This morning my daughter turned on the movie Rio, laughing at the silly birds and their swirling colors. I got a little misty-eyed as I was mixing up her hot chocolate, and then I remembered why — a tiny slice of life that comes back in a burst of red and blue and emerald green.
After two years of off and on attempts at finding what was wrong with me, when my daughter was a year and a half old I finally found a doctor who would listen to me. Or, to be more accurate, an ARNP. I had been in and out of my insurance-covered primary care physician’s office, and he just told me I was tired because I was a mother, and that I needed to be patient with weight loss. After two or three bouts of weeping and Googling I found that my symptoms, although vague, matched with hypothyroidism. Specifically, I found the information about Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome to be very useful. Most importantly, it gave me something to test. I got out my basal thermometer and bought a glucose meter and started charting my body temperature and blood sugar. Even though I had felt terrible and run-down for a while, I was surprised to find that my body temperature was often below 97.0, sometimes hanging out as low as 95.9. I also had blood sugar levels as low as 49 mg/dL, where most people start to feel bad below about 70 mg/dL.
Armed with my handwritten temperature and blood sugar charts, I took one last shot and made an appointment with the holistic ARNP, paying out of pocket because her medicine isn’t “real” medicine, I suppose. She took one look at me and said she could see my thyroid from across the room, it was so enlarged, and after a quick exam she ordered some tests, and a week later I came back. She told me there was a problem — I had a high Reverse T3 count — and I started crying in her office, not because of the news but because I had news. I wasn’t just fat and lazy and doomed to stay that way.
The whole experience made me into a bit more of a feminist than I had been, and I wondered immediately how many other women are walking around with undiagnosed thyroid problems because the symptoms are what we expect from mothers: exhaustion, depression, low libido, high body weight, constant hunger. It took me almost two years to get a diagnosis — or even to find someone who would test me for something besides TSH imbalance — and I was actively trying to find a solution. Imagine if I didn’t trust my body enough to believe that there was a problem?
It comes down to this — for months, I was literally starving myself. I did the little calorie calculator online and found that my body at its post-baby weight was using about 1600-1700 calories a day, so I cut my intake first to 1400 per day, then 1200, and then, for a week, even as low as 1050, though I couldn’t push myself any lower than that. Cardio made no difference. Carb levels made no difference. And these facts, when I presented them to the doctor, made no difference to him. I was just another fat mom.
When the ARNP got my results in, she put me on Armour Thyroid, a natural thyroid hormone supplement that contains active T3, and the results were instantaneous. I took my first dose in the parking lot of the pharmacy, and by the time I got home, I was on the verge of tears again. There was something flooding my veins. A feeling of motivation I hadn’t had since my daughter was just a few days old. In my neighborhood, I paused before turning on my street, my eyes trained on a red Solo cup laying on the asphalt. The red… it was… somehow more red. I couldn’t believe it.
Inside, we ate dinner and put on the last scene of Rio, a rainforest dance party, and the kids leapt from couch to ottoman and back again, laughing as they did. The song was vibrant, the colors brighter, and my feet started to move. I was dancing — expending energy unnecessarily — for the first time in over a year. I’ll never forget holding my daughter and bouncing back and forth, looking at the parrots spreading their feathers in HD, and seeing, suddenly, my life turn from dull flatness into 3D again. I cried, dancing around the living room with her, as the music and the happiness flooded back into me.
I like remembering that time, and the feeling of purpose that I reconnected with when my health started to return.
So what’s the point of all of this?
Just a bit of encouragement. Trust your instincts, and if you don’t feel like you are well, keep going until you find advocates who will help you. Enjoy the bright feathers, and enjoy the dance.