Thyroid disease = a whole lotta symptoms. There are the common ones that most people feel like fatigue, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, cold intolerance, etc. And there is the extensive list of the rest. When I first was diagnosed, I read through those lists, checking off every symptom as I went. “Yep, that’s me. Oh yeah, I got that one.” I felt like the poster child for hypothyroidism. Sometimes I felt sad reading those lists and sometimes it felt validating. Sometimes it was an “a ha moment” as I thought to myself “So THAT’S the reason”. I had a mountain of symptoms I had to start dealing with.
It was daunting. I had never dealt with navigating an illness before. I watched loved ones get though tough situations and thought how amazing they were, never expecting I would be there too. So there I was, a first-timer, still at the point where I was trying to heal myself naturally and not yet under the care of a doctor. I was overwhelmed which led to stress which led to adrenal fatigue which led to depression. Lost in the dark, knowing that I must get myself back to the light. I made a list of all of my symptoms and brainstormed ways to deal with them. I still do this on a regular basis. This simple act has been an empowering tool in my recovery.
Like many others with low thyroid know, one of the most shocking symptoms has to be the rapid and unexplainable weight gain. Not only is it a blow to the self-esteem but is also very scary. It is a daily reminder that something is very wrong. I felt powerless and didn’t know what to do. At the time when I started to gain weight, nothing had changed. I am a vegan and had been eating only raw foods for about two years. I was also exercising for 2-3 hours each day. Turns out the things I thought I was doing to support my health were the exact things that contributed to the manifestation of my illness. I know now that I was starving myself nutritionally, eating 1000 calories or less each day with very little fat. Thyroid loves fat, requires it. I was also feeding my body an excessive amount of raw goitrogenic foods. Goitrogenic foods, particularly in their raw state suppresses thyroid function. Ouch. Also, I was putting a massive strain on my adrenal system with the extensive cardio exercise. Ouch x 2. I started to gain about 3 pounds a month. Fast and scary.
Getting dressed in the morning was dreadful and triggered daily crying spells on the closet floor. I couldn’t squeeze my body into my clothes anymore and even ripped a few pairs of pants (rock bottom – um…no pun intended at all). My hubby and dog would rush in to see what was wrong and there was nothing they could do to help. Seeing them worried about me only made it harder. If I didn’t figure out how to cope with my symptoms, I thought I might slip into a black hole that I couldn’t get out of. So I decided to start with learning to cope with the weight gain. Here are the steps that I took:
*Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance! Accepting that in this present moment, my body is dealing with illness and weight gain is a part of it. How I respond to this is my choice.
*Treating myself as I would my best friend – this has become my mantra for coping with most symptoms. The compassion we feel towards others we seem to often withhold from ourselves. I would not make a friend feel bad for gaining weight so why would I make myself feel bad? Once I consciously began this practice, things became easier.
*Removal of all clothes in the closet that no longer fit. Anything that didn’t fit or did not make me feel good got stuffed in a box and sent to the garage. This was an important and tangible change. Once those clothes were gone, the constant reminder that I could no longer fit into them was gone as well. Instant relief!
*As much as I dreaded it, I bought a couple of items that did fit – pants, bra, etc. No matter the size. I needed clothes that I could be comfortable in. This was not fun but has made a huge difference. I now always have those clothes that actually fit which makes getting dressed a much more pleasant experience.
*Adopting a uniform – this is my favorite coping method. I turned a comfy old pair of yoga pants and a soft shift into my sacred healing uniform. Everything was better when I was in my sacred healing uniform! Still is. Comfort is seriously good medicine.
*Decided what role the scale is going to play in my life. It certainly was no longer allowed to be a tool to make me feel worse. So for a while, the scale and thermometer became my science experiment. I carefully tracked the numbers to determine if I was stabilizing after I started taking medicine. I eventually realized I was reverting back to my old scale loathing so I stopped using it. For me, the scale can undermine my efforts to feel OK. I was desperately working to accept the number on the scale instead of accepting where my body was at. It is much easier to care for my body when I am not judging it with a number and so much easier to love without crazy ol’ judgement clouding the view.
*Practiced gratitude for how hard my body was working to heal. I even said it out loud standing in front of the mirror to keep myself accountable. “Thank you. I know how hard you are working. I am grateful. I love you.”
Each little step forward is a step away from feeling terrible. Each little step forward is a little bit of empowerment. Each little step forward is a little shift in awareness and each little shift in awareness leads to growth.
Please feel free to share in the comment section how you cope with symptoms of illness, weight gain or otherwise. We can all learn so much from each other, sharing ideas on how to feel better.