My Hashimoto jigsaw puzzle… my life, diagnosis and journey to healing.
When you’re living with something like Hashimoto’s inside of you, it’s as if your body is part of a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
And before it’s diagnosed, every time you wake up tired, throw on a jumper when everyone else is sweating or try to get your brain moving when it’s shrouded in fog… you know there are several pieces missing despite all the Doctors in the world telling you the jigsaw is intact.
This is my Hashimoto jigsaw puzzle… it took me around 20 years to find my missing pieces and it’s taken me a lot of words to tell you all about it… so grab a cuppa and settle in.
I’d wake up feeling like I’d been beaten-up in my sleep…
There were days when I would wake up and before I even opened my eyes, I just knew it was going to be one of those days.
You know, the kind where you know you’re going to have to drag yourself around all day pretending to be alert, involved and interested?
When I woke up, I felt like somebody was sitting on my eyelids. It was hard to even open up my eyes, let only move my body (which felt like I’d been beaten up in my sleep I was so achy and ‘bruised’).
And my brain? My brain just couldn’t make sense of the time – had I really been asleep for 10 hours?
I felt like I had just laid down!
Want to know the sad part about this?
This was how I lived my life… I used to wake up feeling like this at least 4 or 5 times a week… for years and years and years… a couple of decades actually.
Want to know what’s worse?
That was how I woke up on a good day… when things were going well in my life.
It got worse if I was under any kind of stress.
Add stress and remove sleep, that’s how it worked.
I’d wake up at 2am and not be able to get back to sleep until maybe 5.30am… then I’d fall back into a deep slumber for about, oh 30 minutes… until my alarm went off and I had to get up and go to work!
I lived on coffee and sugar…
Then I’d fuel up on coffee (2 or 3 double shots were not unusual for me back then!) and sugary carbs, like peanut butter on toasted Turkish bread (a fav breakfast back in the day). Come lunchtime I’d be eating sandwiches and chocolate to get me through the day… then I’d get home home exhausted and crash for a couple of hours.
Then I’d wake up all groggy and craving sugar, so I’d snack on chocolate before I ate my dinner, which, to be honest, was often a bowl of cereal because I couldn’t be bothered to cook (and I was way too tired to leave the house to get take-away).
Then I’d crawl into bed praying for rest and a night of undisturbed sleep.
You know, then I’d just hit the repeat button.
I’d stay in this insomniac-coffee-and-sugar-fuelled state for anywhere up to 6 months until the stress abated and things calmed down for a while.
It’s so painful for me now looking back, because I thought that living like that was normal… isn’t everybody sleep deprived and fuelling up on coffee and sugar?
Doesn’t everyone talk about how tired they are all the time?
I thought this was the only way to live because the Doctors I saw kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me…
I had symptoms I didn’t even know were symptoms…
Even though I had been diagnosed with an under-active thyroid in my late 20’s, the Doctors at the time (and all of them since) never mentioned anything else about it, except to give me Thyroxine and send me on my way.
They never discussed or looked for the cause of it and they never offered any other treatments or solutions beyond medication.
The thing is, at the time of diagnosis, I didn’t think I even had any thyroid symptoms other than a general malaise and bone-tiring fatigue… both vague and so non-specific they could have been caused by anything!!
Boy was I ever wrong!
Not only did I have a super-duper sensitivity to the cold (I was always freezing!)… I had dark circles under my eyes, painful heavy periods and cysts in my breasts, night sweats, insomnia, thinning (and often falling out) hair…
But the most bizarre was a sensitivity to light and noise (needing to sleep with earplugs and an eye mask… or a pair of dark coloured undies if I couldn’t find an eye mask – true story!).
I also had terrible digestive troubles that plagued me since my teens like constipation, bloating, diarrhoea (sorry if that’s TMI, but I had it) and reflux. I went to naturopaths, dieticians, gastroenterologists and I spent thousands of dollars and came away with little more than a shrug of the shoulders or ‘it might be Irritable Bowel Syndrome’.
I even succumbed to a highly revolting and very embarrassing colonic irrigation therapy that did little more than empty my wallet and give me nightmares for weeks!
Here’s the thing… I didn’t even realise these things were symptoms. I just thought that was me, that was the way I was and/or that it was relatively normal for someone with an under-active thyroid.
I was also a bit of a moody little biatch at times!
Yes, not a particularly stellar part of my past, but there you have it… I was.
I had dark, dark moods and god help anyone who crossed my path when I was inone of those moods. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the moods… I just used to think ‘I woke up on the wrong side of bed’ that day.
As the years passed, I developed more and more health problems, like eczema, bouts of anaemia, severe vitamin B12 deficiency, weight fluctuations, vitamin D deficiency, brain fog and my fatigue increased… not that I thought THAT was ever possible!
But it did, it got worse.
I was clueless… ignorant… naive… and stubborn.
My turning point…
So, after many years of pain and discomfort, fatigue, insomnia and crazy digestive problems… I finally went to a specialist.
To be honest, I don’t remember what kind of specialist he was, I just remember that he was a specialist that I had waited months to see and who was charging me a lot of money for his valuable insight and medical expertise.
Now, just to give some context… this specialist knew I had an under-active thyroid… he knew (at the time) I had been recently diagnosed with vitamin B12 and D deficiencies AND anaemia… he knew I had high cholesterol… he knew I had digestive troubles… and he knew I was really, really tired.
Know what he told me?
I was depressed..
DEPRESSED! Are you f&^#$!@ kidding me?
I was working full time (I used to be a Police Officer), I was doing post-graduate studies part-time, learning a language (i appris à parler français) for the hell of it, running long distance for exercise and my father was dying.
I had a lot on my plate… I was stressed… I was emotionally bereft… but I was not depressed!!
Though, to be honest… there was a little voice inside me going, is it possible? Am I depressed? Is that what’s wrong with me?
When I left that so-called-specialists office I vowed to get to the bottom of what was wrong with me without the aid of anti-depressants and in spite of every single Doctor, including that one, who couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong with me!!
And in the years that followed, I did try (very hard) but it was a rollercoaster ride!
I was living under an excessive and unabated amount of stress: like a broken engagement; the death of my beloved father; and a move interstate… just to name a few.
All the while… my eczema got WORSE… the dark circles under my eyes became permanent… my fatigue was at an all time high… everything I ate made me sick (and I was spending thousand of $$$ on tests with no outcome) I was living on coffee, sugar and alcohol… I had intermittent bouts of insomnia… my periods were all over the place, but always painful and heavy… I was moody and anxious… stressed out… worn-out… spent.
I knew there was something wrong with me and I needed to find out what it was before I put myself into an early grave…
And finally found the missing jigsaw piece…
So, instead of going back to the Doctor’s to be told there was nothing wrong with me AGAIN… I did my own research.
Know which word kept popping up?
Everywhere I looked, time and time again, I kept seeing this word: Hashimoto’s.
Any kind of google search related to thyroid, fatigue, heavy periods, anxiety etc, they all kept coming up Hashimoto’s.
I didn’t really know much about it, so I kept digging.
I still remember the moment when I came across an article on Sarah Wilson’s blog (she’s got Hashimoto’s too)… It was like a gift from the universe!
Off I went, with my list of tests to my GP… and after a few terse words, she agreed to do some of the tests, including the Hashimoto antibody test.
I’m sure you know what I’m going to say next…
I HAD HASHIMOTO’S!!!!!
I had a name for what was wrong with me! And while, it’s not really anything to celebrate… I felt vindicated, relieved and triumphant!
There really was something wrong with me! I wasn’t lazy… or crazy… and I wasn’t DEPRESSED!
I HAD HASHIMOTO’s… at last, the missing piece of my jigsaw fell into place.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the THYROID gland and wreaks all sorts of random havoc on the body…
That was over two years ago…
And my healing journey took flight…
Once I knew what I had, then I had to work out how to heal myself…
So I researched… tested… researched some more… tested… and continued to research and test… even now, it’s become a regular part of my healing.
I can’t remember everything that I tried now… but of course, I do remember the things I tried that not only worked, but that I’m still doing to help manage this crazy, sneaky disease!
I also worked, very diligently and with tremendous effort to eliminate all the stress in my life…
STRESS is hands-down, the single biggest menace for someone living with an autoimmune disease, like Hashimoto’s.
And I never looked back…
And, because much of the healing I was doing revolved around food (as well as the treatments and stress-reduction efforts I mentioned earlier), I began to study nutrition and look for more ways to heal myself naturally.
Once my studies were complete, I took the brave step of leaving my very secure, well-paying but stressful policing job (after 26 years!) and I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey…
I became a soul-preneur and I never looked back.
Not only did I change my career, I changed the way I ate.
Through my studies, I realised, after many years of eliminating foods that didn’t agree with me, I was also missing out on essential nutrients, eating at the wrong times of the day AND really, wasn’t helping myself at all.
I changed the way I ate…
It wasn’t easy… it took a long time (I’m talking several years)… and it really is a process of trial and error: finding out what works and what doesn’t for me, my body, my budget and my lifestyle.
Nowadays, I eat home-cooked, nutrient dense foods such as high-quality meats and vegetables, limited fruits, no gluten, sugar, soy or dairy and I make sure to be adventurous with my cooking and recipes so that I don’t get bored.
But it’s not just about what I eat, but when I eat – I can’t tolerate big meals (never have). I was always a grazer, so I eat 5 or 6 smaller meals every couple of hours and I make sure to include a bit of protein in there, even if it’s just a yummy home-made jelly made with grass-fed gelatin.
I prioritised sleep…
I realised that sleep is the best remedy for everything… and I mean literally, everything!
Not only does it help the body heal and repair but it really can help reset the mind and the way I approach the day… I can feel the massive differences in my mindset and thought processing when I wake up rested and refreshed after a night of good quality and enough sleep, like 9 hours or so… compared to the days I don’t.
To this end, I do my damnedest to ensure my sleep routine stays largely undisturbed and I’m okay if this makes me a bit of a social nanna, leaving early to get bed on time… for me, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to stay healthy and be my best.
And started to live again…
The BEST part about all these changes that I made?
The combination of diet change and other treatments has REDUCED INFLAMMATION in my body… so I’m no longer destroying my thyroid and I’ve started to get my T4 to T3 conversion working again. Yippee!!
My FATIGUE and strong desire for solitude is explained by my high levels of reverse (RT3) a.ka. the ‘hibernation hormone’ ‘cos it makes you store fat and want to crawl into a cave and sleep for the winter (LOL)… and pyrrole disorder (a vitmain B and zinc absorption disorder).
I know that STRESS is a deal breaker for me and I do everything with my power now to avoid it… and if I can’t avoid it, I moderate it through mindfulness, mediation and/or yoga.
My ECZEMA is gone…
My eyes and skin are RADIANT and there is not a dark circle in sight…
I waved goodbye to heavy, painful PERIODS (in consultation with a gynaecologist of course).
I can fully REST, RELAX and SLEEP thanks to regular acupuncture and a mindfulness practice.
I’m a REALLY NICE PERSON!. I’m not really moody or bitchy, I actually have a genuinely happy and moderate disposition!
My WEIGHT has stabilised – no more fluctuations! In fact, I’m back to the same weight I was when I was 18!!
I POOP! Yes, I POOP… quite regularly now and the rest of my digestive system is working properly too.
I’m SOCIALLY RELIABLE! I book things in all the time and I turn up… because I know now I’ll be feeling good and up for anything.
I am BRIGHT, ALERT and able to function quite effectively all day, every day… without the need for sugar, coffee or a nap.
And last but not least… I NO LONGER WAKE UP feeling like someone beat me up during the night!
I wake rested, refreshed and happy… yes, happy (99% of the time anyway).
Not a perfect life… but a definitely a healthier and happier one…
My life isn’t perfect… far from it, but I’ve reached a place of health and happiness that I never thought was possible.
I still have off days, where I want to just stay in bed or lay on the couch watching TV… but those days are few and far between.
An off day for me now is like a really good day was back then, when I was at my worst.
So I know I’ve come a long way…
I embarked on this new journey to spread the word about Hashimoto’s.
Because I don’t want anyone to EVER go through what I did…
My mission (and my passion) is to now help others find the missing piece of their jigsaw puzzle and put themselves back together… to be their best… and live life on their terms.