Katie Cleary, Contributor
Katie of Autoimmune Mom shares how she’s Living Happily With Her Hypothyroidism and that it took 6 years to get there, but she did it.
My thyroid story begins six years ago, after my horrific second pregnancy that thankfully ended with a healthy baby, but that began an autoimmune journey that I was completely unprepared for as a mom to a newborn and toddler.
At a routine dermatologist visit during a rare break away from my newborn, my dermatologist casually took a biopsy and confirmed a diagnosis of PLEVA, a rare autoimmune skin condition. A second opinion dermatologist ran a bunch of blood work and found abnormal T4 and TSH levels (thank goodness for her). If only I had known then how much more complicated it was going to get!
Enter the endocrinologist, who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s. She vastly undersold the diagnosis by saying it didn’t matter that it was Hashimoto’s, because we would be treating it the same as hypothyroidism. This was the same doctor who said I was just tired from being a new mom over age 35, since my blood work (TSH and T4 only of course, not Free T3, Free T4 and TSH) was “fine” after she prescribed Synthroid.
It was around this time, when I was crying after every endo appointment and was feeling so alone, that I founded AutoimmuneMom.com. My website community of autoimmune moms and health experts has taught me so much and exposed me to the lifestyle changes that are a must for true healing — meditation, reducing stress, and finding the right work-home-self balance. I would be so lost without this community, which includes the amazing resources at ThyroidNation.com!
And after a year+ of Synthroid not working, I did enough research to know that I needed T3, different thyroid levels checked, and that I needed a new doctor. I am now on Armour thyroid and see a functional medicine physician as my main coordinating doctor with the specialists I also see: allergist, dermatologist, gastroenterologist and ophthalmologist/optometrist.
I’m also eating a FODMAP diet — gluten free, limited dairy (lactose free), and restricted to certain fruits and vegetables. The diet issues still need tweaking, as I was recently diagnosed with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). That’s a whole separate discussion!
Now that I’m in the middle years of this always-changing life with autoimmune conditions, there are two simple changes I’ve made that have made a big difference recently:
- Keep track of yourself – I’m a big proponent of “quantified self”, though within reason. There’s no need to go crazy tracking all of your little symptoms and every last thing you eat, along with your temperature, weight, sleep, exercise, stress, blood pressure, etc etc – unless you have the time to do it all. But if you start small and find 5-6 metrics you want to track, it can give you some surprising truths. I use a Jawbone wrist wearable to track my sleep and steps, recording those two plus my daily stress level, meditation minutes, and diet as much as I can. The biggest a-ha? That I need 8 hours of sleep, but I have to be in bed for 9 hours to get it because I wake up a lot. When I do this, my stress level is lower and I have more energy to exercise/get steps. This has made a huge difference, and all because I started tracking and analyzing – yes, with an excel spreadsheet!
- 2) Keep your partner + kids in the loop – When you’re a mom with chronic health conditions, especially invisible ones, it is hard on the marriage and family. It’s hard for your spouse to know when it’s a bad day, and it’s super hard for the kids to understand why you need to lie on the couch to play with them instead of running around in the backyard. I consider myself so lucky that fatigue is my biggest issue – I really feel for my autoimmune friends with constant, severe joint pain that affects mobility. I’ve done some other speaking about how to talk to your kids about chronic health issues, and the right amount of information is critical depending on their age. Since thyroid and other autoimmune diseases have a genetic component, kids need to be in the loop, and as they get older, you’ll want to monitor them. Plugging into their willingness to be your helper and to develop empathy for you and others in their life with invisible and visible challenges is a true gift that these diseases bring to the family. The key is open communication, with more details as they get older.
Wherever you are in your thyroid life, I wish you much positive energy and continued improvement. It’s a lifelong opportunity for growth, and there is so much good in slowing down and taking care of yourself – this is the true silver lining of thyroid and other chronic/autoimmune diseases.
About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of AutoimmuneMom.com. She lives with her autoimmune conditions, family and mini labradoodle dog in Austin, Texas. Check out her website, AutoimmuneMom.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.