Hypothyroidism sucks… Firsthand, I know the tremendous impact this condition can cause. The exhaustion, depressive symptoms, weight gain, brain fog, hair loss, irregular menstrual periods, digestive issues, brittle nails, feeling cold, among other things, left me feeling alone and devastated. Other individuals with the condition sometimes experience hoarseness, higher blood cholesterol quantities, muscle discomfort, a decreased heart rate, a heavier (than what is typical for the individual) menstrual period, and the list goes on (Mayo Clinic). (Although, the symptoms tend to differ in the pediatric population (Mayo Clinic)). Dr. Arem in their book, The Thyroid Solution, shares that one of the difficult things about hypothyroidism (on top of the anxiety and anxiety attacks that some experience) is that individuals may present with similar symptoms to an overactive thyroid. Symptoms experienced may also appear similar to many other conditions or disorders (Arem).
What is the thyroid in a nutshell?
After my diagnosis, what I felt was most helpful for me to retain about the thyroid gland is that it is an organ located at the front of the neck, in the shape of a butterfly (Cleveland Clinic). The thyroid produces both triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) (Mayo Clinic), controlling the metabolism, which is the thyroid’s main function (Cleveland Clinic). They also control “body temperature and heart rate” (Cleveland Clinic). The pituitary gland (located below the brain) controls how much thyroid hormone is in the bloodstream (Cleveland Clinic).
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
Often, blood tests are used to diagnose hypothyroidism (and other thyroid problems) (Cleveland Clinic). Diagnosis is essential, when hypothyroidism is left untreated for a period of time, many serious health conditions may result, such as heart disease, depression, peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves, from the condition being uncontrolled for a long time), and impaired fertility (Mayo Clinic). Anyone can experience hypothyroidism (Mayo Clinic).
Living with hypothyroidism
Speaking from personal experience, a hypothyroidism diagnosis and living with it, can feel lonely and frustrating. Luckily, there is treatment. Typically, it consists of a daily pill of synthetic thyroid hormone, called levothyroxine, and most individuals begin to feel and function optimally again (Mayo Clinic). In fact, “underactive thyroid-once a fatal condition- became controllable, allowing afflicted people to lead normal lives.” (Arem, 2017, p.153). As such, I feel very blessed to have access to medical care and medication that not only allows me to live the life I want, but that has also potentially saved my life. Please know that if you were recently diagnosed, are experiencing symptoms, or have been living with this condition, you are not alone. The symptoms you may have to cope and live with are real; they are not in your head. You deserve the help you need, and the compassion from those around as you cope and heal. While not easy, it helped me when I realized that I was not alone. In fact, approximately 10% of Canadians 45 years of age or older have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care).
Often, while searching the Internet or through conversations with those in my life, hypothyroidism, and thyroid disease in general, seemed to only exist in older individuals. However, thyroid conditions do occur in younger individuals (Mayo Clinic), and I am also proof of that. My advice to anyone with newly diagnosed hypothyroidism or who thinks they may have it, is to advocate for yourself, exercise self-compassion, and with whomever you feel comfortable, share what it is going on to seek support. Above all, please know, that while I have not walked in your shoes, I, and many other people walk alongside you.
About the Author
Hi everyone! Currently, I am completing an honours of psychology degree through the Faculty of Arts. I am very excited to be a part of the Healthy U team because I am passionate about health and increasing accessibility to care, building resources in the community, and diminishing stigma.
I love psychology, so when I am not studying, I enjoy exercising, travelling, and spending time with loved ones.