My, it has been a while.
I often have to remind myself often that this process is a journey. I can’t race to the end of the road or read the last page of the book. I have to live this journey. And some days that thought totally overwhelms me.
This truth has been hitting me hard this week as I celebrate another year. I turn 36 this week and the ticking of the clock gets louder each year. I find myself wishing I could buy myself 5 years but I can’t do that no matter how much I might like to.
I have some updates about my current treatment and how I have been feeling over the summer. I need to warn you, though, this post feels extra- whiny so I am sorry in advance.
Before I start, and because it has been so long since I posted, I thought I might quickly review basic thyroid function. For such a little gland there is a lot of technical stuff going on, so I want to try and help you understand what I am dealing with here!
The thyroid gland is the little butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which converts to T4 (inactive Hormone) and converts again to T3 (active hormone). I believe there is some additional conversion after that (T1 and T2), but the T3 is the active hormone that is supposed to be absorbed into the cells of the body.
If you are Hypothyroid (underactive), and still have a thyroid gland, a few things may be happening (or not happening):
1) You thyroid gland does not produce enough TSH and it cannot convert to T4 and then to T3 so you need to take thyroid replacement
2) OR, your body does create enough TSH, it converts just fine to T4, but it doesn’t convert to T3 (active hormone that absorbs into the cells of the body)
3) OR, your body does all of the above things but your body doesn’t absorb the T3 hormone causing high Reverse T3.
Did you get all that? There is probably a lot more to add but I’m tired.
During an appointment with Joanie (in June) I had labs drawn to see how I am doing on my thyroid meds. A few weeks later I came back to review the results with her. Joanie and I were surprised to find that my Reverse T3 is high, which indicates that the T3 hormone (active thyroid hormone) is not getting to my cells like it’s supposed to. I have heard this called “pooling” before, meaning that the T3 is collecting in my bloodstream and not absorbing into my cells where my body needs it to function on all cylinders. The lab results were a surprise to me and a little confusing considering I still feel better than I have the last few years (especially last year) but I have wondered if I should be feeling better than I do. Joanie decided that she wanted to continue on my current dose and that she wanted to see me in a few weeks to determine if we needed to adjust my meds.
Several weeks passed and I saw Joanie again in early August. She decided that the root of my high Reverse T3 is that my Adrenals are still weak. So we need to continue to work on strengthening my adrenals. Ugh. She reduced my Armour (thyroid meds) to 60 mg which was terrifying to me. I was so afraid I would turn back into the anxious, irritable, exhausted zombie of a person I was a year ago. This hasn’t happened, however, which is a good indication that my body was not making full use of the full dose I had been taking since earlier this year. Which also means I can feel better than I do today!
(WARNING: it’s about to get whiny up in here)
This is the part of my health that makes me feel powerless and a little hopeless. You see STRESS is the culprit behind most of my health issues. It’s kind of a no-brainer that the best thing I can do for my health is reduce stress in my life. I have read of people with adrenal insufficiency that have had to take extreme measures and quit their jobs to stay in bed until their adrenals healed. One person literally stayed in bed for 6 weeks except to bathe and fix something to eat. When it comes to healing the adrenal glands you have to rest and change your diet, eliminating caffeine, sugar, starches (which are all adrenaline triggers). While I do have the ability to control my diet (which I admit I am not perfect with and realize I must make a permanent change), lying in bed for 2 months is not an option (although that sounds amazing right now). I do the best I can but I usually feel like I am depositing and withdrawing energy from my adrenal savings account.
I do try to fit as much rest in my life as I am able. I can try to go to bed no later than 9 pm; I can force myself to stay in bed until 9 am on weekends and try to get a nap in later. I do close my door an turn off the lights for 20 minutes during my lunch when I am able to. While I can’t sleep I am able to lie down and relax a little which is something.
(WARNING: More whining ahead)
What I CANNOT control is the fact that I chose a profession that involves a lot of crisis. Human crisis. I work in the Human Services field and while a typical day for me might include a lot of paperwork and writing case notes it can change in a moment if/when I get a phone call that someone is suicidal, in jail, homeless, a victim of battery or sexual assault, etc. It’s been this way for 14 years. But here’s where the insanity is: I CHOSE to do this work and even though I am starting to fully understand that all I am dealing with now is directly connected to the stress of my chosen occupation I really can’t imagine doing anything else because I don’t want to.
I was told once that I’m really good at being in people shit (not literally by the way!). What I think they meant is that I am good at being with people when shit hits the fan… people shit (chaos, dysfunction, drama, etc). I know this is true, I can’t look back at my career and think about the insane situations I’ve been in over the years and not see that. “Normal” work is boring to me.
Recently I realized something about myself. I got a call from a client thanking me for the help I had provided on an issue. Before we hung up they said to me: “I don’t know what we would do without you.” I felt a rush of satisfaction through my body when they said the words and it suddenly struck me: being needed/helping/rescuing is my drug. I need it and I know what I need to do to get it.
So I’m evaluating myself, my real motivation for my work, and I realize I have some major things to consider in the next few years.
I still love my job, I really do. I just wish it wouldn’t kill me.
Also, I updated my treatment page.