I was staring down at a sink full of dark red hairs. There was also hair on the floor and some clogging my shower drain. It wasn’t clumps, but it was noticeable and it was alarming. And it was happening every single day. It had been for weeks. My hair, normally extremely thick and shiny, was dull, lifeless and getting thinner by the day. I swept it up off the floor, threw it in the trash, and went about my business. It must just be winter shedding, I thought, nothing serious.
When I looked in the mirror, though, I hardly recognized myself. I was so swollen. My eyes were sunken in and I was pale. Summer was long over, so maybe I’d just lost that glow. Maybe I was just retaining water. I do have high blood pressure. Maybe that was it. But that didn’t explain the fact that my clothes were getting tighter even though I really wasn’t eating much of anything.
Along with the thinning hair and puffy face, my skin was dry and itchy all the time. I developed eczema on my knuckles that cracked, and bled, and burned. I attributed it all to the cold, dry air. I was scratching to the point that my skin was flaking off. And there was nothing there. No bumps, no bites, no rash, just really itchy skin. Surely it was nothing. My husband wasn’t so convinced.
Soon I was tired all the time. We had two small boys, one just two and the other less than a year. I was working full time and found myself exhausted every night. I would make dinner, get the kids to bed, and go to sleep myself. I spent zero time with my husband. I just wanted my pillow. Once I started coming home from work and napping every day before I could even make dinner. He became extremely concerned.
Maybe I was pregnant again? Nope, negative test. I had battled an eating disorder and depression when I was younger and my husband was convinced that’s what was happening to me. I told him that I was fine. I wasn’t upset, or sad, or particularly angry about anything, I just felt weird. No, I felt crazy.
He truly thought I was losing my mind. There were all of these symptoms. I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t explain them. I felt and looked like shit. I was becoming a terrible mother and an even worse wife. I couldn’t get it together, no matter how hard I tried. One morning, it just all came to a head. He insisted that I go see a therapist. Clearly I was suffering from some terrible form of depression. I knew that I wasn’t and I knew that these weird things that kept happening to me were real. But it wasn’t worth an argument and maybe he was right. I was out of answers.
I made an appointment with a psychiatrist for the next day. If I was going to do this, I wasn’t wasting any time. I filled out a million forms, had a brief talk about my medical history and how I was feeling. The doctor said that it certainly sounded like I could be suffering from depression, but he wanted to run some blood tests to rule out anything else. Fine, I thought. But what was he going to find? I was a pretty healthy, 31-year-old woman.
I hadn’t been gone from the Quest lab for an hour when my phone rang. It was the doctor calling to tell me that my TSH and T4 Free tests were abnormal, extremely abnormal. What the hell did that mean? It was my thyroid. I’ll be honest, I’d heard of a thyroid before, but I had absolutely no idea what it did. He recommended that I see an endocrinologist as soon as possible for treatment.
My brother is a juvenile diabetic and has seen the same endocrinologist for years, so I was able to get in quickly. When we sat down and talked about my results, the doctor said that my numbers were the highest that he had ever seen and he had no idea how I was functioning during the day at all. He’d expect me to be in bed all the time. What did all of this mean? And more importantly, what could I do to make it better?
I was officially diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. This condition presents itself when the thyroid gland stops creating essential stimulating hormones. The thyroid regulates all kinds of body processes and helps with metabolism, proper heart function, muscle and digestive function, and even brain and bone development. When it is not properly functioning, you feel like a complete zombie. It’s awful. But treatment is often simple and can begin right away.
My doctor started me on a very high dose of Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone, that helps your body to function as if it were making its own hormones naturally. I began to feel relief in a matter of weeks. Slowly, my body got back to normal. I dropped weight, my face lost most of its puffiness, my hair and skin felt better. I looked like myself again. It took months, but my TSH and T4 Free levels were back to that of a person with a properly functioning thyroid. Over time, my medication dosage has decreased and I am now on a maintenance dose. I will take this type of medication for the rest of my life. But the beauty is, once your levels are normalized, you’re good. One pill a day for me. It’s simple.
I am so thankful to my husband for urging me to seek help and for a doctor with the foresight to overturn every stone before making a diagnosis. Eleven years later, I still take my little blue magic pill and I feel great everyday. I knew I wasn’t nuts. I knew my symptoms were real. But I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t listen to my body. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Never get so far inside of your own mind that you don’t take care of yourself.
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