I’ve just passed the first anniversary of my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease. So much has changed in this year. It has been a year of putting the pieces together and figuring out the many components of my healing journey. I feel so much better than a year ago that it’s kind of hard to believe.
There is still healing to do, and that is one of the hardest things for me. I feel good so I want to move on to other things, and then I have a bad day and feel like I must drop everything and go back to figuring out what’s wrong with me. On those days I panic, “maybe the things that are still wrong will do serious damage! Maybe I need to get on to them right away to avoid a future crisis!” Or maybe I just need to relax and put life in perspective.
When I stop to step back and take the long view, I remember that “a bad day” used to mean holding my head because it ached and ached and ached; it meant blurry vision and telling my kids to be quiet for a moment because I was trying to think and couldn’t think through the pain and blurriness plus their noise; it meant no talking in the car because I could not manage my pain and driving and talking; it meant a shorter temper and flying off the handle at kids or husband - often both; it meant endless worry and confusion about ‘why is this happening?’ And those days were very, very long.
Looking back I see the cascade: pain leading to confusion and worry, confusion and worry leading to feeling down, feeling down leading to more confusion and worry. If I had a bad day it could easily lead to a bad week of this chain of physical and emotional symptoms. I spent a year and a bit in this acute phase: bad days leading to bad weeks with little or no chance of a good day in between. I wondered constantly what was wrong with me? Why was I feeling so much anger physically building in my body, or why I did I have a headache every time I ate anything?
But now that I’ve spent a year on the Autoimmune Protocol for my Hashimoto’s Disease, and a few months of a low histamine diet for my Histamine Intolerance, I feel amazingly better. Most of my symptoms are gone or greatly lessened, and my auto-antibodies are coming down. Now, a “new bad day” means a 10 minute headache a few times a day, and I can usually say “it was the terrible night’s sleep” or “the kids are stressing me out” or “my period is coming”; it means a tiny bit of histamine-induced blurry vision (but this is so rare now it’s not even usually part of a bad day); it means getting a bit grouchy with the kids or my husband, (but not screaming my head off); it means wondering if maybe I ate something…but then saying no the food isn’t likely the trigger - you’ve got that one sorted.
Comparing “where I was” to “where I am now” has become an important tool for me. I like to call it “perspective building,” and it has become a part of my life. Not daily, but at least a few times a week. And so as I compare the bad days I used to have to my “new” bad days, I see that really my new bad day means I am healing, I am getting better. I no longer have horrific days or weeks or months, I have the occasional day when I don’t feel as good as I want to. But this means that I usually feel good. It means that I have days without headaches or grouchiness most of the time, and that occasionally the headaches and temper are worse than normal. This is a state of affairs that I hoped and dreamed for but often thought would never ever happen. So I can see that the thing to do with a “bad day” is to be grateful that my reality is now full of normal days with a few bad ones, rather than terrible days with a few less terrible.
It’s from this point of view, of a person with autoimmune disease who is healing, that I look back in horror at the initial recommendations of my conventional GP. She said, “wait 6 months and have another blood test, when your thyroid stops functioning normally (my autoantibodies were high but my other thyroid numbers were in the normal range) we can talk about synthetic thyroid hormone replacements.” That was it. No treatment, no hope. Just certain doom. I felt horrible on a daily basis, and yet she had nothing to offer me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of the hopelessness and terror that those initial statements wrought in me, and how they still affect so many people who find the same lack of answers from conventional medicine. I was lucky, I knew about the Autoimmune Protocol before I was diagnosed, so even as I was being given a life sentence, I knew there was another way and that was the way I was bound. But for so many people this vision of ever worsening health is all that they have when they are presented with a diagnosis of autoimmune disease, and this is not a state of affairs that I am willing to tolerate. Instead, I am going to do my small part to bring to light the fact that there are ways of healing autoimmune disease and other chronic health problems. This is why I’m training as a Functional Medicine Health Coach: I want to be the voice of hope and healing.