Category Archive: acceptance

Guest Post: Making The Most of Chronic Illness by Sarah Downing

Sarah Downing has had a special place in my thyroid journey from the start.  When I was first diagnosed, I combed the internet looking for connection.  I found Sarah’s blog Butterflies & Phoenixes, which was full of positivity and the thing I needed the most – HOPE.  Later in my journey, Sarah connected me with a group of wonderful women near me through the ThyroidChange mentoring program. She then brought me into the fold as a fellow volunteer.  I am grateful for Sarah’s friendship, for the incredible work she does as the ThyroidChange blog coordinator and for this guest post.

 sarah (3)When we’re first confronted with that dreadful realization that we have been diagnosed with a chronic illness and that chronic means we will have to deal with it for the rest of our lives, our initial reactions are often shock, fear, sadness and anger. Many people feel as if they are being punished and might ask “why me?” Such reactions are normal and are usually followed by the acceptance that everything has changed. However, such changes don’t necessarily have to be for the worse. A diagnosis may require us to reevaluate and reprioritize our lives and do things differently that have up to now been the norm for us. This article is based on my conversations with various chronic illness sufferers, as well as my own experiences.

Acceptance of our condition and our emotions triggered by this is healthy and necessary in order for us to move forward. However, this doesn’t mean that we have to accept defeat. As one lovely lady put it: “When dealing with chronic illness you have to look at things differently. For instance, recovery takes on a different meaning: before chronic illness it means cure to most people; after chronic illness it means not giving up and living the best you can with the illness you are dealt.” It is the aim of this article to help you do precisely that.

I suggest we start off by spending quality time with our friends and families whenever we have the opportunity. With the decline in our energy levels, the time we spend with those we care about becomes even more precious. Even more reason, therefore, to surround ourselves with people who care about us too and who understand or at least make a conscious effort to understand what we are experiencing. Those who truly care will love and accept us for who we are irrespective of our state of health. However, if we expect them to do that, we must first learn to love ourselves and treat our bodies with respect. Illness frequently makes people feel physically flawed and inferior to those who have lucked out in the health lottery, but this is simply not the case.

When you are battling with your health, it is vital to start listening to your body, as certain symptoms are its form of communicating what it needs from us – for instance, if we are tired, this means we need to rest. We are always telling others to give themselves a break, but so rarely do we follow our own advice. You may well have to slow down for the sake of your healing process and your stress levels, but this is nothing to be ashamed of and, in fact, by doing so you are taking a responsible step towards getting well. Furthermore, many chronic illness sufferers have reported that this imposed slow-down has enabled them to appreciate life more by taking things at a more leisurely pace. When you are chronically ill, it is important to take each day at a time without fretting about what has happened in the past or what will come in the future.

It’s not a crime to admit we need help and there are several sources that can provide it. The first tip I’d like to give you is based on my own experience: delegate tasks where you can and where you need to. For years, we have had a cleaning lady, as we never have the energy to clean our apartment on a regular basis. Due in part to my lack of energy, I spend lots of time at home, so living in a clean and tidy environment makes it feel more comfortable to me. From talking to others, I realize that cleaning rates vary greatly depending on where you live and also that many people consider hiring a cleaning person to be a “guilty luxury.” Well, anything that makes your life easier is something you should embrace when your energy is flagging. As for the financial side, another lady suggested that cutting down on non-necessities, such as eating out, might help you put aside the necessary money you need to pay a cleaning person to come in several times a month. Alternatively, she told me of a scheme where several of her friends banded together and met up once a week at one of the group’s houses for a team decluttering effort. When it comes to cleaning, many hands really do make light work, so I could imagine this being very effective if you can find a group of friends who would like to do this. An added plus is that you get to meet up with your friends on a set date and are able to socialize while doing something productive. The friends had a similar scheme for cooking – they would cook meals together in bulk, so that each of them had enough to freeze for times when they were too pooped out to cook, but didn’t want to spend money on the (frequently unhealthy) delivery options.

For many, being ill feels as if we have been robbed of control of our lives. There are ways to regain this control by taking an active part in your own healing process. This means finding the right doctor for you. You are paying your doctor to make you well (or at least as well as possible), so you shouldn’t settle for someone who is rude, unknowledgeable or doesn’t listen. You deserve the best doctor your insurance will pay for, so don’t shy away from switching doctors if you feel your current doctor isn’t the right one for you. We can also be proactive by doing our own research. There are so many good thyroid resources out there and the more we learn, the more we can work together with our doctors as partners in finding the right treatment.

Not only does the Internet offer a wealth of resources, but thanks to online communication there is now also a plethora of online support communities. One lady describes this phenomenon as follows: “I know that by reading about others who manage to survive every day that they conquer the illness we all have and there is a place we can all come to and talk, learn, rant and sing praise to, that there isn’t anything I can’t do, and when I have trouble, I can come there and read, interact, and find ways to cope … this has been such a blessing and lifesaver for me.” In turn, many people find it rather cathartic to put pen to paper and write down their own health struggles in the form of blogs.

One thing I have noticed in my advocacy work is that an incredible amount of thyroid patients seem to have pets. Perhaps this is no coincidence because many people feel that pets understand us better than our fellow humans and I know from my own experience with our orange tabby Biscuit that they can be incredibly empathic and supportive just when you need them the most, which is highly beneficial when you are chronically ill. I’ve even heard of scientific studies claiming that owning a pet can improve your health. When she needs a cuddle, Biscuit will jump up on to the bed, announce her presence with her characteristic meow and purr in my ear whilst cutely dribbling. No doubt about it: welcoming our golden kitten into our family has truly changed our lives. The two kittens who came later, Ember and Teddy, have been equally therapeutic, but Biscuit and I share a special bond.

One thing we must not forget when we are ill is to take the time to do the things that we enjoy. In my case, singing is something I am passionate about and so when I sing it is liberating and makes me forget about a lot of the bad stuff. I love getting behind a microphone and singing karaoke. It makes me feel attractive even though there are days when your thyroid can make you feel downright ugly. In some ways, being diagnosed has changed my life for the better. Since my diagnosis, I have learned a ton about medicine and am finding it very fascinating. In addition, I have been given the opportunity to blog and do advocacy work and thus help both myself and others. In this way, I can learn about my disease, how to cope with it and to face up to the fact that I have it. Furthermore, it makes me realize that there are things I can do to make my life better. I’ve been truly blessed by the lovely friends I have met through my illness and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive bunch of people. For many people, chronic illness changes us for the better by making us more compassionate and understanding of others who are going through suffering.

One lady credits her sanity to “living in the moment” techniques such as meditation (diaphragmatic breathing or yoga breathing), arts and crafts and puzzles. She’s recently started treating herself to massages. When our bodies are not feeling as well as they should, any kind of physical pampering such as massages, pedicures or manicures can really cheer you up and relax you. She goes on to explain that “doing your passion is sooo fulfilling and so good for your spirit. It’s what keeps us going. So many of us have been robbed from doing what we are passionate about. Creating and digging in the dirt are my two passions, both of which I have not done in so long because of just trying to keep up with work and not having more energy or focus to do anything else. I’ve learned that that has been such a mistake. I think doing what we love is also healing for us.” Another lady I know is a passionate and talented photographer and she once told me: “I have so much fun … if I’m in a bad mood I’ll take out the camera and I’m instantly in a better mood!”

Now that you’ve read my article, I’d love to know from you whether thyroid disease has changed your life for the better in any way and what your own personal coping strategies are. Looking forward to hearing your experiences!

In love and healing,

Sarah

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2015/03/03/guest-post-making-chronic-illness-sarah-downing/

Finding Our Own Way

photoThe other day while getting myself a little inspiration on Oprah’s YouTube channel, I heard one teacher say that to heal, we need to lean into our pain. Shortly afterwards, I was listening to another talk in which the speaker said that we need to get away from our pain to get better. I think they are both right. There is not one way to heal, in fact, there are as many ways to heal as there are people who are healing. We each have our own path and there are different methods that we can employ at various times on our paths. Sometimes I do need to lean into my pain, feel my pain so I can understand where it is rooted and give it attention so it may heal. Other times, the best thing that I can do for myself is to detach from illness. Both ways – and many ways in between – are tools I use. Here are a handful of those tools…

 

 

Determining what we need and when we need it
-Realizing that this is a process and cultivating patience to allow the process to unfold as it needs to. Because it WILL unfold as it needs to, whether we agree to this or not. So we might as well get comfortable.

-Taking time to be still, focusing on our breath and quieting our minds with meditation. #1 healing ritual for me.

-REST REST REST – Tied for first with meditation.  Whenever I try to overlook the importance of rest, I am forced into it anyway by you-know-who.  My thyroid, she can be a pushy one.

-Figuring out what to feed our bodies, inside and out. Learning food sensitivities, protecting our delicate skin, taking time for self-care. There are so many things that we can do to contribute to our healing. I believe that each time we do something to care for ourselves, we nourish our bodies, minds and soul. Even though it may not always seem like it at the time, every little thing we consciously do is most definitely a step in the right direction.

-Checking out all of the amazing resources in our extraordinary thyroid community. There is so much info, with so many ideas and so many paths that have been carved. Learning by trial and error to take what we need to forge our own path, remaining aware and flexible to adjusting as necessary.

 

Remembering that in every moment, we are healing
-Complete, total, radical acceptance of our situation. This one thing was the catalyst for me to start paving my healing path. Before I learned to accept what was happening to me, I was wandering aimlessly in the dark, gripped by fear.

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-Demanding ourselves to have blind faith during those times when we feel so hopeless. Hopelessness is the worst, yet I think was inevitable for me. I had no choice but to keep going because I was not able to allow myself to experience that terrible feeling of hopelessness again.

“We don’t have to let go, we simply have to not hold on.” ~Joseph Goldstein

-Practicing gratitude towards our healing bodies with affirmations. I started using affirmations after reading You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay during the hell of my adrenal freefall. It definitely didn’t feel natural at first but I continued because I was so desperate that I was willing to try anything. I started by telling my body how beautiful she is and how much I appreciate how hard she was working to get better. Just before meditation, I may tell myself that I am healthy and my thyroid is functioning perfectly, working to manifest this outcome. Yesterday, I told my hair how strong and beautiful it is; that it grows long and thick. I know my hair will eventually grow back so why not just help this process along with some positive vibes. It may not feel right to you to try this. For me, it makes me smile and I figure it can’t hurt. I spent years torturing my body with hatred. This just feels SO much better. Our bodies are our partners in this healing and I am amazed every day how much effort mine puts in. I love my body now and if that is the best thing that comes out of all of this thyroid business, then I may be million times better than I was to begin with.

Healing is not some landing-place somewhere far off in the distant future. Healing isn’t the destination. Healing is happening moment-to-moment, day-to-day. Healing is happening NOW.

I would LOVE to hear about your healing path.  We are all in this together!  Know that I am grateful for anything that you choose to share, here, in OUR space.  And know that I am grateful for you if you choose to simply read this post.

 

Love and wisdom from around the web:

1. I just adore this guided meditation by Dr. David Simon ~ “Intention of the Heart”

2. Here is a link to a website which gives info about SB 959, a bill that may compromise our rights to obtain compounded medicine.  I personally get progesterone from a wonderful compound pharmacy so this affects me directly, as I know if does many of you too.

3. Have you checked out the Hypothyroid Mom Facebook page?  This is a wonderfully supportive community full of great information and strategies for managing symptoms of thyroid disease.

p.s. I am having some issues with being able to add photos on WordPress.  If you have experienced this before or are some kind of WordPress genius and have any insight for me, please contact me.  Thanks 🙂

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2013/07/29/finding-our-own-way/

My Thyroid Beat Up My Brain

I love my thyroid with all my heart. I really do. Sometimes though, my thyroid can act like a little bratty and start picking on various parts of my body like a schoolyard bully. Lately it seems like the target of my thyroid’s harassment is once again my poor brain. This results in “brain fog”, a classic symptom of hypothyroidism, fatigue, toxicity, Lyme’s disease and a host of other conditions. Wait a second, what was I saying? Oh yeah, brain fog. For me, brain fog manifests in inability to concentrate, lack of focus, poor memory, difficulty coming up with words/poor grammar, lack of mental clarity. The days truly seem to float by.
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One of the many lessons have learned in dealing with thyroid disease is that the more attention I give to feeling bad, the worse I feel. However, I certainly do not ignore my symptoms at all. Recognizing and managing symptoms are a crucial part of my healing process. This also takes away the attention from feeling bad and puts it towards a plan to feel good! I document how I am feeling and a list of my current symptoms in a journal. This allows me to look back and see where I am at, see what symptoms are coming and going and see if there is a pattern which may illuminate a particular food or action that needs to review. Keeping a journal makes it easier and more efficient to communicate with my doctor. And of course, it takes some of the pressure off of my already pressured brain to keep everything in order. I think it would also be lovely to do something along the lines of a spreadsheet that one could simply check off their current symptoms once a week.
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I like to make lists of ideas how to manage my symptoms when I am clear-headed so that I can easily reference those ideas for help when I need them. When I get a great tip from another thyroid website, I add that to my list. Please always feel free to share your tips on managing symptoms or any aspect of thyroid disease/auto-immune disorder/fatigue/etc. YOUR input is SO WELCOME!!!

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The Zen Thyroid List to Managing Brain Fog
1. One of the strongest tools I have is acceptance. I spend a lot of time working to accept that this is part of my life now. I try not to think about how it used to be or how it could be. It is now and this is what is happening. It sabotages to my healing process to be upset for too long about it or anything else. If I need to be upset, I get upset, let it out and I try really hard to move on to healing thoughts. This is not always easy but I am making it a habit so it just simply becomes natural…eventually.

2. As always, I tell other people so they understand. (disclaimer: as always, I try my best to do this) I find that my relationships are smoother and more supportive when others know what I am going through. Even the most wonderful loved ones are not mind readers. Communication minimizes misunderstandings as well. I find this really works for me and my peeps (I love you, peeps!).

3. I set a bazillion reminders in my phone to do literally everything that I have even the slimmest chance of forgetting. Watering the plants, meeting a friend, taking my second dose of Cytomel each day…all things that I would forget. And, no no no, I definitely do NOT want to miss that Cytomel (and if you take it, you know what I mean). Everything goes in the reminders. Otherwise, well, it probably won’t happen.

4. Be diligent in my allergen-free, protein-rich, healthy diet. I try to eat plenty of healthy fats which nourish the brain. Giving my digestive system the best chance of doing its job ensures that toxins are removed from the body as quickly as possible. I keep my home free of toxic chemicals as well.

5. Practice patience and know that I am doing the best that I can to heal.

6. Meditate. Meditation, along with acceptance, has been the most powerful part of my healing process. It affords me focus, stillness, calm and the occasional moments of clarity. It relieves my physical and emotional stress and allows me to plant seeds for health and happiness. Sometimes I meditate for a few minutes once a day, sometimes longer and more often. Sometimes I meditate in silence, sometimes I listen to guided meditations, sometimes I meditate while I walk. Each individual’s meditation practice is uniquely their own. There is no right way or wrong way, only your way. Deepak Chopra and the wonderful Chopra Center have a 21-day meditation challenge underway now, complete with daily guided meditations and support. For more info and to try it out, go here.

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I am so grateful to each of you for choosing to read my blog. Sending YOU wishes for a beautiful and clear-headed day 🙂

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2012/07/20/my-thyroid-beat-up-my-brain/

Transcending Weight Gain

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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*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.”

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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.

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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.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2012/05/24/transcending-weight-gain/

Thyroid Time

Over the past several months, me and my thyroid sidekick have found ourselves in a new timezone. Not like Eastern Standard Time or Mountain Time or even hours consistently the same length of time. Our new timezone is Thyroid Time, where time is essentially…well, random. Thyroid Time has no sense of accuracy. In fact, things can take somewhat longer since the brain and the body move at a slower pace. We are like a couple of turtles, giving it our all, trying our best and still just not moving as fast as we are trying. I can tell my husband, “hey babe, we are on Thyroid Time today” and he will know to get comfy ’cause it might take a while.
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Thyroid Time can also be unpleasant. For example, the waiting to see if this dose/combo of medicine will provide some improvement – unfun Thyroid Time, just like waiting for a test result or a doctor’s appointment. Those days that seem as if you may never feel better is like Thyroid Time standing still. While this is frustrating and may have caused a tear or two to drop, it also provides the opportunity to cultivate patience and see what there is to be learned in the journey. On any given day, it can be easier or harder to develop this outlook but I certainly know that the simple practice and awareness of it will make it easier to do over time.
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On the other hand, Thyroid Time can be an asset, a beacon of hope that in Time, my thyroid will heal. Our bodies are in a state of homeostasis, meaning that we are always moving towards healing. Now that I am on the path to wellness, no matter what obstacles are in that path, my body is healing. However fast or slow, healing is happening. Time promises me that i will feel great again. Time keeps me going, even if it has to take my hand and drag me through each day. No matter how bad I might feel today, tomorrow I will be closer to recovery.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2012/05/12/thyroid-time/

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