Many years ago, when I got out of college (B.S. in Financial Planning/Counseling) and started to work a “real” job. I found after a year or so in my career as a brand new stockbroker in a call center that I was suddenly having all sorts of weird health issues cropping up.
First I started steadily gaining weight, and I attributed that to being out of college and not walking everywhere. Then I started having problems with horrible anxiety, which I attributed to the stockbroker job I was in. Then hair started falling out. Finally I stopped sleeping. We’re not talking regular insomnia, not sleeping for a few nights here and there. I actually stopped sleeping. I went to just 3 or 4 hours a night for several weeks, then it went to 1 to 2 hours a night. Went to doctor, let them know. My grandfather had just passed away so they thought maybe grief. So on sleeping pills I went. Still not sleeping after a week. So up the dose. Still not sleeping the next week, so switch to a new pill, sleeping even worse. Finally after about a month they thought to test my thyroid. Found out my thyroid levels were off the charts they said high. Sent me to an endocrinologist and diagnosis: Graves’ disease. I had never heard of this. Graves’ disease sounds like a super scary death disease. So I am a crazy person, no sleep, anxious, still gaining weight, hair falling out, skin super dry, heart rate going very high, blood pressure going very high. I’m sure people thought I must be on meth at the time.
First they started me on anti-thyroid meds. I tried a couple of different doses and medicines and after two months my levels were still steadily climbing. The doctors were worried about heart attack or stroke. I couldn’t work, I voluntarily gave up my car keys and I was living with a boyfriend who was only home on the weekends and worked in another state. I had one friend at the time who was willing to come by and try to help me stay sane. My nickname at the time was “Babbling Britney” as I couldn’t stop myself from babbling on endlessly. I also was trying to emulate a Mexican Jumping bean as I couldn’t sit still longer than a minute or two. I was annoying the crap out of everyone and especially myself. If I could have done the body jumping I so would have at that time.
Finally we talked about permanent options as the medicines just weren’t working. I asked about surgical removal, they told me it was at that time too risky (now it’s not nearly as risky as it was in 2000). So I went with RAI, radioactive Iodine, with the theory that your thyroid absorbs iodine and the rest of your body just eliminates it after a few days. You take this pill that a person all covered up in protective gear gives you out of a lead container, and then you avoid other people for 3-6 days, including using your own utensils and other fun things. No, I checked, I did not glow in the dark!
This process is supposed to gradually kill off your thyroid slowly. Except of course if you are a freak like I am, and then you go from alive thyroid, super hyper, and fast running, to in a short time of just two or three weeks thyroid is completely dead and producing exactly nothing. Think about your body being a race car going 100 mph that suddenly hits a brick wall and you’ll know about what happened to me. I went from wired and tired, super nervous energy, heart racing, insomnia and anxiety Queen down to making a sloth look active pretty quickly.
They tell me, no dietary changes, just take this pill and everything will be fine. Um, in my case they lied. I’ve had this diagnosis since the year 2000 and RAI in early 2001 and my life has NEVER been the same. I have been doing research for as long as I can remember having this disease and I am hoping to pass on what I’ve learned to you all reading this. First of all, if you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, your life WILL be different. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who take a pill and are back to normal, you still will have to keep your thyroid levels in mind the rest of your life. However, you can learn to manage things and eventually you will learn your body so well, that you will end up being more proactive than anyone else you know. This is a journey that will take you to places emotionally and mentally and sometimes physically you never thought possible. Everyone who is diagnosed needs to give themselves time to absorb the info and then to grieve their old self. Then they can get on with the new adventure.