Living With Hypothyroidism: My Story

In early May, I went to get bloodwork done because I was experiencing levels of high anxiety and difficulties balancing my emotions beyond my own norm. I didn’t know what was going on and I kept using that excuse whenever someone asked me about my strange behavior.

I felt so uncomfortable with myself and I was scared to see what was wrong. It took the doctor less than a week to confirm I had hypothyroidism.

It wasn’t easy to hear but at the same time it was a relief to find an explanation. I was surprised to hear the results because I had assumed I was going through another rough stage with my anxiety. I didn’t know anything about having a thyroid problem but my biggest concern was not knowing how long I’ve had it.

While being informed on my condition, there was still a lot I needed to learn. The first thing I decided to do was research more what the thyroid is and how it contributes to my body.

What is the Thyroid?

According to Endocrine Web, the thyroid is located in the base of the neck and is shaped like a butterfly. This gland releases hormones that are supposed to regulate multiple vital body functions.  

There are two sides to the thyroid that lie on either side of the windpipe known as the lobes. They’re connected by tissue called isthmus--although not everyone contains this tissue.  

The hormones that the thyroid stores and releases are supposed to reach the body’s cells. Iodine is used from the food we consume to create two main hormones; Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).

Making sure these two hormones are balanced is important which is why there are two glands in the brain that try to control the hormones levels. The first gland, hypothalamus, creates TSH Releasing hormone to the second gland, the pituitary, to tell whether to make more or less of the T3 and T4 hormones.

What causes hypothyroidism?

According to the American Thyroid Association, when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, it throws off the body’s chemical balance. When hormone levels are low, the process of collecting the hormones decreases.

Some of the major causes include autoimmune disease, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland, radiation treatment, congenital hypothyroidism (where the baby is born with hypothyroidism), and Thyroiditis.

What are the symptoms?

At first it can be hard to detect but as your hormones continue to slow down, that’s when people start to notice the signs. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Hoarseness
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Muscle weakness  

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these exact symptoms nor do they experience all of these symptoms.

If the thyroid goes untreated, other problems can occur such as:

  • Goiter (where the gland expands)
  • Heart problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Infertility
  • Myxedema (although rare, this condition is long-term and includes intense coldness, drowsiness, and unconsciousness)
  • Birth defects

How do you treat hypothyroidism?

Although there is no cure, there are ways to help control your thyroid. Treatment includes replacing the number of hormones the body can’t make to help balance the T4 and TSH levels. Patients except those with Myxedema can be treated outside of a hospital.

However, this process isn’t short-term or easy. Complications can get in the way because the body needs to have a perfect balance of hormones and that can easily become a tricky situation.

Learning to manage my hypothyroidism:

I had to go on medication and part of it was because my thyroid was four times the average. For two months now, I’ve been taking a pill every day at the same time. I have to take it on an empty stomach and wait at least a half hour before consuming food.

One of the things that took me awhile to discover was that certain foods had such a strong effect on how I acted. My parents and doctor suggested writing down every time I was feeling a powerful emotion whether it was positive or negative. They wanted me to note the time I felt that emotion, what activity I was doing, what I previously ate, and the environment I was in.

Certain types of chocolates were a negative cause but this is a struggle because I love chocolate and I need to have sugar in my body. Another thing I noticed is that my diet specifically has to include eating every couple hours.

Even though it’s been two months, sometimes I still can’t control myself and I’ll shut down mentally. It’s really embarrassing and even more awkward when the water works come out and I’m in an environment where I can’t cry.

Informing my parents and co-workers helped because they allow me a minute to myself and they don’t make a big deal about it. As much as I appreciate that, I still get anxious and I know that learning to accept my condition and control it will be a tough journey.