(I originally wrote this on May 30, 2005. I have made some minor changes.)
I remember the moment when I knew something must be wrong with me. I mean, besides the anxiety and occasional hypochondria that plagued me. I was sleeping a sporadic 10 hours a night (2 hours there, 4 hours there, etc), needing 2-3 hour naps every day I wasn’t attending class. This particular day, I had fallen asleep in the library for 2 hours between classes.
Earlier that year, I dismissed my increased fatigue to a combination of starting 2004 with a 6-week long cold/sinus infection, along with catching up on sleep lost while I had been commuting/working 12 hours a day for almost three years and grief from dealing with a sudden death of a friend. Then came the missing period that turned into a 4-month-long pregnancy scare, so there was insomnia and weird sleep schedules. Another sudden death happened, this time a friend’s child, and my insomnia got worse. I hadn’t been able to exercise because I was so darn tired and achy all the time, so I gained back the weight I had worked so hard to lose only 3 years before following a pre-diabetic warning.
But that day in late October, I knew something had to be wrong when my intended 15-minute catnap turned into a 2-hour nap, complete with drool. I made the appointment for my annual exam the next day but was told it would be a 2 1/2 month wait. Meanwhile, I was convinced my psych meds were just going funky on me, so I had them switched.
When things didn’t improve before my annual, I started to suspect PCOS. I’d heard lots about it and given my history of hyperglycemia, weight distributed at the waistline, mysterious pelvic pain, and irregular periods, I thought that had to be it. (Though it didn’t explain my needing to be bundled up in clothes on Christmas Day when my in-laws’ radiant heat was on overdrive.) Even my doctor thought so.
But nope, it was hypothyroidism. I thought at first, oh shit, this sounds like the perfect hypochondriac’s disease – fatigue, muscle and joint aches, sensitivity to cold, short-term memory loss, irregular periods for women. One of those silent diseases that when treated can be very manageable, but when untreated can practically ruin your life despite not having many symptoms that appear outwardly to others.
Even though I had planned on going back to work when 2005 started while I waited for news from nursing schools, Greg and I decided that I should work on getting well and just take the classes I’d enrolled in for the semester. I was afraid of getting a job that I couldn’t handle due to a still uncontrolled disease. I was afraid of not being able to handle nursing school due to this same uncontrolled disease, so I put off applying anywhere else until it was too late. This silent disease that many people don’t understand.
Then I got copies of all my labs from five years back, about when I started feeling like a hypochondriac with all my aches and pains. I had been subclinical all that time, though I couldn’t attribute anxiety to the thyroid problem as that had been around from a young age. See, there had been a different standard back in 2000 and 2002 for TSH levels when I’d had it tested before and I had fallen within that standard but not within the new 2003 levels. I spent a few weeks feeling like I’d lost five years of my life, especially since I had subsequently been given the official type 2 diabetes diagnosis, but my psychiatrist and new endocrinologist were very helpful in their clinical explanations of hypothyroidism.
Now that things appear to be under control with my thyroid, I can laugh at my lingering “brain farts” of putting things in the fridge that belong in the pantry or throwing away a whole onion that I just chopped up to put in the evening’s meal. It wasn’t funny when I was trying to memorize bones and physiological processes, but I got through anatomy & physiology just fine nevertheless. Despite some lasting symptoms, I feel the best I’ve felt physically since I graduated from college in 1998. I know that I need at least 8 hours of sleep, preferably more, or else I desperately need a nap. Doing yoga seems to help with the muscle and joint pain that happens after the long walks I take to control my blood sugar. There are emotional issues left over from long ago, but I’m ready to work on them more than ever.
I know there are worse diseases and conditions out there, but man, when you’re in the midst of something like this, it can sometimes feel like the world caving in. And as you crawl out, you realize how lucky you are that it’s something that can be controlled rather easily. Compared to the diabetes, it’s a cakewalk.