Sometimes I look back at my life, shake my head in wonder and mutter under my breath, “How did I manage to do all of that?”
It certainly wasn’t energy. I had none. You see, I didn’t know until 2018 that I’m very hypothyroid. That means zero energy. Nothing. Nada. Nix. Zilch!
I came late to the hypothyroidism party. All I knew of thyroids is that if your neck swells, it’s called a goiter so use salt containing iodine. That was the extent of my thyroid knowledge.
So naturally, I thought I was completely normal. That everyone had zero energy like me and all their doing and participating and hobbies and sports and rushing thither and yon was due to their superior will power. Given that I had no pain and yet could barely rise from my office chair until dusk each evening, the only possible conclusion was that I was a lazy bum. Really pathetic work ethic. What else could I conclude!?!
It wasn’t until a friend started yammering on and on about thyroids that I had mine checked in 2018. Lo and behold, my TSH was 7.54, almost double the normal range, prompting one friend to exclaim, “Do you have thyroid cancer!?” Great. Just what I wanted to hear.
For a time, I tried to fight it naturally, fearing becoming hopelessly entangled in the whole pharmaceutical thing. So every month, I gritted my teeth and placed an order for another expensive bottle of Thyroid Support from 1Body. It worked…for awhile. For the first time, I had a tiny spark of physical energy.
So it was that in November 2018, I finally gave up and asked my doctor for levothyroxine. Well I’ll be darned! With dessicated pig thyroid coursing through my veins…could it be…yes, I believe that new sensation is actually energy! Real, honest-to-goodness energy!
Now on 75 mcg of levo, my TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 are hanging steady in the normal range. With my newly patched-up thyroid, I can now look back on my life and see how hypothyroidism ravaged my mental health, not physically from the inside, but through vicious self-criticism.
It all started way back in schooldays, specifically, gym class. Loved playing; hated laps. There were always two or three little girls lagging behind while the other kids ran circles around them, literally. Skinny little me was amongst the trailers. Beat red, huffing, puffing, frustrated and confused, I could never keep up with the other kids. It made no sense.
Growing up made no difference. I was late or barely-in-the-knick-of-time everywhere I went. “It takes an Act of Congress to get me out of the house every morning,” I’d joke. Watching other people run, do, play, blah, blah, blah puzzled me. Where were they getting all this energy? That’s when I concluded they simply had more will power than me. After all, I was normal ergo they felt the same way so the only possible conclusion was that they were better at forcing themselves to do, do, do than I was.
It didn’t help that, in retrospect, I now realize I was born to one of the more energetic men on the planet. He’s one of those do-ers, bless their hearts. Bicycle seven miles to and from work? He loves it. Hockey on the weekends? Absolutely! Political meetings in the evenings after a long day at work? He couldn’t get enough. Wash and wax the cars every Spring and every Autumn. But, of course! Play, fix, do…he loves physical activity and never pays for someone to provide a service that he can do himself.
Naturally, Mom volunteered me to help him with all-of-the-above as she has just about as much energy as I do. I drove myself hard and they drove me even harder. Exhaustion was my constant nemesis. But they liked to see me perky and energetic. They liked to see a hitch in my giddy-up…not someone dragging around. In retrospect, the phrase, “They drove me hard and put me away wet” comes to mind.
And I was totally on board with it. After all, I was just “lazy.” There was nothing “wrong” with me that a little bit of self-control and an iron will wouldn’t fix. Right?
So how did I do it all???? Three words: sugar, anger and adrenalin. All bad things but they worked. They gave me energy. It was the only fuel I had.
Perhaps the worst part of hypothyroidism, in my case at least, is how it skews the “normal” circadian rhythm. Even medicated, I still find it hard to do, do, do physical labor while the sun is up, particularly during the Winter months. So I write mid-day and do my housework in the evenings, a massive departure from the family pattern to do all your work in the daytime and then relax, however briefly, only in the evenings.
Come dusk, I suddenly have energy, for the first time in the day, at exactly the time my family used to bustle me off to bed where naturally I couldn’t sleep for hours and hours. Working against your natural circadian rhythms is a new kind of horror.
No one asks to be hypothyroid. Precious few doctors think to test for it. It’s one of those health problems that turns you into a “spoonie.” (Google it!) You have only so many “spoons” of energy at your disposal. Use them wisely.
Now looking back, I have a lot of empathy for myself during my dragging-my-wagon early life. Empathy but also admiration. Despite feeling like warmed over death, I did a lot…choirs, theater, music lessons, jam sessions, dance in addition to my career and family work…but I fantasized about doing so much more.
If you just can’t get going, get your thyroid tested and make sure they do all the thyroid tests. Not just TSH.
If it turn out that you too are hypothyroid, for you the horror is over!!! Life can only improve from here. Now you know why you always felt like crap. Now you can put your struggles in perspective, find the right treatment and start working with your circadian rhythms. If you’re nocturnal like a hedgehog, embrace it. I have!
The best part is patting yourself on the back and saying, “My goodness! Given your complete lack of energy, you’ve really done a great job of living a full life.”