My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all had hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, the medical community didn’t know as much about thyroid conditions as they do now. When I was in my 20’s I started experiencing minor symptoms such as mood swings, brittle hair and nails, unexplained weight gain, and low energy. I had four kids at the time and worked a full time job, so I put it all down to not enough sleep and too much stress. A thyroid problem never occurred to me since my family never talked much about their own health problems.
As my kids got older my symptoms got worse. I was cold when everyone else felt warm. I couldn’t lose weight no matter what diet I’d go on. My digestion was so horrible even water made my stomach hurt. I’d become depressed, cry, or get irritable over the smallest thing or nothing at all! It was so bad that the family had a running joke, saying my PMS “only” lasted 30 days out of the month. Was it really PMS? I doubted it, but still wasn’t sure.
By the time I was in my mid-30’s my symptoms were nearly debilitating. My periods were irregular, my energy levels were either at the low or “cadaver” end of the scale, and my thoughts were so fuzzy I couldn’t remember my kids birthdays or what I walked into the room for. I’d find myself standing in the kitchen, wondering what to make for dinner, then breaking out in tears because I felt so crazy. Was I developing Alzheimer’s? Did I have some adrenal problem? Was I truly going insane? I was so upset I wanted to pull out my hair, but needed to keep what little I had!
Finally, at the urging of my family, I made an appointment with my physician. I mentioned that many of my family members had hypothyroidism but she pretty much ignored that, saying it was a B12 deficiency. I believed her, started going in for regular injections, but still felt awful. After six months of this I tried another doctor, recommended by a close friend, and he actually listened to me. He tested my thyroid, found out my levels were very low, and sent me to an endocrinologist.
As soon as I got to the endocrinologist he asked me a long list of questions. How were my moods, energy levels, weight, hair and nails, digestion, sleep, and thoughts. I felt like crying. In fact, I probably did! I had every symptom on the list and even some that weren’t. He was understanding, compassionate, and helpful. He also told me that the medical community is still learning about the effects of hypo- and hyperthyroidism and that there’s a long, long way to go.
He ran more blood tests and gave me a prescriptions for a hypothyroidism medication. I went back every six weeks to have my blood work done. It took a few different medications and several adjustments until we found the right dosage. Too little and I still felt low energy and had depression and mood swings. Too much and I felt hyperactive, got headaches, and was jittery. Now I feel leveled out and so much better than I did over the past few decades! This medication needs to be taken for the rest of my life since there’s currently no cure for hypothyroidism, just keeping it under control.
Weight loss is still excruciatingly slow, though steady. I no longer feel like I’m going to go insane and have enough energy to keep up with people half my age. My hair has grown back and life no longer seems like one, long monochromatic treadmill of frustration and confusion.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned, make an appointment to see your physician and discuss with him/her the possibility of a thyroid problem, especially if anyone in your family has a thyroid condition. If your doctor doesn’t want to test you or brushes it off, find another doctor until you get answers and help. It’s your health and if you do have a thyroid condition you want to start taking care of it as soon as possible.