Sunday, October 18, 2015
I have heard through the grapevine that some people in my life don't believe what I suffer. That's because I am strong. I have taken steps to keep my disease in check and hide it.
I say that I have Hashimoto's but it doesn't have me. In reality, however, it does have me and in the back of my mind, I know this. I have had to completely turn my life around and alter my perspective on what life means to me. To keep the destruction of my body subdued, I have had to make drastic changes that minimize inflammation and the reaction of my immune system.
Like all autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto's is invisible on the outside. Those who don't understand, as I didn't before this erupted in a big way, don't see the internal suffering. Some don't want to understand, and I can't make them. I can only help to try to remove your blinders. To the sympathetic who want to but can't truly, I thank you for the support and accommodations.
To keep myself functioning, I must live with restrictions in diet, activities, and environment. This has placed a burden on my family but on no one more so than myself. I feel frustrated with the new limits and feel alone much of the time because of this, more so than ever, so I stick to those I can rely on--a few close friends and my family.
I can't enjoy eating just anything at get-togethers and at restaurants and that leaves me feeling like an outsider. I can't risk contamination from iodine or gluten and am also sensitive to dairy, nightshades (including certain spices), and legumes. I risk a flare-up that can cause heart palpitations that make me anxious, sleepless, nauseated and dizzy; flare-ups that make me want to sleep for days, make me feel mentally stupid and unable to finish a sentence, and extreme depression (which is only made worse by medications). In either case, Hashimoto's can cause digestive troubles (which leads to nutrient deficiencies and problems that accompany those), muscle and joint pain, headaches, lung problems, and a feeling like a noose is closing on my throat so I can barely breathe or swallow. Even the sun becomes painful on my eyes in ways it never used to. And it's not only foods; chemicals that didn't bother me or were once only minor nuisances now are a problem, and stressing my body with physical activity past a certain threshold that never used to be an issue can now trigger flare-ups of some or all of the symptoms listed and then others that I haven't listed.
I'm still learning how to feel a part of events when I can no longer be as involved as other people. Believe me when I say that I want to feel like I belong and I want to participate. I've always been a little of a keep-to-myself person in certain circumstances but now I really feel it when participation can easily endanger my well-being. And attending functions can be disheartening. I have to eat separate meals prepared very carefully and, like a diabetic, I have special dietary needs that must be maintained if I don't want to crash. It is a challenge, but one I am slowly adapting to.
I'm still learning to cope, but I've only been dealing with this for about seven months. It was probably smoldering long before that--I was aware of something going on but couldn't identify it. It wasn't until about seven months ago that this erupted in a big way. If not for my own efforts and functional medicine (since conventional (aka corporate) medicine failed me), I would not be where I am, possibly even dead. (Only a few people know how extreme my symptoms were and how I struggled for answers and healing while coping with maintaining regular life.) As it is, I now can be assured that I will not live as long as I might without this disease; but I'm damned well going to make the most of what I have and that involves doing whatever it takes to be at my best, no matter the sacrifice. I have a family that needs me and I am going to enjoy what life I have doing whatever I can to enjoy myself within the tolerances of this disease.
I've known women battling breast cancer and ovarian cancer who did not give up what enjoyment they can get out of life, in spite of the sacrifices they've had to make. I am also going to LIVE to the most that I can, but I can't risk making this worse--one AID often leads to another, because they really aren't separate but are all malfunctions of the immune system. The key I've discovered in my vast research is calming the immune system so it doesn't fire up and begin attacking other parts of the body. That means staying within boundaries.
I am sorry that it may mean sacrificing travel, but it is much easier to maintain my health when I can rely on being close to home. If that offends some people, so be it. They can live their lives however they choose. I am living mine how I choose. I choose to live with the best health and joy that I can maintain.
In light of all that, I am doing my best to feel more comfortable in those settings where others think nothing of their health (or my invisible disease) while I must give everything careful consideration. My life is now a balancing act that sometimes feels like the heaviest burden in the world.
Already in the nearly three months since learning that I have this, I have grown more comfortable with this new reality and the lifestyle to manage this disease. But the upcoming holidays will be my first experience since this all came about. This is still a period of adjustment for me. I ask that people in my life bear with me as I try to find solid ground from the shifting sands beneath my feet and please don't assume anything about this disease. Nothing is more frustrating to me, except to see others suffering health problems for which they are unwilling to make the changes they know are necessary, especially in light of all the work I have done and the sacrifices I have made to improve my health. I am doing all I can to endure and to make my life livable with great sacrifices that only other sufferers of invisible diseases can truly appreciate. This has shown me how strong I really am inside and I have found a calm in the inevitability that has helped me to cope.
I don't want pity, simply understanding.
Life is full of challenges. It's how we cope with them that defines us. Who are you?
Edit: I just found this on Facebook and think that it sums up all I just said very well: