Category Archive: self love

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/

Celebrating World Thyroid Day with TLC – Thyroid Loving Care!

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Happy World Thyroid Day to all of us – the thyroid warriors and the caretakers. It is wonderful that there is a designated day devoted to awareness and understanding of this disease that affects so many of us. I wish for you a day of deep peace and healing.

I also hold that desire for myself. As I talked about in this post and this post, I have been undergoing a heavy metal chelation. I have just completed my sixth and final IV and have been retested. Hopefully I will not have to go through another round. It has been increasingly difficult with each week. I am achy, smelly, tired, grouchy, weepy, apathetic and my brain has completely fled the scene. Some days I need to inject a big dose of hopefulness and positivity into the situation and some days I have no choice but to give in to feeling terrible. Today is one of those hope and positivity days which is great because I like those a lot more. I do better with the good feelings than the other-than-good ones.

So let’s start with the bright side of this detox. All of these metals have been hiding out like bandits in my tissues, fat, bones, blood and organs (keep the faith, thyroid & brain!). Chelating means both extracting the metals from these precious spots in my body, as well as releasing them outta my system through the colon and kidneys. So while I must practice patience since this whole thing takes awhile, I can do everything in my power to support the efficiency and efficacy of this process. Once the metals are out of my system, MY THYROID WILL HAVE TREMENDOUS POWER. That thought alone is enough to keep me plugging along through this.

Back to today and the TLC plan. The most crucial part of this plan is to minimize stress as much as possible. Even the tiniest little stressors need to wait until tomorrow to make an appearance. Stress is the most toxic of all toxins on our thyroids. My day starts with a hair mask that I leave on while I enjoy a luxurious half hour meditation, followed by a few lines in my daily gratitude journal. The hair mask is a blend of coconut oil, olive oil, vitamin E and essential oils that are great for dry hair/scalp such as sandalwood, patchouli, lavender, rosemary and tea tree. In the shower, I will do a body scrub made from 2.5 parts sugar, 1 part olive oil and lemon essential oil for an uplifting scent. You could leave out the essential oil altogether or add whatever makes you feel good. Because feeling good is what it is all about today! Some essential oils are not meant to be applied directly onto the skin so do a bit of research just to be safe. The last thing we need on our TLC day is to harm ourselves in any way.

Obviously I coat my skin with my Super Amazing Healing Remedy for Dry Thyroidy Skin after the shower! Love this stuff!!! Total radical healing for my desperate skin.

My plan is to nourish my body today with only foods that support healing. Lots of protein is on the menu today – salmon, beans, eggs. Our livers rely on protein to function and we rely on our livers to process the toxins in our bodies. A fair trade-off. I plan on eating lots of greens and vegetables – spinach, kale, lettuce and cucumbers. Side note regarding the goitrogenic foods: I certainly cannot vilianize kale (and other foods) because it is goitrogenic (interferes with thyroid function). Kale is so nutritious and really makes me feel good. I just make sure that I cook it rather than eating it raw or juicing it. I will also enjoy a bit of dark, soy-free chocolate (check and double-check labels…NO SOY!). Finally, I will make a batch of quinoa cookies – recipe to come! Can’t wait to share it with you.

TLC activities today will probably be more of the “go with the flow” variety. Today is a beautiful day here so I will most likely sit in the sun and power charge my vitamin D resources. Vitamin D is actually a hormone and a vital part of our delicate endocrine systems. My thyroid wants vitamin D so vitamin D she shall get. I will definitely do yoga and go to the gym. Maybe a little cleaning around the house – if I feel like it. Maybe I will read a book – if I can focus on it. I have been learning about oxytocin lately so I will create as much as I can by hugging my man and snuggling with my dog…or vice versa…or both. Oxytocin is a hormone that counterbalances cortisol and is generated by touch and by practicing compassion. And lovely conscious rest, the best medicine for my thyroid.

I will also take some time today to set the intention of letting go that which I do not need. Any muckity muck and gobbely gook that is clogging up the spiritual works will be released. That which needs closure will be closed. Space in my soul will be made so that seeds of a new phase of healing and life can be planted.

From me and my thyroid to you and your thyroid: WE LOVE YOU. Happy World Thyroid Day and may we have the chance to practice TLC today and everyday. Please feel free to share in the comments how you practice TLC.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2013/05/25/celebrating-world-thyroid-day-with-tlc-thyroid-love-care/

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/

Peace, Love and Thyroid

Ahimsa is a term in Eastern religions that literally translates to “non-violence”. This is a very powerful concept, not only in relating with others, but also with ourselves. It is the ahimsa towards our own minds and bodies that is too often overlooked but is the cornerstone of self-care.

Practicing ahimsa is a crucial part of my own healing process. For me, this means making sure that I am giving myself the best possible care each day. I am nourishing my body with foods that support my health; I am eating enough and often. This means plenty of fresh air, sunshine, meditation, walks and yoga. Ahimsa towards myself definitely means resting when I need to, without judgement. It means appreciating how hard my body is working for me, rather than focusing on how much weight I’ve gained from living with low thyroid. It also means being gently aware of my numerous symptoms and finding way to bring ease to each one, instead of allowing frustration to bubble over. It definitely means allowing frustration to bubble over when it needs to as I stay true my emotions (and I have plenty of emotions to stay true these days!)

I am aware that this is a long process of healing. I have a rare opportunity to face true adversity and grow from this. The more we consciously choose how to respond to a situation rather than reacting to it trains our minds and bodies to be more in touch with how we want to be. By cultivating inner peace through actively dealing with illness, I should be kinder in my relations with others as well.

Being hypothyroid isn’t something that I would have necessarily chosen for myself, of course. But I plan to be stronger and wiser from this and I will know how to care for myself on a deeper level than I have ever known before. I have a long way to go and each day brings a new chance to practice ahimsa towards myself.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2012/03/18/peace-love-and-thyroid/

How I Began to Cope with Hypothyroidism


I have suspected for many years that I had a thyroid issue. It really did not affect the day-to-day operations of my life and had primarily manifested itself as a minor irritation. For the past several years, that minor irritation morphed into some more major events. They came and went and while some were harder to deal with than others, I always was left feeling like I could handle this, no problemo. I got this. Until this past autumn when the gusts turned into Hurricane Hypothyroid and turned my world upside down. When the dust settled, I found myself completely lost for the first time (or at least the first time I would admit that I was lost). I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of the wilderness without a map.

There were so many new symptoms and situations to deal with. Everything became incredibly difficult. Getting dressed in the morning was awful and frequently resulted in sobbing on the closet floor. Each task, each moment of my day seemed to require all of my energy. Rest became as important as breath. Every single thing I did required planning. I was beyond upset at my situation, myself, my body.

I realized this wasn’t going away quickly. I needed to find my way through this wilderness. A way to cope.

Here is how I began to cope with hypothyroidism – I decided I must treat myself as I would treat a friend. What would I want for my friend? I certainly wouldn’t want her crying in the closet, feeling lost. I would tell her how strong she is, how smart she is. I would tell her that I know she would get through this. I would remind her of all the times she has grown from her experiences, no matter how hard they were. I would tell her that I love her and that I will be here for her every step of the way.

This is how I turned the corner in my healing process. I invite you to share here how you have been able to cope with challenging times, physically or otherwise.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2012/03/03/how-i-began-to-cope-with-hypothyroidism/

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