I always considered myself strong – not just emotionally but, more so, physically.
I could count in my five fingers the very few instances that I had to be hospitalized. Very rarely do I get to suffer from common ailments such as flu, fever, colds or cough. My immune system was in impeccable condition. My genes were seemingly wiped clean of the genetic anomalies that plagued my family tree. Even my three pregnancies years ago were almost without discomfort and pain!
Being healthy worked perfectly well for me because, as a stay-at-home wife and mother, I cannot afford to get sick. So much rests upon my shoulders. Just one day of absence from my daily grind would have a ripple effect, or rather, in my family’s case, a crippling effect.
So, for a long time, I thought of myself as invincible.
Until around six years ago.
Yes, it was six years ago when I had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It was six years ago when my illusions of strength and invincibility shattered into tiny pieces. It was six years ago when the reality that I’m not a superwoman immune from physical weaknesses hit me and brought me back down to earth with a resounding thud. It was six years ago when my life had taken a 180-degree turn and underwent a drastic change.
And, ever since then, my life as I knew it had never been the same again.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone is necessary for the health of all the cells in the body, with effects on growth, development and metabolism. Without enough thyroid hormone, many of the body’s functions slow down. Hypothyroidism is especially prevalent among women (in US, for instance, about 4.6% of the population has hypothyroidism), but a great majority of cases remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because most of the symptoms are the same as those of other diseases.
This often overlooked condition has a lot of symptoms (though it may also be asymptomatic in some cases), but those that particularly struck me are the following:
- Unexplained weight gain. Like celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Janice de Belen and Sharon Cuneta who had also been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I found myself on the heavy side of the scale. Regardless of the immense effort I put in dieting and exercising, I still gain unwanted pounds. Gradually, but steadily.
- Lack of energy and stamina/chronic fatigue/sluggishness. Even if I regularly take multivitamins and other supplements, I still tire easily. Adrenaline is the only thing that keeps me going early in the day. But, after my husband and kids leave, I’m like a lifeless ragdoll. There were even days when I was still driving my kids to school that I would fall asleep right there in front of the school immediately after dropping them off!
- Depression/mood instability. It’s not unlike having postpartum blues, or premenstrual syndrome, or midlife crisis depression, or post-menopausal syndrome. And, it strikes when I least expect it. Sometimes, I think my husband suspects that he’s married to a lunatic!
- Hair loss. I sometimes cry in the bathroom over the amount of hair that falls off my scalp. I already tried all the anti-hairfall shampoo and conditioner in the market, but to no avail. I even foolishly had a Complete Blood Count test done on me one time just to be sure that I didn’t have leukemia!
- Memory lapses. My daily chores are affected by this memory problem. I usually forget things – where I left something, if I had already put salt into the dish I’m cooking, if I had already taken my meds, if I had already fed the dogs, or if I had already turned off the light or the faucet. Once, I even left my sandals in the parking area of the market! I can only manage to complete routinary tasks solely because my body remembers what my mind fails to.
- Elevated cholesterol level. I’ve been using, for years now, canola oil as the healthy substitute to the more common cooking oils. Also, I’ve already been maintaining two kinds of anti-lipid drugs. But, still, my cholesterol level continues to steadily rise that I fear I might one day suffer from stroke just like what happened to Kim Atienza.
- Muscle aches and joint pains. There are mornings when I wake up as if I just finished a full marathon instead of waking up from a long, restful night of slumber.
- Slow thought processes. I’m not very comfortable talking with other people because during conversations, I tend to forget even the most common words or I get lost in my own train of thought. I sometimes have difficulty understanding simple logic or following someone’s story. Talking to my husband and kids, though, proves to be easier because they have the uncanny ability to grasp what I want to convey and to finish my sentences for me.
Six years ago, when I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism after countless visits to the doctor and various diagnostic tests, I was prescribed with little white pills that would synthetically compensate for my insufficient thyroid hormones. When I started to take those pills, things amazingly changed! Yes, I can never get back to my tiptop pre-hypothyroidism health condition, but neither am I stuck with that dark cloud of incompetence, worthlessness and hopelessness that used to enfold me. At least, I can again sense a modicum of normalcy in my life now. I can go back to the things I do best – being a wife to my understanding and loving husband and a mother to my beautiful kids. Life is good.
To conclude, if there’s one thing that I realized throughout this whole ordeal or a lesson learned from this journey, it is the importance of the things that should really matter – family, friendships, time well spent, health, compassion, gratitude, contentment and faith in the Almighty.
For an informative video about hypothyroidism, watch this.
To watch a slideshow on the thyroid symptoms and solutions, click this.