And in a complete deviation from the normal subject matter of my blog…
Note: Please see the “Final Note” at the bottom of this, before attempting to email me about this post.
…because I have this platform, and because I would have given anything to have read the very blog post I’m about to write before I was diagnosed, I would like to briefly touch base on auto-immune conditions, particularly thyroid conditions.
Why? Because you might be suffering from one, and not even know it. Or perhaps someone you know and love is suffering, and they don’t know why.
Worse? Your doctor might not be doing the right test results, or might be telling you that everything is normal, when absolutely nothing is normal.
You might be going through life feeling anxious and irritable and tired and frustrated, and you might be beating yourself up thinking “Why can’t I do it better?” What I’m about to write about, for some people, could point them towards a possible solution.
I’ve already written about being diagnosed with an auto-immune thryoid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Briefly, when your body goes auto-immune rogue, it starts attacking its own cells. What I have right now is an auto-immune attack that might eventually become a full-blown thyroid condition. In the most technical of senses, my poor little thyroid gland is rocking and rolling as best it can, while my body mistakenly thinks, “Invader, invader!” and pulls out a can of whoop-ass.
The doctors pretty much say that eventually, my thyroid gland will die, at which point things change from “auto-immune” to “thryoid disease.” I say it “might” eventually become a full-blown thyroid condition because I believe in the principle of “fuck being realistic.”
Sometimes these conditions are genetic. They can also be linked to several things which the medical establishments don’t support with empirical evidence. I’ve read personal accounts of people having conditions like mine if they grew up in an old house and could have been exposed to lead piping and other heavy metals in small doses over time; if you were on birth control pills for a long time; if you have a serious illness and your body goes into “hyper-arousal” mode and can’t turn off after the illness has abated; if you are sensitive to or allergic to gluten.
A doctor? Nope, I am not. But I’ve read a lot about this, and this blog post is simply a distillation of what I’ve found. Disclaimer time: Check everything with your own doctor. I make no guarantee, warranty, or claim about this information.
Suffering in Silence
Back in 2008, I went to the doctor because I was tired all of the time. Blood was drawn and something called “TSH” (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was measured.
“Everything’s within the normal range,” the doctor at the time told me, and she sent me on my way.
Turns out, this doctor–lovely as I’m sure she was/is–didn’t know that she was telling me the WRONG information.
TSH is typically measured on a 0.5 – 5.50 scale.
However, most people these days tend to agree that anything above a 3.0 will give you symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, at which point you’ll feel achey and exhausted, you’ll gain weight, be irritable/anxious, and a whole host of other symptoms.
My TSH in 2008 was already at 3.45 . Using the 5.50 marker, I was sent on my way to spend another four years tired, achey, etc.
In fact, I’m very lucky that getting my blood re-tested in 2012, the doctors I saw knew and understood that people are usually symptomatic by the time their TSH is above a 3.0.
In 2008, they also didn’t measure a few other important markers of thyroid function, and these are the tests that I would recommend if you suspect you have any issues with your thyroid:
Why T3 and T4 tests? These are the two thyroid hormones that work together to regulate the thyroid, and from there to regular your energy levels, hormones, metabolism, the whole nine yards. Getting these tests will give a fuller, more complete picture of what’s happening.
Note: Some doctors are resistant to doing anything other than TSH test and perhaps the TPO test. The regular T3 and T4 tests are not as good as the “free” T3/T4 tests, but get what you can get.
Why D and Iron? Vitamin D and Iron both affect thyroid function and energy levels, so you might as well get those measured while you’re getting blood drawn.
What I Know, Now
In 2012, the worst my TSH test ever registered–and at this point, I felt truly awful–was a 5.18.
It is unbelievable to me that even that still would not have been enough to officially “qualify” me as having a problem, using the current standard of measurement (which, I hear, is something that thyroid advocacy groups are trying to get changed). It’s unbelievable to me that anyone like, LIVES through their day with a higher TSH than that, because at that level my exhaustion was so extreme.
Gluten and Dairy and Diet
After my diagnosis, I went gluten- and dairy-free, hoping that dietary changes would help me avoid taking a prescription. People ask me if that made a difference. I don’t have a gluten allergy, and yet–YES. It took a few weeks, but it made a difference in my energy levels.
I also supplement with a great B-vitamin complex and Vitamin D, among other supplements that help.
MD vs. DO
When I talk about my doctor to Andy, I call her–with total love and respect–Dr. Flowy Pants. She’s a Doctor of Osteopathy that I switched to. I didn’t know that DO’s existed. They are actual vetted doctors who went to medical school, but who look beyond symptoms and examine the body as a system–such as what gets in the way of the body’s normal healthy functioning, or what causes might be in the environment.
I LOVE having a D.O. How did I find her? I was randomly (thank you, Universe) assigned her when making an appointment.
She does not wear a lab coat. She has worn flowy pants and Danskos every time I have seen her. She didn’t act impatient with me, the time I started crying in her office. She has not put up a fight about ordering full panels of blood work so that I can rule things out–she seems to understand that I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass, I’m just trying to do this kind of crazy thing: heal my body.
If you don’t like your MD, check out your provider list and find a DO. If you’ve already got a condition and your MD just wants to dump you on a prescription and that’s it? Get the hell outta there. Change your primary care physician to a DO. (NOW).
I’m not trying to hate on the MDs–many have positively influenced my life. Unfortunately, as it pertains to this auto-immune condition, more than one MD has followed what seems to be an MD protocol that simply does not work for myself, or for many of the patients I’ve spoken with.
Prescriptions and HOLY SHIT I Feel Better
Even though I cleaned up my diet and took supplements and even did six months of acupuncture, I was still symptomatic. So, I went on the “holy grail” of thyroid prescriptions, a generic form of Synthroid. This line of prescriptions is completely synthetic.
Six weeks later, I was officially ready to throw in the towel on that. I felt zero difference in any capacity, unless you count that I felt really numbed out and depressed and cried a lot. That could have been coincidence, of course–I’m not blaming the prescription so much as I’m just sharing my personal experience.
I switched to Armour, a “dessicated natural thryoid” prescription that contains T3 and T4.
Within 48 hours, I swear to Goddess I felt different.
After one month on Armour? I was waking up in the morning at 7:30, on my own, without an alarm clock, and without that desperately tired, “Oh god, if I could only sleep longer” exhaustion.
Needless to say, I LOVE ARMOUR.
I don’t want coffee as much, because I don’t feel like I need it.
I have a ton more energy.
My immune system as a whole is doing better.
In fact, I didn’t even know it was POSSIBLE to feel this much better, I had become so accustomed to a low-grade tired feeling.
If you’re tired a lot, yes–there’s mind over matter. There’s positive thinking. There’s taking responsibility for your shit. There’s eating more salads and exercising.
There’s also…the possibility that a biochemical cocktail has gone awry in your body. So, hey–get tested.
If you get tested and have something, forget “being realistic” about it. You deserve and can find your way to optimum health.
If you have a thyroid condition and have just been dumped on whatever prescription your doctor is most comfortable with, and you don’t really feel better, try something else. In my case, I am bananas about Armour. If something else works for you? Awesome.
(And no, I’m not a paid endorser!).
A Final Note
It would be my preference if you didn’t email me to share your thoughts about this blog post or this condition.
Instead, use the information for yourself as you see it appropriate to do so, and if you know someone who has been suffering from symptoms that they can’t explain, perhaps forward the URL to them in the hopes that it’s helpful.
While I appreciate any insights you might have, I’m finding my own way with all of this, and notice that whenever someone well-meaning starts sharing their findings with me or offering me suggestions for other things I might consider or try, I am quickly overwhelmed.
I’m feeling really awesome about where I’m at with things, and look forward to a return to full health.
~ with care and love ~
Why do you truly do what it is that you do?
There are the reasons that we think underlie our decisions.
Then there are the real reasons–the reasons that we might be afraid to cop to, because being real about them means being more transparent, and transparency is scary.
Let’s start with one that I know that millions of women struggle with, every day: food.
You want to know how badass I am? I’ve done sugar-free detoxes. When I say “sugar-free,” I mean “sugar-free,” as in, not even bread, because most bread contains sugar. I have heard former drug users say that it was harder for them to do a sugar detox than it was to quit hard drugs.
There are two reasons that I spent so much time, money, and energy on these resources.
One is the reason that I would have told you: I knew that something was up with my health, despite doctors saying all was well. Just recently, I even found blood work from 2008 that confirms that I wasn’t crazy, and that things were all wonky even back then, but the doctors at the time overlooked it and said my blood work was normal.
I turned to alternative medicine and extreme health–like trying sugar free detoxes–for very real reasons. I was/have been sick.
But…there was another reason why I did all of this, and it wasn’t one I would have admitted to: I wanted to be “good.”
When I read about someone else’s plan for “clean living” and “feeling good” and “having vibrant energy,” I bought into the marketing.
Yes, I was doing everything I was doing for health reasons.
I also realize, only now, that on some level I was also trying to detoxify and cleanse my way to salvation.
If I followed the rules and only ate and drank what I was “supposed” to, the “clean” foods, then I was a good little girl who was…well, “clean” so to speak. There was a part of me wrapped up in trying to be “good” through food.
After officially receiving this auto-immune diagnosis and learning that going dairy and gluten-free were likely to help, I immediately did that. It definitely helped my energy levels, and now, when people ask me if I (personally) would recommend it, I say “Yes.”
But here’s the thing–the thing I could only realize now that being dairy- and gluten-free is so utterly ordinary in my life:
You take yourself with you, wherever you go.
Before making these changes because I truly needed to, I would have romanticized ditching dairy and gluten. I would have made it into this “thing,” this representative of how “disciplined” I was. I might not ever have said that to you, but deep down, I would have felt some kind of weird “pride” in having ditched dairy and gluten and switched to “clean eating.”
Perhaps I would have done an “X Day cleanse,” or made a spreadsheet for myself to track at home, so that I could see myself lining up check marks.
(Thank GOD I am past the phase in my life where I would have blogged every detail of doing such a cleanse, and Instagram-ed photos of my meals, eh?).
If I had turned this change into an event, I’d have read a lot of books about “how” to go gluten- and dairy-free. I would have lamented to friends the difficulties in finding food that I could eat.
Instead, because it was something I needed to do to be healthy, I just…did it.
And now, being gluten- and dairy-free?
Good gravy. It’s just so utterly ordinary. It’s breakfast with gluten-free cereals and coconut milk. It’s quinoa pasta. It’s the gluten-free menu at my favorite local restaurant. It’s lots of vegetables.
It’s just…food. I hardly even think about it. I can assess a restaurant menu in about thirty seconds to see what I can eat and how to ask the chef to prepare if it I need something excluded.
As the Italians, the ultimate foodies, say, “Molto semplice.”
So why do you do what you do?
Maybe you’ve thought of starting a meditation practice. A courage practice. A gratitude practice. A forgiveness practice.
Maybe you’re going to go vegan for 21 days, or do a juice fast, or go organic.
Perhaps you’re going to do a Bikram marathon, or run a real marathon, or do a Tough Mudder.
Whatever it is that you do–know why it is that you’re doing it. What’s the real motivation? What do you really think you’re getting from the doing?
If you’re doing it to be “good,” you’re never going to get to “good.” The goodness just isn’t in the doing. All the doing in the world, if it’s done to “get good,” just pushes you farther from good.
Why? Because goodness is you.
You’re Already Good
Doing things to “be good” just reinforces a mentality that you are not good, already.
You’re already good, whether you meditate every day or don’t, whether you eat a “clean” diet or don’t, whether you go to yoga or don’t.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with seeing places where something isn’t working in your life, and making a choice that’s the healthier choice.
I just want to invite you, as I’ve been inviting myself, to notice that line that can get crossed.
Feeling like a badass because you complete a sugar-free detox is pretty awesome.
Not recognizing the parts of you that already ARE pretty hot-shit, cleanse or no cleanse? Not so awesome. Thinking that sugar-free (or any other diet change) is your road to salvation? Not so badass.
How to begin?
Investigate the truth of the Stories that you tell yourself. Meditate upon the question: “Why am I doing this?” Why do you do what you do, say what you say, act how you act?
Wherever you’re trying to feel “good”? Just feel good, because you are good.
Drop the lie–that “doing something” means you’ve achieved “goodness.”
You already are the goodness that you seek.
Launch something, sometime, and you’ll know what I’m saying:
at some point during every launch, I look around and go, “What-the-fuck was I thinking? This is a ton of work, and I have no idea how it’s going to go, and I’m tired and just want to watch bad television.”
Being a runner, I liken this to getting really tired towards the end of a race. You burn through the early stores of glycogen and then your body starts playing some Jedi mind tricks on you to get you to stop doing this crazy thing–run–when clearly it’s far more expedient to walk. Or crawl. Or just sit on the curb and watch other people run.
But there’s a reason why we run.
There are reasons why we do the things in life that take a lot of work, that promise no financial return, that have no guarantee at the end.
We run because we want to prove to ourselves that we can do it.
We run because something within us wants to live, expressed, running.
We run because what’s hard keeps you humble.
And in this launch (run), I remembered that part of why you run is because there are people on the sidelines, many of them you don’t even know, who are going to tell you again and again: YOU CAN DO THIS.
It’s my favorite part of road racing. It’s my favorite part of launching.
you are held
You are held–do you know this? People are rooting for you. As I sent out updates last night–something I did myself, sending out each and every single one–I was thinking of each coach, acupunturist, massage therapist, intuitive, or anyone else in a client based business who had purchased The Coaching Blueprint.
Each name connected me to an email, a post on Facebook. I kept smiling to myself and thinking, Wow. These are some seriously quality people. Such love for them.
Even though launching is a harrowing, tiresome process, it also connects you with getting–truly getting–that you are held.
People are holding space for you. People are rooting for you. Your “customers” (an odd and distancing term for the many coaches and others who I hold in such high regard) are rooting for you. Your friends are rooting for you.
I look around my office, and I cry–I have community. I am held.
These women held me tight, helped me dot every “i” and cross every “t”:
The love is unnameable, and it’s mostly shown because these people chose to do an amazing thing: show up in support of the work.
I extend to all of you my heartfelt gratitude and care. Thank you for being my wing-people, encouraging me when I was tired and inspiring me to do better. Thank you for second sets of eyes, and thank you for asking this one, simple question:
How can I help?
One simple question, and another human being knows–she is held.