I mentioned on Instagram after my race this past weekend that my I am working through some things with my thyroid. Mainly that it is a little slow.
I have been feeling “off” for a while. About a year ago, I went through some things that most every person will go through at some point in their life. I got laid off at work, I got a stress fracture, I went through different stages in relationships. Pretty normal, albeit not fun for anyone. I lost a close friend from college which was very very sad. I have an amazing support system, I got a better job, my stress fracture healed, my relationships healed. Time marches on, you know? But Stella could not get her groove back!
I had gained about 10 pounds over about a year. That was the most noticeable and frustrating thing for me. I carry my weight pretty evenly, and because I work out and eat healthy, most people seemed to not notice or even tell me I looked better. But I felt off. I also felt a really deep tiredness. No matter what changes I made to my diet, I could not get my weight to change. Two different nutritionists/dietitians finally gave up and shrugged it off as my body just settling at a “healthier” weight. It was alluded to that I had potentially done some metabolic damage when I had disordered eating in college. Maybe my body just needed to learn to trust that I wouldn’t go into starvation mode again.
My skin was also blowing up like crazy with cystic acne. The kind of acne that you cannot treat with anything topical. This was despite my being on medication my dermatologist prescribed for acne already. Even still, my skin was very dry – at least in the places the acne wasn’t going nuts. I tried cutting out dairy. I barely eat it anyway, so it wasn’t hard. It did nothing. We changed the medication a couple of times before finding one that seemed to help.
I felt bummed. Sometimes it felt like my heart was heavy – literally. I jokingly thought maybe I had a broken heart. I never said it out loud though – that was ridiculous. Everyone has mood swings. Everyone is tired. We are all working, working out, doing the checklist of life between the fun things. Also, the weight gain made me sad – which I know is vain. I thought maybe I was just focusing on that too much. I bought bigger pants and kept on keeping on. I still looked great everyone said – and most people even told me I looked better. Trying to get to sleep at night was continually difficult. Turning off the light was so stressful. Sleeping was a daunting chore at the end of each night. I got one of those oil diffusers to turn on at night. It sort of helped, until it didn’t. At least when I ran I felt happy. If I could just get through each night of sleep, I would have a run to look forward to in the morning.
I tried talking to my dermatologist and my OBGYN about the things I was feeling. They shrugged it off. Your BMI is in the normal range. You exercise. You are getting older (I’m 28), your metabolism is slowing down. You might just need to try harder.
My running was going ok. It was getting harder for me to run quite as fast I had been able to. Maybe I was just not quite as fast as I had envisioned myself to be. Maybe I was overtraining? Maybe I wasn’t training smart? Maybe it was because I wasn’t able to eat a whole lot of food without continuing to gain weight? A girl can only buy so many new pairs of jeans. I read about adrenal fatigue, iron deficiency, iodine deficiency – could any of these be the cause? And what exactly, was I trying to find the cause of? How to succinctly describe how I felt. Weird? Sad? Fat? Like a teen going through puberty but at 28? I couldn’t say any of those things to anyone. Anytime I hinted at it to anyone, they would all roll their eyes at me – the Type A, neurotic person who is always worrying too much.
Somehow the doctors thought I maybe needed to try harder, but I was also too neurotic and trying too hard.
My mom had thyroid cancer before I was born. For years she has gone to a doctor to help regulate her thyroid levels since she no longer has a thyroid. One day she went to see him and stayed with me while she was in the area for the appointment for him. I idly did an internet search on him and saw he was an endocrinologist as well as a metabolic specialist. I asked my mom if she thought he could help me. I told her a little bit of what I was feeling. Always my champion, she didn’t call me crazy. She said I should give it a shot. What could it hurt?
The soonest appointment was 4 months away, but I took it anyway. I ended up getting to see him sooner because he had a cancellation. I went armed with a spreadsheet of my weight, mileage and caloric intake broken down by protein/fats/carbs from the last YEAR. I also brought 3 body fat tests I had from the past year – each one increasing. I was so afraid he would brush me off too. I wanted to have my data. We talked. It was probably the longest doctor’s appointment I have ever had in my life. I was a bit embarrassed to tell him about my struggles, but I forced myself to anyway. I didn’t want to sound like a whiny millennial. He took 8 pages of notes. He remarked, “for a skinny kid who exercises and eats healthy, this is a lot of notes.” At the end of the appointment, I asked him if he believed me. Did he really believe what I knew? That something was just not right. He said yes. He didn’t know for sure what it was, but he had ideas, and the tests would help us decided which route to go. He asked me to get tests done and come back in a couple of weeks. So I did. 9 vials of blood and a sonogram on my thyroid later, I went back.
My tests didn’t show anything extreme. My cholesterol on the high side, the thyroid on the low side. But he said something that I thought was really unique. He said the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The numbers IN ADDITION to my symptoms were the important thing. He said we will do an experiment. We will try supplementing my thyroid and see if I feel better.
After the appointment, I did two more internet searches.
- Hypothyroid symptoms: I learned some of the other things I have always thought I just needed to “deal with” could be caused by hypothyroidism. I am often very very cold, I am constipated 90% of the time & my hands cramp during long runs.
- Hypothyroidism and distance runners: This one was really surprising. It turns out some distance runners have been accused of doping with thyroid medication. The consensus was finally that there was no proof that thyroid medication could be performance enhancing. Additionally, some really well known runners have hypothyroidism and have had very successful careers – Kara Goucher and Galen Rupp.
I know it will take time, but I’m hopeful. I’m so glad I spoke up. It took me a long time, but I’m so glad I finally got someone to pay attention. I was afraid that I would seem like I was complainer. Playing the victim at things everyone deals with. And for the most part, all signs pointed to that being correct. I told myself to buck up. I stayed busy and did the things I know help me feel good. But it felt good to finally say, “No. I know my body and something is not right.”
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am not looking for sympathy here. I am so lucky. I have a good doctor, and I am getting good help. I haven’t suffered any great tragedy. I’m not even close to a Taylor Swift song, ya know? This blog is where I share my story, and this is part of that. And if it helps anyone else in the process, how amazing is that?