Life is filled with ups and downs, blessings and curses, givers and takers. Hashimoto’s Disease is a giver — and for some of us, a blessing. I know, I know … You probably thought I was going to say Hashimoto’s is a curse because it takes our health and vitality. Maybe, but I don’t see it that way. At least not anymore.
IN THE PAST
For years, I focused only on the negative: The massive nodule that grew inside me and needed to be removed surgically with a semi-thyroidectomy; the prescription for lifetime medication; the premature menopause (before age 40) and osteoporosis (by 45) diagnoses; my sluggish metabolism and subsequent weight gain; the aggravating neuropathy, frozen elbow, and recurring joint pain; the embarrassing hair loss, thinning eyebrows, and wild mood swings; the constant brain fog, lack of concentration, and extreme fatigue; the unpleasant GI issues and myriad of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances I seemingly developed overnight (but in reality had unknowingly had my entire life); my very low threshold for stress and illness; and, at times, overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that left me feeling defeated, depressed, and lonely. Hashimoto’s took my health, my energy, and even my spirit. It wasn’t pretty. I was overweight, exhausted, and miserable with the person I had become … and I’m certain I made the people around me miserable, too.
So yes, based on this long, noxious list, it’s easy to label Hashimoto’s Disease as more of a taker and a curse. I did — for years. But I choose not to see it that way anymore. I choose to see this disease as a blessing instead because, in addition to all the challenges it created, it also provided the opportunity to develop my greatest gifts and accomplishments.
It started with one decision about eight years ago, and then lots of baby steps along the way.
Admittedly, that one big decision was the hardest. It was the decision to enter therapy to battle years of trauma and overcome PTSD. Being able to finally speak about my past abuse and conquer those negative emotions was liberating! It may sound a bit out there, but I believe opening up in therapy opened up my fifth (throat) chakra, which, when imbalanced, is often tied to thyroid disease and feelings of being silenced. It took time — a long time — but with my fifth chakra in better alignment, I felt free and empowered. And that one decision — to enter therapy and shift from living as a victim to living as a survivor — had a rippling effect. If I could conquer PTSD, I could handle Hashimoto’s! Motivated, I started making a series of changes: I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, changed my diet, researched and studied complementary practices, found a new endocrinologist, hired a functional medicine doctor, tried alternative therapies, and joined online communities like Autoimmune Sisters for support and encouragement.
This wasn’t an overnight change. It took years of trial and error, periods of doubt, and a lot of missteps along the way to get to where I am today. And while I still deal with occasional flare-ups, I am better equipped to manage them with the tools that I have learned. I am the healthiest I’ve been since my diagnosis over a decade ago, and it started with a shift in mindset. That is the key, I think, to living with Hashimoto’s disease — or any autoimmune disease: First, adjust your attitude, then take action. You didn’t choose to have this disease, but you do get to choose how you live with it. Yes, there will be challenges and setbacks, but we Autoimmune Sisters are fighters. We are warriors. And there is strength in community.
Hashimoto’s may have taken my thyroid, but it’s also given me so much more. It’s given me more compassion for others, and mercy for myself. It’s given me an appreciation for what my body can do, and grace for what it cannot. It’s given me an understanding of my own needs, and the courage to set boundaries. It’s given me the drive to seek answers, and a passion to live a healthier life. It’s given me the strength to face adversities, and the fortitude to make hard changes. It’s given me the gift of finding my voice again, and the power to change my life.
So this Thanksgiving, I am adding Hashimoto’s to my list of things for which I am grateful. It may be the unwanted gift that keeps on giving, but I choose to see that as a blessing … and that makes all the difference.