Trying to look at having hypothyroidism in a more positive light can be difficult, but I try to look at it that way when I feel things are getting all doom and gloom.
This is usually when I hit a brick wall, like during a thyroid flare up.
However, going through a health condition so tough can teach us things and make us a better person. I’m going to explore mine below.
1. It Has Taught Me How to Be a Stronger Person
As soon as I had the symptoms for hypothyroidism, I researched about it and learnt that it was a chronic, lifelong disease, which was devastating to me, as my health meant so much.
I ate well and I was very active, walking twenty miles a week, going to the gym four times a week, running one or two times a week and playing badminton on the weekends. However, after my diagnosis, I had to accept that I was in this for the long-run and so I was going to have to give it my best shot to get things corrected.
And then something clicked. I realised I didn’t have to.
I decided that I would make sure I didn’t have to live such a dreadful quality of life forever. I became strong in my ability to push for answers, to not accept ‘no’ and to keep on going. I learnt to advocate for myself.
Every brick wall I hit, I eventually smashed on through.
Because the alternative, to live a rubbish quality of life, just wasn’t an option to me. So I came out the other side stronger.
2. It Has Taught Me To Look After Myself Better
I was already very active and ate a healthy diet, but I learnt that I could do too much in terms of exercise and actually cause more harm than good. I was expecting a lot from my body and needed to slow down and listen to it.
I’ve learnt that things like gluten can be bad for thyroid patients, which I didn’t know before, and so I am now on a gluten-free diet which has made a big difference to my overall health.
I’ve learnt that lots of other conditions I had prior to diagnosis were actually all linked to my failing thyroid, and not separate conditions.
3. It Has Taught Me To Ask For Help When I Need it
I used to have very high, unrealistic expectations for myself, which I would never drift from. I expected a lot from myself and was a perfectionist in every way possible.
Now, I understand that it’s OK to not get everything done in one day because I am only human. I’m human with a health condition that can get in the way at times. I now know when to ask for help and get other people to pull their weight, too. I’ve learnt how to strike a balance.
4. It Has Taught Me to Be More Independent and Confident
I have taken my health back in to my own hands, changing thyroid medication (I would always recommend consulting a doctor when doing this, preferably), exploring other problems and arranging testing for my adrenal glands, and monitoring my own thyroid levels. I taught myself how to interpret test results and what I should be looking for. I set up my own online support group and my own blog. I grew more independent and I followed my gut and I followed my heart.
When certain doctors and healthcare practitioners weren’t helping me to get better, I sought out new ones and found people who were willing to help me.
5. It Has Taught Me That Not Every Doctor Knows Best and That Not Every Doctor Will Work to Find What Is Best for Every Patient
A lot of doctors don’t treat each individual thyroid patient as just that -individual people.
We can all have different needs and require different approaches, and in particular this is important when it comes to the T4-only standard medication not working for everyone.
Finding a good doctor can be hard. You often have to keep trying a different one until you do find one. And some patients even resort to going private or paying extra out of pocket. But once you find someone who is right for you, it’s a huge relief.
6. I Have Learnt That Sometimes We Have to Take Our Health Back in to Our Own Hands to Feel Well Again, and That We Can Do It
We can empower ourselves with books, research, studies, other thyroid patients’ experiences etc. and gain valuable knowledge. From doing this, I am more knowledgeable, not just about thyroid and endocrine problems/function, but also about doctors, the healthcare system, and reading lab work in general. I’ve become more mature and wiser.
7. It Taught Me That Creating Connections Among Fellow Thyroid Patients is Invaluable to Our Recovery
Having thyroid disease has given me the strength and push to create an online support group and a blog, in order to help others with hypothyroidism and related issues. I’ve already helped many people, and people thank me on a daily basis for helping them get better, or even just in helping them to become more independent or knowledgeable in their health, too.
We can all get value out of connecting with other thyroid patients and sharing our experiences.
8. It Taught Me to Love Reading and Absorbing New Knowledge Again
Having a thyroid condition has reignited my love for books, which waned sometime around my teen years.
From a young age, I always had books on the go and loved curling up with a book, but it died off over the years.
However, once on a mission to learn more about my new thyroid diagnosis, I invested in many thyroid books and I love curling up with them in the evening in front of the fire.
It’s not fiction that I’m reading anymore, but something real and that makes it even more exciting and intriguing. Every sentence I read gets me closer to another person I can help or another issue of my own that I can resolve.
Books have obviously also taught me a lot about the endocrine system, and so I am more educated and knowledgeable in that way, too.
9. It Taught Me The Power of Community.
I have met many new people and made many friends through having hypothyroidism. Some people already in my life had it, but I didn’t even know until I shared my diagnosis with them! Others, I have made through my online support group, or through other forums I use. They are often the only people who truly understand some of my problems and worries. We help each other but also need to just rant some days. It’s healthy to have a good moan about the frustration that is hypothyroidism, too.
Other relationships have grown stronger too, strangely enough, because we have shared a really tough time of my life and gone through it together. In particular, my relationship with my husband Adam has only strengthened. (read about how in my book: You, Me and Hypothyroidism).
Through all the devastation and ruin that thyroid conditions can cause, I like to remember the positive things that Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s have done for me.
I do wonder what my life would have been like had I never developed a thyroid issue, or perhaps developed it later on in life (twenty-years-old is pretty young to develop a thyroid condition), but I don’t think I would be as good a version of myself, if I hadn’t.
I am stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and I have a passion to get to the bottom of it all and help others. It has given me a drive to keep on going and pushing for change; better diagnosis and treatment for others with the condition.
What positive things has hypothyroidism done for you? Do any of the above relate to you too?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Please remember that if you’re a thyroid patient living with poor mental health or lingering physical symptoms, that you don’t have to live this way. To address why you may still be feeling unwell (often despite being on thyroid medication too), please see this article and go through each suggestion, putting your thyroid jigsaw back together.
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article in detail. Learn how to get out of the rut and reclaim your thyroid healthy life.
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”.