Stronger together


One really positive thing about being on the internet and having thyroid disease is being able to compare and contrast your experience with other people. There are so many support groups out there with literally thousands of people sharing their experiences. There is also blogs, articles and information all over the place. While some of this information doesn’t apply to everyone, what it does do, is allow a person to start to see patterns.

When you start talking to other people from other places, you can see whether or not a particular issue that you are dealing with is common with other people. You can help yourself figure out if that crazy thought you are having is something you alone are thinking or if fifty others are also having crazy thoughts. You can find out options that other people have tried. You can find out the good, the bad and the ugly of treatment options out there.

You still have to put on  your critical thinking hats to deal with the information, like you do with anything on the internet. Don’t let yourself fall for lose weight quick, or those “heal your thyroid” miracle sounding cures on the internet. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A little skepticism is a good thing. Mind you, do not close your mind off to everything, but make sure anything you hear you confirm with multiple reputable sources before you try anything you have read about. While there is a lot of good information out there, there is also people waiting to prey on those of us with chronic illness, and we can find things that will actively hurt us in the guise of helping.

If you are open to it, start doing your own research on your thyroid condition. Talk to people online. Join a thyroid support group and start reading what other people are experiencing. This is something that has helped me immensely over the last few years. I have been in several thyroid support groups over the years, and I started seeing recurring topics show up. Topics that you never see in articles online or hear about from your doctor. This enabled me to do some more research and find things that doctors do not seem to be aware of. The reason, for this I feel, is that  doctors know about what they have learned in medical school, they may see a dozen or so thyroid patients in their lifetime or a few more, so patterns of other things do not show up in those situations. If you are online with a thyroid support group, depending on the size you get a much larger sample of people coming together. People will also talk about their entire lives on support groups, not just things they think of as thyroid related issues. When you hear about people talking about obsessive thoughts for instance, or problems with their menstrual cycles and those people number in the hundreds, you start to think just maybe there is a connection. Maybe people with thyroid issues deal with much more than the medical profession knows about, and maybe the thyroid causes much more than just the issues that are mentioned commonly.

Some of the common topics I hear about on thyroid support boards including the following:

  1. Obsessive thoughts. A lot of people are finding they are struggling with obsessive thoughts, either dark and negative or just ultra focused on some strange thing in their lives. OCD behaviors also start hitting people, especially people who are hypothyroid.
  2. Anxiety in general. Having a chronic health issues like thyroid disease makes people feel more vulnerable and worry more about how to deal with things in their lives.
  3. For women, menstrual cycle issues. So many woman have reported extra long and heavy periods, or no periods at all, or spotty periods. More PMS symptoms and more issues with fatigue than normal around their menstrual cycle.
  4. For men, loss of sex drive and fatigue and stamina issues. Many men on the thyroid boards report they feel like they are much older  than they actually area. Some of them are finding they are having low T issues as well.
  5. Sudden sensitivities to foods. A lot of people seem to be finding that since their thyroid diagnosis they cannot tolerate certain foods. They have new food allergies, or foods they ate for years suddenly give them gastric distress or make them feel ill when they eat them.
  6.  General lack of energy. Even when thyroid levels are more normalized with medications, people report that they just don’t have the same energy they did before thyroid disorder. Doctors will tell them that their thyroid levels are normal so deal with it. When they get further testing on vitamins and minerals they find that they are…
  7. Low on necessary vitamins and minerals.I blogged about low Vitamin D recently, and that’s one of the big ones that people become deficient after developing thyroid disorder. People who get their vitamins and minerals tested also have reported low calcium, magnesium and other issues. Being low in nutrients can make a person not feel at their best. If you look at all the stories from people online there seems to be a connection between thyroid issues and other deficiencies in the body.
  8. Catching every virus that comes around. A lot of people report more illness in general since their thyroid diagnosis. People who never or rarely got sick will catch every cold and bug that goes around. When they do get ill, they can’t seem to get over it as fast. Something that they might have gotten over in a few days will drag on to a week or two sometimes. I frequently see this topic going around, especially in the fall and winter months.
  9. Feelings of isolation. Having thyroid disease can be very isolating for people. A lot of people can mentally deal with the idea of an illness you have and then get over. Thyroid disease does not go away. It stays with you forever, and can affect you at any time. Sometimes people with thyroid disease will lose friends and family who just cannot deal with their constant health issues. So a person is abandoned at a time they need support the most.
  10. Finding a thyroid support group online can help. Finding the right support group online is generally reported as a positive thing by most thyroid patients. There are many out there with different objectives and personalities, so just about anyone can find one that is helpful. People report when they can share their experiences online with others, they don’t feel so alone. They can talk about feelings that have bothered them and have them validated by others who have been there. They don’t have to feel like that are a freak or a crazy person, and they can find more possible solutions than any one doctor will ever be able to tell them about. The more people who band together, the more information and support will be available for all.

What I have found is that people working together can produce remarkable results. Share your thyroid experiences with others, so they also feel empowered. Share your information you learn so people can go to their doctors more educated and confident. The more of us who work together, the better things will be for all thyroid patients. Together we are stronger!

See Britney at http://www.warriorbutterflies.com or come join her at her Thyroid Tribe closed FaceBook group.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside!


One of the joys that can happen when you have thyroid issues is intolerance to various temperatures. This summer and fall I was hyperthyroid (too much thyroid hormone) and I was intolerant to heat, so every time it went above 75 degrees F I was sweating like it was 120 degrees outside. I cut my hair short a few years ago because I go into hyperthyroidism often enough that the sweating hits me a lot. So much so, that  my hair is soaked and dripping, and it just wasn’t a good look for me, so short hair has become cooler and easier to deal with. My heat intolerance got so bad one winter I thought for sure I was entering early menopause. My gynecologist did some tests and said, nope, it’s just my thyroid. Two winters ago I was hyper in the winter though and did the horrible sweating. Has anyone ever sweated in the middle of a freezer, sweat dripping down your face to freeze in  your hair? That’s a fun time, let me tell you.

Right now though, my body decided to go the other way the last month or so, just in time for winter here. Now I’m borderline hypothyroid (too little) and my body is COLD intolerant. C’mon body, get it together! Can’t we just agree to go hyper in the winter and hypo in the summer? My body never listens to me on this though. *sigh* Now I’m turning blue indoors with cold, wearing fifteen layers of clothing on my body, and huddling up to blowing heat in the stores I work in.

So, here it is January, it’s about 12 degrees F (please don’t ask me to convert to Centigrade as I’m an idiot on conversions) here and I’m bloody cold. I know that other people are cold, but most of them are not having the hands that turn into blocks of ice within seconds of going outside. This is when I’m bundled up with multiple layers and gloves and scarves. At least it’s better than where I grew up. I moved to Louisville, KY, about a decade or so ago, and at least we have slightly less winter weather than where I grew up in Northern Indiana, not far from Lake Michigan with lake effect snow and temperatures. I know it’s even worse elsewhere. To those of you in colder climates, my hat is tipped to you, I could not deal with it being worse.

Tips for being cold intolerant in the winter time I have discovered.

  1. Layers.  Wear layers outside. Light weight shirts under button down or pull over sweaters is a good start. Then when you go inside and you start to melt, you can take off the top layer (or if you are me LAYERS) to cool off. Putting them all back on before you go back outside.
  2. Hand Warmers. Those little portable hand warmers, either the chemical kind or special gloves to keep the heat in are necessary if you are dealing with the cold for any major period of time. They are usually inexpensive and some of them can be reused. Pop one of those in a microwave and hold in your hands.
  3. Good heavy socks. For some reason my father doesn’t believe in wearing socks and his feet are always cold. I however DO believe in wearing socks. The thicker the better in the winter time. It’s not a fashion show for me, it about making sure my feet aren’t so cold they turn into painful blocks of ice. If you don’t have a thick pair, two pairs of thin socks together are great in a pinch.
  4. Hot Shower or Bath. I will sometimes take multiple hot showers in the day when I’m freezing. If I have time I will soak in a hot bath. If you do the bath option, make sure you add something to the bathwater as muscles get cold and stiff in the winter time. A cup of apple cider vinegar along with something that smells good for the bath will help your cold muscles relax and keep you warm for much longer. Best thing is to take a hot bath before bed, then climb into the covers while you are still warm, best sleep ever!
  5. Hat or scarf. Or both when you go outside. I’ve been known to wear them inside if I was having a really cold day. Keep your head warm, and your face, and it will help keep the rest of you warm also. Plus scarves and hats can be pretty and functional for those of us who want to be stylish, as long as you can deal with hat hair!
  6. Cuddly buddy. For me this is my husband. I call him my portable heater. He is always warm, so when I’m hypothyroid and/or it’s winter time, I curl up on the couch with him to watch television or talk. Warms me right up. I think everyone should have someone to cuddle with. Not only will it help keep you warm, but being close to someone like that helps you feel better all around.
  7. Your favorite furry friend. Pets are great to have around in the winter, especially the warm blooded furry type. I have three cats and they seem to need warmth as much as I do. When it’s really cold, they will all come lay down around me  and on top of my chest, and we will all keep each other warm. Plus the purrs make me happy. Beware though, if your house is like mine, it can be dry, so being around furry creatures can also be a static discharge danger as well. Though that can be a bit funny. I mean have you ever accidentally gone to pet a dog or cat and got a small zap? The look on their faces is a bit comical.
  8. Space heaters. Space heaters have saved me at home the last few winters. I have a small portable one I bring with me from room to room. It keeps you from heating up the entire house when you are by yourself and gives you a little heat you can control right next to you.
  9. Have your thyroid checked. If you seem like you are feeling the cold a lot more than other people, consider having your thyroid checked. As I said above, being hypothyroid can make you cold intolerant. Thyroid levels tend to drop a bit in the winter for a lot of people, so you might need a little extra boost.
  10. Smile. While a smile might not make you feel physically warmer, it will help give others a boost as well as boosting your own mood and might make the cold a little easier to deal with. Stay warm my friends.

Check out Britney’s Thyroid website she runs with other thyroid ladies. http://www.warriorbutterflies.com/

Photo credit from fotolia.com

Breaking out of the Caretaker Mold


Taking care of others at the expense of our own health. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Having spoken to literally a few thousand people who have been diagnosed with thyroid disease of various kinds, I have noticed a trend. A whole lot of us are the type who have spent our lives taking care of others, pleasing others, and at the same time neglecting ourselves. This and a highly stressful and/or traumatic event is what happens to a lot of us before our diagnosis. I happen to think that just maybe all of the stress we put on ourselves trying to help others in our lives, allows us to put our own health on the back burner until a breaking point. Something very stressful happens to us and we are pushed beyond our limits. Our poor minds and bodies literally can’t take anymore of what we’ve put it through and something gives. If our immune system and/or our thyroid is the weakest link at this point, then that is what gives.

Obviously this is just my own personal theory, but I have seen this played out many, many times. Ask ten people if they took good care of themselves before their thyroid diagnosis. Ask them if after neglecting themselves for others in their lives,they then had something exceptionally stressful happen and then ended up with a thyroid health issue and/or autoimmune such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease. I know one of the positive things about my Graves’ disease diagnosis was being forced to finally take a good look at my own life and start paying attention to what I needed. I was the one who tried to help everyone around me. Friends that needed places to crash for indefinite time periods, family that needed an ear to listen to even when I personally was exhausted, work that needed me to do just one more extra thing when I had nothing left in the tank. I made sure the people around me were better taken care of then I was for a long time. Add to that putting myself through college, and working. Then finishing college and going to work for a high stressful stockbroker job at the height of the tech boom and then tech bust, followed by a Grandparent passing away. All of this going on while I didn’t sleep adequately, didn’t eat properly and tried to do entirely more than I really should have. It’s really no wonder my body rebelled and ended up failing me right when I needed it not to do.

The good news for me is that I took the warning seriously. I started listening to my body, and my mind and emotions. I started figuring out when I needed to take time to unwind, eat something healthy, get some exercise. It took years to get to this point of view. I mourned my loss of being Super Woman, of handling everything that came my way without an issue. I mourned the person who could do everything and not break a sweat. Too bad I was living on borrowed energy the entire time, and burning the candle at both ends plus the middle.

A change had to be made, once I had my RAI treatment to kill off my thyroid and things started to calm down. I had to step back and re-evaluate how I lived my life. First thing I did was change careers. This was difficult, I had just graduated with a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling 3 years prior and felt like I was getting a handle on being a stockbroker in a call center. I knew though, that the constant days with a headset dealing with a lot of really agitated people wasn’t the best place to reduce my stress. At the time I realized that the part time position I took my last year in college helping to rewire a network and fix computers for the college was actually something I was not only good at, but I enjoyed immensely. I made the leap to switch careers. After a few years I felt like it was a good choice so I went back to school and got a second degree in Computer Networking Systems. This led to me going up in the Information Technology world and being an IT Systems Admin for a few small companies. I loved it. I did realize though after a few years that I was right back where I didn’t need to be. Too much stress due to too much responsibility in charge. Not enough downtime and I was letting it take over my health again. So, a few years ago after talking it over with my husband I decided to leave full time work. At the time I was hoping maybe a few months of rest would restore me to being able to work full time again in the future. That was in 2010.

I tried to do a version of my old IT job. I tried to build a computer repair business full time, and wasn’t entirely successful. I have several elderly ladies and a few others who I help with their computer problems from time to time still, but I didn’t have the drive or health to be able to build it into a successful business. Again, still too much stress. Stress is a bad thing to have too much of with a thyroid condition, especially caused by Graves’ disease. Autoimmune and stress are natural enemies.

In the rush to try to do something to get myself back to health, I started doing even more research. Everything I could find online, at the library, talking to others about thyroid disease. I started adjusting my diet. I started getting a small amount of exercise when I could. I started listening to my body’s cues, taking breaks and trying to learn how to read myself enough to prevent issues before they started. I was doing better, so I took a part time job that allowed me to earn some money and also adjust my schedule for rest breaks as needed. I also started seeing a counselor on a monthly basis. All of these things have helped me renew myself and find the new me. After all this time I have found I actually LIKE the new me. I have purpose, I am helping myself and hopefully others. I am back to being a caretaker type of sorts, but this time I make sure I am doing OK first, because I know that if I am not OK, then I cannot help anyone else.

If you have Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, it’s a whole new world that you are now part of. Adjustments have to be made to deal with this new reality. Allow yourself to mourn what has happened, but do not stay there. Some fantastic things are on the horizon if you keep searching for the new you. I hope for anyone who reads this to know that having thyroid disease does not have to be the end. You also can find your new purpose. Maybe this will show you how to be more compassionate to others who have health issues, or you will take care of  yourself better and end up living a much more fulfilled and healthy life than you might have been able to before. You might end up being a role model to other people, or you might find yourself a new passion that could change the world! Go forth and conquer your 2015!

Check out Britney’s site at www.warriorbutterflies.com

Photo credit: loop_oh / IWoman / CC BY-ND

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