Accepting I'll Never Be as Healthy as I Once Was
Follow this journey on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.
Iʼd say the most commonly asked question when people are diagnosed with a chronic illness and (often) given medication for it is: “When will I feel all better
And as humans, weʼre terrible for making comparisons.
As Spoonies, we often compare ourselves to non-chronically ill people, feeling as if we have to keep up with them and do all that they do. We can also compare ourselves to other ill people and have thoughts such as, “They handle living with their health condition better than me.” And perhaps worst of all, we compare ourselves to an old version of ourselves: “Old me used to be able to do this fine,” “Old me was better at keeping it together,” “Old me was more energetic, funny and happy… I miss the old me.”
What we go through when we shift from a regular, healthier life to a life of living with a chronic health condition such as hypothyroidism, when we realize that we may never feel 100 percent “normal” again, is a period of grieving. I donʼt think itʼs unreasonable to say that most people who go from being a relatively healthy person to suddenly having a lifelong health condition, grieve. For some, they grieve for months, years or the rest of their lives, for the life that they used to have. Also often wondering what life they could have had, had they not gotten sick.
And whilst I’ve been in that grieving place, wondering “why me?” “this isnʼt fair,” and “when will I feel all better again?” itʼs important to come to peace with the fact that you probably wonʼt ever feel as healthy as you once did. That person who could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, with little consequence and totally carefree — they probably wonʼt be coming back.
I’m not saying that you’ll be terribly ill for the rest of your life — the very point of my blog and The Invisible Hypothyroidism is to help other thyroid patients on their way back to living a better quality of life, but you must understand that the likeliness of being 100 percent healthy as you were before is low. Instead, you’ll learn to adjust and adapt to living a little differently yet still feeling fulfilled and relatively healthy. But it won’t be exactly the same.
For example, my health is very good these days compared to when I was at my most ill with hypothyroidism, and my life is very full and active. But I still have to accept the changes that have got me here. I’ll be gluten-free for the rest of my life, on thyroid medication, eating and drinking as healthily as possible and having to manage my energy levels so as not to burn out or have a flare up. Yes, my health is pretty good, but it’s not 100 percent like it was when I was 15 as I won’t be able to go back to eating gluten, not taking thyroid medication and expelling energy without having to think about it at all. Doing that will take me backwards in my health. These are changes that I have to upkeep forever to stay on track to a good quality life.
Learning to accept your new life, itʼs limitations and the way everything has changed is liberating. Sure, you’ll need to adjust, adapt and learn how to do some things again, but you’ll figure it all out.
I spent the first part of my thyroid journey in denial, with the belief that I could put all these pieces back together and go back to being exactly as I was before my health took a turn for the worse, and there’s nothing more upsetting than failing at it time and time again. Because, soon enough, you realize your thyroid isn’t just magically going to work properly again.
I’ve come a long way since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and have thankfully made a lot of progress in how well I feel since then. In fact, Iʼm feeling the best mentally and physically in years, but itʼs not come without accepting some things. Going gluten-free, enforcing an actual sleep routine and sticking to it, being more strict with what I eat and drink and learning how to better manage my energy levels and plan activities wisely, have all helped me make progress to get me here.
My life looks very different than how it did before I got sick.
Even though Iʼm feeling very good these days, my life still looks very different.
I’ve made huge steps in my health and live a good quality of life, but that hasn’t come without make adjustments and learning to live differently. And most importantly, accepting them.
Fixating on the idea that your health will go straight back to how it once was when you’ve been diagnosed with a lifelong condition isnʼt realistic and youʼre only setting yourself up to feel disappointed and somewhat bitter. Learn to strive for better health but not perfect health. As a chronic perfectionist, I’ve learned this the hard way!
Accepting that you’ll never be quite as healthy or carefree in regards to your health as you once were, but striving for better health whilst aware of this, is OK and actually very necessary for your journey forward.
Work to improve your health and put the thyroid jigsaw pieces back together, but please don’t obsess over being 100 percent fixed. Ninety percent fixed with some adjustments and acceptance is still an excellent target to aim for.
Getty photo by kieferpix