As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions. When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change. This condition is hypothyroidism and can affect many different systems in your body. Symptoms include crippling fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, thinning hair, weak & achy muscles, and the list goes on.
Many thyroid patients feel misunderstood because their condition slows them down, and sometimes, others view them as lazy or isolated.
Ahead, Hashimoto's patient and Nutrition Health Coach Drew Martino talks about what she wishes people understood about this condition.
Truths that Hashimoto's patients wish others understood
It's not all in our head.
Just because someone doesn't "look" sick doesn't mean they don't feel sick.
As a society, we subconsciously think that if you can't see an illness, it doesn't exist. But that couldn't be farther from the truth concerning thyroid disease. What's going on in your body (albeit often invisibly) can throw you off course when you least expect it. It can often feel like no one understands you or the emotional highs and lows you're experiencing.
Your friend's comments might even seem harsh. "Go get some fresh air," or "You don't look sick," or "Don't be so boring!" These comments make it seem as if they don't care, and it can be hard to explain to them exactly how you feel. Like that time you had to leave a party early at 9 pm, and everyone gave you a hard time. It's not your job to make them understand, but your job is to stand your ground with how their words affect you.
That loneliness you feel when you don't have something to physically "show" for your disease is what will keep you living in fear of letting others in. When people tell you repeatedly that you look fine, you might start to believe that your illness is your fault. And even though the news and magazines continuously tell you that it's easy to get and feel healthy, living with chronic disease makes it much more challenging to achieve that sparkly goal.
There are no guarantees.
You never know what you're going to get with thyroid disease. One day you feel amazing and on top of the world, and the next day you can't seem to get out of bed. The inability to predict how you will feel at any given time makes it hard to create plans with loved ones.
Thyroid disease can also affect your mood and emotional state, causing irritability and anxiety. One minute you're happy, and the next, you feel frantic and stressed. I can't count how many times I've had to cancel plans last minute or leave a gathering early because of my thyroid disease or IBS. Having to withdraw from activities socially makes it hard to nurture relationships. And it's hard for others to understand your reason why.
Thyroid disease is not a one-size-fits-all disease.
Thyroid disease affects everyone differently. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism both have challenges. Hyperthyroidism causes symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, unexplained weight loss, sleep problems, and brittle nails and hair. Hypothyroidism comes with symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and hair loss.
Not only do these diseases present very different symptoms, but they also affect each person differently. And the most common difference relates to hormones. Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction or increase in hormone production. Hypothyroidism is underproduction or a decrease in hormone production. Thyroid disease changes in response to time, environment, and from person to person. What works for me might not work for you, just like there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness.
It's not that we "aren't trying hard enough."
Living with hypothyroidism means you're continually justifying the way you feel, whether with yourself or with someone else. And it can feel like a battle between what you want to do and what you need to do. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever had exciting evening plans, but your body says, "No way, I am SPENT for the day." No matter what's going on externally in our world, it's essential to listen to our body's signals and honor what it tells us -- even if that means canceling plans.
Fatigue is our own worst enemy.
Fatigue from thyroid disease is not your typical feeling of tiredness. It can often feel debilitating and relentless. It can stop us in our tracks and makes it almost impossible to get up in the morning or stay awake past 9 pm. That's why we must get more rest and create time to relax throughout our day. Fatigue doesn't just settle in slowly as it does for most people. Instead, it arrives like your in-laws: unexpected, unannounced, and with no guarantee when it'll leave.
Thyroid disease is much more manageable when we have support.
Living with thyroid disease makes every day a challenge. Still, we can thrive even on the most challenging days with our loved ones' support and understanding. When we feel vulnerable is when we need you most. It doesn't feel so lonely to talk about anxious thoughts or feel frustrated with weight gain or loss when someone is there to lean on.