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Learning To Live With Self Image After Thyroid Disease And Chronic Illness

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Karen Graham, Contributor
Thyroid Nation

Weight Fluctuations From Age 19

I was very slim until the age of seventeen, fluctuating between 112lb. and 120lb. at at a height of five feet six inches. I guess I physically presented as what western society would consider attractive. At around the age of nineteen I gained weight. It wasn’t a huge amount of weight, but enough that I could tell the difference, as could those around me. In less than a year I then lost that weight and in the twenty-five years since I turned twenty years old, I have gained and lost…Gained and lost….GAINED and gained. Then with a recent adjustment in my medication, I lost again. My most recent loss was small, but we should also count the one half inch off my height.

Dieting Did Not Work

At times over the years, I felt that I needed to join dieting groups to control my inexplicable gains. I rarely lost more than 10 lb this way even through months of dieting. At other times the weight would simply evaporate and I would become almost gaunt. Here is where I have to point out that never once did I change my eating habits or my lifestyle during these losses and gains. Of course, I am well aware now at the age of forty-five that this has all been the fault of my broken, unstable and ill balanced endocrine system, topped off with a side of autoimmune disease.

People Can Be Judgmental About Appearance

The thought never goes away that had I been tested regularly, completely, or for different illnesses by my family Dr. when I was younger, I would have perhaps been able to control better, that which has caused me to be at a weight of 235lb. now. This is not my heaviest. At one point I weighed in at 260lb. During the time since diagnosis (and before that with many symptoms) I have had to deal with mild to severe attacks of acne, hair loss, hirsutism (dark, thick facial or body hair) and edema (swelling). These are just a few of the physical issues and challenges that I have faced. All of these physical changes make a person look very different and when people look different, others can be very judgmental. When others judge you, it can be crippling to your confidence. When your confidence is low it can drastically change the way you live and behave. Do you see what just occurred there? In just three short steps life can become unbearable. You become lost, hopeless, depressed and demoralized. It takes no time at all to quickly become a vicious cycle. The weight issue especially has had many differing effects on my self confidence, and there have been times when I have been miserable, sad, and even clinically depressed about my changed appearance. Not so now though.

Regaining You

I have, on the journey learning about my conditions and through being judged unfairly and unnecessarily (by those who have no business in my business), learned to embrace myself once again. I have learned that there are many others out there just like me. Some have not yet been as lucky, they cannot come to terms with who they are now that illness has become the major part of their life. I hope this book will help those of you that feel this way. Many of you already have taken control of the way you portray and believe in yourselves, and those are often the first steps in feeling well or at least improved. These will be the first steps in regaining you. Maybe not the you of previous times, but the newly educated, tolerant, beautiful, vibrant, patient, understanding and sharing you. We all must learn that we are not here to please others. Even those of us who are not unwell sometimes need to learn this. We must each learn to please ourselves before we devote our time and energy to others. Selfishness is a huge part of feeling well and becoming confident. It can take a while and progression can be slow, but if you can grasp the idea that being selfish is not at all selfish, the rest is fairly plain sailing. Learn to say no to others. Go for a nap if you need to. Heck, go for a nap if you want to. Eat a bar of chocolate. Watch cartoons in bed until noon. Wear whatever you want. Color your hair blue, or pink, or green. Lay in bed for two hours after the alarm goes off. Stay in your pajamas all weekend. Travel. Get a tattoo… I know a few superb tattooists who would be honored to ink you up. All of these things are so simple; but you need them. You need to do them, and other things like them. They will help you discover, or rediscover, who you are, and what is your (new) purpose. If you go out and you hear another person discussing your appearance, feel free to let them know that how you present yourself is absolutely not their business. Ask them why they think it is any of their business. Question their right to judge. It is so very liberating to not have to conform to any other person’s ideals and standards. NEVER should you feel the need to justify your appearance or (law abiding and decent) behavior to others.

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About the Author

Karen-Graham-ProfileKaren Graham HNC, was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s in 2013, Lupus in 2014 and Cushing’s Syndrome in 2015, all after becoming chronically ill in 2011. On reflection, Karen now realizes that symptoms of her illness that she can remember, began as early as age nine. She has a background in Hairdressing, is Certified to teach Esthetics and studied Anatomy & Physiology and body treatments as part of her HNC in Esthetics/Beauty Therapy, which she gained at Kilmarnock College in Scotland. Her hobbies include writing a music blog as Headbangerwoman.com and looking after her Bantam Bulldog family. Articles by Karen are all written using personal experiences. All rights reserved. No use without express permission of the author.

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