Lessons from a Hashimoto’s Disease Survivor

I have Hashimoto’s Disease. Mayo Clinic defines this as, “a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid.” My definition: It sucks. Literally. Hashimoto’s Disease is an energy vacuum, sucking the get-up-and-go right out of you. I was diagnosed with this about two years ago, about 6 months after my son was born. I’ve never been a super energetic person. I was the girl falling asleep at parties in high school. It’s a wonder I ever got invited to any. But, after Boaz was born, I really didn’t feel good. No matter how much sleep I got, it was an act of God to get me out of bed each morning to care for my two young children. Then, I started losing my hair. I actually got some bald spots. That’s when I knew something was definitely not normal. After advocating aggressively for myself, as my doctor wanted to blame most of my symptoms on post-partum nonsense, he agreed to test me. Yep, I was right. Something was wrong. My adrenal glands were basically kaput. My antibodies were waging an all out nuclear attack on my immune system. My blood all but lacked just a smidge of iron. I was certainly sick.

So, two years later, I’ve learned a few tips about how to survive this Sucker. And I’ve learned some life lessons along the way, too. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Run, Mandy, Run!

Before I was diagnosed, the only thing that made me feel sort of “normal” for about an hour each day was going for a run. It was all I could do to get to the gym and actually start the run, but once I got going, and for that blessed hour afterwards, I felt great! Something about the endorphins pumping through me that just plastered a smile on my face. So, now, that I’m getting along with this disease, I make it a permanent part of my routine to run at least three times a week. Recently, I ran a half marathon, ‘cuz I needed a goal to work towards in the midst of all this running. It felt great to cross that finish line, knowing that my body was doing it’s best.

  1. You are what you eat.

Along with being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I had the good fortune to ALSO be diagnosed with several food allergies. Once I got my doc to believe me when I said there was something wrong, he was all about helping me figure out how to get better. He said often there’s a food issue that inflames the immune system with autoimmune diseases (that’s what Hashimoto’s is, an autoimmune issue). So, begrudgingly I let him poke me and fill up 13 vials of blood to send out to California. Couple weeks later, BOOM! I was handed the good news of being severely allergic to milk and milk products, eggs, and the news I should “probably stay away from gluten.” My first thought was, “there goes my life.” However, once getting the hang of avoiding these allergens, I can tell you the change was remarkable. Especially getting rid of that nasty old gluten. Giving it up was so worth the return of some level of energy.

  1. Take your vitamins.

I take Synthroid and a compounded T3. But along with that I take a slew of other vitamins. I mean A. Slew. But, I do it faithfully, because I have seen a marked difference in my health. Most notably is a daily injection of Lipo B. Not fun poking myself every day, but totally fun feeling great afterwards.

  1. Get your Zzzzz’s

It shouldn’t be any surprise that getting more than adequate sleep is essential. But what does make it difficult is the emotional feelings that sometimes come with it. By 8 o’clock, and sometimes before, I am totally done. Running around after my babies takes all I’ve got for the day, and by the time they’re in bed, I want to be too. However, this is real life. And there are people that want to spend time with me, responsibilities to my family, church and friends that I’d like to fulfill. Plus, there are some things I’d like to do, well, for me! Yet, being tired, and needing my sleep keeps me from it many, many times. It makes me feel bad. But, this is part of it.

  1. Take time to be still.

Quiet has very little value in our culture today. Sitting still on the porch, listening to the wind in the trees, the cicadas singing, a plane passing by. This is seen as wasting time these days. But, I say this is life-giving. Meditating on the Word of God, letting His Words be written on your heart, while soaking up some of His glorious creation? How could that be a waste of time? No, no, people have it all wrong. Quiet is essential to one’s spiritual health. I’ve found fighting for this time is a requirement of being a Hashimoto’s survivor.

  1. Seasons of life, yo.

Above, I started to talk about the emotions I have to work through in dealing with this Sucker. Well, sleep isn’t the only aspect in which emotions are called into play. In just about every other way, I deal with guilt. Guilt for not being the mom that has a different Pinterest activity each day or a Park District group event we are signed up for. Guilt over not always being able to support my husband the way I’d want to if I had boundless energy. Guilt over not having the ability to say “yes” to everything I really, really want to. But, here’s the deal. Why battle guilt on top of everything else? Everyone goes through seasons of life. And right now, I am in a season where all God asks of me accomplish each day is caring for my kids, my home, my family and my church. I do these things the best I can, and know that that’s all God asks of me.

  1. You do you, and I’ll do me.

This is by far the biggest lesson I have learned from having Hashimoto’s Disease. Most autoimmune diseases leave their people looking fairly normal on the outside. I mean, I look well. I’m not confined to a wheelchair or hacking up a lung into a handkerchief. I walk around like you, buying groceries, singing songs, splashing with my kids in the pool. But, on the inside, I have a daily struggle to just get through the next 24 hours. The fatigue is often great. Plus, Hashimoto’s messes with your hormones big time. So, I have the added bonus of battling my mood from time to time. I don’t say this to gain pity points. I reveal this because, you never know what someone else is going through. There have been many times in life that I’ve been annoyed with someone for not doing something I thought they should do. But, you know what….I am not them. I do not know what emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and whatever else kind of struggles they are facing. So, here’s the deal. How’s about you do you, and I’ll do me. Let’s trust that the other person is doing their best to live a life that brings glory to Jesus or at the very least brings happiness to their fellow man.

That’s what I have for now. My seven biggest lessons to date as a Hashimoto’s Survivor. Because Hashimoto’s is the most common cause for hypothyroidism in the United States, and because there are up to 3 million cases diagnosed in the US each year, I figured one or two of you may be struggling with this too. And maybe I could encourage you. So, drop me a line if you want to chat. Here’s to living our best life, best we can!