It all started with these simple words, “You had a ruptured ovarian cyst”.
“Ok, great,” I thought. “But what does that mean?”
The answer wasn’t black or white. It could be a one time occurrence. It could be a result of putting my body through a lot of stress, an imbalance with my hormones. Could be PCOS? Could be ovarian cancer? Could be all of the above? The only certainty was that if I wanted to figure out what was going on I would need to spend more time, more money, more doctor’s visits, and more tests to figure out what was going on with my body.
For reasons I won’t go into here, rightly or wrongly I didn’t immediately schedule a bunch of follow up appointments.
During the following months I did not feel like myself. I was tired. Drained. Depressed. Cynical. Breaking out in acne. Feeling physical pain all over my body. Low libido. Feeling sluggish. Not wanting to be around people I once cared about. And the worst part about it (yeah worse than my body hating me and feeling like shit) was the brain fog I experienced. It seemed that I had lost my ability to quickly assess situations and my sharpness in my thinking. My brainpower was 98.4% of what I had going for me, so feeling like I was losing it was crushing.
At the start of the new calendar year, and months after the initial rupture, in late January, I was visiting my parents when I decided to check in on my weight. I don’t actually own a scale, so am mostly oblivious to my weight (aligned with my belief that weight is not an indicator of health), but I felt the urge to check in, especially given all these other symptoms I had, and that my body felt swollen all of the time.
I had gained 10 pounds in a couple months.
As a teenager that would’ve been worth celebrating, since I had been severely underweight (a story for another day), and for anyone who never exercised and ate junk,10 pounds in a couple months wouldn’t have been surprising. For me, and anyone who really knows me, it was shocking. I am the healthiest person I know. I exercise, I eat super clean, drink enough water, and none of this had changed over the course of those months. If anything I was eating cleaner, doing more physical activity, sleeping more, and drinking more water. It didn’t make sense.
It wasn’t the weight gain alone scared me. It was the fact that this 10% increase in my weight over such a short period of time, with no visible explanation as to why this happened, definitely did not seem normal. Seeing this was the kick in the butt I needed to finally schedule some follow up appointments with my doctor.
Unfortunately, my original doctor moved to a new city, so it took me over a month to find a new doctor and get a new appointment. Finally, when I did, I shared my story and symptoms (acne, weight gain, low libido, depressed, irritable, fatigued all the time, ruptured cyst, brain fog), and my new doctor put me through some blood tests and urine tests to get some markers.
Though my previous doctor was pretty bullish that I had PCOS, my new doctor wasn’t convinced.
The results came back.
“Hypo-what?!” I asked. I had never heard of this before. I knew what a thyroid was, and I knew that one of my friends had surgery on hers. That’s about all I knew about it. From all I could tell it sounded like something only old people could get…not someone in her mid twenties.
Eventually, I came to find that every symptom I was facing was due to my underactive thyroid. You see, the thyroid regulates metabolism, so if your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism slows down and you gain weight. Oh and you get acne like you’re going through puberty because your hormones can be out of whack. Oh and you’re depressed because of hormones being out of whack. And you’re exhausted. Basically your thyroid is pretty dang important and if it rebels against you, so does your body and your mind.
It felt good to know what was going on. It made me ease up on myself for feeling like I was a mental and physical mess. It wasn’t my fault. It was my thyroid’s fault.
Once I knew what was going on then I could actively pursue doing something to get better. Of course I asked the doctor what I needed to do. Unfortunately it’s not a quick fix. We’d start with some medication that I would take daily. She prescribed me a natural form of thyroid, which actually comes from a pig’s thyroid (good thing I’m no longer a vegetarian), and recommended a few dietary and lifestyle changes as well:
- 3 brazil nuts per day, to get more selenium
- Eat more iodine, in the form of sea vegetables especially
- Drink matcha green tea powder daily, for the antioxidants
- Eat fresh parsley and cilantro daily
- Take a thyroid supplement daily
The more I read and spoke with people, the more I learned about the recovery I had ahead of me and what else I could do to heal my thyroid. First, I learned that it takes some people years to feel back to normal. That it’s about finding the right balance of medication and figuring out a lifestyle that is healthy for you. A couple tips that I picked up along the way:
- Eat less cruciferous vegetables, because they carry goitrogens which interfere with thyroid production
- Eat more carbs.
- Exercise less. Be easy on your body. Do less intense exercise. Walk. Practice yoga.
- Use a steam room and sauna to detoxify toxins from the body
- Meditate daily.
I started to do most of these things pretty religiously. I don’t always drink matcha green tea daily. Nor do I always steam. And I do still eat kale. But I incorporate a lot of these activities into my lifestyle.
I’m happy to report that now, almost 6 months into this journey, I am feeling so much better. I’ve lost the 10 pounds I gained. My acne is clearing up (though still not back to completely clear skin). My energy level is great. I’m no longer depressed. My libido is better. And I’m no longer cynical and annoyed by people I care about. I’ve regained my zest for life. My mind and body have recovered.
As far as my blood levels go, my last checkin about a month ago showed my TSH levels (a measure of thyroid) to be trending back to where they should be. They’re not all the way there yet, but they’re close.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me along this journey. My friends who put up with my depressed self. My fellow hypothyroid people who shared tips, tricks, and empathy. My mom for always answering the phone when I called to complain, cry, or just wanted someone to talk to. My sister, the nutritionist/dietitian who shared tips.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with hypothyroid, please feel free to connect with me. It’s helped me so much to chat with other people who have gone through this, so I’m more than happy to pay it forward and help others as well.
Read more about the causes and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and find out about the 28-day plan to restore your thyroid function on Dr. Amy Mysters’ new book, The Thyroid Connection.
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