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When Hashimoto’s patient Kristine reached out to me over email to share her story, I knew a lot of you would relate to her experience and will benefit hearing her story, too.
Written by Kristine McCarty, Thyroid Patient
My Hashimoto’s Hell – My Journey Towards Healing
The Beginning of my Symptoms
To understand how Hashimoto’s stole my life and my identity, I need to tell you who I was pre-autoimmune.
I was the woman who rolled out of bed at 5:30 each morning ready to kick-butt and take names. I was VP of Marketing at a high profile non-profit and I could juggle more balls than a professional circus clown. I was Baseball Mom chauffeuring two boys to multiple practices and games each week. I volunteered at my local church. My nickname was Wonder Woman. I loved life, had many friends, and traveled the world.
But that all came to a screeching halt three and half years ago. At the ripe old age of 41, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. The pregnancy was fairly stable but after her birth I experienced debilitating fatigue like I had never felt before. At three months postpartum, I became irritable, sad, angry and my anxiety was through the roof. Insignificant incidents would set me off. My normally even-keeled temperament had completely vanished.
Leaving the house to pick up children or to run errands could put me into a full-blown panic attack.
My hair was falling out in clumps. My face was puffy and my eyes were constantly swollen.
I was breastfeeding and sticking to a lower calorie diet but I could not lose weight. Instead, I began gaining rapidly. I became heavier postpartum than when I was pregnant.
I couldn’t remember anything. Recalling common words used every day became almost impossible. The term is brain fog but:
it felt like I had early onset dementia.
My First Diagnosis
At that point I became scared and went to see the doctor. The diagnosis was postpartum depression and the remedy was an antidepressant and anxiety meds. (read more about pregnancy and thyroid issues here.)
I struggled with the diagnosis. I knew my body and I knew something else was wrong. But, like a good patient, I started the medication. I continued to gain weight rapidly, and by this time I had stopped breastfeeding and was on a very low calorie diet. The exhaustion continued. Most days, I would lie on the couch and tending to the minutest things felt like I had just ran a marathon. I still had brain fog. I still had anxiety. I was still in a bad mood all day, every day.
So, back to the doctor I went and I insisted he run a thyroid test. He tested my TSH level which came back at 6.7 but that was normal according to the lab. That number is high, but at the time I was clueless about TSH. Nor was I educated enough to ask for a full thyroid panel including testing for antibodies. I was told the fatigue is probably my new normal after having a child later in life. And the brain fog, along with everything else, was a symptom of my depression.
Fighting for my Sanity and Health
This is when I became my own advocate. I refused to believe I was going to feel this horrible for the rest of my life. My mood, fatigue and anxiety were wreaking havoc in all of my relationships. I was irritable and impatient with children. I would turn down lunch invitations from friends because I simply did not have the energy to drive anywhere, much less be social. My marriage was on the brink of divorce and we were in counselling as a Hail Mary.
I had to find an answer and find a way off the roller coaster I was on. I scoured the Internet listing all of my symptoms from the big ones (fatigue, rapid weight gain, hair loss) to the minor symptoms (intolerance to cold, puffy face). Finally, Hashimoto’s Disease appeared on my screen and it was my Eureka moment.
I fired my doctor and found one who had experience with Hashimoto’s. She ran a full thyroid panel and tested me for the Hashimoto’s antibodies. My levels came back shockingly high. I finally had an accurate diagnosis. She put me on natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), which is T4/T3 combination medication that contains the two main thyroid hormones the body produces. That day, I regained hope that I could find my way out of my living hell.
My Journey to Healing
Taking thyroid hormone was the start of my healing but it was not the end of it. I was determined to learn all I could about Hashimoto’s. I researched Internet articles and read book after book. The books I highly recommend are Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate by Rachel Hill, Hashimoto’s Protocol by Dr. Izabella Wentz and The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers M.D.
From these, I learned that there is most likely a root cause to autoimmune disease and the protocols to heal.
I cut out all gluten and sugar from my diet. I eliminated dairy temporarily, but after determining I was not dairy sensitive, I added it back to my diet and I now follow Keto. I started taking selenium, zinc, probiotics, Vitamin D and Methylated B Complex Vitamins. I started to feel better and the weight was slowly coming off, but I knew I wanted to feel even better.
I had my hormone levels tested. My testosterone level came back ZERO. Like zero, zilch, nothing. Women may not need as much testosterone as men but we still need some. Experts attribute hypothyroidism or low thyroid function with lower testosterone levels so it was no surprise I had none. That’s when I started bio- identical hormone replacement therapy. I began to feel even better but I continued to feel some fatigue and brain fog.
During my research, I had read about utilising Low Dose Naltrexone therapy for autoimmune disease. The consensus is that it may be a miracle drug for some but does nothing for others. I decided to give it a try and started LDN three months ago. I can gratefully say is that I am one of the lucky ones. It was not immediate but each day I started to feel better than the previous. Now, on most days, I feel like the old me. At my last checkup, my antibodies were almost non-existent and the doctor has had to lower my thyroid hormone dosage.
My Hashimoto’s journey has traversed over three years. There were days when I felt like there was no hope. However, I refused give up, and by creating my own healing journey, I am in remission. My weight is finally where it was pre-pregnancy. My mind feels sharp as a tack and my even-keeled temperament has returned. My debilitating fatigue is gone. Unfortunately, I do not have the energy levels I had before my autoimmune disease and I will always be on medication but I am OK with both.
The best advice I can give anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s is to NEVER stop fighting for your health. Become your own advocate. If your doctor won’t listen, find another one. If one thing does not work, try something else.
The thing about autoimmune disease, including Hashimoto’s, is that what works for one person may not work for the next.
There is not a ‘one size fits all‘ approach.
Educate yourself. Try to determine your root cause and follow the protocols. Keep trying until all the pieces fall into place. For me, there was no magic bullet but a culmination of steps that led to remission.
My Healing Protocol
- Take NDT hormone medication that has both T4 and T3 daily
- Eliminate gluten and sugar
- Follow the Keto Diet but keep low carb vegetable intake high
- Take high quality supplements including selenium, zinc, probiotics, vitamin D and methylated B vitamins
- Optimize hormones
- Take 4.5 mg of LDN daily
Kristine McCarty, Thyroid Patient
Do you have a similar story to share? Feel free to add to the comment section below.
If you would like to submit a guest post, whether you’re a thyroid patient, doctor or anyone else, please get in contact.
The online thyroid course ‘Freedom From Thyroid Fatigue’, which walks you through how to overcome thyroid fatigue with a personalised approach.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.