Real Talk: My Life With Hypothyroidism

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I felt like sh*t. 

I had headaches constantly. My nails were brittle and wavy. My skin was painfully parched. And, my hair was thinning.

I was in grade 10 (so, I believe I was 15..?) when I began getting terrible headaches at school. It seemed typical: you’re bored, you’re tired, you want to get out of class. But then came the extreme exhaustion. I would sleep a full 10-12 hours of sleep at night, go to school, and have to come home and have a nap. It felt like I could never get enough sleep, and I could never feel fully awake.

My brain got foggy, and simple things began to be confusing to me. School became truly overwhelming. I would put something down and instantly forget where I had placed it. I felt like I was losing my mind.

My nails began peeling, my skin was rough and dry, and I noticed my hair was thinner. I felt truly horrible and I worried that something what seriously wrong with me.

When I began declining weekend plans with friends because I was just too tired, everyone’s worry intensified. What 15-year-old misses an opportunity to see her friends? It felt like my mind, my health, my life was just too unmanageable with the level of exhaustion that I felt and so I became the ultimate home-body. I know, it sounds dramatic, but at the time, it felt really dramatic and scary.

The doctor’s office became a revolving door for me, I’d go in – explain my symptoms, my parents would insist to the doctor that I wasn’t feeling OK, and I’d walk out without answers. It took months for me to actually get a test done, and then months to finally catch my thyroid issue. I was frustrated, feeling helpless, and totally exhausted.

Hypothyroidism comes about when your thyroid begins to underperform. It makes you feel tired, lethargic, gives you fog brain and headaches, can thin your hair, and can make you gain weight. When we discovered I had hypothyroidism, I was so relieved. I thought: finally, we found the thing that’s been ruining my life for the last year, and we can control it with medication!

What I’ve learned in the years since is that the medication (Synthroid) does help control some of the issues, but it’s not the end all, be all, cure. Instead, it takes lifestyle changes to really manage how I feel and how my overall health is.

Some of the lifestyle changes I’ve made over the years include:

Regular exercise:

The fact is, exercise has and always will have to be a big part of my life. It began as a large part of my life after my scoliosis surgery when I was 13, and it became even more vital when I found out about my hypothyroidism.

I exercise 4-6 times per week. Sometimes I do my bodyboss workouts, sometimes I go to an aerobics class, and sometimes I just run. I like being able to switch up my workouts so that I never feel bored or like I am stuck in a routine.

I also find that making exercise fun on the weekends to be a helpful way to get in another fitness session when I typically wouldn’t. The way I like to do this during the spring and summer is by going on hikes with my husband or friends.

A managed, but manageable diet:

Since finding out I had hypothyroidism, I’ve always maintained a very healthy diet. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t fall off the wagon here and there – I do (probably more often than I should!) but in general, I would consider myself someone who eats extremely healthy and well-balanced meals.

You won’t find a single microwave meal, candy, or chip in our apartment. I believe in eating fresh and vibrant meals each and every day. In our fridge, you’ll find lots of veggies and fruit, perfect for quick and healthy meals and snacks.

A regular sleep routine:

The most important part of my entire “hypothyroid routine” is my sleep schedule. Without a good sleep, I won’t make it to the gym, I’ll get lazy with my diet, and I’ll just overall feel like total crap. Not getting a good night sleep just isn’t worth it to me, so unless I can help it – I’m in bed at a regular time. That doesn’t mean I don’t get the odd bought of insomnia (something I used to get very, very often when I worked at an office job and had to be up at 5:30AM) but now, especially working from home, I can recoup faster.

The #1 way I can get myself to sleep when I have a bout of insomnia is by reading. It always relaxes me. If you are losing sleep at night, you may want to take the hour before bedtime for yourself – have a bath, read, and unwind.

Now I know what you’re thinking: well, yeah those things are things we all should be doing anyhow. And, you’re right. But back when I was in my late teens and early twenties, it wasn’t something I was willing to do – skip a few of those late nights with friends? Hell no. I didn’t ever want to miss out (serious fomo) and so I would push myself to the brink, and then get horribly sick and feel lethargic for weeks. And that would force me outta the game anyways. I’ve realized over time that there are certain things that I just can’t do often in order to maintain my health – and I’m OK with that.


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