autoimmune, part 1

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

No surprise to my husband, I am rarely at a loss for words. There are few things in my life that render me speechless. Even the Very Hard Things tend to get processed with language, the cathartic sound and flow of a sentence brings solace, brings healing. Given that, the block that has been plaguing my writing for the past couple weeks has come unexpectedly. This part of my life that I’ve been working through never seemed like that big of a thing, definitely not something that would render me without the ability to process aloud (or in print). The next couple posts are likely to be a bit different. I finally began to write on Saturday, but things are choppy, not as smooth as I prefer, and even today, I find myself unable to really edit them.

My sweet friend was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s funny how walking with someone as they go through something can bring back your own journey through an extremely similar time. I think part of the difficulty in writing this all out is just recognizing how much of this part of my life I had not yet dealt with. I just did what I had to do, the next thing, making it through until the next change, without taking the time or having the ability to process. So, over the past couple weeks, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s been more painful than I expected, but freeing in a way that I didn’t anticipate either…


The thing that clued me in that something wasn’t right was when someone else remarked on my shaking hands. Of course, I had noticed the shakiness, but for someone else to see it gave me pause. At first I just assumed it was too much caffeine, as if I had finally started to be truly affected by the amount of coffee I was consuming. My hands shook all the time. I couldn’t hold a pen still enough to even sign my name correctly. I have looked back at a bit of writing I did during that time, and my handwriting had become nearly illegible, even to me. A couple weeks off caffeine and no cessation in symptoms, I was ready for something different. At my doctor’s visit, she watched my hands tremor, felt my pulse racing, and immediately felt my neck (hello, unattractive goiter) and said, “I think it’s your thyroid.”

Hundreds of dollars in lab tests plus an ultrasound and a visit to the endocrinologist (the first one, whom I hated) later, and I had a diagnosis of Grave’s Disease. This began a lengthy journey towards learning to manage my body and an autoimmune disease.

I remember learning the facts. Grave’s Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism. Most people are familiar with the thyroid as the gland that controls metabolism. The thyroid does way more than that, and trust me, you notice when it’s not working appropriately. Grave’s is associated with several other autoimmune disorders, one of them rheumatoid arthritis, and once you have one, you are more susceptible to others as well. The symptoms are myriad and varied, more on that later. The thing about a disease affecting a hormone producing part of your body, however, is that the mental and emotional symptoms are often just as bad, if not worse, than the physical ones.

Fair warning for the rest of this series, I don’t remember nearly enough of these years. Bits and pieces, here and there. If you asked me to provide a chronology of my disease, there’s no possible way I could tell you. Even still, I rely on my husband for many of the details. I wish I had been a good note-taker at that point in my life – I wish I had known that I should be taking notes, marking the memories of happenings that I recall only through a thick haze.

Working through the haze tomorrow…see you then.

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