Hashimoto's: Life as a Zombie
Hashimoto's: Life as a Zombie
Two attempted suicides. One arrest for uttering threats of suicide. A
week long sabbatical at the St. Micheal's Hospital Psychiatric Ward.
One discarded prescription for Prozac. Eight years of crippling anxiety
attacks. One clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder. 4, 380 hours of
sleep per year. 8, 760 hours of immobilizing exhaustion. Unknown hours
of missed work. Unknown number of memories unremembered. Unknown number
of words, definitions and spellings, lost and forgotten. Unknown number
of social functions unattended. Two failed relationships. Several
failed friendships. Over 80 hours of Emergency room wait time per year.
Unknown number of UTI's, kidney infection's and anaphylactic episodes.
Unknown number of hours spent on the toilet. 300 dollars of antibiotics
per year. Thousands of dollars of acupuncture, colonic treatments,
vitamins and acne skin treatments. An unexaggerated million needle
pricks. 20 gallons of blood drawn. One ultrasound. Unknown number of
hours of absolute misery.
This was my life. Most days this continues to be my life, however, now I can say with absolute confidence that I am NOT crazy, I am NOT lazy, I am NOT complacent, I DO NOT have a mood disorder, I am NOT bipolar, I am NOT antisocial and I am NOT clinically depressed. I AM, however, one of the millions of people suffering from an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Quite simply, my body is attacking itself, in specifically it is attacking and causing gradual destruction to my thyroid gland. The disease has such an expansive range of consequences on the mind and body it often gets camouflaged as many other physical and mental disorders. More than half of the people suffering from Hashimoto's are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. My diagnosis took 8 years. I saw countless psychiatrists and MD's. When hypothyroidism was suspected I was refused a referral to an Endocrinologist by two different doctors. I was prescribed countless medications and vitamins to treat constipation, depression, anxiety, memory loss, iron deficiencies, fatigue and sleep deprivation. I have developed alcoholic habits to subdue my symptoms. I have withdrawn from my friends, from my loves and my life. The disease has robbed me of time, memories, happiness and simple pleasures. It has taken my spirit and left an empty shell.
Perhaps the most difficult and challenging component to the disease is trying to convince the rest of the world it exists. Unless you are a fellow sufferer, Hashimotos is impossible to understand and very difficult to clarify.
For the most part my physical symptoms are undetectable to the public. For whatever reason I have been unaffected by one of the major physical symptoms of Hashimoto's; weight gain. However, Hashimoto's affects each sufferer individually. Physically I am afflicted by bowel issues, menstrual issues, extreme sensitivity to cold followed by hot flashes, frequent illness including kidney infections and throat infections, hoarse voice, numbness and tingling in fingers, difficulty swallowing, enlarged thyroid, low body temperature, coarse skin, acne, dry hair, brittle nails, muscle cramps, heart pain and extreme EXTREME fatigue. I can often sleep 12 hours or more and will wake feeling completely ragged. Some days I lack enough energy to bath myself, dress myself or even feed myself. However and having said that, I'd much rather contend with the aforementioned than the malady of my mind.
One of the affects of Hashimoto's is parallel to that of aging. As you age, memory, concentration and the ability to process new information becomes challenging. Hashimoto's has made my mind forget. My long term and short term memory sometimes operates as poorly as an elderly with dementia. If I am asked to perform a task at work, 9 times out of 10, within seconds and steps on route to execute the task, I will forget what I was meant to be doing. I have forgotten the names of close friends and relatives. I have massive trenches of blankness when trying to recollect my past memories. Due to these bouts of forgetfulness I have disappointed and frustrated many friends, employers, co-workers, partners etc. I have been perceived as inconsiderate, uncaring and irresponsible. I have also shown symptoms of slowing cognitive processing. My mind frequently wanders without any clarity. I am unable to vocalize entire thoughts in an articulate and fluid fashion. I get stumped on words in mid sentence. I have forgotten meanings and spellings of words. Often it is difficult for me to understand or retain new information. I often feel dense and unintelligent. I also suffer from periods of extreme sadness and depression. I often withdraw from social activities, I am deficient of passion and enthusiasm. It is often impossible to get happy, regardless of the pleasures in my life. I avoid friendships and most conversations. Unfortunately I don't have a blinking light on my forehead signally 'Hashimotos' and many of these symptoms can be easily judge as character inadequacies. Some may believe and judge me to be haughty, snobbish and/or peculiar. Some that have encountered me in certain moments may think I am slow or dimwitted. Others may find me moody and irritable.
As an artist and vocalist I can't imagine a more terrible set of circumstances. Hashimoto's has stunted my creativity. It has made me indifferent as a performer. It has affected the quality and control of my voice. It has agitated my focus and moods in rehearsals and creative sessions. My once fiery passion for music, imagination, creativity and originality has been smothered and snuffed out. HOWEVER, there is a small piece of the old me left within, kicking and screaming, and she intends to fight hard to kick this thing in the ASS. As part of that campaign I felt it was very important for me to ventilate my feelings and thoughts regarding my condition to the public and to fans. This is partially an exercise to help me articulate and organize my own thoughts about Hashimotos, however, I also want to reach out not only to fellow sufferers but also to those who may be undiagnosed. If any of the aforementioned symptoms sound familiar, I strongly encourage you to request that your doctor do a blood panel of your TSH levels, as well as your Antithyroid antibodies. PLEASE. Untreated Hashimoto's can cause heart attack, coma, dementia, Alzheimer's, clinical depression and a number of associated autoimmune disorders.
Restoring thyroid function by taking thyroid replacement does not necessarily make symptoms go away. In fact more times than not, Hashimoto's sufferers continue to experience symptoms after medication is prescribed. Hashimoto's is incurable and little is known about the rhymes and reasons of the disease. The disease can park you in a repetitive cycle of depression and fatigue which strongly prevents you from taking the necessary steps to help yourself and relieve your symptoms. However and though at times it feels like a life sentence, I genuinely believe that with a little push from within, the cycle can be broken and sound body/mind CAN be revived. I believe that by experimenting with proper diet, nutrition, supplements, practicing relaxation techniques and regular exercise in COLLABORATION with regular blood panels and dosage adjustments, my symptoms can be relieved. I am desperately hopeful. I am currently seeking many avenues of help from my MD, my Naturopath, my Endocrinologist, my Acupuncturist, as well as educating myself by speaking to fellow sufferers and studying applicable literature. I intend to track my progress and keep you posted on my findings. Though I realize what works for me may not work for others, however, perhaps it may and it's worth sharing. I hope that by imparting my experiences, trials, failures and successes in achieving physical and mental restoration from Hashimoto's I will help not only myself but many others who suffer worthlessly and worst, silently without compassion.
I PROMISE I will get back to this subject in later blogs. In the mean time, if you are a Hashimoto's sufferer or believe you MAY be, please reach out to me. Sometimes a little comfort from an understanding supporter is enough to push our minds forward even when our bodies would rather wilt into the dirt.