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Knowing how best to support someone with hypothyroidism (also sometimes called an underactive thyroid) can feel difficult.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about what your loved one’s diagnosis of hypothyroidism means, how it affects them and how you can help to support them, then you’ve come to the right place. This post is going to cover 5 key steps you can take to begin supporting them right now.
Because when they feel supported and understood, you’re more likely to experience a strengthened connection and happier relationship as a result.
1. Support Them at Appointments
Many of us with thyroid disease feel intimidated by medical appointments. We often leave feeling deflated; unheard and doubted by the medical professional who insists that our hypothyroidism is ‘easy to treat’ and ‘well-managed’, even though we certainly don’t feel that way!
To help the thyroid patient in your life get the most out of their medical appointments, you can support them in a few ways:
- Go to appointments with them – validate what they’re saying, give examples to the doctor about how you see them being affected by their thyroid symptoms and prompt your loved one with the key points they wanted to cover.
- Help them plan – help them prepare any printed research and supporting papers in regards to what they wish to ask the doctor. Practise acting out the appointment with them so they can build confidence.
- Help them find the right doctor – the right doctor will naturally feel like the right fit. They will offer the treatment options your thyroid patient needs in order to recover their quality of life, be a good listener and compassionate.
2. Support Us in Trusting Our Own Bodies
No one knows their own body better than anyone else, and that includes you! You know when something is up, when something doesn’t feel right and that it’s not your ‘norm’, and this is also true for those with health conditions. We can often feel when medication isn’t working the way that it used to, our health status has changed or a new symptom could be down to that pesky hypothyroidism…
However, we are repeatedly told that hypothyroidism is ‘easy to treat’ and ‘taking this one pill a day will make things all good again’, which overrides this message that we will know ourselves whether it is really working for us.
Just because we are taking thyroid medication, doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t have ongoing symptoms, flare ups or require a dosage or change in medication type at some point.
If we start to mention that we’re feeling certain thyroid symptoms returning or new ones cropping up, encourage your loved one to listen to them and trust those whispers from our body before it screams.
3. Support Our Next Steps
Thyroid patients navigating what they can do themselves to improve their health can quickly become overwhelmed. There is so much info out there and with thyroid fatigue and brain fog among the most common symptoms, it can be difficult to fully absorb the useful stuff.
This is where you can really help. Read the info we’re reading too (books, articles, studies etc.), help us to locate a good, thyroid literate doctor (resources here!) and remind us to take those supplements, keep up with any exercise that is helping us or any other steps we’re taking to improve our health.
Teamwork makes the dream work after all…
4. Be Their Spoon Champion
You may be the first person to notice when our energy is running low and we need to rest before a full on thyroid flare hits (and can wipe us out for longer).
Understanding The Spoon Theory can be really helpful.
The spoon theory is a metaphor that those with a disability, chronic illness or disease may use to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily tasks.
A “Spoonie” is someone with a health condition that needs to watch their “spoons”. Spoons are the unit of energy and those with a limited amount of energy can benefit from being more aware of how they use it.
Imagine that you start the day with a certain number of “spoons”. You need to get through the day without using them all too early on. Yet each activity requires a certain number of spoons, such as having a shower, walking to work or cooking dinner and spoons will only be replaced when you rest. If you run out of spoons, you have no choice but to rest until they are replenished.
Those of us with limited energy reserves have to work out which activities we can afford to do each day, so as not to run out of energy and be left exhausted. You can also end up going in to the next day’s allocation of spoons by overexerting yourself and then take longer to replenish them. You can build up a spoon debt which must be repaid at some point.
As those without a disability or chronic illness often do not feel the impact of spending spoons for mundane tasks such as bathing and cooking, they may not realise the amount of energy used by those who do need to plan their energy usage just to get through the day. They do not tend to have a limited amount of energy, as most daily tasks could never get close to exhausting them, unlike those with hypothyroidism for example.
As someone who knows a “Spoonie”, you can be aware of how they manage their energy levels and look for signs that they may be doing too much. Offering to help with certain tasks and saving them some spoons can mean they are actually able to do more with you.
5. Read The “Book You, Me and Hypothyroidism”
The bestselling book You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, is written for those who know someone with hypothyroidism.
As well as the tips touched on in this article, it covers so much more about understanding your loved one’s thyroid condition and what you can both do to move towards a strengthened relationship.
It covers thyroid medication options, flare up days, parenting, sex life and intimacy, housework, mental health, navigating doctors, appointments and so much more.