The very sad story of my very bad thyroid
Sometimes I start to melt. Like a popsicle on a sidewalk, just sort of vanishing imperceptibly until suddenly the stick is showing. This is how it starts: First, my pants are kind of loose; then they're baggy; then I'm shopping for smaller pants; then those pants are falling off.
And yeah, I know what you're thinking: Gee, I wish I had that problem. Our culture tells us that skinny is gorgeous and that a woman who is losing weight is a woman we all want to be. But I'm here to tell you, it is not gorgeous to be simultaneously manic and exhausted, to have a racing heart, insomnia and anxiety.
The first time it happened, in the summer of 2006, it took me a really long time to finally head for the doctor and discover that I have a hyperactive thyroid. It crept up on me. I did notice some weight loss. And I started feeling tired. But hey, I had two little boys and a lot going on. Who wouldn’t be tired?
But as that fall rolled in — as I cranked my belts down to the smallest hole to keep my flapping pants from falling down — I started having intense bouts of anxiety. I write the phrase ‘intense bouts of anxiety’ and it doesn’t really cover it. Words fail. I’m just not sure how to describe it. So I’ll tell you this: My then-22-month-old son began greeting me every time he saw me by looking concerned and saying sweetly, “Mommy cry?”
The break came when I developed walking pneumonia. (You know things are grim when walking pneumonia is the break.) I finally went to the doctor.
Yeah, he said, you’re really sick. And your blood pressure, which is normally quite low, is through the roof and you’ve lost nearly 25 pounds since I last saw you and did you say you’re profoundly fatigued and having intense bouts of anxiety and hey, look, are those tremors?
THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG HERE, he told me calmly. Let’s get some blood work.
So: hyperthyroidism, brought on by a combination of stress and some weirdness inherent to my thyroid, which we treated into submission with pills. By the end of 2007, I was fine. I was fine for several years. And now, suddenly, I'm not.
So this time, as I shop for smaller pants and take anti-anxiety and anti-thyroid meds, I know what this is. I'm not getting nearly as sick as I did in 2006 before I get to work on getting it under control. I'll take the anti-thyroid pills and I'll watch my blood work and I'll try to rest. (Man, I hate resting. My natural inclination toward tightly wound does not help any of this at all.)
But here's the root of the problem, the part I'm honestly not sure how to fix: This illness is my body's way of throwing up flares to tell me I've wandered into territory I'm not equipped to handle. And when you find yourself where I am in life -- pushing 40, two kids in private school, breadwinner for four people, household drudge and all-around beast of burden -- where do you find some slack in the line? What do you let slide?
This is usually the place in the column where I wrap things up, where I close the loop or offer the answer or present the punchline. But today I've got no answers and I've darn sure got no punchlines.
Right now, I'm just trying to solve the riddle: when you find yourself where I am in life and something has to slide, where, exactly, do you find the slack in the line?