Confessions from Thyroid Hell

I guarantee you have been touched by Thyroid Hell at least once during your lifetime. If you do not personally have thyroid disease, you have definitely come in contact with someone who does. That encounter may have been quite pleasant, or may have been a nightmare. Either way, the quality of the encounter can be directly attributed to how well that person’s thyroid levels were balanced on that particular day. (Thyroid levels can fluctuate on a daily basis, which makes managing thyroid conditions that much more difficult.)

I thought I’d share an insider’s look at Thyroid Hell, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time there. I invite those of you with thyroid imbalances to share your stories in the comments. Feel free to have fun with it and please don’t worry about offending us. Thyroid disease is no laughing matter, but the situations it creates are sometimes hilarious.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share more detailed information about thyroid disorders. I will also launch a wellness coaching program for thyroid patients that will provide detailed information about lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements that can be used to support the thyroid gland. This program will also contain very specific information on how to discuss thyroid issues with your doctor and on the tests you need to request. I do not want one more thyroid patient to needlessly suffer, and I recognize that education is the only way to prevent that.

The Thyroid Gland is a tiny gland that wraps around the esophagus. It sits just below the “Adam’s Apple.” In spite of its size, the thyroid gland is incredibly powerful. It secretes hormones that directly affect every body system. Every single one. An imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can affect brain chemistry, emotions, digestion, reproductive health, fluid balance in the tissues, kidney function, heart function, liver function, hair and nail growth, sexual function, emotional balance, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, dexterity, muscle strength and stamina, cholesterol levels, anxiety, vision, internal temperature regulation, and more. As you can see, thyroid dysfunction affects body, mind and spirit in profound ways. Unfortunately, many MDs prescribe antidepressant meds to treat the symptoms instead of doing detailed blood work to find the cause of the problems.

The one item that is also affected but which was not included in the list is: RELATIONSHIPS. It is very difficult for thyroid patients to explain to family members and friends that they truly aren’t themselves. I frequently hear people with thyroid disorders express: “I hate myself and don’t know who this monster is living in my body, so I don’t know how any of my coworkers, family members or friends could stand me.” I’ve been that monster. Even though I was able to usually control my outbursts, the constant turmoil spinning through my brain and thought patterns was pure hell. Many people who are very positive, calm and chipper become Mr. Hyde when their thyroid levels become imbalanced. Those of us who have dealt with thyroid issues for many years instantly know it’s time to get blood work and check levels when the monster starts to rear her ugly head.

Unfortunately, people who have never before received a thyroid diagnosis often genuinely think they’re going crazy. It is extremely common for patients who are hospitalized due to suicide attempts to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. It is not uncommon for lab tests to reveal that people who successfully committed suicide had thyroid imbalances. I am very thankful that a growing number of MDs are choosing to specialize in both endocrinology and psychiatry. I personally believe the two cannot be completely separated.

In my own experience, I can say that I could easily deal with the physical afflictions of thyroid imbalance if the emotional effects were not so profound. I’ve heard other thyroid patients echo similar sentiments. Once you realize your thyroid levels are out of balance, you begin the process of changing medication dosages until the correct dosage is found. This can sometimes create a rollercoaster effect where the patient goes from being hypothyroid (having thyroid levels that are too low) to being hyperthyroid (having thyroid levels that are too high.) Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms for hypo- and hyperthyroidism, which makes the entire process that much more fun.

For those of you who have friends, coworkers or family members with thyroid challenges, here’s a list of the emotional and behavioral changes you might observe when their thyroid levels become imbalanced:

  • Having extreme anxiety where none existed before
  • Reacting irrationally to minor issues
  • Responding to almost everything with anger
  • Displaying extreme levels of irritability (as in being annoyed by your breathing)
  • Overtweeting or excessive use of social media (I’m not making that up)
  • Suddenly having a total lack of self confidence and a complete disbelief their efforts will succeed
  • Becoming completely apathetic about projects or topics for which they have a passion
  • Dressing very differently because their clothes do not fit, their body image plummets, or they just don’t care
  • Suddenly becoming out-and-out mean, caustically sarcastic, hypercritical, etc.
  • Becoming very negative
  • Suddenly becoming a hermit who has no desire to leave the house or interact with others
  • A total slob may suddenly become obsessively tidy, or a neat freak may suddenly become a slob

That list could continue with many more points, but the bottom line is that thyroid imbalance changes people’s personalities, not just their physiology. The good news is that there are a wide variety of natural approaches that can support thyroid health. These approaches, used in combination with natural thyroid replacement hormones, can eliminate the hell and restore normalcy.

So what can you do to help a thyroid patient who’s in flux? Love them, obviously. In the midst of that, ask questions to ensure they are working with a professional to stabilize their hormone levels. I cannot stress this enough: Most thyroid patients are already experiencing a bit of self hate. Try not to be negative and judgmental about the changes in their life habits. They may need your assistance in maintaining the status quo, and they may need you to very gently hold them accountable, but they do not need your judgment. Threatening them with ending the relationship will not motivate them at all. Their hormonal imbalance is already affecting their self image, so losing a relationship may not matter to them (or they may expect it) when their levels are out of balance. I know that sounds extreme, but I hear it and see it on a daily basis.

The best advice I can offer is to ask the thyroid patient in your life how you can help them. Be specific. Ask if you can help with chores, if they need you to take them out to have fun, and let them know you love them and are there for them if they need to talk or need a soft shoulder to pound on. Your support will do more for them than anything else.

Ok … your turn. Have you experienced this? What else can we add to the list? I welcome in put from thyroid patients and from people who love them and who are on the receiving end of the angst.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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27 Responses to Confessions from Thyroid Hell

  1. HateMyself says:

    I just want to vent out since I have no friends and obviously I cannot talk to my husband about my problems because he just don’t get it. He never tries to help me and I just want to kill myself for looking for ugly, dry, fat, and I lost 3/4 of my hair which is causing me so much pain..sometimes, I just felt like dying because no one really understands how it feels my husband cannot relate to me and I really wish he had the disease too so he realize how hard it is for me to be a 24/7 mom and a wife and be miserable the whole day. Everyday, I lost lump of my hairs and I feel like I cannot do anything about this than just wait to get bald and die. I had hyper for almost 2 years and started medication just 4 mos ago, my FT4 and idk is said to stablilized now but I still feel crap and taking my meds everyday. One second I’ll be fine and the next minute I find myself wanting to die. I despise my disease, am 25 and I’m supposed to be enjoying life which am totally not. I dragged myself everyday to get thru life for my daughter. I don’t even want to do anything, I just want to stay at home and the next thing I know I feel like shit staying at home and not doing anything. I just hate myself for being me and I kept asking God why he created me. If I get bald because of this fucking disease I swear I’ll kill myself right away.

    • I’m so very sorry you’re experiencing what you’re going through. PLEASE find a new doctor to interpret your bloodworm, and PLEASE find someone to prescribe an antidepressamt. The way you described yourself makes it fairly obvious you need to.doscuss depression and your emotional state with a professional. Please get help now and don’t wait.

      If you’re still losing hair, then you’re levels are not normal for you. Please find a doc practicing functional medicine who will run additional tests, dig deeper, and interpret them correctly.

      Please know my heart and prayers are with you. Please get help NOW.

  2. judy combs says:

    As a 57 year old female who abrubtly went through menopsuse at 35 with classic hypo symptoms, tests came bsck “normal”. Have now been diagnosed and thought, finally I can restore my life. Can’t tell you the losses I’ve had due to spiraling down over the years. Much to my dismay my doctor couldn’t see me when I started feeling worse on levothyroxine and the girl on the phone was very hateful. I did manage to find an integrative m.d. but you have to pay 750.00 to “join” thier practice. All I want is to try the natural med. Why are doctors so resistant. Do all of the integrative doctors charge these “fees” just to talk to them? Seems no one really wants to help you just get the right med unless they make a fortune first. Any help or input would be so appreciated. I would gladly pay the money to get the right treatment, but like most hypo sufferers I’ve chased so many rabbit trails and wasted so much money on wrong diagnoses I’m just afraid of being ripped off by another slick talker. Just curious to know if this is normal practice. Is proper treatment only available to people with money?

    • I’m so sorry you’ve been through so much. There are integrative and functional medicine MDs who accept insurance. It’s worth searching to find one. I hope you find relief soon!

  3. Abby says:

    This article hit it home. Get ready because I’m about to vent like never before! Like other some of the other commentators said, I have ALL of the emotional/mental symptoms listed above and had NO CLUE how related they are to the thyroid. I have been worried about my body image for quite a while now (I’m only 16 for goodness’ sake!), and every time I try to lose weight, I end up gaining it. I don’t feel confident about myself in any way right now, whether it’s what I say, how I say it, how I dress, how I communicate… I could go on forever. Actually, I have been looking up my social related symptoms and was convinced I had Asperger’s because my Thyroid is getting so out of control, but, thank You Jesus!, this article explains my social issues!!. And the hair. My hair is falling out by the hand fulls and now I have lost about half of my hair. My self image currently: puffy face/body, flat thinned out hair, disgusting weight gain, poor communication, WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME??! Sorry for venting so much I could go on forever. But I am taking synthroid and hopefully it should help? But thankfully I serve a God Who cares and WILL take care of me. I will be healed!

  4. Chloe says:

    Hi,

    I was diagnosed to have hyperthyroidism last March 2014 and I am continuously taking medications right now. I experienced thyroid hell (i felt like i am so helpless in all aspects of my life) during the first three quarters after my diagnosis. Right now, I am better as my health improved but I still have the tendencies to be depress from time to time maybe due to hormonal imbalance. My dosage was increased as well and I was advised to take meds for the next 6 months before I can go through a radiation procedure (I need to have a stable hormone per my doctor). Having supportive friends and lived ones really helped me survive each and everyday of my hell and post-hell episodes. I would love to know more about how I can change my lifestyle and diet to improve more.

    Thank you!

  5. anne says:

    This is exactly how i am feeling, am recovering from acute hypothyroidism
    thank you for explaining this awful situation. Its like i take 2 steps forward and 3 back, very demoralising at times. Looking forward to feeling normal whenever that might happen.

  6. Rhonda Kenny says:

    Hi! I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism about five years ago but have probably had it about 20 years. I’m on Armour. I have a lot of joint and muscle pain if I accidentally eat the wrong thing. I am glucose free, soy free, sugar free, fluoride free, chlorine free (no pools or hot tubs for me). I don’t complain about this to anyone normally because it just takes a lot of effort to even complain. Fortunately though, with this medicine, I have many more good days than bad days! I pray for all who have this horrible disease but know there are a lot more worse off out there! God Bless!

  7. Stacey Jones says:

    I was diagnosed with Hashimoto 6 months ago after having stomach issues for 2 years .. I had missed alot of work, had to apply for fmla for fear of losing my job since I used all of my sick time. I almost got a divorce. It has been hard. I’m not sure how long I’ve had it. I just know that once I was diagnosed some of the pieces started falling together and making sense . I still have a long way to go. I’m just all overwhelmed. There is so many possible triggers from food to metals to stress to environment. All I can do is just go to work and come home. I joined a sport group on Facebook and I love the group. It helps to have someone understand you and know you are not crazy. Reading this article helps to bring some more of the pieces together and helps me realize that it’s not me, just the thyroid out of balance. That I’m not doomed to be this miserable lazy overweight negative blob who has anger issues.

  8. judy gaspar says:

    Hi I had severe hyperthyroidism 10 years ago had RAI done twice within 6 weeks suffered a thyroid storm was in critical care for 10 days. My whole life has changed and I hate it. I can’t control my emotions too tired all the time never leave the house I feel no one understands me. I have been on 137mg levothyroxine sine 2007 dr says levels always look fine. He says Im depressed have hypertension need to exercise,, I dont even know who I have become.
    Lost Judy

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Judy. I’m so sorry to hear about your challenges. It sounds to me like it may be time to find a doctor who will do more thorough testing and who is willing to prescribe medication containing both T3 and T4 hormones. You are not alone. Many people with thyroid issues are undertreated but their doctor doesn’t recognize. Please continue seeking the treatment you need. Help is out there!

  9. chrissy says:

    I feel like wanting to cry reading all of these personal struggles with any form of thyroid disease. I had been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and then Graves back in 2010. I opted for total thyroidectomy (subsequently they found a small papilary carcinoma and removed it) . Ever since, its been a struggle for myself. I have to fight for energy during the day, I constantly feel like I need to eat something, even if I’d already eaten, I’ve gained at least 30+ pounds and its ever harder to get rid of. Because of everything going on (hoping for a new job and trying to have the energy to do anything), I’ve been feeling like I’ve been having wicked mood swings and just wanting to cry all the time. Not to mention a much lowered self esteem due to hypo weight gain. My next endo appointment, I’m going to talk to him about a T3 suppliment to my levothyroxine, or even an anti depressant. I’m feeling at my wits end.

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Chrissy. I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles. It may not be much of an encouragement, but please know you are not alone. My encouragement to you is to insist your endo run a FULL thyroid panel (Free T3, Free T4, TSH, TPO and Reverse T3) and discuss adding T3 to your regimen. Unfortunately, many endos do not believe there’s any need to combine T3 therapy with T4. If yours is not, please find a doctor in your area who is knowledgeable about thyroid therapies and who will prescribe a combination of both hormones. I also strongly encourage you to read the book, “Stop the Thyroid Madness” – http://amzn.to/NPXCH0. It provides detailed information on blood tests, thyroid hormones and more.

      Please know you CAN feel better. You just need to find a doctor who will run the right tests and prescribe the correct medication. I also encourage you to find online thyroid support groups. Most of those groups are great sources of information (taken with a grain of salt) on finding help and finally eliminating your symptoms. Keep fighting and keep searching!

  10. johna says:

    It’s true. The Thyroid affects every organ in the body. And once it is out of wack, it can seriously damage your health. Even after the imbalance is corrected, women can suffer symptoms for a long time. That is why it is important to restore good health thru natural remedies, good nutrition and healthy living.

  11. Anna says:

    Hi there, I am very interested in preventative care/supplements, herbs, etc. My mother has been diagnosed with thyroid disease and has had to have a lump removed from her thyroid. I have just about everything she has so I worry that this maybe next. Can you please share an idea of something that will help prevent me from getting the disease? Thank you.

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Anna. I apologize that I can’t provide personal recommendations here due to liability issues. For now, try to remove all chemicals from your diet, start considering going gluten-free, and eat a very healthy diet. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss the specific measures you can take to support your thyroid gland.

  12. SideTraKd says:

    Excellent article. I’ve known about my own hypo-thyroid condition for many years now, and how it affects so many things about me, but even I didn’t make a connection to some of the things you listed. They make perfect sense.

    I think the biggest challenge I have faced with it all is that the tendency to disconnect from the world often leads to neglecting treatment. That turns into a pretty vicious cycle.

    The fact that our balance fluctuates on a daily basis makes it very hard to keep commitments of any kind. I have heard from one of my doctors that this can be exacerbated by using the generic levothyroxin as opposed to branded synthroid due to generic dosing standards not being quite as strict. She told me that for most conditions, a minor deviation in dosage wouldn’t matter much, but obviously for us it would matter a great deal.

    But I have lost jobs, relationships… you name it… just from being so unreliable.

    • GWWR says:

      I agree, SideTraKd, that the withdrawal can often make seeking help a challenge and often delays getting the help we need. I’ve caught myself doing that and had to fight it. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced so many heartaches due to poorly balanced thyroid hormones. I can relate and my heart is with you. God bless!

  13. daphne says:

    I recently had my ovaries removed in July (hysterectomy previously 5 years ago) all of these thyroid symptoms I am experiencing is it related or are these different hormones? My hubby wants me to see a doctor, I want to find something that will naturally elevate these bothersome actions. Hot flashes just started this week. Where do turn? What Do I do? Is it something I can “ride out”? Confused.

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Daphne. So sorry to hear about your symptoms. I suspect your symptoms are related more to an imbalance in your reproductive hormones than to thyroid levels, although it is not uncommon for women to develop hypothyroidism after a complete hysterectomy. My recommendation is to find a doctor who will do a saliva hormone test to check your reproductive hormone levels, and who will use bio-identical hormones to balance any deficiencies. I agree with your husband that you need to see a doctor and get everything checked. I wish you well getting everything balanced!

  14. Carol says:

    Hello I too have been through hell quite a few times . I was diagnosed with drug induced hypo thyroidism about 25 years ago and they put me on levothyroxine so I thought ok take a pill everyday and all is well ~~~ I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, panic disorder & agoraphobia the psychiatrists had me drugged to the eyeballs ~~~ even on all these Med’s I was still not well I kept telling I am so tired ~~~~ then they wanted to up my anti depressants ~~~ anyway 2 months ago diagnosed with hashimoto’s Throiditis had ultra sound and my thyroid glands ate gone destroyed by this auto Immune disease ( Hashimoto’s ) they uped my levothyroxine and in a few weeks will be going on Cytomel so Zi will be on T3/T4 just waiting to finally feel better ~~~ has been so hard I my family I have been so sickly for all these years I have some HOPE finally that I can have a better life for us all . God Bless us all <3

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Carol. I’m so sorry you’ve been through so much. Unfortunately, I hear stories similar to yours far too frequently. Here’s hoping the combination of T3 and T4 will lift you up quickly!

  15. mary says:

    Reading this, I am in tears. I have all the above and never knew it was related to my thyroid. I was diagnosed in 1997.In the last year my MD retired so I sought out a naturopath to see if I could find some relief. He did saliva testing and diagnosed me with Hashimotos, I went gluten and dairy free and now compounding T3 and T4.On my second week of LDN and already feeling better. Thanks for letting me tell my story here. I look forward to coming back to learn more.

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Mary. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been through so much, but am thrilled you’re starting to see improvement! Most of us with thyroid issues have been in your shoes and understand completely. Please keep in touch!

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