warning: this is a long post with no pictures. It is not written perfectly, it is not edited, it is just my thoughts spilling out in an effort to write about a certain challenge I've faced the past year in the hopes that perhaps it might help someone else.
I heard through the grapevine that a woman from my church community found this here little blog and said something like "oh my goodness, she has the perfect life" or something to that effect. Now, I know I've addressed "blogging issues" before - how when blogging we tend to focus on the positive rather than the negative, how some of us (not all) edit photos before we post them, how we can dangerously compare ourselves, our homes, our lives, our chilren etc. There is a lot of control involved in creating a world on the blog that often isn't a reflection of someone's true reality. Another woman from the church community - the woman who the first woman was talking to - replied something like "well, I'm sure her life looks great, but I know for certain she has her own challenges."
So, though you may get glimpses into my life of the "prettier" things I choose to share on this blog - today I am going to share something not-so-pretty. Yet, it has been my reality.
Don't we all have our own challenges?
So, I thought - in the spirit of keeping things real :) - I would share a bit about something that has been a huge challenge in my life the past year. It is called HYPOTHYROIDISM.
There. I said it! I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that my thyroid is not working properly, and that because of it's malfunction, it affects the way my whole body and mind function and with that, there have been a whole slew of other challenges in my life. Okay?
I have written a little bit about this before. But not a lot, because we have been trying to discover if my thyroid would start functioning properly on it's own. After a year of monthly blood-draws to monitor my thyroid levels and frequent meetings with my Endocrinologist (I had never even heard of one, before), I now have a much greater understanding of what a vital role the thyroid gland plays in regulating almost every bodily function. Together, the thyroid and pituitary glands, help everything in the body function properly and run smoothly. When the thyroid hormones are incorrect, the pituitary gland is also affected: hence, the body as a whole is affected when levels are too high or too low.
In my case, my levels dropped to a subclinical level - barely below normal - when I was pregnant. With Sawyer, they dropped ever so slightly, but not enough to go on any medication. With Aspen, they dropped enough that they had me take medication. After Aspen was born, I told my OB that I would not take the medication any more, because I wanted to see if my levels would return to normal on their own. I truly thought they would. At my 6 week check up, she continued to monitor my levels and this time, instead of being low, she found they were so high - that she sent me to a specialist - my endocrinologist.
I was nervous but hopeful as I met with her for the first time. Her hope and thought was that I had something rather common (but not always diagnosed) which is post-partum thyroiditis. The course is to have low thyroid levels after giving birth and then have them shoot up after about 4 months, and then have them drop again and plateau within a normal range. And "wa la!" done with it.
So, we waited. I was willing to wait in hopes of self-regulation. I saw a family doctor at one point for a different concern and after bloodwork came back she automatically prescribed medication because of my levels being so low. I consulted (thankfully) with my "ENDO" and we decided still, to wait. She told me at one point that whenever I wanted to, we could start meds. I held out as LONG as I could, but after about a year, I just couldn't do it alone anymore.
I felt defeated when I finally said "MERCY!!" and threw in the towel. Damn thyroid!
I have always been such a healthy/energetic/optimistic person, and my darn thyroid seemed to crush all of that. Though I have enjoyed many moments the past year, most days have felt more like I am just surviving rather than truly living. Don't misunderstand me, I have had some very true and wonderful days - but I've also had some horrible ones.
One reason for the horrible ones, though, is just kind of a chain reaction to the condition: for example - here is what a bad day was like: I feel really tired but I have 10 things on my "to do" list today. My muscles are achy, too. My children are my top priority. So I get one errand done, feed, love, and play with my children. I don't even have the energy to cook dinner. Or if I do, I don't have the energy to clean up afterwards. So...these things keep adding up and soon I am feeling OVER THE TOP like I can't get ANYTHING done and that I am a horrible wife because I can't get dinner on the table. I think it's mostly that feeling of I am a failure because I can't seem to get anything done and I used to feel like I was pretty on top of things. So, for me, the part I wanted to do even when I didn't feel I could get anything else done, was just be with my kids. Play with them, read with them, etc. Who cares if there are dishes in the sink? Seriously. I had never felt like that in my entire life. I also found that it was increasingly hard for me to be supportive of Jacob's church calling - as several nights a week he is out serving others and often I felt like "wait! I just need you to stay home and take care of me (or more like the kids so I could rest)!" To his credit, he definitely did stay home some nights to help me. And he made LOTS of dinners. And did ALL the dishes. Seriously, Jacob is the sweetest guy I know. Which made me fell even more guilty that I wasn't living up to the kind of wife I wanted to be to him. MEGA BUMMED. Of course it didn't help that it was winter and dark, dreary, and cold. I also felt this kind of guilt/shame because my problem seems so SMALL compared to some of the health issues people have to deal with/live with. Yet, it all affected me in a major way I every time I minimized the impact it was having on me that wasn't helping.
People may be saying: but it seems like you still did a lot. And it's true, I did. I often would push myself to the limit. I never went to bed before midnight or even later because I would try to catch up (often with "work" related things). I was trying to conquer a complex bodily issue with just the power of my mind. Mind over matter, they say. But it WASN'T working...
And guess what? 2-3 weeks after I started taking THYROXINE, I was starting to feel like a new person. STARTING to feel like my SELF again. Hallelujah!
So, instead of being such a skeptic of medicine, instead, I learned about my options and I thanked my lucky stars that there was medication to help me out. It was still a sad day when I popped that first tiny pill and realized I may have to take that tiny pill every day for the remainder of my life...yet I was grateful. Grateful for the help and the miracle of modern medicine.
I had my first 6 week check up today. I am actually quite proud of myself and how good I am at getting my blood drawn now. I used to pass out, so I had to lay down and basically do hypnotherapy stuff I use during labor to make it through the blood draw. Well, now I can actually sit up in the chair and talk to the guy who draws my blood (I still close my eyes). Anyway, we found today that my first dose was a little too much so my levels were a little high (which would explain my recent insomnia and feeling "shaky" and weird appetite). So, we will punch down the dose a little and try 6 more weeks and see where we are at.
My ENDO also said today there is still a very small chance that my body will start producing the correct level on it's on and if that's the case we will just keep meeting to make adjustments with the meds until I no longer need them (PLEAE!?! that would be awesome!)
I also have to add here, that part of this reality of a healthy problem, is that it has forced me to think about/plan for my health in a different way. Hypothyroidism can also affect fertility. (I can hear Jacob laughing now - he jokes that all he has to do it look at me and I get pregnant, but I'm always saying "what if this...what if that...because you never know...) Granted, we have two beautiful and healthy children - we are blessed. But we do hope to have more. And in order to do so, I do have to consider my overall health - well, not just that - but it is a factor. I think it would be selfish for me not to.
Family planning is a whole other topic. One I've thought of a lot. Maybe I'll talk more about that another day...
For now, just know...we all have our challenges. And it doesn't matter how big or how small they seem to anyone else or even to our own selves - what matters is recognizing how they are affecting you. And then problem-solving until you can do what you can. Luckily for me, I CAN DO something about the health problems I have had. There are so many who have to accept a diagnosis and who cannot do anything about it. I am a lucky one!
I am also, as I said, slowly starting to feel like myself again. What a relief! Now, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It has seemed like a rather long, and dark tunnel, I've been maneuvering through for quite sometime. Which is why I wrote this super long post. If there is anyone out there who has a health issue that effects how you feel about yourself or your life or what you can handle: it's okay. Take a deep breath. Take care of yourself. You are ever so important. Don't feel guilty that you can't be your "usual self" for a while. Understand that you are important and the only one holding a measuring stick up to yourself is YOU. People understand, if you are honest and explain. But you can't expect people to read your mind.
We are all real. Not one of us is perfect. We all have our challenges, our struggles, whether they be health-related or otherwise.
I just want to say: it's okay. Really, it is. It might not feel like it most of the time. And that's okay, too. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and try to find something to smile about (for me, it's my kids!) and...
Keep your chin up!