I felt like absolute crap. But who wouldn’t, with five kids under age 10 — including a set of twins, who were still not sleeping through the night? Which essentially equated to being up. All. Night. Long. So as they turned 2 years old, I told my husband I could not do the night-time parenting anymore, that I had moved beyond feeling tired, I felt like the exhaustion was starting to kill me.
Let me clarify, I am not wimpy. I have a very high tolerance for pain and discomfort. I had in fact birthed all five babies at home without even an aspirin. I had also been breastfeeding for the last 10 years straight. Yup, you read that correctly. But I had felt bad for a while now and I knew in my gut it wasn’t just from being up all night with babies for the last few years. I first went to the doctor to have my thyroid checked in 2006. I had always been interested in health and nutrition, ate well, exercised religiously, all of it. In a few months’ time, I had gained 10 pounds, out of nowhere, without changing anything. I quickly monitored my food intake to keep it below 1,200 calories. Nothing happened. I had always been thin and if I ever wanted to shed a few pounds, it was easily done by modifying the foods I ate (no yummy treats). But not this time.
After going to the doctor, my labs showed my thyroid levels were “normal”. I chalked it up to getting older — I was in my early thirties now! Fast forward a bit, to the blurry time of existing with multiples, around 2010. The exhaustion was debilitating. I was up at 6 am with the kids and by 9 am, I was lying on my floor asleep and drooling as the toddlers crawled around on mommy. My hair was falling out, I was steadily gaining 2-3 pounds a month, my skin was turning to leather, I was depressed, my joints and muscles ached, and I was freezing cold all the time. My periods were heavy, like, guess I’m not leaving the house today heavy. I was so tired and depressed, I wasn’t going anywhere anyways. I could not pull it together. My kids were losing their mom and my husband was losing his partner. I went to my annual exam with the gynecologist and mentioned the weight gain. At this point I was 20 pounds heavier than my normal stable weight point where my body used to be. She said that didn’t seem right, and ordered to have my thyroid levels checked again. Guess what, they came back “normal”.
Next, I fractured my foot in a rare moment of having energy and running around with my kids. After my foot healed and the boot came off, I began the get-fit-routine of not eating over 1,200 calories and running 30 miles a week. Even though it killed me to find the energy to move like that. Running and pushing the kids in a jogger is the worst! My legs felt like they were running through cement, but if nothing was wrong with me, I was going to run this weight off. So, the effects of this? I gained 10 more pounds. How is this even possible?! I was feeling crazy.
Went to another doctor, because after the get-fit-routine failed miserably and looking at my TSH levels from 2006 and 2010, there was an ever so slight increase of a few points. This third doc was a doozy. He told me that my old levels were just fine, that I probably wasn’t aware of how much I was really eating and that maybe I should check out some low carb b.s. diet. Then he sealed the deal and told me I couldn’t be depressed because I was able to look him in the eyes. Oh no he didn’t! Oh yes he did! I can joke now (thank you Nature-Throid!), but the amount of frustration, of knowing something was wrong, but having all these clueless docs say otherwise, was so deflating.
I went home, cried, and called a new doctor. This woman was hard core. Not very friendly, but very thorough. She ordered labs, lots of labs and ultrasounds. After feeling my thyroid, which did I mention she was the first of four doctors to actually do this? Back to my point, after feeling my swollen, enlarged, nodule covered thyroid, she pointed to a handy little graph on the wall and said, “Your thyroid feels like this” as she pointed to the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis photo. Oh, you mean the disease that I thought I must have since my mom has suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome (both autoimmune diseases) for decades? Yes, genetics play a role in all this. And the fact that I am a textbook case of what Hashimoto’s looks and feels like. She asked me to come back after my labs were processed. And I did. Excitedly, because Hallelujah, I was finally getting a diagnosis! Don’t get too excited because this isn’t the happily-ever-after part. Yes, my labs came back positive for thyroid antibodies. Indeed, my body was attacking itself, destroying my thyroid gland like it was enemy #1. BUT, the doctor told me my labs were not bad enough. All my thyroid function levels were within range. My body had not destroyed my thyroid enough to warrant treatment, so she couldn’t do anything else for me. Never mind that I dragged myself around daily, freezing cold, breaking bones, and gaining weight by looking at water. I pleaded with this woman, telling her how tired I was, that I couldn’t even play or laugh with my children anymore. She told me to join a sleep study.
I went home and like any normal mom, got on Facebook. The stars aligned and I found a Hashimoto’s group who welcomed me with open arms. Who had heard my story over and over again from the women who had come before me. Losing their life and being told by doctors that they were just fine. The first thing I learned from them was to go gluten free. Not just sort of, as in not having as many goldfish crackers at the park with my kids (believe me, that stopped 30 pounds ago!). Like, never ever have a speck of gluten again. It is all or nothing. I had been living with pretty major muscle and joint pain that had really intensified during the get-fit-I’m-going-to-run-this-weight-away-or-die-trying routine. After eliminating gluten, the pain drastically improved in 24 hours, totally gone in 48 hours. That pain is called myopathies by the way, and is when your white blood cells attack (usually) your large muscle groups. This is known to accompany thyroid disease.
Another thing that happened after going gluten free: I stopped gaining weight. Yup, it’s true! The normal 3 pound a month gain totally stopped. But the best advice of all was no matter what, find a doctor who will treat YOU, not your labs. And I did. I went to an Integrative Medicine doctor who took one look at my labs and squished up her nose to tell me, “No wonder you feel bad, we need to get your labs in the ‘ideal/optimum’ range!” I cried (I am not really this much of a cry baby, but I had untreated thyroid-induced depression, mind you!). It was the best thing I had heard in a very long time. This was not all in my head; I didn’t need a low carb diet or a sleep study. I needed thyroid hormone because clearly my body wasn’t making enough and it was affecting just about every part of my body. We chose Nature-Throid. This doctor also suggested I check out LDN or Low Dose Naltrexone. I am very hesitant to use drugs; I try to use a more natural way to heal, always. Remember the four unmedicated (even with twins) homebirths? I am pretty serious when it comes to living a clean lifestyle. But if you ever try to take my Nature-Throid or LDN from me, we are gonna have problems. Because they saved my life, literally. That coupled with staying gluten free and eating a high raw/close to vegan diet has put me on the road to recovery and given my kids their mama back.
About the Author
Nicole Carter Jones lives with her husband and five children in a constant state of barely contained chaos for which even her FBI training did not prepare her.