This week was Thyroid awareness week. Admittedly I missed most of it because I wasn’t aware it was happening. So rather belatedly I wanted to share a bit of my own experience as a Hashimoto’s patient. It has taken me a while to get here but I can truly now say “Thank you Hashimoto’s”. Having Hashimoto’s has been a life changing experience. It has included some very, very low points, when I was incredibly ill. However it has also led to some very positive changes in my life.
Prior to getting ill I had always been a very active, work driven person. I used to get up at 5am to go swimming before work and before getting my first symptoms I had been working crazy hours. I distinctly remember feeling as if something snapped at the end of a particularly crazy week. Shortly after I started coming down with the first symptoms.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid condition where the body attacks the thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism. The symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, depression, dry skin, and joint ache. In my case I was first diagnosed with depression, most of my other symptoms getting confused as being part of the depression. Months later I was then diagnosed with hypothyroidism, after a blood test due to something totally unrelated. It was only years later, and after being so ill I had days I could hardly talk or physically get out of bed, that I finally got my Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
From the moment I first became ill I struggled. I could no longer do early mornings, I needed tons more sleep and I battled with fatigue and depression. Thanks to the Hashimoto’s diagnosis I was finally able to make some lifestyle changes and again my life changed. I am now very strict about stress levels, sleep and doing exercise daily, in the form of yoga and often also a daily walk. Changing my diet to the Autoimmune Protocol Diet also had a huge impact.
Thanks to my Hashimoto’s I now put my health first. I have learnt to appreciate what I have and have learnt that it is okay to have bad days. I do not feel guilty about having a sofa day or having to cancel things because I am tired. I am open about my health, and firm about my boundaries. The biggest impact though is my work boundaries. I am very clear with my clients that I have an autoimmune disease and what this means. As long as I look after my health the impact is negligible. It does mean though I cannot do continuous late nights and very early mornings have to be an exception, not the norm. I now have a much healthier approach to work and as a result I think I am much more productive.
Meanwhile I see friends and colleagues drowning in unhealthy work practices. Not only do I see their health suffering but also the quality of their work. Unlike myself they do not feel comfortable putting those work life boundaries in place – and standing up for them. I have seen friends have breakdowns and either leave or go off long term sick. Neither is a good option for anyone, including their employers. For some the lockdown was a nightmare as they no longer had the physical boundary of the work place – being able to close down and physically leave their laptops. They have seen their work hours extend as they struggle to close their laptops or ignore an after-hours calls from their boss. For me my boundaries are the same whether I work from home or an office.
And so I say thank you to my Hashimoto’s. It has made me re-asses what really matters and has given me a reason to push back (not that one should need one). I monitor my health and stress levels because this not only impacts the quality of my work but also my entire wellbeing. Because of my Hashimoto’s I constantly have to watch my diet and lifestyle and I do need to take care. The symptoms when they flare up can be brutal. Despite this though I now have a much better quality of life. I feel far more serene and happy – and I have no issue defending this new state of being. Work is important but health and wellbeing is even more important. My Hashimoto’s is a burden but also a blessing for which I am grateful.