The Mighty Logo

The Vicious Cycle of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul, and they will never notice how broken you really are.” – Robin Williams

Most people who are close to me now know of my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis diagnosis. People ask me how it’s treated, to which I respond, “A pill a day for the rest of my life” – and that’s that.

Your thyroid is a gland in your neck responsible for major bodily function from head to toe. That means this disease has been affecting me from head to toe.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is my immune system attacking my thyroid gland, thinking it is an invader. This has lead to hypothyroidism which means those attacks on my thyroid have now caused damage. This results in my thyroid’s failure to function properly and produce thyroid hormone. Everything in my body is negatively impacted like metabolism, energy, bowel movements, emotions, skin, hair, nails, memory, concentration, muscles, joints, menstruation, and the list goes on.

Compare it to a bicycle. The person going uphill with fully pumped tires will have much better success than the other person who has flat tires, or even worse, no tires. Individuals diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or hypothyroidism have an internal “bicycle” which is the latter; a bicycle with deflating tires, losing more and more air the further it goes.

Now that I’ve experienced the “highs” from being on prescribed medication for two months, to the “lows” of no medication, which is the way I have been feeling for two years now – I realized I had actually felt close to normal. Everything I had been feeling wasn’t just in my head.

I thought I was just an exhausted adult, and referred to my bouts of depression, anxiety and exhaustion as my “bad brain days.” Putting on the show is the most draining part. Having to smile, converse, be alert and be social is so tiring when I actually feel so fake because I just want to be at home in bed sleeping, or rather, trying to sleep.

August 2017 was when my family doctor diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. After thoroughly researching the thyroid system and how it works, I finally had an explanation as to why I felt so messed up inside. I know most probably haven’t taken a moment to read into it, or open the various links I’ve sent trying to help them understand. And I totally get that. But that’s why I felt this was fitting, so people can finally somewhat get this.

As I’ve said, Hashi’s affects me from head to toe.

The emotional aspect is the hardest. I go from numb, to irritated, to angry, to sad, to annoyed, to guilty, to embarrassed, and then back to numb, all day every day. Then there’s the forgetfulness, mumbling and lack of concentration. People often look at me with questioning looks. On days when I can’t tolerate myself, how am I expected to tolerate society?

Then there’s the physical effects which can be just as traumatizing. The dry skin around my face constantly making me look sick and unhealthy. Dry and brittle hair. Fragile dry nails. A body temperature of the arctic. Not being able to fall asleep, and not being able to stay asleep once I finally do. Completing four or five tasks which exhaust me within two hours, encouraging napping by early afternoon. Nausea creeping up at the most uncomfortable timing, while bowels aren’t cooperating either. And not to mention the menstrual issues. The list goes on.

When I decline an outing, it’s not because I don’t want to go, it’s because I’m not mentally and physically prepared to leave the emotional safety that my home provides me. I wish I could do the “normal people things” as easily as others, but most days I just can’t.

It’s a vicious cycle in every way; my mental health is affected by my physical health and vice versa. Hashi’s creates such a feeling of isolation and I don’t think anyone really gets it, myself included.

Everyday is a battle between my head, heart, and well, my immune system. I do want to help myself and heal myself, but this is so huge and new to me. I don’t even know where to begin.

Think about your last cold, and how icky you felt all week. Think about your anxiety sitting on a roller coaster waiting for it to start. Think about how you felt trying to fit in first week of high school. Think about your last morning after a horrible sleep. Think about the guilt you felt last time you let someone down. These are the things I feel every day, and they just spring up on me with no just cause. Sure there are times when smiles and laughs distract me from the negatives, but that general feeling of just not being well is always lingering. Think about those two cyclists from the beginning of this, and how different they are going to feel, both mentally and physically, after their own journeys up that hill.

I may look OK (makeup does wonders), but the things going on inside my body and head are a whole other world that I’m just finally exposing to others, and exploring more of for myself.

All I want from friends and family is their patience, empathy, understanding and unconditional love. I just need you to listen, give me space when needed, but be close when things get rough. Don’t take things I say or do personally. Try to understand how I’m feeling. Know that what I say isn’t being “over dramatic,” ‘”paranoid” or “lazy.” What may not seem real for you is complete reality to me. Hashimoto’s is real, and does make a difference to quality of life. All I ask, is you try to understand it with me.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Gettyimage by: Dreya Novak

Originally published: December 14, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home