It has been said before, but for the sake of being British and loving a good old moan, I’ll say it again. Being a teen was an awkward period of time. I mean, what with spots, awkward growth (or lack of), and society blaming everything on “today’s generation”-it really was shit. Not that we cared.
But being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid disease was another attribute added onto my list. For those who are not aware, the thyroid gland is located in your throat and releases a hormone which affects one’s metabolism, thereby affecting heart rate and weight/growth. Thus, a deficiency in such a hormone would mean a slow and sluggish metabolism, and vice versa. The fun doesn’t stop there. To counter-act this hormone imbalance, a “victim” of this disease has to take daily medication…for eternity. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid hormone itself-thereby self-inflicting this otherwise unnecessary bother. Thank you immune system.
Now, my mum and uncle were already suffering from underactive thyroid (hereditary), so it wasn’t such an alien concept that I was going to feel drained and tired…a lot. But, waking up and feeling tired? Having a beautiful 8 hour solid kip and still feeling drained, with the weight of the world on your shoulders, dragging your mind, body and soul around all day.
Let’s go back to the beginning; I was diagnosed at the age of 14…but I believe that if we were aware of the situation and Doctors reacted quicker, a potential diagnosis could have occurred when I was 11-12 (my year 6 pictures are awful). I was grossly overweight and short. I was hit with the lack of height like a missile to the top of my head; even now standing at a measly 4″11…okay 4″10. We’ll get to that later. Pre-diagnosis, I think 3 different Doctors told me to lay off the fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate…which I didn’t eat because I had a strict mother and a lack of appetite. They also told me to exercise more, to which I mentally told them to “Do one”. Finally, a fourth Doctor instantly wanted to check my thyroid. After a blood test the results came back dangerously low, an emergency appointment was issued, and I was immediately put on a dose of 75 mcg Levothyroxine. This gradually increased to 200mcg and overtime it went up-and-down trying to find the perfect balance. Eventually, I settled on 150 mcg, which is the dose I’m on to this day at the age of 21. During that period, my weight and height were also monitored as well as my menstrual cycle, and any other side effects I was experiencing, namely migraines. The migraines were the worst and I am affected by them to this day. Nothing like a good old migraine to kick-start the day.
Now for the good bit. The positive side effects were amazing. I was rapidly losing weight and loving it with no exercise involved whatsoever! ( I love to work-out now but at the time I was a lazy teenager remember). My body felt more alert to my surroundings and I became more outgoing as a person. My height was still not improving and after a bone scan we realised that that wasn’t going to change much. And, true to science, it didn’t. My lack of growth was a big deal to some more than others, and I’d put it down to shock. If you were to look at my family in a photograph…we look pretty funny. I have two brothers who stand at 6 foot, as does my father, my mum is around 5″4, which is pretty average for a Pakistani. To put this into perspective, my younger brother, who is now 5, measures just below my chin so by the time he’s 10 I’m pretty sure he’ll be taller than me. Definitely by the time he’s 12, as I have the average height of a 12 year old boy. Have a little giggle at that before we move on.
The ugly side effects emerged later.My grades slipped-my concentration and focus were awful-coupled with a dysfunctional family life-I went from an A grade student to an average B-C grade student. Not cool. As someone who has always loved books and studying, if I have one regret in life, it is not putting in that extra effort that I should have, and working that extra bit harder. In hindsight, school wasn’t that bad though, I’d come home take a nap, wake up do homework etc. University was hard. Keeping up with the student life and studying simultaneously, was hard. The migraines were persistent and made me want to pass out to end the pain. From my own personal research, I felt like I had experienced most of the symptoms that come with underactive thyroid (even when on medication): hair thinning, dry skin, joint/muscle pains, depression etc. It was not simply just “tiredness”. So, when people called me “Grandma” or “lazy”, believe this when I say, I could have punched them straight in the face…if it wasn’t for the migraine penetrating my left eye. It is always my left eye. None of that stopped me from living my student years to the full, and I managed to graduate with a 2:1 in a BA Law degree.
On a more serious note, I know that depression can become a major difficulty in the life of someone with thyroid problems. It is very real and especially prominent in this fast-paced society, where we are all trying to keep up-it can have an impact fast. Living in a world where it is easy to alienate yourself-unless you want to be found- depression can be dangerous for someone who doesn’t have a solid support system around them. If I ever felt like my emotions were running out of control, I would pick up a pen and write it all down. Some don’t have that outlet.
On that cheerful note, I would like to end this by saying that some problems don’t appear so serious until we experience them ourselves. If someone is in pain do not mock that pain, but try to understand the reasoning behind it. Yes, it’s true, some people have a habit of moaning about their problems, which are somewhat trivial, but sometimes it is very real and very constant, just not in plain view therefore harder to comprehend. To those who do have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease, I hope you do not think I have exaggerated it and that you can share this experience with someone who understands; to those who do not have this, I hope you appreciate that sometimes people just feel tired…because.
Note: This is my personal experience of it, not everyone will have this experience. Furthermore, it’s not an excuse for underachievement, this has to be emphasised. Anyone can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.