Guest Post! Rachel Hill

Why I Don’t Mind Being Defined by Thyroid Disease

HypothyroidismHashimoto’s ThyroiditisChronic Fatigue Syndrome. Anxiety Disorder. Adrenal FatigueDepression. All conditions I currently have or, in the case of depression, have had at previous times in my life (depression comes in and out of my life as it pleases).

People tell me however, not to let these conditions, physical and mental, define me.

But why? They do define part of who I am and what my life has become and I’m OK with that. 


Whilst it’s true that there is so much more to me than my health conditions, they are a huge part of my life and who I am. They’ve shaped who I am today. And in fact, they’ve made me a better person; a more well-rounded person. Someone who appreciates life and the small things more so than pre-diagnosis of any of these conditions.

The truth is, if you have a long term health condition, it will most likely play a part in defining who you are. If it has such an impact on your life that it prevents you from having a ‘normal’ life, then it is part of your existence right now and often defines what you’re able to do. And that’s OK. The conditions I live with have meant I now work part-time, can’t exercise as much as I used to (I used to be incredibly active) and can’t be as sociable as I once was.

I don’t want to be defined solely by my health conditions but at the same time, they are what’s made me who I am. 

Going through the many years of not knowing what was wrong with me, in terms of physical symptoms piling up, until I was eventually diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, and also the anxiety I’ve experienced my whole life, without knowing that that’s what it was. Going through the pre-diagnosis, the diagnosis and now the ‘trying-to-cope-with-it-and-manage-the-conditions’ stages, I have become an advocate for my own health; I’ve become stronger in various ways.

I have learnt to stand up for myself. I am stronger in taking more control over my health and the pursuit of making peace with what life has handed me. And peace with myself. This has also made me more confident, independent and self assured. I’m very different to the person I was five years ago.

The conditions I have have helped me to realise that I am not Superwoman and that I needed to scale back on my commitments and expectations. Leading up to diagnosis of my physical health conditions, I was running myself in to the ground thinking that I should be working towards being supremely fit, having the ‘dream job’, a perfect house and very busy social life. When you develop health conditions that quite physically limit how much you can do, you have to take a step back and reevaluate. Reevaluate what is important and what you can do.

Compared to who I was five years ago, I am wiser, more mature, more independent, have my own voice and the strength to do more than I ever thought possible. And I don’t mean physically. I don’t mean run marathons or work a seventy-hour-a-week job. I do more for me and others in the same kind of situation; I speak up. I do more of what my body and mind needs and requires from me in terms of consciously looking after myself better but I’m also a voice for other thyroid patients, through my advocacy work.

My health conditions, and I call them my health conditions because they have formed such a huge part of who I am and what I get fulfilment out of doing, have led on to amazing opportunities. Helping others with thyroid disease, providing a voice for them and advocating for better diagnosis and treatment is a huge part of the person I am today. It’s what drives me and keeps me going on rough days. Of course, there is still so much more to me than these health conditions – I love vintage and retro fashion, I’m a total foodie, enjoy craft projects and musicals – but the truth is, my health conditions have given me more purpose. I know now that I was put on this Earth to weather the storms and come out stronger, telling others that they can do the same and that the support is out there. As it’s changed my life and who I am so much, I am defined by it.

But there is this idea in society that everyone should be aiming for ‘happiness’. That ‘being happy’ is the ultimate goal in life. Yet, if I was to become ‘happy’, for example in the sense that being 100% healthy would equal being happy, I’d lose myself. I’d lose who I was. I’d lose what makes me, me.

What is often missed is that it’s OK to not be happy. When we question that the end goal, the ultimate aim in life, is to be ‘happy’, we ask ‘what is happiness anyway?’ It’s not a destination, it’s an emotion. Emotions come and go all the time, in fact,  throughout one day alone we go through numerous emotions. How unattainable a goal it is to reach that place that can’t be sustained forever? An emotion, a feeling, where we inevitably won’t stay?

Life dishes out its trials and tribulations. It gives us challenges, difficult times and of course the best of times. And this is life. In many cultures, to be ‘happy’ means to find your soulmate, get married, have a family, buy a beautiful house, have lots of money in the bank and a dream career. But this is so unattainable, even more so for those of us with health conditions. Mental and physical health conditions.

What is with this pressure to find your ‘soulmate’? ‘The One’? Why can’t you be content with whoever you enjoy spending time with? Why must people feel pressured to follow social convention at all? For many of us with mental and physical health conditions, ‘the dream career’ isn’t an option we have. Many can’t work or those who do are limited in what kind of job they can do or how many hours of work. Why must a job exist solely to get you to a ‘dream career’? Why do we need this to be ‘happy’? There is so much more to life than a job, focus on money and pleasing society.

I just want to feel at peace. And in that I mean accepting that I’ll feel sad some days, angry or frustrated others and, on the rare days, just happy. Because peace is accepting all of this. Peace is accepting that life is life and there is no one emotion or ‘state of happiness’ that will suddenly all fall in to place when we tick things off a checklist set by society. Many of which don’t live with conditions that can limit or affect what they’re able to do daily.

Just making peace with the fact that we’re human and we come in a whole range of emotions is absolutely fine. We’re allowed tricky days, days where we barely make it through, and we’re allowed fantastic days. Those days that are the happiest of our lives.

But reaching happiness isn’t a destination or goal. You can’t keep it. It’s isn’t a possession.

And being defined by my health conditions is fine by me. I own them. They don’t own me.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.

You can find Rachel @ TheInvisibleHypothyroidism.com

 

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Salt: Part 2, Iodized Salt & Iodine Affect on Thyroid Health

Back to Salt Part 1

When you have thyroid issues of any kind, it’s important to know some of the facts out there about iodized salt, or salt with added iodine in it. There is a lot of information out there about iodized salt and iodine specifically and the thyroid, hopefully this will help sort some of it out for you.

Iodine is one of those important nutrients that the body needs. The primary use is to help the thyroid produce thyroid hormones. If you still have a working thyroid, then chances are you need to have some iodine in your body to make these important hormones. There is a lot of confusion out there about whether you need to add iodine, if it’s safe for you to take iodized salt or eat foods with high amounts of iodine in them. Let’s take a look at the different sides of this question.

Iodine deficiency. One side of the issue is iodine deficiency. This is a serious problem that was the reason iodine was added to table salt in the first place. Now people are watching their sodium intake and aren’t eating as much iodized salt, so some people aren’t getting enough iodine in their diet. Plus recent studies have shown that when iodized salt was analyzed it didn’t have enough iodine added to help someone keep up healthy levels of iodine. Iodine deficiency is rising in developed countries now. Iodine is a rare element found in nature, it’s almost never found in the soil, but it is however abundant in the ocean. This is why you will find most seafood and shellfish high in iodine, but other foods people eat low or no iodine content. This is one of the reasons that iodine was added to salt in the beginning. Iodine deficiency can lead to many problems. One of the most common is developing a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
According to Life Extension Magazine article The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency, ” …  iodine deficiency’s profound impact on overall health. … discover iodine’s vital role in thyroid function and its link to obesity, cognitive impairment, heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and various forms of cancer. “ Link

Iodine Excess. On the other side of the issue is people who are getting too MUCH iodine in their bodies.  Studies are recognizing that an excess of iodine can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s, worsening their attack on the body.
Dr. Teng in a New England Journal study,  found that giving iodine supplements to people with enough iodine in their system could lead to hypothyroid autoimmune disease. Also, since iodine helps the thyroid produce thyroid hormones, too much iodine, especially in the circumstances of Graves disease and hyperthyroidism, can add fuel to the fire, helping the body produce too much thyroid hormone and leading to iodine-induced hyperthyroidism. There is also some evidence that iodine can help autoimmune thyroid disease produce more antibodies with which to attack the body.

There is also a set of people who have found that iodine supplementation is helpful for their thyroid condition. If you are going to add iodine supplementation, please make sure you do so under a qualified medical professional who will be monitoring your iodine levels. Watch yourself for signs that your thyroid levels are spiking up too high or falling too low as well. Use common sense if following this path.

Basically, everyone needs some iodine, but not too much. If you are eating adequate levels of iodized salt, seafood or other iodine rich foods, the odds are good that you should NOT supplement iodine. If you have autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, use caution in eating foods with added iodine. If your antibodies are high or you are severely hyperthyroid, you may want to cut back on the amount of iodine containing foods you are eating to prevent matters from becoming worse. Your doctor can test the amount of iodine in your system if you suspect you need to consume less or add more to your diet. This is one of the best ways to find out if you should be consuming more iodine foods such as iodized salt.

Confused by all the information that’s out there on iodine, especially in salt form? That is understandable. There are still many tests being run on iodine and the body and it seems that there is definitely not a one sized fits all recommendation on this rather controversial element. The consensus in the middle is that everyone needs some to prevent iodine deficiency, but you have to be careful not to have too much. If you have autoimmune disease of the thyroid, then you have to be even more careful. Ask your doctor or other health professional for their opinion, and research, research, research to help you figure out what may be right for you. Good luck in your journey to better thyroid health!

Catch Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney, or online at http://www.WarriorButterflies.com or at ButterflyNationProject.org, two great thyroid resource pages

Sources:

Teng, Weiping M.D., et. al. “Effect of Iodine Intake on Thyroid Diseases in China” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2783-2793, June 29, 2006, Number 26Abstract

Utiger, Robert D. M.D. “Iodine Nutrition – More Is Better,” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2819-2821, June 29, 2006, Number 26o

Piccone, Nancy. “The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency” Life Extension Magazine, October 2011 http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2011/10/The-Silent-Epidemic-of-Iodine-Deficiency

, “Iodine and Hyperthyroidism”, Global Healing Center website:  http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/iodine-and-hyperthyroidism/, February 25,2015

Tales from the Graves’ book:Thyroid patient stories

“I felt so alone and uninformed when I was diagnosed…I don’t want other people to feel that way.” – Ashli S., Graves’ sufferer

If there is any statement that sums up the purpose of “Tales from the Graves’”, this is it. So little is known publicly about this autoimmune disorder, and the disruption it can cause on the lives of everyday people. When it’s diagnosed, it’s a scary, amorphous unknown specter with an ominous name that implies going to the grave. There are made-for-TV movies for cancer and AIDS, and telethons for muscular dystrophy, so the public is well-aware of these inflictions – not so for autoimmune disorders.

According to Medscape in December 2013–a web resource for physicians and other health professionals–Graves’ Disease affects up to two percent of the female population, sometimes appears after childbirth, and has a female:male incidence of 7:1 to 8:1. It occurs most often in middle age (most commonly in the third to fifth decades of life), but is not uncommon in adolescents, during pregnancy, during menopause, or in people over age fifty. There is a marked family preponderance, which has led to speculation that there may be a genetic component. Graves’ currently affects approximately two hundred million people worldwide, three million in the United States alone. In other words, it’s very likely that a great number of people are impacted directly by this disorder (or related disorders, such as Hashimoto’s Disease, Thyroid Storm or the Thyroid Eye Disease), or through friends and family, that would be interested in this material.

Britney Robinson—co-author of this work, through suffering from Graves’ Disease for over 13 years now, has taken great pains to learn everything about this disorder in an effort to minimize its impact on her life and general well-being. In doing so, she joined a support group on Facebook for others to share their experiences–when she joined there were about fifty members. Within a year, that number has blossomed to over a thousand with more people asking to join daily. When she proposed compiling anecdotes into a book, over one hundred and twenty of these members jumped at the chance to share their stories in the hopes of telling others that they are not alone. Realizing the potential of this book to blossom into a huge project, Britney enlisted the aid of her husband, Ray Robinson. Ray is an experienced writer, having put together stories for multiple newspapers and blogs over his career.

This guide will begin with a basic description of Graves’ Disease itself–its origins, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis. Many of the contributors will give their own experiences in what first clued them or their doctors in. You will hear, straight from their own words, their advice on pursuing a diagnosis, finding a doctor that actually knows what Graves’ is (it’s more difficult than you would think!), and the tests they experienced to achieve the correct diagnosis. Special attention will be paid to treatment methods people have attempted (with varying degrees of success), how to stay positive in the midst of a complete life upheaval, and dealing with some of the more noticeable traits–such Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) that can occur in those suffering.

The truly moving draw of this material comes from reading the stories directly from people dealing with, suffering through, and overcoming this disorder. Many don’t mince words–since this is a harsh disease, you will get a real feel for the emotions they pour out. And never the same story twice! You will read REAL tales of lives turned upside down, friends lost and gained, frustration and elation, despair, fear, anxiety and jubilation.

“Tales from the Graves'” is an excellent guide for not only those suffering from thyroid diseases, but for their friends and family to gain understanding, and learn what they can do or say to help.

I am truly proud to have been privileged to hear so many stories from other thyroid patients, I hope I have done justice to their trust, and can help many others see a glimpse into our lives. Thank you to all of them and to my husband Ray Robinson for his help in compiling and writing this book.

Available for Pre-order from now until March 30, 2015, then available for purchase on Kindle platform. Get your copy here!