I never would have believed having a dysfunctional thyroid could have such wide-ranging effects on the human body if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, is responsible for secreting hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, and development in the body. When it doesn’t work properly, sometimes due to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s disease or Grave’s disease, a person can experience a vast array of unpleasant symptoms.
For me, my journey with thyroid disease began pretty early in life. At around age 12 my parents became concerned when I started going to bed at 6 pm, complained of nausea after eating, and had very dry skin and hair. They took me to me to my primary care provider for a battery of different blood tests. The tests showed antibodies and decreased thyroid function and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s disease. I was immediately put on levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine (also known as T4) and was told I would have to be on it the rest of my life.
As a young person, I thought that as long as I took my medication everyday, that my problems were solved. What I didn’t know was that I would have to get frequent blood tests to monitor my hormone levels and that they would often fluctuate for no apparent rhyme or reason. For me, finding the perfect dose of medication for my body at a given moment has not been an easy process.
There have been times I’ve gone from a hypothyroid to hyperthyroid state in a matter of mere weeks. It really can feel like a rollercoaster that I can’t seem to get off of. If I don’t have enough exogenous hormone, along with the hormone my thyroid is able to naturally produce, I become hypothyroid and everything becomes sluggish. The best way I can describe how I feel when I am hypo is that it’s as if every drop of energy has been drained from my body. I can gain weight despite losing my appetite, I am exhausted, and I feel cold all the time. Conversely, if the combination of the dose of hormone I take and what my thyroid secretes is too much I become hyperthyroid and everything goes into overdrive. It feels like there is battery acid surging through my veins. My heart races, I get tremors, and I am prone to panic attacks. I feel like I am constantly in “fight or flight” mode. Personally, I hate being hyper more. It makes me feel completely out of control, like I’m hooked up to jumper cables, ready to crawl out of my skin.
Through my experiences with this condition, I’ve come to appreciate how truly complex the human body is. Every organ, cell, and gland has an important part to play in maintaining a balance. It is easy to underestimate the negative effects of a hormonal imbalance, but these types of conditions should not be taken lightly. Not only do they have the potential to make you feel like crap, but they can cause real damage to your bodily systems. To anyone who suspects they may have a dysfunctional thyroid, please advocate for yourself! Even though the ride may not always be a smooth one, having knowledge of what is going on inside your body really can make a difference.