(image from iheartguts.com)
A few months ago in the dead of winter, I had a regular doctor's appointment and had my blood and hormone levels checked. When my results came back, my doctor was surprised because my hormone levels were out of balance, with my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels being high, indicating an underactive thyroid, aka hypo-thyroidism, but I had not complained of fatigue or any symptoms that are usually associated with this condition. He decided not to treat me yet, but sent me to have an ultrasound on my thyroid and advised for me to come back in 3 months and we would check my blood again. At the time, I didn't really consider my symptoms to be symptoms, I had so much going on, I felt that of course I was not feeling my best- it's winter and I pretty much hate winter, but it seemed whiney at the time to mention these irritations to the doctor.
Late winter is always a very harsh time of year for me, I get cold very easily, and remain so cold that my fingers lose sensation, even if I am inside, wearing gloves, with many layers on, drinking tea, heat on, etc. It's not uncommon for me to feel depressed in February. I had been living with a cold for about 3 weeks, which is not normal for me, and I had also gone through a break-up and was emotionally exhausted from the relationship and the ending of it. I started a new job which was different from what I had been doing before, and I was becoming more serious about pursuing my goal of becoming a yoga teacher, all very stressful changes for me. My wrists hurt every morning, and all of a sudden, my shoulder was hurting intensely. The pain was increasing, and I didn't know how this injury happened. I went to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Grant, and after some tests he said that he thought my shoulder was almost frozen. Not quite frozen, but on it's way to getting there. In layman's terms my rotator cuff was F'ed yo. Dr. Grant also said that there was a connection between my wrist pain and my problematic thyroid- very interesting!
That first visit with Dr. Grant for my shoulder completely wiped me out. It took all of my energy just to do laundry and buy groceries that weekend. It dawned on me that I was legitimately feeling fatigued- I'm usually a very active person. I started piecing together the bits of info my body was telling me and I listened to myself and focused on resting and caring for myself. I was tired of hurting and feeling sluggish, and I couldn't blame it on winter anymore; it wasn't the gray sky, leafless trees and harsh low temperatures that were making me feel bad, it was the way my body was functioning on the inside, and it was clear to me that my immune system was not working at its best.
At this time I remembered that during the previous winter, my GP had said my TSH levels were high but he recommended that I eat more fish and sea veggies, which I did, and 6 months later when I was retested, the levels had balanced out. Though he didn't recommend this path for my recent issue, I decided to try to treat and beat this thyroid thing with diet. I really didn't want to go on medication for the rest of my life, and if it worked before, it should work again. Once I got to thinking about it, I realized that not only had I been lazy about eating fish, but I had stopped eating yogurt, and I ran out of vitamins and had not been taking them for about a month or so. No wonder my immune system was struggling! I did some googling of hypothyroidism and noted that cutting down on gluten cuts down on inflammation and can be very helpful in pain reduction, particularly joint pain, which I was having. Anyway, I called my GP and told him that I wanted to be re-tested, I didn't want to wait 3 months to see how things were going and if I could relieve my pain sooner, I wanted that option.
So for about a month or so, I was diligent about eating fish, seaweed salad, and sushi. I dosed myself daily with Fish-oil vitamins, liquid B, D and multi. I made a point to relax and rest at the end of each day. I lovingly cooked (mainly gluten-free) meals for myself that were way healthier than anything I could get at a restaurant. I cared for my shoulder and nursed it back to health with hot/cold therapy, lots of shoulder opening yoga poses and check-ins with Dr. Grant. I wrapped my wrists with ace bandages. I remained mindful and introspective, noticing if I felt tired and allowed myself to slow down. After a while, I thought I was feeling better, but was very much looking forward to getting my test results back from my GP to see if my diet modification approach had helped.
Sitting across from Dr. Spokojny as he read my chart, I was somewhat disappointed that he didn't seem to share my enthusiasm and wonder at the results. The ultrasound results came back clean, and what do you know, my TSH levels were back to normal! Amazeballs. He was like, yah, I don't see any problem here. He was of course pleased that I didn't have an issue anymore, but wasn't really impressed when I told him that I simply focused on eating fish/fish oil (and vitamins and yogurt) like he had recommended last year. I reminded him that this had happened before and when I took his advice, it helped. I was tickled. The lovely receptionist who has become one of my favorite people to visit with was thrilled when I told her that everything was better, as were my friends and family and of course, myself! I guess Dr. Spokojny is just a tough one to impress.
I have always been a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy diet, being mindful and listening to what your body is telling you. Of course, I don't always follow through and often make choices that end up hurting myself in one way or another, but I try not to beat myself up about it. I was lucky in that obviously my thyroid problem was slight, and my doctor caught it early on. Going through this experience of living with pain and fatigue for several months taught me to really connect with my body in a new way. I tend to be kind to myself and my body when I'm feeling good and strong, but when I'm not feeling good, I find it difficult to love and care for myself; all I want to do is run away and/or self-medicate and eat baked goods. This time, I took responsibility, I took control as I patiently nurtured myself back to health. Though there were days when I felt I took a few steps backward, I tried not to judge myself and just witnessed what was going on. And though my shoulder is still not totally healed, I do generally feel better than I did 3 months ago. I'm not sure if I could have gotten myself to this space without practicing yoga. Yoga has enabled me to slow down, look within, not react, and be more patient with myself. I am so thankful for that.