With A Little Help…


When you have a chronic illness, it can put you in a vulnerable position.  Not only the financial cost of being sick, but the emotional toll. Friends and family members may turn away when you are chronically ill, because unlike a normal illness, this doesn’t end. Some people do not know how to deal with someone who is always hurting, or frequently down. This lack of support system at a time you really need help and your own guilt about not holding up what you feel is your end of the bargain, can really damage a person’s life.

One of the major issues we face, other than coping with the disease itself is our sense of worth. First is the isolation, it can cause, and the loss of self-esteem, pride and self-worth. Then we can have our thyroid itself messing with our emotions. This can lead to depression, anxiety and in some cases suicide. It can cause people to give up. There are resources that can help with this first issue. Assuming that you are insured and able to at least get your basic medical issues taken care of, the next step is finding a good counselor. There are many different schools of therapy out there, so you may have to investigate more than one to find out who might be a good match.

A lot of people have gotten the thought that only broken people or crazy people need therapy. When what it can be is a release valve to help you learn coping skills so your life is LESS stressful. It can provide you with a sounding board so that you can know if your thinking on a subject is healthy or not and if not how to start changing it so you can better cope with your life as it is. What people do not realize is with a chronic illness, you really go through a mourning period. What happens is that the old you no longer exists. You no longer are the healthy person who can ignore most health issues as they will go away. They won’t go away and it can be dangerous to ignore. No one teaches you how to deal with a change of that magnitude. Not only that, but how do you deal with family and friends when your life has changed? Do you know how to set boundaries with others, so that you don’t add to your stress, thus keeping yourself healthier? How do you keep yourself calm when a flare up of your illness hits? These are all questions that a good counselor can help you answer. It also helps to be able to vent to someone who is not a family or friend at least once a month or so to get all the aches, pains, etc out of your system a bit.

First thing to figure out is: do you open up better by yourself or with other people to lead the way. Individual counseling will be better for someone who feels more comfortable talking about things one on one in a private session. There are many different types of therapy with this, so call and ask a potential counselor what type of therapy they usually practice and what is involved. Some therapists have you do homework and writing to work through issues. Others will do hypnotherapy, putting you in a relaxed state of mind and suggesting to your subconscious things that will help you cope better. Still others will have you talk about your past and try to work through past experiences to keep them from interfering in the present. There are even some who work with visual images to help your mind deal with issues, doing visual imagery to work through a problem.

For other people, it’s easier to find a group therapy session and attend one with others. Listening to others deal with issues similar to yours, can help some people feel safe to open up and talk about their own issues. It has the added bonus of allowing someone to hear about what others are going through and therefore, not feeling like they are the only one dealing with that problem and hear about how other people deal with similar issues. If this is you, check out your local counseling organization, such as www.goodtherapy.org or www.find-a-therapist.com to see what is available.

Here are some top reasons that a counselor can be helpful to a person with a chronic illness:

  1. Help you come to terms with your new life as a person with a chronic illness
  2. Learn new ways to cope with stress
  3. Overcome fears or insecurities
  4. Become more confident in dealing with others
  5. Learn how to set boundaries with others for your health
  6. Understand yourself better, the Why of You
  7. Designated person to vent to and relieve stress
  8. Healthier relationships with others
  9. Identify which is your illness causing mood swings and which is you
  10. Find a mentally healthy you!
Advertisements

10 Positive Things I’ve Learned From Having Thyroid Disease

Smile
While thyroid disease isn’t fun in a lot of ways, it’s a life changer for sure. Not all of those changes are bad if you don’t want them to be. Here’s my top ten things I’ve learned or discovered that were good things from having Graves’ disease.

  1. Don’t take your health for granted.  Gone are the days when I dismiss my symptoms and try to work through them to the point of being very ill. Which leads me to..
  2. I know my own body. I now know my own body better than most people. I know if what I’m feeling means I’m coming up with a cold, allergies or if my thyroid levels are a little off and it helps me react accordingly.
  3. Priorities are made more clear. My priorities have been made very plain to me. No longer do I just do something that I don’t want to do solely to please others unless it is what I want as well. If I attend a party, it’s because I want to. I don’t have so much extra energy anymore I can waste it on things that do not matter to me. This is a great gift to give yourself, it helps you clear up a lot of clutter in your life.
  4. I have become my own advocate for my health. Since I spent so long being misdiagnosed and then afterwards saw so many doctors who knew less than me about my own disease, I have learned to speak up. I have learned it is ok to question your doctor, find out WHY they want to do or not do a certain thing in my treatment. It is my body and I have to speak up for it’s health.
  5.  Research skills have improved. I have learned how to do research on medical matters. Learning how to pick out the hype and patently wrong information that is out there, from the partially correct, and the spot on medical information out there is something I’ve become better at. There is a lot of good information, and there is a lot of crap out there. Learning how to spot things that could be dangerous if you follow them is very valuable. It hones your critical thinking skills to the maximum.
  6. No matter what is thrown at me, I’m still here. I have learned that if something hasn’t killed me, it really has made me stronger. I have been through a lot of health emergencies, including an allergic reaction that put me into shock and almost killed me. I have survived them all. I am stronger than I realize and I now know to keep reminding myself of that when bad times hit.
  7. Everything will eventually pass.  Maybe it only passes for a short time, maybe a long time, but nothing lasts forever. That applies to positive and negative experiences. The thyroid disease may go on, but you won’t have every single day be bad. This also helps me to try to hold on to the good that happens and cherish it before it goes as well.
  8. Relationships change and that is ok. I have learned who is a true friend, who really cares about me, by who has stuck by me when my health has been at the worst. When my thyroid has made me deal with Graves’ rage, irritability temporarily and people have still stuck by me, knowing that it would pass, that means something. I have developed loyalty to those who have stayed by me and support me through whatever happens. Some of them will read this, you know who you are. I don’t have fair weather friends anymore, and I don’t have family who doesn’t know how to be family to me. The people I surround myself with me are loyal, honest and caring people and I am very thankful for that lesson.
  9. Growing up was a must. I had to learn how to take care of myself, only accept responsibilities I was sure I could follow through on, and learn how to deal with all situations as an adult. I can’t afford to sit around and whine or cry all the time and do nothing. I have to take matters in my own hands and find ways to deal with them. This has made me search for answers when before the diagnosis I would not have. I have created a better life for myself.
  10. New Experiences. I would never have thought to start a thyroid support group, or website, or a blog before this. I would never have been motivated to reach out to people in several different states in the US and countries around the world to find out how others are dealing with their thyroid disease. Having thyroid disease has broadened my world, and made me more understanding and compassionate of my fellow human being. That is a great gift for anyone!

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Scary side of Hyperthyroidism-Thyroid storm

The more I speak to other people about thyroid disease, and Graves’ disease specifically, the more I realize too few people know about this dangerous issue that can come up with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. Most of the time thyroid disease if managed, can cause a lot of issues with your health, most of the time it’s not going to have you in danger of dying immediately. Thyroid storm is one of those exceptions. Medline plus defines thyroid storm as “Thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition that develops in cases of untreated thyrotoxicosis (hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid).”

Great definition there. Except it doesn’t tell you what it can cost people. After speaking to several people who have gone thru a storm, I am finding out what the real cost can be.  Modern Medicine.com gives us some scary stats: “Only 1% – 2% of people with hyperthyroidism will develop TS, but the mortality rate for patients with untreated TS ranges from 50% – 90%. With early intervention, mortality drops to less than 20%.”  Now THAT is cause for concern. Latest estimates on how many people have hyperthyroidism is about 1% of the population. Population of the world is about 7 Billion, so 1% is 7 million so 2% of that still leaves a possible 1.4 MILLION people at risk of thyroid storm.

So, you are someone with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. What should you be aware of for this condition, so you can get help in the event that it does happen to you? Here’s the various symptoms you will have:

  1. Tachycardia, heart pounding extremely hard
  2. Shaking
  3. Extreme sweating
  4. Unable to get your breath properly
  5. weakness
  6. Very restless, can’t sit still at all suddenly
  7. Body temperature will start going up
  8. Agitation, very angry suddenly for no reason, unable to settle down, anxiety
  9. Confusion
  10. Loss of consciousness
  11. Sudden Diarrhea
  12. Chest pain
  13. Heart problems
  14. Death

Some of the things that can lead to a thyroid storm can be; Graves’ disease pushing your thyroid levels too high, over medication of thyroid hormones when you are not being  monitored correctly, treatment with RAI (radioactive iodine), severe infection in a person with hyperthyroidism and medical stressors such as a heart attack. If you have hyperthyroidism, make sure you keep these symptoms above in mind, if they come up, get to the ER and tell them you suspect thyroid storm. Several people on the thyroid boards have reported that a parent with Graves’ disease died or had permanent heart conditions after going through a thyroid storm that went untreated.

If you have Graves’ disease and/or hyperthyroidism. Always make sure you keep your appointments for labs and doctor visits. Keep on top of your levels and if they give you anti-thyroid medication, TAKE IT. Many people decide not to take their anti-thyroid medicine because they start gaining some weight back they lost with hyperthyroidism untreated. Please do not do this. One of the Graves’ disease groups I am a member in, lost a member last year. Her daughter came in earlier this year and told us that her mother who was age 42 had died. She didn’t take treating her Graves’ disease seriously and frequently skipped her anti-thyroid meds. By the time she decided maybe she should take it seriously, that is when she had thyroid storm. She made it through the storm, but the resulting damage to her heart caused her to have a heart attack and die shortly afterwards. Do not be that person who leaves behind their family because they did not take their illness seriously.

If you can take care of yourself, be mindful of your symptoms and your thyroid levels, you can manage your hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease quite well. There are many dietary paths you can take to help calm your system down somewhat, and various techniques to keep your levels where they need to be.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Thyroid Support group Etiquette

Support Groups
One thing that is very helpful to a lot of people with thyroid issues is groups on Facebook. Finding other people who are dealing with similar issues, can help keep you sane, let you know about things you previous didn’t know or never considered and helps you make some friends.
I’ve been in several thyroid groups online and I think a basic primer on etiquette might help a person new to the Facebook groups.

Etiquette, is basic manners, social common sense, and treating others like you would like someone to treat you. You don’t have the added help of verbal or body language online, so what you type is very likely to be taken wrongly. Especially if you do not pay attention to what you are saying and how it might be viewed. Remember that there are lots of thyroid related support groups on Facebook and they all have a different “feel” to them, so if one doesn’t fit with what you need, move on to another. While you are in a group though, these tips will help you be welcome.

  1. Read the rules of the group. Usually there is a pinned post, a description or an “about” in every group that details information a new person to the group should know. Find out what is ok to post in that particular group. Some groups are for sharing happy things only, some are to debate different medical treatments, or for women only, etc. etc..Make sure you aren’t the person coming into a brand new group and posting about your fishing trip when the only posts allowed for the group are thyroid health only. People will not appreciate it and you may get banned.
  2. Spend a little time reading posts of others in the group before you post. This will allow you to know the tone of the group and get a good feeling for what is ok and what is not acceptable. This is the equivalent of going into a room full of strangers and hanging back a little until you know the subjects being discussed and the norms of what people like to deal with in that group.
  3. Know who is in charge. If you can, find out who the owner and admins are, so if you have any questions, you can ask for help, especially before you post anything that you may have any doubts about posting. Most of the time people will be happy to tell you, or you can look and see who posts the things about what is going on in the group.
  4. No spamming. This means unless the group is all about selling things, or you have specific permission to post something commercial, do not post it. Also do not post the exact same thing over and over again, that is also spamming.
  5. Add value to the group.  If you have knowledge that will help someone, please share. This is what helps make groups great for everyone, sharing new ideas and stories to help everyone understand better.
  6. Remember  emotions run high sometimes with thyroid patients. Once you are in the group, remember you are in a group with other thyroid patients. There is a special thing here that you may not deal with in other types of groups. The thyroid as most of us know can affect people’s judgments and make tempers and egos more sensitive. Things can get heated on certain topics. The longer you are in a group, the more you will find out what the hot button topics in that group are, so you can navigate them more easily.
  7. Consider carefully. When you type out a post, step up and away from your computer for a few seconds, then go back and read it. Does it seem helpful, friendly and informative? Then congratulations, that’s a good post, send it on my friend.
  8. Remember you are online. Remember that text online is your only way to communicate. Do your best to make sure your ability to write online is able to be comprehended by others. If your spelling and grammar is so bad that you cannot get your point across, then you will frustrate yourself and others. Perfect spelling and grammar is not needed, but you do need to be able to communicate effectively enough to get your point across when online. People cannot see your face, or hear your voice to help them figure out what you are trying to convey. If they can’t understand what you are asking, you might get a completely wrong answer from what you actually need to hear.
  9. No Poaching members! Definitely do NOT use a group to help you build your own group. Poaching members is not appreciated by anyone. If you have a completely different group than what you are in and think some of the members might like to be in that group also, then send a message to the group owner or admin and find out if they are ok with sharing this information. If they are then you are good, if they are not, then you might find yourself banned quickly.
  10. Participation is also key. Comment on something that interests you, or that you have knowledge or, give some encouragement to another member having a hard time. Play nice and you will find a lot of value interacting with other people in thyroid groups.
  11. Have fun! Let your personality shine, engage with people and enjoy meeting others like you.

Check out http://warriorbutterflies.com, there are two great closed thyroid support groups that are looking for wonderful thyroid patients to join listed on the main page. 

Or go directly to Britney’s page on the site: Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Stress relief-Or How Not to Choke out other people

stress-free-zone

Stress! It’s a cousin to anxiety, and probably it’s best friend. Stress can be good. It can motivate you to get something important done. It can warn you of danger so you get out of the way and make you run faster, or be stronger. Unfortunately in today’s world, for most of us, our bodies are under stress and it doesn’t help us, it just hurts us. It makes us anxious, it floods our bodies with adrenaline that leaves us first wired and then crashing. It can cause us to lose sleep, be irritable, and have problems keeping illness away. So what do you do about it? Stress doesn’t ever go away entirely for most of us. You can direct the energy to something more productive, or you can try to minimize how your automatically react to a stressful situation.

Here are some things that have helped me and people I know, hopefully one or two will help you reduce your reaction to stress as well.

  1. Channel that energy into something else. Use it to exercise, use it to write a letter to someone (which you probably will have to delete or throw away as it will be unhappy) or  use it to fluff a pillow, violently.
  2. Be mindful of your breathing. Most of the time when we become stressed, our breathing gets more shallow. Take a minute or two and just practice breathing in for 5 and out for 7.
  3. Go find a friend, someone whose company  you enjoy, and hang out and talk about silly things for a bit. Definitely grab a hug from them. If you like hugs, they can instantly take your stress down several notches. I make sure I keep a few “huggy” friends on speed dial for those days I need a little extra attention and love.
  4. Laugh it out. Look at funny websites, watch a funny video or movie, go listen to a comedian, or listen to jokes. Just like with anxiety it is hard to hold onto major stress if you are laughing. Think of all the happy endorphins you will release doing so. They will come flooding out of your brain giggling like mad creatures and make your stress start to melt away.
  5. Allow yourself to be ridiculous and silly. Do a silly walk, go skipping down the sidewalk, make faces in the mirror at yourself or your friends, or  make up a new word. If you can learn to relax enough so as to not take yourself seriously for a few minutes, it can change your entire mood.
  6. Of course if you are constantly stressed, you will want to avoid caffeine and alcohol, while they may keep you going short term, usually they end up making things worse in the long run.
  7. Learn meditation. Make time to sit for even ten minutes a day where you allow yourself to think of whatever comes to mind. Don’t judge what comes to mind, just acknowledge it and let it pass by. Put on some soft music in the background if you don’t like silence.
  8. If you are not allergic to animals, go pet one. Find a dog, or cat or other soft furry creature, and sit and pet them. Make sure they are tame, do not try this on a bobcat or coyote, that might cause you MORE stress.
  9. Come up with various plans for situations that occur frequently. If you already know the best plan for something that comes up often, you don’t have to stress out figuring what to do about it. A simple plan you have in your brain can help you avoid the freezing and panic that occurs when something hits you unexpectedly.
  10. Oldies but goodies. When you feel stress and anger rising, count to ten. Then count to twenty, then thirty. Count as high as you need to get yourself calm again. Feel free to count woolly sheep in your head when you are doing the counting.
  11. Finally, give yourself a break. When too many things hit us at once, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s also ok to ask for help if you need it to get back on your feet and handle the situation. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you’ve made a mistake when stressed, we are all human and all of us can relate to this.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Ack! Anxiety! How to beat the freakout

Anxiety. That big bad scary thing that takes us over, controls our thoughts and turns us into crazy people. Those of us with thyroid disease, especially hyperthyroid and Graves’ will tend to experience this first hand. As our thyroid hormones go way too high, and turn everything to 11 in our body, our brain also gets too much and it results in anxiety. It can be anything from having the same thought go around and around in  your head, worrying that what you said or are about to say is going to sound awful, all the way up to, so anxious that you can’t face people, hiding in your room away from people or under the covers of your bed. It can make you sound paranoid, it will make you cry at the drop of a hat, it will make you assume things about people and situations you never would when you are thinking properly.

So, when this dastardly emotion takes you over, what tools do you have to deal with it? I have been dealing on and off with anxiety, from mild anxiety all the way up to PTSD which I’m still working to totally conquer and I’ve developed many things to help me cope. I hope some of them help you.

First step, is to start paying attention to your body, and learn to watch for clues anxiety is starting to get a grip on you. Look down at your body right now. Is your jaw clenched or tight? Are your hands relaxed or are they curled up around a pencil or by your side? Are you remembering to breathe relaxed and deep? Your body will sometimes tell you before you feel it emotionally or mentally. If they are not relaxed, then what you need to start with is as simple as breathing. Paying attention to your breathing, do a slow 5 count in and 7 count out, repeat 10 times. Did that lessen the tension? That is usually a good start for me. Next step is to redirect that negative energy before it becomes a negative feedback loop. That is when things go around and around and around in  your head, feeling like you are more horrible or the situation is more horrible every time it loops around. Not a good feeling. Depending on what you are doing and where you are, here are a few things you can do to redirect the emotions.

  1. Get out a notebook and let yourself write down all the ugly thoughts starting in your head, don’t censor yourself. When you are done, read them over carefully and ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most likely) how likely is this going to happen? If the worst happened, how bad would it really be? When you are done going through what you wrote down and rating it, take the piece of paper and tear it up and throw it out. Send that bad energy out into the world to leave you alone.
  2. If you are home and/or near the internet, find a distraction. I have three or four websites that I find very funny and/or cute. When I am feeling anxious and stressed, I go make myself look at one of them for a minimum of ten minutes. It’s hard for anxiety to have a good hold of you if you are laughing.
  3. If you are home alone or can go someplace private and the anxiety is really bad. Find somewhere quiet and go cry. Get it out of your system, release it. Crying is a great way to release tension in your system. When it’s done, wash your face and dry it, then make yourself smile in the mirror. Everything is going to be ok.
  4. Make a plan. Take one of the fears and make a plan for how to deal with it. It can be as realistic or as silly or creative as you like. I find sometimes when I make a plan, any plan to deal with something, it is no longer nearly as scary and I gain control over it.
  5. If it is something unknown you are worrying and anxious about, go learn about it. When I was diagnosed with Graves’ I was very anxious about it, my labs, my health and just everything surrounding it. Over the years I’ve looked up every expert and people who have dealt with this disease to learn all I can. The more I learn about it, the easier it is to deal with and the less anxious it makes me. I feel now that no matter what happens with my health I have an idea what is going on, and I have a plan for how to deal with it.
  6. Come up with a catch phrase or mantra to repeat in your head when you start feeling anxious. “I’ll be ok” “Everything is manageable”, etc.
  7. Break the day into smaller pieces. If what you are anxious about is occurring later in the day, start focusing on what is happening in the next five minutes, or the next minute, break it into manageable pieces to focus on.
  8. Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a marathon run or lifting weights for hours, just something that gets you moving. Burn that anxiety off in a walk in the park, or put on some music you like in your house and do a silly dance to it in your living room (curtains optional).
  9. Recognize that anxiety is not going to have a hold on you twenty-four seven. It will pass, if you can breathe and realize it’s not going to last forever.
  10. Talk it out. Find a good friend, relative, or a counselor, that you can talk to. I have found it very helpful to see a counselor once a month and talk about the problems that I am having and get tips on how to deal with things, and even more tools to help myself cope.
  11. Omega 3’s have been found to help stabilize mood, my doctor recommended I take 1,000mg twice daily to help with anxiety and depression. There are also supplements you might want to explore and see if  your doctor okays you to try such as melatonin (for sleep) and valerian root (also for sleep).
  12. The above are tools to help you cope. If you are having issues and all of these together aren’t able to help you relax, and let go of the anxiety, please go see your family doctor and let them know about the issues you are having. If your thyroid levels are off or other physical reason for the anxiety that will take awhile to calm down, there is nothing wrong with getting a prescription to help you deal with things until the physical cause (i.e. hyperthyroidism) is under control.

Just remember, keep breathing, try to listen to your body so you can catch anxiety before it gets bad and try to find something to take your mind off of your fears or at least make you laugh.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Selenium, the wonder supplement for thyroid

When it comes to the world of supplements there are a ton of them out there. Everyone has to be careful to make sure whatever supplement they try isn’t going to interfere with their medicines or their health conditions. Once you sort that out, there are quite a few to investigate.

One of the ones I see often recommended for thyroid patients is selenium. For those who have Graves disease, if your doctor clears you to take it, Selenium has been known to slow down or help with TED (thyroid eye disease). I’ve known of a few people who took this under a doctor’s care and managed to stop the progression of this entirely. It also helps the body to convert T4 hormone to T3 hormone which is needed for everyone, especially thyroid patients. Therefore it is also frequently recommended for those patients who are hypothyroid as well.

There are other benefits to selenium if you are able to take it. If you still have your thyroid it can help your thyroid work it’s best. It is an antioxidant, which means it helps protect your cells from damage. It can also help with cholesterol, increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL). There are even studies that suggest it can help with dandruff.

Dr. Weil  recommends that you combine selenium with Vitamin E, as it has been shown that it can reduce inflammation in your body.  Good news for people with inflammation issues, like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or issues like Crohn’s disease.

Things to consider. According to WebMD, the safe upper limit for selenium is 400mcg a day. Most people who are able to take it tend to go in the 200mcg a day range. The RDA is around 50-70mcg. For adult females it is 55 mcg; adult males, 70 mcg.

Most healthy people in the US and Canada are not likely to be selenium deficient, but if you have autoimmune disease or other chronic illnesses you are more likely to be low or deficient in this mineral. If you are low it can affect thyroid function and can lead to muscle weakness and pain. Too much can lead to fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, hair loss, and white spots on the fingernails.

Do your homework and see if selenium is something that could help you. Many people report better balanced thyroid hormones when they take selenium on a daily basis. The antioxidant affects can help out a thyroid challenged person even more than a healthy person. Take a look at this little supplement and see if it is right for you.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

How to help a chronically ill person

For those of us with thyroid disease and other chronic illnesses it can be a challenge to deal with others socially. Our emotions are constantly being manipulated by our thyroid hormones, and  we can be suffering from chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Our friends sometimes will start to dwindle because what we have just doesn’t go away and goes on and on. Some days are good ones and some are bad, and sometimes we have entire weeks or months that we have to rest. Sometimes plans made out in advance have to be canceled last minute due to our health deciding that day to take a nose dive.

Those who are the loved ones of a thyroid patient or other chronic illness, it can be difficult for them as well. They will want to help, but there is a fine line between helping a person and making them feel like they can’t do anything for themselves. Depending on what current health issues are hindering a person, different things can be done to help that will not offend a person having the illness. We still want to be seen as useful, productive members of society, even if we cannot do everything we used to all of the time. Sometimes people will try to do everything for us instead of let us try to do things at our own pace and it can hurt our feelings and our pride.

Instead here are some things you can do.

1. Find out if they want company. A lot of us end up being isolated because our constant state of being unwell or less than optimal can drive people away, and the mood swings that go along with thyroid disease can make it difficult to keep people around. If someone offers to just come by even for a few minutes or an hour and just hang out and talk, it will mean the world to someone.

2. If someone has been down a lot recently, find out if they are needing someone to help them go shopping. Maybe they would love to have someone take their list and take them to the store, so they can save their energy for picking out their foods. Maybe it would help to get a list and then pick up a few things from the store, so they can save their energy for other things.

3. Offer to come by and cook them dinner for themselves or for their family, giving them the chance to relax and rest and get away from stress for a short time. Or offer to bring them some tasty carryout to help them out with meals.

4. Just be willing to let them talk and listen to them without judging. When you don’t feel well often, it takes a toll on your ability to be social and it also can hurt your self esteem when people do not come around as often.

5. Ask them if there is any chore, no matter how small you can help with to help them out. If so, ask how they want help with it, and try to do it their way the best that you can.

6. Do NOT try to take over and do something for them without asking.Do not accuse them of being lazy, or unmotivated if their house isn’t in tip top shape or their laundry isn’t all done. Chronic illness takes a lot out of most of us. Some of us only get a few hours or days at most when we feel better to do things, and other people can add to that burden of guilt we already feel.

7. Do NOT act like the person is stupid or try to over exaggerate what you ask, we are not stupid, we are sick. Do NOT try to avoid touching us either.  Most of us who have chronic conditions are also not contagious in any way,and a lot of us are starved for hugs (though please ask before hugging, sometimes people are fragile and hugs can hurt if they are in pain that day).

Communication can go a long way to helping out your friend or loved one with a thyroid disease. Try to have open conversations about what they are going through and their personal challenges. Do not be afraid to ask what you can do to help, or how can you talk about things to make them better for the both of you. We have a lot to offer other people in return and you won’t be sorry.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Brain fog, OR What was I just doing?

One of the common things that many people with thyroid disease experience is brain fog. Between the lack of concentration, the memory issues, the feeling like you are walking around in a mental haze that most of us with thyroid issues get, it can make you feel like you have ADD or are just losing your mind. You are not losing your mind, I promise!

Brain fog coming and going when it pleases has caused some major changes in my life. I keep notes on everything, on my phone, my computer, a notepad by my desk, I write everything down and sometimes multiple places. I have no idea when one of these episodes are going to hit me. Doing this has saved me from forgetting doctors appointments, forgetting to pick up my husband, forgetting to take my medicines and many other things. It doesn’t always help me remember names, or how to do simple tasks when I get hit with random moments of fogginess. If you are like me, it can make you feel about 100 years old and like someone with extreme ADD as well. Here you are going along like normal and then all the sudden you can’t pay attention to save your life and people are looking at you like you are either the stupidest or rudest person ever. Personally I just try to go for looking slightly rude when this happens as I hate looking stupid. *grin*

Sometimes it’s  subtle, you will be feeling fine and walking into a room and all the sudden you realize you forgot what you went in the room for. We all do that, right? Well, with brain fog and thyroid issues it’s a little more serious and more often than normal people experience. Sometimes it’s simply like forgetting why we walking into a room, or walking into something in a room because you forgot it is there. Sometimes it’s more serious such as not remembering how we got to some place that we are currently, or  not remembering driving to a place. Then on really bad days, we forget how to do simple tasks we have done all our lives, like how to unlock your door, or dress yourself, or your name even, leaving blanks in the memory entirely. Those are more scary. When it gets bad like that, I will often be very cautious about driving anywhere and only go where I absolutely have to go. Usually bad brain fog episodes mean my thyroid levels are seriously off, so for me, it’s a good signal to go get my thyroid levels checked.

At times they can be frustrating and a bit funny. Sometimes I will call something by the wrong name, to hilarious results. Or call a person by the wrong name, or pick up the wrong thing to bring with me. Once I unlocked my car door, pushed the trunk unlock button (with the car door unlocked) and then my keys dropped into the trunk. I am in total panic mode thinking I was stuck there, until I remembered; the car door is still open and I can still push the button, open the trunk and get my keys out.

I have been known to put food in the oven, and go to check on it in half an hour and realize I never turned on the oven. Sometimes I will refer to the cats as the dogs. Why my brain does this when my thyroid levels are off, I have no idea. I will call my mother and not remember why I called her, or call my friend when I meant to call someone else. This affects everything and everyone in my life. My husband has gotten used to translating what I am saying when I substitute the wrong words after a decade of being around me.

It’s important to make sure you have a good support system around you, both good people who will try to help you when your brain just doesn’t work properly, and other systems, such as keeping notes, reminders on your calender or anything that helps you remember and keep on track for when the dreaded brain fog hits you. It’s also important to remember after it passes to laugh at yourself, making it less scary and having less negative impact on you.

Here is a nice scholarly article that explains how thyroid hormones affect the brain and the mind. The information that has been discovered linking thyroid hormones to brain function has been phenomenal in the last few years. Unfortunately many physicians are not keeping up with this information, so when you go to your doctor to complain about brain fog, they will think you are just depressed. When what the reality of a thyroid disease person really is, you need to regulate the thyroid hormones properly to their optimum levels and then there will be less mental issues to contend with.

So, feel free to leave a comment. What is  your funniest or scariest experience with brain fog? Has it caused you to limit your activities at times?

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

I can’t be gaining weight, my thyroid levels are hyper!

One of the many fun things about Graves’ disease is changes in weight. Probably 75% of people who are hyperthyroid start losing weight. When you are hyper your body goes into overdrive. Everything speeds up, including your metabolism and for a lot of us, also our appetite. Some of us have our appetite rev up higher than our metabolism is burning calories. So for some lucky people with Graves’ disease, we gain weight. Sometimes it’s only a few pounds, and sometimes you are like I was, gaining over 100 pounds in a six month period. When I was first diagnosed with Graves’ I was told that I must be doing something wrong, I was exercising, eating healthy and very few calories and still gaining twenty pounds a month or more until my RAI and subsequent going hypothyroid. After I went hypothyroid, which is when most people start gaining weight, I actually lost some of what I’d gained, but not even close to all of it.

The more I talk to other Graves’ disease patients online, the more I find I am not alone. About 10-25% of people who are hyperthyroid gain weight. Doctors are not sure why. Once you go into normal thyroid levels or into hypothyroidism it becomes harder to lose the weight you put on. Mary Shomon-in Thyroid Diet Secrets, who is a noted thyroid expert, explains that sometimes when we have a thyroid problem, our bodies can more easily go into what is called “hoard” mode, where your body doesn’t think you are getting enough calories to maintain your metabolism, so despite being overweight, your body won’t let you lose weight. So when the person tries to restrict their calories to too low, their body rebels and does everything to make sure the pounds won’t come off.

I’ve come across this many times in the various thyroid and Graves’ disease support groups I’ve been an admin in online. The poor person is already mourning the loss of their old self and then you have body images to contend with because you are no longer the size you used to be.

Just as devastating is the person who goes the typical way and loses a huge amount of weight. Those  people will sometimes get insensitive remarks about how thin they are, and then have to contend sometimes with muscle wasting issues, lack of energy and inability to move around much as they have grown so weak.

Whether Graves’ has made you gain way too much or too little, it’s a terrible thing to a person’s self image. My recommendations are to first find a good counselor to help you with body image issues caused by thyroid disease, someone who is somewhat knowledgeable and knows that it’s not “all in  your head”, and can give you tips to cope with this new you. Second, is to work with your doctors and other health care professionals to try to get your thyroid levels as optimized  as possible so you feel the best you can. Then when those two are in motion, you can try various dietary and lifestyle changes to see what will help you control your weight the best.

There are many different paths to helping you overcome weight issues, whether it be a need to gain weight or a need to lose weight. This isn’t a one sized fits all disease, so sometimes you have to find what has worked for others and see if it will work for you. The most common things dietary paths tried that I’ve seen are the following…

-Low Glycemic index diet (eating like a diabetic), controlling blood sugar levels so they are more stable has helped many people  stabilize their weight as well. Examples are South Beach Diet (phase 2)

-Gluten free. Some people with Graves’ and other autoimmune issues develop Celiacs which makes a person have many issues when they consume gluten containing products, some people have success controlling their weight and other health issues by going gluten free.

-Anti-Inflammatory diets, there are several anti-inflammatory diets, some are explained here. Some people feel better when they eat less foods that cause inflammation.

-Paleo diet- recently a few have tried the paleo diet and have had some success with this.

Just remember, always check with your doctor before starting any diet or lifestyle change, what works for one doesn’t always work for everyone, and a diet may have to be modified to work with your health conditions. For example, I tried the gluten free diet and it made me feel a lot worse, but eating like a diabetic ended up helping me lose about 30 pounds and control my fatigue. I know another person who doesn’t seem to be bothered by sugars, but if she eats anything with gluten, she’s miserable for days. We are all different and sometimes we have to try multiple things to figure out which one works best for us.

Lastly,  it’s important to make sure your nutritional needs are being met. Once a year at least, I’d recommend getting these tested: Vitamin D, calcium, potassium, magnesium and if you have Hashimoto’s disease have them check your iodine levels as well. Many people with autoimmune thyroid disorders can become low on various nutrients and that can also hinder your ability to control your weight and feel your best.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page