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How I've Learned to Balance the Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

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I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, meaning my immune system is attacking my thyroid gland.

Apparently it’s a fairly common disease, even though I only know of one other person with it and had never heard of it before my own diagnosis.

I was diagnosed shortly after I turned 20. For years, every doctor I went to told me my thyroid was enlarged. They asked if it hurt, I said no, and that was the end of it. It wasn’t until I went back to my family doctor in my hometown that someone thought that I should get it checked out just in case. She sent me to an endocrinologist who checked some of my old blood work. The results were startling. My hormone levels were all out of whack and he was very concerned. But, because the blood work was a few months old he wanted to double check and had me go again. Everything came back normal.

I don’t know what constitutes “bad” for hormones levels but whatever my results were the first time were bad. The endocrinologist said he was surprised I was able to recover, but that I would have to get blood work done every six months just in case.

What’s strange about my thyroid levels coming back normal is still experiencing many of the symptoms, including unexplained weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, aching in my hips, stiffness in my shoulders, pain in my knees, stomach pain, menorrhagia, depression, fatigue, and sensitivity to cold.

Until the diagnosis (halfway through my sophomore year in college), I had no idea that all of these things were related. I was always cold compared to everyone else in the room and my hair started falling out in high school. At the very end of my senior year of high school the knee pain started, and then the fatigue, shoulder stiffness. Everything else started in college.

Freshman year my roommate and I would always take naps around 4 p.m. I knew it wasn’t “normal,” but since my roommate did it too, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t realize until a year or so later that it was a problem. I couldn’t sign up for classes after 3 p.m. otherwise I would fall asleep. Even if I drank energy drinks or a lot of coffee, I could not keep my eyes open. Once 3 o’ clock hit, I was completely burned out.

The pain and stiffness in my shoulders started later that year. I never really thought anything of it and assumed that it was just stress.

When I realized I was gaining weight, I started eating healthier and working out. It didn’t help. Even now, I work out six times a week for at least 30 minutes — high intensity interval training (HIIT) two or three times a week, and strength training every Saturday. Sometimes knee pain would prevent me from working out, but I still keep up a pretty good routine. I eat a pretty balanced diet, and occasionally cut out sweets for months at a time.

I think what shocked me the most was the depression. Some days I just woke up feeling so low. I had no motivation for anything. I had to fight to get out of bed, I didn’t want to go to class, to deal with people, I didn’t even feel like reading (which says a lot). I just referred to those days as “bad days,” but I had no idea what was causing them. Even my mentor would pull me into her office and ask what was wrong and all I could say was “I don’t know. I’m just don’t feel like doing anything today.”

I’m at least glad to know there is a reason for all of these things. The problem is, I can’t be treated for any of them at the moment. Not until there’s a change in my hormone levels again. It sucks, but for the time being I just remind myself there’s a reason why these things happen.

Sometimes the best I can do is not do anything. On “bad days” sometimes I skip my workout, stay in bed, and sleep. Otherwise, I would be miserable for the entire day. Luckily I don’t have multiple days like that in a row. They sort of just pop up once in a while.

So for now, I guess I’m just dealing with it. My next appointment is at the end of December, so maybe I’ll have some good news then. We’ll see.

Follow this journey on Bookmark Chronicles

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Originally published: October 20, 2016
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