Last updated on January 4th, 2015 at 04:47 pm
Back in 2003 I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis . . .
The diagnosis was both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because it explained so much about how shitty I was feeling, and a curse because it took a good three years to find the right medication combination to help me feel less shitty. You can lose a lot of dream time when you feel pretty shitty for years.
I should explain that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland, causing damage to thyroid cells and upsetting the balance of hormones in your body.The inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s disease leads to hypothyroidism. The real bummer is the disease causes a profound metabolic slowing of the body and also, the mind.
It made me feel like my body was swimming in peanut butter.
It made my brain function like someone was holding my memory hostage.
Even worse, my hair fell out.
I was depressed because every day I felt exhausted. It was all I could do to take care of my son. I gained 60 pounds. I cried myself to sleep at night. I was freezing cold in 80 degree weather. I couldn’t sleep – even though I was so tired I couldn’t move. It was as if an alien-being had overtaken my body. All the sexiness and joy I knew became a distant memory. I had trouble focusing. My entire body ached like I had the flu. My legs were swollen and my shoes didn’t fit.
The men I dated thought I was crazy.
Okay, maybe that’s not so new . . .
I’d stare at the reflection in the mirror and wonder who the old woman was staring back at me. My doctor worried.Â The slowness of my heart rate brought up concerns of possible future heart failure. No manner of thyroid medication he tried seemed to help me get any better.
I was in my early 40s and I felt like giving up on my life . . .
Then, I accidentally stumbled upon a section of AOL called AOL Journals, where a handful of people were starting to do what we now call blogging. It was easy to set up and with just a click of a few buttons, I was writing for the first time since college. Unbeknown to me, I was about to become a blogger. My thoughts, however, were not as willing to come along on this new blog ride.
They’d lock themselves deep inside my mind – making it nearly impossible to transfer understandable sentences to my fingertips. Pulling thoughts out of my head felt like trying to get a 3 year old girl to let you pull her loose tooth – not happening.
Sometimes I’d cover my face and wonder if I was dying of Alzheimer’s. The writing – something I once thought I was fairly good at – was unbelievably difficult. I was forced to look up everything from how to spell states to the proper use of their. Every moment I was wrestling with my brain. I’d hit the publish button on my journal, only to come back the next day and find typos, misspells and sentences which didn’t make sense.
But I was not about to give up.
There was something empowering about the wrestling match I was doing with my once sharp mind. When my brain ached with fatigue from trying to write coherent sentences, I would use Google to search for information on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. Then each time I showed up at my doctors office I’d have pages of notes and thousands of questions. I’m sure he just loved seeing me coming. . .
We’d argue theory and sometimes I’d win – except when it came to my medications. He liked the medications I was on, while I kept insisting they weren’t working well enough. He kept telling me to be more patient. As the months turned to years, my brain did become a little more cooperative, but I felt it was the writing practice – not the medications that was making the difference. I was more determined than ever to tame this disease that was sucking the life out of my life.
I was out to kill the shitty . . .
I began ordering my own drugs from Canada and the UK, experimenting with doses and treatments. I joined thyroid advocate groups online and shared my story, as they shared theirs. It seems I was not the only one who still felt shitty on their medication.
Complete strangers gave me all the information they had collected. And there were these other thyroid people . . . people happily living their lives on a thyroid drug called Armour.
My saving grace was the day I switched myself from Levoxyl and Cytomel (synthetic prescribed drugs by my doctor) to Armour thyroid. I did it on my own – without my doctors okay. Within 48 hours it was as if someone switched on a light in my body. I was finally able to make it through a day without dying for a nap. When my doctor wouldn’t prescribe it to me, I went on a hunt for one that would. And I found one. He’s wonderful.
I’ve never looked back.
With Armour my brain function returned and my writing flowed. A funny thing happened to me during this war I raged for my own life: I had fallen in love with blogging. The idea that anyone could sit at a computer, write anything, hit a publish key and have their words read by complete strangers was amazing to me. Within a year I purchased my own domain, set up my blog outside of AOL and turned my mom blog, A Week In the Life of A Redhead into one of the top 35,000 blogs in the world.
I had a dream. A big dream, and I was beginning to live it.
Then . . .
The real estate market crashed. The events which followed forced me to leave the world of self-employment (and living in my pajamas) to the world where people still wore pumps and drank coffee in little white labeled cups.
I hated going back to cubicle life.
It became increasingly difficult to handle the blog, its popularity, full-time work, single-parenting and caring for myself. Even though Armour was a miracle drug, there is no cure for Hashimotos disease and thyroid disease can still kick your butt when you push yourself too much. I scaled my posting schedule back from five days a week to one. My readers didn’t like it very much. My dream of having a top website started slipping through my fingers. I had to focus on feeding my son. To my mind, there was no other choice.
I was bleeding readers every day. I watched as other blogs – less clever (yes I thought this) were making headlines and the big bucks while I was free-falling. I watched them fly past me like I was paddling a canoe and they were flying in a jet. My readership went from 100k a month to 3500, then 1100, then less. And my new job was sucking the life out of me.
The Oprah Effect . . .
Then Oprah announced to the world that she had hypothyroidism too. Better yet, the thyroid community had surmised that she has Hashimotos disease – just like me. Oh praise the universe and Belgian dark chocolate! I thought Oprah was going to do for thyroid disease what Michael J. Fox has done for Parkinsons disease. With Oprah aboard maybe we would even find a cure! Maybe she’d even read my blog! All was not lost on the dream front.
But alas, Oprah tends to look at her disease a bit different than conventional doctors, scientists and her sister thyroid sufferers. She has not become the champion for this disease, as I and so many others have hoped.There was no cure or newly funded research coming thanks to Oprah. She wasn’t coming to read my blog.
It appeared that I would have to rely on me.
So I quit the taxing cubicle job and went to work for fellow 8WD dreamer, Heather. She encouraged me to resurrect my mom blog, A Week In The Life of A Redhead with her help and support. She then went on to encourage me to start this 8 Women Dream group, because if Oprah couldn’t help, then dammit, I was going to show women how to help each other.
Now here we are, a little over a year into this dream project and many great things have happened because I decided to help other women with their dreams while working on mine. From that beginning it has morphed into a website where we 8 Women are often more concerned about encouraging the world to dream than to write about our own dreams.
Most days I forget that I have this thyroid problem. I’m too busy helping people dream.
And that’s got to lead to Oprah.
Or more magnificent dreams.
Or maybe even a thyroid cure.
See . . . a hypothyroid girl can still dream.
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Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
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