When I received that call from the doctor’s room asking me that the doctor wanted to see me with regards to my blood test results, I knew it wouldn’t be good news. It is never good news when the doctor wants to see you again, right?
But it was good news, but not in the way I expected.
That was the day I received the diagnosis that I most likely have the autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is the root cause of my underactive thyroid. Now, being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease may seem like a bad thing, but for me, it was a good thing. Here is why.
The symptoms that I have been experiencing – exhaustion, brain fog, weight gain, hair falling out, nails breaking, dry skin, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety – it had a name. There was something going on in my body, it wasn’t just all in my head. And here is the really good news: now that it has a name, I can take action and do something about it.
And that is the good part of (finally) being diagnosed with Hashi’s: it bought an end to my search of what is going on with me. Years of doctors, including a few endocrinologists, and even a dietician or two, who told me my blood results are “normal” and that I should just “eat less and exercise more” to lose the excess weight and release serotonin so that I will feel “better”.
This was in August 2015.
I have learned a few things since then. If you have just been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I want to share a few things with you on what I have learned in taking control of my health:
- First, you have an autoimmune disease, but the autoimmune disease does not define who you are. You have goals, dreams and things to do. You have a gift that the world needs, and having an autoimmune disease does not have to stop you from living a full life. You may need to make a few adjustments and changes to your life, but again, do not let this thing rule you. You have the complexity of living with an autoimmune disease, but you are not defined by it.
- Second, you can feel energetic and healthy again. If you make changes to your lifestyle and diet to reduce the inflammation and calm your immune system and work with a functional medicine doctor to ensure that your thyroid hormones are OPTIMAL for you, you will feel better again. You are working with two components: your immune system and your thyroid gland. There is a lot you can do in terms of diet and lifestyle changes that will make a huge impact on your health. It is about making small changes and adjustments and then making new habits to replace the old habits. Some doctors will tell you there is nothing you can do and that you will be sick forever. This is simply not true. And if that doctor was my doctor, I would fire that doctor. Oh yes, I did fire those doctors who didn’t care to help me.
- Knowledge is power. You need to become your own best advocate for your health. Learn a little every day about your immune system, your thyroid gland, how doctors work, medications and supplements. Become curious about everything related to Hashi’s, all things thyroid and autoimmunity. This is such an important step because you are ultimately responsible for your own health. You MUST become your own health advocate.
- Healing and feeling better is a journey. I wish I could tell you that just by drinking the little thyroid hormone pills that it would solve all your problems, but that is simply just not the case. You need to become like a detective in your health and ask yourself these questions: why is your immune system acting up and destroying your thyroid gland? What can you change to calm your immune system? Which thyroid hormones is best for me to take? You are going to have to try different things and make small changes often to see what works for you. It will be very frustrating to try things that worked for other people, but that may just not work for you. I want you to know that you need to see this as a journey to better, lifelong health. And it is going to take a little time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Last, you are not in this alone. Really, you are not alone. Being diagnosed with Hashi’s has been overwhelming and shocking for me, and maybe you too are experiencing feelings of frustration, anger, overwhelm, shock and hopelessness. But you are not alone. Hashi’s is actually the most common reason for an underactive thyroid, and there are many of us who have been diagnosed and who have made changes to our lives to reclaim our health and energy. There are online groups that you can join, and there are many of us who help others who have been diagnosed. There are many books available on Hashi’s and autoimmunity that you can read, and you can also work with a health coach to support and guide you on your health journey. I too have written a book on Hashi’s – on the things I wish someone told me when I was first diagnosed with Hashi’s. The point I am repeating here: you are not alone, and you don’t have to be alone in dealing with this.
I want to leave you with a sense of confidence and hope. While you now have an autoimmune disease that doesn’t have a cure yet, you can reach a state of “remission” where you are not tripped by debilitating symptoms that are robbing you of your life. It is going to take a little work and effort from you, but it is not impossible. It is not hopeless. You are not helpless.
There is a lot you can do to feel great again: work with the right doctor to optimize your medication, make diet and lifestyle changes to reduce the impact of inflammation and increase your energy.
You’ve got this.