Friday, September 1, 2017

What you don't see...

It's been over a month since I last posted. Where does the time go?!

I work part-time outside the home and then take care of writing. I also cope with my health. That's something I wanted to address for those unfamiliar.

You may have read that stars like Zoe Saldana openly talked about having Hashimoto's. I am grateful for the exposure that celebrities with chronic illness bring to those issues. Those of us who also suffer want the world to be aware of them, not just so people can understand us but also because we want people to be aware that if they are also suffering, we may have an answer for them. We support each other in a worldwide community.

I have spoken before about having Hashimoto's, which has developed into hypothyroidism. There are two myths that I want to clear up.

Myth #1: Aren't Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism the same?
Fact: NO. Hashimoto's, aka Hashimoto's Disease or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an immune system malfunction. All autoimmune "diseases" are due to the immune system mistakenly attacking the body. Whether it's Addison's (attack on adrenal glands) or multiple sclerosis (attack on nerve myelin) or Hashimoto's (attack on thyroid tissue), they are basically the same issue--the body's own immune system mistaking healthy tissue for a foreign invader that must be destroyed. Hashimoto's (or Hashi's) is diagnosed by high levels of thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOab) or thyroglobulin antibodies (TGab) or by a biopsy that reveals high lymphocytes in the thyroid.

Hypothyroidism is the underfunctioning of the thyroid. It can be due to the destruction caused by autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's), surgical removal of the thyroid, or RAI (radioactive iodine treatment). It can also happen because of malnutrition or starvation.

It's like saying Grave's Disease and hyperthyroidism are the same. Grave's is an attack on certain enzymes of the thyroid that cause it to increase hormone production (hyperthyroidism).

Myth #2: Hashimoto's is no big deal.
Fact: Um...Read what I just wrote under myth #1. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease. It is the immune system attacking the body. With any autoimmune disease, there are symptoms that cause suffering in misery, from brain fog to aches and pains. These come and go depending on the attack. Worst of all, with the attack on the thyroid comes swings from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid. Some people notice this more than others. Those who don't realize what's going on until they are hypothyroid permanently are the lucky ones. Those who suffer the swings, which can go on for years before the thyroid is finally destroyed enough to settle into a permanent state of hypothyroidism, are prone to insomnia, anxiety, and depression and are often diagnosed as bipolar. It is a rollercoaster that leaves the sufferer wishing for an end. Because of the swings, the standard testing can often look "normal", which is why it is so important that doctors check all the thyroid markers, not just the TSH, which is actually a very poor test of what is going on. (Every thyroid test should include free T4, free T3, TPOab, TGab, and TSH.) Conventional medicine often mistreats these patients as simply having a mental illness. That is a mistake as often antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications only make the patient feel worse.

Hashimoto's can be managed, like any autoimmune disease, but it is not easy. Starting with the autoimmune protocol diet and adding in thyroid hormones as necessary, reducing stress, and getting regular, moderate exercise go a long ways towards reducing the symptoms of Hashimoto's.

How do I know all this? I've said in past posts. I am a Hashimoto's survivor. It started over two years ago and I have finally started levothyroxine, which has made a big difference in the quality of my life. In some ways, I am lucky that I am able to convert T4 to T3 so easily that levothyroxine is all I need. However, I'm not so lucky in that I tend towards what is called Hashitoxicosis; my thyroid tends to overproduce T3, because of the low T4. The levothyroxine balances that out and supports my thyroid, calming it to reduce the combination symptoms of hyper and hypo so that my body only converts what it needs (instead of overcompensating--my body is an overachiever).

I hope this helps people to understand that Hashimoto's is a big deal and is not the same as hypothyroidism. It's not the same for everyone. If you've met one Hashimoto's survivor, you've met one Hashimoto's survivor. Our bodies may generate the same attack but that's as far as it goes. Symptoms, sensitivities, and treatment are unique to each individual.

I had reached a point of wanting to quit everything and that included writing. However, thanks to finally treating the hypothyroidism, I have begun to sleep better and think more clearly. My memory has improved and I feel more calm. All that FT3 was making me feel like I had ADHD, and I had all those symptoms too. The best part is that I love writing again, because it's no longer a blur and a struggle. I feel like my brain is back and my life with it and I use that thought to keep me going through the autoimmune flares that make some days more difficult.

You can't tell someone is suffering when you see them. We tend to hide it, embracing what joy we can glean from life to carry us through the difficulties of our invisible illness. Please remember that anytime you encounter someone on the street or online, you don't know what they may be struggling with in their lives. If for no other reason, I ask that people be a little more thoughtful and considerate to each other.

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