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Behold, our first guest post!
by Althaea* (a fellow hypothyroid writer)
Hypothyroidism is not something we can just fix with a daily thyroid supplement, and some days are definitely better than others. Sometimes we find something that makes a big difference -- at least for a time. This post is for all those who've experienced a major improvement and who've jumped into action to make the most of it, only to crash when, sometime later, the improvement ran out. It happens.
Maybe you found a new treatment. Maybe you avoided a different food. Maybe your baby started sleeping through the night, so you did too. You are feeling better. It lasts a week, a month, six months. You start to think you ARE better.
You start making plans.
You lead a 4-H project and manage to have the minimum number of meetings. You think maybe you’ll finally be able to teach a co-op class instead of just helping. You think you’ll be able to be the one who contributes and helps others instead of the one always asking—or wishing—for help.
That business idea . . . maybe it’s time to take a tiny step toward helping the family income. Maybe you can help your children behave better, learn more chores, and get all their school work done. Maybe you can finally make a dent in the back log of house work.
Maybe you can even do a few of those fun things you have been putting off! You start to make commitments. The longer it lasts, the deeper you go, thinking it will continue to get better. You even start telling people how much better you are. Maybe you even recommend the treatment as something that “worked.”
And then you start to feel worse.
Maybe you know why, maybe you don’t. If you know why, maybe you know how long the symptoms will last; maybe you don’t. Maybe it is something you can change. Maybe it isn’t.
But you have already made commitments. You don’t want to look like a flake. You have read that the secret to success is “consistency,” whether in business or child-rearing. You want to be “responsible,” “reliable,” “consistent.”
But your body is not consistent. Your condition is not reliable.
You may not be able to keep all those commitments, especially if you don’t know what caused the change or how long it will last. If you don’t keep them, people may think you don’t care anymore. You may even be so tired you think so too.
You have a decision to make. Do you tell people, or not?
And what do you tell them?
Do you explain your condition (assuming you even have a diagnosis to explain)? Do you say you are tired? Do you ask for extensions to deadlines , or power through as much as you can and not sign up for more? Do you turn down the next step, or take the commitment and hope you feel better enough to do it by the time it comes around?
You can be vulnerable with your clients and tell them you think you can do it but your health might not be there, or maybe you can find an assistant to cover your back.
While writing this I read, “Is Your Thyroid Affecting Your Credibility?” on HypothyroidMom.com. Yes, credibility is exactly what this is about.
Even if you feel good, how do you know to what you can commit? How do you know you won’t accidentally get ahold of something inflammatory and go down just when the next project hits crunch time, whether it’s something for your family, a business, or yourself?
You can write the happy ending when you’re feeling better, but you have to understand that managing an autoimmune disorder is a lifelong commitment. Aside from the theoretical sense that is true for everyone, there is no guarantee that tomorrow you will be able to do what today you think you can.
Living with a chronic illness means living with that kind of uncertainty. Feeling better might last, and it might not. Like fixing the roof in fair weather so it will withstand a storm, part of feeling better needs to be preparing for times that are not better.
Maybe that means, while you feel up to talking to people, explaining to those around you what kind of help you need when you are not feeling well. Maybe it means putting meals in the freezer or putting simple housekeeping systems in place. Maybe it means doing research and trying to find out how to keep feeling better.
Feeling worse after feeling better can be terribly discouraging. What can you do if you feel too tired to even care, so tired that you don’t even want to fight to get better, so tired that if anything you’d like to feel a little worse so you would HAVE to stay in bed and rest?
And if you know what to do to feel better, you may also know what makes you feel worse, and the temptation to give in to that sugar, eat that food you are sensitive to, or stay up later, or whatever, may be partly fueled by the wish to have a legitimate reason to rest, to say “I can’t do what you are asking of me.”
(But if you have done something that made you feel worse, don’t accuse yourself of doing it TO make yourself worse! Remember there are things like cravings and feeling wired-but-tired and other junk with your illness that make it harder to make healthy choices.)
I guess that is where real self-care comes in; you need to carve out time for that rest even if not everything you “have to do” is done. Even if you can keep going a few more minutes or hours before you collapse involuntarily. Even if it means lowering a standard you think is already too low. Even if it means asking again for outside help. Even if it means putting a video on for the kids when you had decided not to.
Consider your wish for rest legitimate, without having to let things get worse to have it.
Sometimes with hypothyroidism you need real, physical help because you are too tired to do even the things that really must be done. Sometimes that help may not be there even when you ask, and things aren’t very nice until and unless you feel better again.
Sometimes you just need someone to call who cares about you feeling better, whether it is a doctor, a friend who understands, or even a “warm line” if you do not have anyone else. Preferably find someone who can say, “Go eat some protein,” or take magnesium, or whatever you know you need, and you will.
But you do have to consider others too. Selfishness and sloth are huge temptations when one is bone tired. The temptation to wallow in it and stop trying to get better, or to use the illness as an excuse when one really could do the thing required, is there.
With an invisible illness, not only is it hard for others to discern whether the sufferer is ill or lazy, it can be hard to tell of oneself. If you’re sitting on a couch thinking about how you have things to do and there is no obvious reason you can’t get up and do them, and yet there you sit, are you really too tired to get up, or are you choosing to sit?
How do you tell for yourself whether you really must sit a little while longer or if it is better to get up and do the things you think you must? If you do have responsibilities, you can’t just keep shunting them off onto your long-suffering spouse and shove articles in his face about how husbands are supposed to support their hypothyroid wives.
But be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you really are sitting because you are tired, and without the load of guilt maybe you will be able to get up in another minute and do the thing you must do.
You may not feel as well as you did. You may not be as productive as you were.
You know your own value is not just in your usefulness, but that’s not the point. You want to be able to DO things.
And the good news is you did feel better for a while. Find the clues. Keep fighting the fog. Keep reading and learning. Keep praying. Keep loving. Find hope.
Now, it's your turn.
Do you have anything you'd like to add in the comments?
Ever had a nice, long stretch of improved health and vitality, when you felt as though you could do anything -- as though your hypothyroidism was finally under control -- only to hit a wall when that nice, long stretch ran out?
Or, taking this in another direction, any stories of drinking an extra glass of wine (or two) to make yourself "sick enough" to stay home from work when you already feel terrible all over, but "you don't look sick"?
[This isn't a suggestion; I learned this one by accident. Rum is actually more effective, though. Or blackberry brandy, if you want to feel considerably worse.
*Althaea is the guest post author's pseudonym.
Legal disclaimer: The author is just a mom with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, not a medical professional, and this article is not intended as medical or psychological advice. If you need such advice, speak to a qualified professional.