Raeanna Comstock, Guest
Tips for living without a thyroid gland
In August of 2013, my thyroid gland was removed due to thyroid cancer. My parathyroid glands were damaged during surgery leaving me with a lifetime of hypoparathyroid and hypocalcemia symptoms. The pathology also confirmed I suffered from Hashimoto’s disease; an autoimmune thyroid disorder. Awesome right? My head spins just trying to take all of that in.
Living with all of this has been quite a challenge, a test of faith, and overall an intense learning experience. As with everything in life, some moments have been good and others, not so much. While I could go on for days sharing with you what I have been through, today I am sharing ten lessons I’ve learned from my own experience with autoimmune and thyroid disease.
1). Exhaustion is a son of a gun. – If you thought you were tired before, brace yourself cause this type of exhaustion is on a whole other level. There really is no way to explain this to someone who doesn’t suffer from thyroid disease or other autoimmune disorders. It’s not like you’ve just had a long day at work and need a nap. No, not even close. It is exhaustion down to the very depths of your soul pulling you in the direction of anything that even resembles a pillow. It is the aching in every muscle of your body to curl up wherever you are for a break. Literally it feels like this wave of exhaustion that comes out of nowhere. I can be walking around one moment feeling awesome and boom, there it is and I need an immediate break. I’ve had to be very creative in finding a balance for work, life, and family; while also finding time to rest and give my body the break it needs, when it tells me it needs it.
2). Anxiety effen sucks. – Anxiety and panic attacks are terrifying. While I have dealt with a level of anxiety for years, I started experiencing anxiety or panic attacks following my thyroidectomy. Between the surgery itself and the hypocalcemia that followed, I was being poked and prodded constantly. Not to mention I was labeled a “hard stick” due to my deep tiny veins so blood draws are rarely a quick, painless process. I was never bothered by needles and doctors before but now I definitely am. My blood pressure rises even when I’m there for a well visit and going to the lab for bloodwork takes some serious mental preparation. In addition to health related anxiety, a stressful life for me is just no longer possible. When I was at a point in my career experiencing an extreme amount of stress, it triggered severe anxiety attacks. I had to take a huge step back from a lot of my life and make very real decisions and changes. I had to put my foot down to everyone around me and put myself first. Once I quieted my life as much as possible, I took the time to start meditating regularly, going for walks and focusing on nutrition. You would be amazed how much these steps can help you.
3). “Invisible symptoms” = people don’t believe you. – Brace yourself. Despite the fact that you have been diagnosed as having a disease, people will still doubt the severity of your symptoms. Isn’t that amazing? Most of us even report the physician understating how we feel. They expect that since you take medication and your lab results indicate you are at the correct dosage, you should then feel amazing. I think we can all agree that is definitely not the case. Unfortunately this is the reality for most autoimmune disease sufferers. Whether it’s family, friends, physicians or employers, what we show on the outside, for whatever reason, is not enough for others to believe in how we feel. I finally stopped caring about what anyone else thought. If I don’t feel well or need a nap or to cancel plans, that’s what I do and I am now totally unapologetic about it.
4). Depression is not my friend. – I really wish this wasn’t an issue for me but unfortunately it is. Let me be clear, I am a very positive, upbeat person. I am so grateful for all that I have in my life and fully embrace this journey that God has given to me. Part of that journey is occasional depression and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit it. It’s a part of thyroid disease and a part of who I am. In my experience, it seems to flare up mainly when my dosage is off however, it can, and does occur at any time. It can be very lonely and isolating and embarrassing to share this feeling with others. Aside from visiting my Physician to check my dosage, going for walks outside and meditating regularly has helped me tremendously. If you suffer from depression or find yourself isolating from others and wanting to stay in bed, please do not be ashamed. Talk to your Physician about your symptoms and ways to work through the depression.
5). It is okay to be scared. – It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to feel scared and it is okay to have the feelings of uncertainty. A diagnosis of chronic illness or disease can be terrifying. You are looking at your life through brand new eyes and unsure what the future now holds for you. You are allowed to have these feelings and are allowed to let yourself feel them. The good news is, you can also then allow yourself to feel brave and courageous because that is exactly what you are. In the face of a terrifying reality, you are standing up and handling your business like a boss. Testing the strength of your spirit and facing your fear will show you just how much you can handle. It leads you to a newfound love and appreciation for yourself.
6). Life is more precious to me now. – When you go through a traumatic experience, everything changes for you. There is this undeniable shift that only those who have been there can understand. It’s like you suddenly belong to this club that you didn’t sign up for, but somehow you’re here and the other members are the only ones that get you. This was actually my second traumatic event in a year’s time so to say I was traumatized is an understatement. For me, from that trauma, came this amazing gift. I suddenly found I had this new intense love and appreciation for myself and this life. It opened my eyes to what a gift this life is to me and how delicate and precious it truly is. It made me want to live it as my very best self and to not take one single moment for granted.
7). A shift in purpose. – They removed my thyroid, and I found my voice. It’s amazing how much something like this can change you. With this newfound love for my life, came this calling to make changes and seek out my purpose. This business of living a life that doesn’t jive with my spirit is done. I love that quote from the poet Rumi that says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Embrace that new light and feeling you have inside. If you feel it’s leading you in a new direction, follow it. Something amazing could be waiting for you just around the bend.
8). Love and light guides me. – Reconnecting to faith and spirituality is probably the best gift I could have received from all of this. I felt this new light surrounding me and guiding me to something I never expected. With all these health problems weighing on me, I felt this incredible love and light supporting me and loving me unconditionally. Following this light and listening to its guidance has changed my perspective on everything. It’s given me the clarity and love I needed to wake up each day with a feeling of purpose.
9). It is okay to fill my cup first. – I think most of us can agree, we spend the majority of our time making sure the people we love most are happy and cared for. We are doing such a great job taking care of them that we forget to take care of ourselves. I have finally learned that if I don’t take care of myself first, I am no good to anyone else. So that being said, I now take incredible care of me and it feels amazing. Self love and self care are so damn important. You deserve time to feel happy, and loved, and relaxed, and supported. We are given this body, and this life, and this path for a reason and it is absolutely okay to love and embrace it with all we’ve got.
10). Nutrition is a game changer. – Despite all of the fancy procedures and medications I’ve gone through, no one ever told me there were things I could do to make myself feel better just with what I’m eating. Through my education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®,I understand the connection between gut health and chronic illness. I’ve learned what a huge role nutrition plays in how we feel and I’ve discovered that by making some changes, my symptoms are more manageable and easier to live with on a daily basis. Nutrition has helped me take the power back from this illness and has allowed me to not just survive, but to thrive in the face of disease.If I don’t feel well or need a nap or to cancel plans, that’s what I do and I am now… Click To Tweet
About the Author
Raeanna Comstock is a coach, blogger and thyroid cancer survivor. Healing herself took a mind, body, and spirit approach. She reconnected to faith and spirituality, educated herself on battling disease through nutrition, and changed the path and purpose of her career. Follow her on Facebook and check out her website, SoulfulCravings.com.