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Originally published on 3rd June 2016 Last updated on 20th August 2019
Do ever feel guilty about the effects of having hypothyroidism? Such as when it causes you to cancel plans?
Here’s a Scenario:
You’re invited to a party. You don’t feel well due to your thyroid condition, but decide to say yes anyway. The thought of socialisation when you feel exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally, doesn’t appeal to you, but you want something to look forward to and don’t want to let people down.
The diagnosis of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism and its many, many symptoms has gotten you down. Spending some time with friends, relaxing and having fun sounds like a good idea, though. It’ll take your mind off it for a bit and you’ll feel like you’re taking back some of the control hypothyroidism has taken from you, by making the decision to go.
But then the day comes and you feel really unwell. Your body has decided to punish you for even thinking that you could go out and enjoy yourself. OK, maybe not exactly, but you end up having to pull out of the event because you’re just not up to it. You’re absolutely exhausted, you can barely stand and you feel like you have the worst flu ever. There’s no way that going would be a good idea.
Your friends say you’re a let-down. They say you’re lazy, not making any effort and are a cop-out.
They’re so wrong. You feel bad for letting them down.
But you do not need to justify yourself. This is not your fault.
They likely have no idea what you’re going through.
You Shouldn’t Feel Sorry. So Don’t.
In a perfect world, friends and family would be understanding of those living with a health condition that can affect their day to day life, but thyroid disease is vastly misunderstood and not well-recognised.
As someone with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, I really try to never cancel plans. I’ve had people do it to me and it can frustrating, so when I do do it, I really am very ill indeed.
I’ve learnt since having hypothyroidism that I must put myself and my health first and this is often why I have to miss events. Years on now from my diagnosis, I do, thankfully, live a mostly normal life with thyroid disease, but it’s easy to enter back down that slippery slope in to bad health again by not taking care of myself.
And, like many other thyroid patients, I can’t afford to get really ill again and have my thyroid issues spiral out of control. Good friends would recognise and respect this. They would want the best for you and care about you enough to understand that.
But at times, I’ve felt as if people think I exaggerate my experiences of having a thyroid condition. They don’t understand the full extent of just what it’s like to live with.
It can be unpredictable. I might feel well one day and then be struck down the next.
Think I’m being over-dramatic if you want, but thyroid flare up days can have me bed-bound and even in tears. They’re hugely unpleasant.
Thyroid patients may feel quite well when they first agree to the plans, and then a few days before, or on the day itself, become unwell. Going would only make them more unwell.
You Don’t Know Unless You Know
People who don’t live with our health conditions have no idea and so really should not judge. Each person’s experience of a health condition can differ too, so don’t expect me to be just like that other person you know with hypothyroidism.
If we have to pull out of an event or commitment, we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. If someone else had to pull out because they had a sickness bug, a diarrhoea bug or the flu, people would be more understanding. Yet thyroid patients often live with flu-type symptoms every day of their lives, and yet, are put down for needing to look after themselves.
I have nothing to apologise for. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I have a lifelong, chronic health condition that is unpredictable and at times difficult to manage. I am already handling this the best I can.
A good friend would understand that. They wouldn’t want you to make yourself anymore ill by pushing things. They would recognise your struggles or at least try to sympathise.
To those who think we’re cop-outs, lazy or just not making the effort, the next time you think this, please realise that this is our life. Imagine yourself in our shoes.
Have you ever felt guilty for cancelling plans due to your thyroid condition?
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 You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, it talks about the struggles with maintaining a social life, employment, relationships and more, when someone has hypothyroidism.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
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 and influential 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”.