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.