Grieving for the Person I Was Before Hypothyroidism
Before 20, the age at which I started experiencing hypothyroid symptoms that really interfered with my life and became a problem, I was an incredibly busy, active and driven person.
I had completed 5ks, had a constantly full diary of social activities and events and prided myself on my spotless home. I would walk two miles to work and two miles back home before tidying the house and starting dinner every evening. After dinner, I’d go to my dance class, go for a run with my other half or catch up on orders and product making for our business, which was run entirely in the evenings. I was ridiculously busy and able to maintain a full-time job, our own small business, the perfect home, regular exercise sessions and a busy social life. I felt happy and fulfilled. I was a regular 20-year-old. I never felt tired and I bounced out of bed in the morning. I was the friend who organized everything and enjoyed doing so. I was always organizing outings, parties and trips. I was like a Duracell bunny!
My future looked bright as I imagined buying a house with my other half one day and starting a family, and I was at the beginning of my career in event management. I imagined being a high-flying mum who did well in her career but was hands-on with her children and was great at keeping an organized home. I’d have dinner on the table at 5:00 and have the kids washed and in bed by 7:00 before putting my feet up for the evening. I imagined that I would feel satisfied with life and would have accomplished a lot, being good at what I did and as efficient as I was at 20.
But then, aged 20, I started experiencing random leg cramps and spasms, migraines and a constant feeling of never waking up feeling refreshed, even after a lot of sleep. After six months of feeling this way and only feeling worse as time went by, I started to research and Google my symptoms. I discovered I likely had an underactive thyroid, despite doctors telling me that nothing was wrong with me.
I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s and chronic fatigue syndrome a few months later, and, while I finally had an answer for how unwell I felt, my life was also about to change drastically.
Having also been told I had adrenal fatigue and that all of these conditions were the cause for my depression and anxiety disorder, I soon realized I could no longer be the friend who made all the effort in maintaining relationships and bore all the responsibility for meet-ups and events. It wore me down and I didn’t have the energy anymore. This was kind of a blessing in disguise.
It dawned on me that I may struggle to conceive and carry children to full-term one day, and I will need a lot of extra help in raising them due to my newly diagnosed chronic illnesses. I won’t be as efficient as I once believed. Caring for someone else suddenly seemed really scary when I was now needing a lot of help myself.
I had to accept I couldn’t be as active as I once was – walking 10 miles a week, playing badminton twice a week, running once a week and dancing once a week was not doable anymore.
I had to accept that my house wasn’t always going to be as clean and tidy as it used to be because I had to learn to prioritize my energy (“spoons“) and I quite frankly didn’t have the energy anymore to spend time every day cleaning.
I learned that my body wasn’t as strong and capable as it once was and that some days I would be forgetful, achey and fatigued beyond words. I’d also catch illnesses easier and take longer to recover from them compared to other people my age. I started missing a lot of time off work. I began living in a world of brain fog and low energy.
I had to learn to mourn the person I was before I developed hypothyroidism, as well as the life I imagined I would have. Everything was going to be different now.
I’ve been diagnosed for almost two years now, and yes, I’ve accepted how my life and I have changed, with the limitations and many ups and downs that living with hypothyroidism brings, but I do still get frustrated and miss who I once was and what I was able to do. So much more easily, too.
I still find it difficult when I get home and the place is messy, yet I don’t have the energy to clean up or wash the pots and pans. Instead, I have to sit and look at it as I wait for my “spoons” to recharge just a little so I can go for a shower. Because I still like living in a clean and tidy environment – that hasn’t changed – but my ability to maintain that has diminished quite a bit. I’ve lost some independence and the ability to do what I desire. I’m stuck in this shell of a body that is working against me and what my mind tells it to do. What my mind says and what my body does are very different.
I can no longer enjoy a busy exercise routine and only tend to walk these days. When I can manage it.
I especially miss being able to work out a few times a week, building muscle and tone, and the buzz it gave me when I surpassed a personal best. I miss the adrenaline rush and how invigorating it felt to run and play badminton. I miss just being able to do what I liked without running out of energy. I never had to plan my energy usage like I do now.
However, what I do not miss is blaming myself for failing to have the energy to complete my workout, as my hypothyroidism was developing and I wasn’t yet diagnosed. I would beat myself up and tell myself I was lazy. I was hard on myself.
I don’t miss being the sole friend in charge of organizing everything and putting in all the effort to maintain friendships. By no longer having the energy to dedicate to chasing people and realizing it was causing me a lot of stress in the process, I’ve learned who my real friends are, and some have been forced to step up in making the effort, too.
I have learned to appreciate the small things; sure, I’m still a neat freak, but I’m able to leave a pot to be washed tomorrow and the laundry to be ironed another day – instead of freaking out over it and always being on the move, cleaning and tidying. I’m forced to rest more, which gives me more time to enjoy binge-watching a TV show, having a cuddle with my other half, reading books and writing blogs. It’s put a lot of things into perspective and made me realize what is and isn’t important – and people who drag you down certainly are not worth wasting your time on.
I’ve learned that I’m not Superwoman and I can prioritize things better now, although I’m still struggling with this. I often forget that I can’t quite do all of what I used to and I need to ask for help at times.
My life is different and always will be since being diagnosed with a thyroid problem, but I need to learn to embrace this and think about what it’s taught me and how much of a better person I will be because of it instead of what I’ve “lost.” I have grieved for the person I once was and the life I once had, but it was never destined to be that way. Now I have to strive to do the best with what I’ve got.
I have grieved for my active lifestyle, my ability to be efficient, my mind that once worked quickly and clear of degeneration. I have grieved for a life without anxiety and depression (which I am forever slipping in and out of again). I have grieved for my independence and ability to do all that I wish to. I have grieved for my unwavering ability to be exactly who I wanted to be. I have grieved for the high-flying career I know I’ll likely never have (but won’t stop striving for) due to my intense fatigue, slow brain and many other symptoms that make me need time off work.
I have grieved for who I once was and the life I wanted to have.
This post originally appeared on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.
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Thinkstock photo via bruniewska.