My Thyroid Story

face of thyroid disease

I’ve shared my stories about Fibromyalgia in a couple blogs prior, but I decided it was time to go ahead and share my Hypothyroidism story!
First I want to just go over some things about hypothyroidism.

  • Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone to function properly.
  • It is more common in elderly women, but can occur in any gender, at any age.
  • There are over 100 symptoms, some more common than others, of hypothyroidism. Some of the most common are weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, constipation, pain and/or swelling in your joints, puffy face, hair loss or thinning, depression, anxiety, congnitive difficulties, mental disorders, and more.
  • If you are undiagnosed or go untreated, your symptoms can get worse, as time goes on.
  • Going untreated or undiagnosed for a long period of time can result in myxedma coma. A serious condition that happens when hypothyroidism has gone untreated/undiagnosed for a long period of time.
  • TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, is the most common test done for hypothyroidism. While a very important test, a full thyroid panel should be done! This will check all aspects of your thyroid. I will provide the link for more information about thyroid blood tests at the end of my story. The optimal levels for your TSH are between 0.3-3.0

Well let’s get on with it! My thyroid story.

thyroid awareness

When I started high school in 2008-2009, I was a fairly healthy girl. I had good grades in all my classes, had after school activities, and enjoyed just being a teenager. I went through freshman year with little to no health problems besides occasional IBS that I had struggled with for years.

Sophomore year, 2009-2010, I was starting to feel a little more “off”. I got tired easily, my body ached, I got migraines, and I was falling in and out of depression. After going back and forth to my family doctor I begged and pleaded to get answers. They found nothing besides some tendinitis here, sinus infection there, relatively normal stuff. But as I went into junior year, things took an awful turn. I found myself sleeping up to 20 hours a day, migraines every day, depressed, feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, body aches constantly, and more. My doctor decided to test my thyroid and also refer me to a rheumatologist. My TSH was normal, just under 3.0, in October of 2010.

The rheumatologist went over my symptoms, did a tender point check, and diagnosed me on the spot with fibromyalgia. She then did blood work for inflammation, checked my vitamin levels (only vitamin D was low), full thyroid panel this time, and much more. All of which came back… You guessed it, normal! At this point I lost my drive. I lost my fight. I would drive to school and break down in the parking lot, coming up with excuses to call my mom to just come back home, so I could cry and sleep. This happened nearly once a week, I was in the nurses office constantly, and then the breakdowns got more frequent. The homework piled up. My teachers were disappointed. I felt guilty when I would get behind in their classes and leave them with make-up work to grade; if I could even do it. Friends would ask “You were gone again yesterday? Are you ever gonna come to school?” I never knew if it was jokingly or meant to be hurtful. I felt so overwhelmed, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I just shut down. I didn’t finish my junior year.

I started working the summer of my senior year, fatigued and mentally broken. I worked so I didn’t have to let down my family anymore. Little did I know, they weren’t disappointed in me to begin with. They saw my struggle but just had no clue how to help. That summer, in June of 2011, I found the man who is now my husband. I hid my real self from him. We would go on dates and then I would go home, collapse into my bed, take ibuprofen and Tylenol, and put on a happy face when we talked. He knew about the fibromyalgia, but he didn’t know what it did to me. I started senior year as sick as junior year ended, but with optimism. “I can do this,” I thought to myself. When I would do homework in front of my then boyfriend, he could see my struggle to pay attention and comprehend things. I would get frustrated, take breaks, try again, and give up. My mind was racing, it’s like it couldn’t be quiet so I could concentrate on my studies. Fortunately, he stood by my side when the struggle became too much for my mind and body, and held my hand the whole way to getting my GED. I received my certificate while he was away at basic training. I quit my old job in my old town, got a new job, but as old habits prove true.. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t push grocery carts up and down the parking lot in the rain, or lift 40 lb bags of salt. Again, my body said no and I had to quit. By this time, I was in an even worse state mentally. My family didn’t know what to say or do.

Around Christmas my boyfriend  came home from basic training, and he left as my fiance. We had a wedding to plan! This lifted my spirits. I was hopeful and optimistic once again. I started classes at a local community college and planned our wedding. For awhile I stayed caught up on my work. Assignments on time and going to class every week. And then I wore thin. My body ached and my mind went from foggy to racing within minutes, thinking of all the thoughts I could imagine. Chest pains warranted an ER visit. No answers for the chest pains, “nothing serious” they said. But somehow my mind just wasn’t at ease. I went home screaming in my head, “I want a reason!” Finally my body had worn down, and my mind followed. I lied to the ones I loved about going to class. I was ashamed to confide in friends and tell them I wasn’t in school anymore. But I put on that happy face and still managed to plan our wedding. Not to mention how soon afterwards we would be moving over a thousand miles away from everything we knew and loved.

Our wedding day came and it was all I could have hoped for. I was marrying a supportive man who I am still so proud of to this day. We were surrounded by those who loved us unconditionally. We had a great time dancing, socializing, and celebrating our union. But unfortunately, we had to leave our wedding around 10 pm because my body was completely exhausted.

The wedding came and went, and soon we were off to Texas. Here is where every state of my being declined. I was stressed, depressed, homesick, and my body and mind were completely exhausted. Within the first 2 weeks in Texas, I got a staph infection in my arm, following some blood work I had done. After that was cleared up, I was on the hunt for a job, but I was also on a hunt for answers about my health. I had a nurse practioner who was pretty snarky and thought that “since I had tried everything for fibromyalgia,” to her knowledge at least, “that we may as well test my thyroid since my neck seemed a little puffy.” She said she didn’t expect to find anything, but if they did she would call. Can you believe the call I got the next morning?
“Hello, Shelby? This is Miss Mathis. We need you to come back in right away for another test on your thyroid. Your TSH is 27.11. We aren’t sure that this is accurate, it may be a fluke, but please come back in right away for another test.” “Thank you,” I said, and back we went. Another call the following day, confirming that my TSH indeed was 27, sent me on my way to the pharmacy for a prescription of 50 mcg of levothyroxine, daily. I was scared, but I remember thinking that this is treatable, and this could finally be the answer I’ve been looking for.

(Your TSH, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, is the most commonly performed test to check your thyroid function. While this is a fantastic test, and yields correct results to diagnose Hyper- or Hypo- thyroid problems, it doesn’t always ring true. Mine, fortunately, did! The test results, like I mentioned previously, should fall between 0.3-3.0. Check with your physician.)

So for about 8 months I did fairly well! I was still achy and tired, but I chocked it up to the fibromyalgia, and went on my way. I had a job and made friends, many of which I still consider wonderful friends today! I lost 15 pounds and things seemed to be going good!

Around May I had a panic attack. I felt like there was an elephant on my chest, I couldn’t get enough air, my heart was racing. My husband took me into the hospital and they couldn’t figure it out. So they sent me on my way. A week or so later I followed up with my doctor, and still wasn’t feeling right. I found out that my TSH had risen again and I needed a dose adjustment. My doctor informed me that your thyroid being out of whack could most certainly cause those concerning symptoms. Hearing that put my mind at ease, knowing that I wasn’t losing my mind.

Between May and October I have gained over 35 lbs. My TSH is normal and the rest of my thyroid bloodwork seemed to be fine (except for what I am sharing in the next UPDATE paragraph). My clothes don’t fit or don’t fit right, and I’m having this new problem called being self-conscious. WHAT? That’s always been the least of my worries! I’ve never cared much how I looked or how people looked at me, but now it’s a struggle for me. However, my loving husband tells me I look beautiful as always.

UPDATE

Well! I started this blog a few months ago, around August of 2013 and with moving and all that hulaballoo I never got around to finishing it! Now it is November 2013 and I have a more definitive diagnosis! As of the 1st of November, I have been officially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease that accounts for 90% of all hypothyroidism cases. They had tested for the antibody’s of Hashimoto’s before, but it hadn’t turned up. They also did an ultrasound and found no thyroid nodules. That alone is a blessing! Nodules can take a turn and end up progressing into something no one wants to deal with. My thyroid is enlarged, but that isn’t anything to worry about at the moment and should go down with time and the proper treatment! I have switched medicines between just Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone), to Armour (natural dessicated thyroid) and Synthroid, to just Armour, and now per my endocrinologist, I am on Synthroid and Cytomel. Hopefully I am on the right track to fight this and to get on with my life without having to deal with this at every corner! Getting the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s put me at a little bit of peace, if that even makes sense. I feel validated that the doctors know what’s going on in my body, and together we can figure out a good treatment plan to get me back up to speed!

I also want to take a moment here at the end, (if you made it this far, I appreciate it and congratulate you!) to thank all my supporters: My family, friends, doctors, internet support groups, and even my cat (he counts! 😉 ) for being there with me. There are many people in my life who don’t take the time to understand that this is a battle for me, and no one at age 20 should have to deal with health problems. I should be living carefree, enjoying my marriage, going to school, hanging out with friends on a whim. I try not to let this or fibromyalgia slow me down, but it is difficult. So to all of you who have read my posts, asked how I am, sent well wishes, or prayed for me; I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I post things online like this blog because a big support system helps me get through the hard times, and in the good times that means I have even more people to celebrate with! 🙂 Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

If you think you may have symptoms relating to a thyroid problem, check with your doctor! I am not a doctor or any substitute for diagnosis. I am merely sharing a personal experience.

 

Thyroid blood tests: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/thyroid-hormone-tests