beautiful twins and I always wanted 2 children, so I’m OK with not having anymore. But my fertility issues were actually the reason we found out about my Hashimoto’s. After the first two IVF cycles failed, my Consultant recommended having my thyroid checked and the rest, as they say, is history. There are links betwen thyroid issues and infertility and it certainly seems like that was the case for me. We sorted out my medication to get my thyroid under control and cycle 3 worked.
Yep. Depression is a really common symptom of hypothyroidism. It’s also another sign that my condition isn’t being managed adequately. If I find that I’m struggling a bit more with my mood, it’s worth getting that blood test. I’ll never know whether my mental health would have been a problem for me if I didn’t have hypothyroidism, but it’s a common enough symptom to make me think that maybe it wouldn’t have been.
There are also nodules on my thyroid, which appear to be getting bigger. I had an ultrasound scan done last year and they weren’t very big, so the decision was made to leave them and rescan at a later date. I’m going to ask my GP to book that rescan for me, because they’re definitly easier to feel now, although – luckily – no visible goitre yet! I suspect they’ll want to do a biopsy this time (my GP said it was possibility last time), and I’m not looking forward to that at all.
So what can you do about it?
If you’re concerned that you might have hypothyroidism, see your GP and get that blood test. You can’t really do anything about it until you’ve got that diagnosis. I know there’s always a lot of talk about ways to treat illnesses without medication. But I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning without mine. I really notice a difference if the dosage isn’t right, or if I’m an idiot and forget to take it often enough. So, see your GP and make sure you’re treated properly if necessary.
A gluten free, high protein diet is also apparently supposed to help, but that’s something I’ve really struggled with. I’ve definitely cut down, but it’s really an all or nothing situation with gluten, from what I understand. I don’t think just cutting down makes a big difference.
Are you living with hypothyroidism? I’d really love to hear how it affects you and how you cope with it.