2018 was supposed to be the best year of my life. I traveled the country, opened a business, met my soulmate, and even jumped out of an airplane. But I had a deep secret I was keeping; I felt like I was dying through all of it.
Everything that should've been a celebratory moment was shrouded in pain and exhaustion. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, and every day it felt like my health was pushing me two steps backward. The only advice I heard was to do yoga, drink more water, try crystals, and my favorite, "You really should try to de-stress." I was drowning.
In my role as a full-time hairstylist who works with a high-end clientele, I have a responsibility to show up every day with a happy and familiar face. By 2020, convinced that my career choice was catching up with me, I ignored every symptom and pain. A frozen shoulder and thyroid eye disease would eventually cause me so much pain that I finally cracked.
I reached out to ask for help from a client who was a nurse for many years. She looked me directly in the eyes with so much concern and asked me, "When was the last time you saw a doctor? You are not well, and I can see that you've changed."
Shortly after that conversation, I received a diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis which was causing hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). I wish I had sought testing and treatment sooner to have saved myself years of pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Discovering TPO antibodies in my blood earlier would have meant I could seek treatment, lifestyle modifications, and slow disease progression.
Even as I was sorting through what this diagnosis meant for my life, I had to go back to work and pretend like everything was fine. I had just received this strange diagnosis with no direction or guidance. Now I was confused, angry, and sad.
What no one tells you about being diagnosed is that you grieve. I grieved the loss of my younger, healthier self. I grieved for the years that I lost to fatigue, depression, and chronic pain. The grief comes first, and the reconciliation comes after. I felt like three people: (1) my healthy self, (2) my sick self, and (3) this whole new self. They were all strangers to me.
As time passed, I got stronger and started healing. I found the right combination of thyroid medications and committed to months of physical therapy. I began to understand the needs of this new person I was.
Living with Hashimoto's has given me a newfound sense of self-compassion and gratitude. It is healing to giving myself the grace to rest, eat well, experience joyful movement, and set boundaries. I may never jump out of a plane again, but I still get to do what I love in a healthier body.
Ahead, the five things I chose to do to live better with Hashimoto's disease. 5 real-life tips to live better with Hashimoto's disease
Protecting my energy is the most important thing I do now to manage my Hashimoto's disease. I learned early on in my diagnosis that I couldn't say yes to everything anymore. Allowing myself to say no to things I couldn't afford to spend energy on took extra stress off my plate. I like to say, "if it's not a seven or above, it's not for me."
Eat, and eat well!
So many of us do not take a lunch break or prepare our nutrition for the day. Not eating every few hours throughout the day can send us into a flare that can last days—so take your lunch break! Fuel up with nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods that make you feel good. Your future self will thank you.
Journal your feelings
When I first received my diagnosis, I felt split into pieces and had to put myself back together. Journaling a little bit every few days helped me get the feelings I had out of my head. Guilt, sadness, grief, and anger don't have to live inside you, and getting them onto paper helped me clear space in my head for the road ahead. Ask yourself, how do I feel and what do I need?
Communicate your needs
Your loved ones want to know how they can best support you. And those of us who live with a chronic condition like Hashimoto's are usually well-educated in our condition. We have an innate knowledge of our bodies. Our loved ones don't have the same knowledge and understanding. Tell them about things you've learned or where you are in your journey. Ask for help or be honest about how you're feeling that day.
Give yourself grace
The journey toward better thyroid health isn't always easy. All we can ask of ourselves is to do the best we can every day. Our best may look different each day. You don't have to be everything to everyone all the time. Everyone's illness looks different, and you are right where you need to be.