Patience in Purgatory

I’ve been a fairly healthy person most of my life. I am passionate about a few select things. I am stubborn. I like to go fast. These are facts, not conjecture not excuses, just basic facts about me.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease. It hit me pretty hard as the reality of my health over the preceding years came into focus. I lost traction for a while, but biking helped me deal with it. I’ve loved biking since the first time I saw Greg LeMond racing in the Tour de France. For a short while, I dreamed of being the first woman to race in the Tour.

Purgatory rock bed

Purgatory rock bed

Recent issues have come up and it was with great irritation that I dropped my bike off at Pedal Power (awesome locally owned bike store in San Marcos). Two days before that I was told by my doctor to stop biking. Ok, not permanently, but for a short while — what ever short while means.  We agreed to a week. I should mentioned it lasted a day.

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

It is not something I am OK with at this point in my life. I have struggled over the last couple of years with structure and consistency.  It is frustrating because my body is not responding as I expect it to. It is irritating because after a few months of consistent biking I am finally seeing improvement. Now, I am force to bring it to a screeching halt.

As I was venting to a personal trainer friend of mine earlier in the day, she asked me if it was worth it.  Was it worth riding through the pain to maintain my routine with the small possibility that it might impact me riding at all in the future?

I have to admit the logic in it all. It makes logical sense to stop, to let the back and hip heal. But hypothyroidism doesn’t care if I stop for a minute, a day, a week, or a month. It will slow down exponentially fast. What little ground I have gained with weight loss, stamina, persistence will slip away.

My first response is ride through the pain.

Let’s face it, I’m not a pro biker, I never have been despite my teenage dreams and I never will be. I don’t have what it takes mentally or physically to be a pro athlete. Biking through the pain will help me stay stable, mentally focused, and internally feel better, but in the long run it will not contribute to my overall health. While the back and hip are not part of the autoimmune disease, the pain is impacting my ability to concentrate at work, sleep at night, and be calm and relaxed.

So the day after ignoring doctors order not to ride, I forced myself to drop off my bike so I would not ride for a few days. It needed a few tweaks anyway.

Now the hard part comes. What do I do with the time I used to spend biking? What can I do to keep my metabolism up without doing more damage to the back and hip?

I was headed toward a marina to dwell on my sedentary state which had just been thrust upon me, when as I crossed over a bridge I notice a trail with some people and dogs running about. I made a u-turn and found myself at Purgatory Creek Park. Luckily my hiking shoes were in the back seat and I found my answer.

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Walking — I could take an nice easy thirty minute stroll through the park.

It is a nice little park with hard packed trails for walking or riding a mountain bike. I could do thirty minutes at an extraordinarily slow pace (which might kill me because I’m rabbit like not turtle like) so that I would not stress the back and hip on the small boulder like rocks, but hopefully trick my metabolism into thinking I was being very active. I could do this. Thirty minutes.

An hour and a half and 2 caches later (geocaching is fun — check it out), I was headed back home.

I would like to say I don’t hurt, but that would be a lie. I managed to walk 5 miles at a turtle’s pace, but entertained myself with the beautiful sunset views mom would have loved, and the hunt of caches. I day dreamed a little and came up with a couple great ideas for posts — this being one of them.

Overall, I feel mentally and emotionally better and my body doesn’t hurt as much as if I biked. So time will tell if I need to become a couch potato or if turtle is the way to go.

People actually eat these

People actually eat these

Hypothyrodism: Glandzilla Attacks from Inner Space

It’s not often that I read a book, a magazine article, or a post and immediately stop everything I’m doing to write about it. Truth be told, I can’t often focus long enough to finish anything I’m reading. Last night on my feed a random you may be interested box showed up: Hypothyroidism Ruined My Relationship. I clicked on it, but didn’t have the energy to read past the title.

This morning as I’m floating through my open tabs (which I usually have a lot of as that is the only way I can remember what to read later), I decided with a cup of coffee, it was time to skim what I thought would be a fluff piece about Hypothyroidism.

It was a difficult read once I got past the opening paragraph. I fought back tears — a lot. I fought to concentrate on the post to the end. It took a refill of coffee, a break to give my cat eye drops, add a load to the washing machine, and starting the dishwasher, but I made it through to the end. This may not seem like a lot to you, but for me it is a HUGE accomplishment.

Since I have been diagnosed with this condition, no one has understood me, to include me. When I do talk about it (which is not often) the listener will give pat answers like,”Yeah my mom has it,” “My best friend has it.” A wall comes up and we press on to other topics. Isolating me in a “woe-is-me” cocoon once again. No one wants to talk about it and so this stays bottled up inside.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I have been struggling for years, but doctors kept treating the symptoms. Gain weight, try the low carb diet, not working? How about the vegan diet. Oh, you have headaches, try lowering your stress. Can’t focus? That must be because your B level is low. Can’t remember? That’s just low vitamin D in your system (I was biking 5 to 6 times a week (outside in summer) at the time) — low D?

Finally, in April of 2012 everything hit a wall. It was brought about through a very scary (to me anyway) incident when I was told by Tanya to tell Kara something. I remember talking to Tanya, I remember saying I will tell Kara. I remember hanging up the phone.  I remember dialing Kara’s number. I remember saying HI and then nothing. I could not remember what it was I was supposed to tell her. It had been less than 5 minutes between ending one call and starting the other. But the memory of that last piece of information was gone — and to this day I still don’t remember what it is that I was supposed to tell Kara.

I know some will say, “That happens to all of us from time to time.” For me, it was a wake up call. It was something that should not have occurred in a 5 minute span, but it was also the last straw in a string of things that had been occurring over the last year with increasing frequency.

I was angry at nothing. I don’t mean a little angry, I mean, off the wall full blown want to punch somebody angry because the coffee took to long to brew that morning.  I couldn’t remember conversations that took place on the same day. I was obsessive about work — working almost 24/7 because I couldn’t sleep and I was fearful with forgetting to do a task. I felt like I was going to explode from the inside out. I hurt so much I just wanted to end everything. I just wanted someone to tell me I was OK. I wanted someone to listen and HEAR me.

No one was listening. They couldn’t relate and the pain got worse because I was alone and trapped and confused and angry and hurting.

I don’t care much for doctors, but not because I don’t like them, I just am not that unhealthy. Mom raised us to push through the pain and not waste a doctor’s time with meaningless things like a sprained ankle.

My irrational mood swings and weight gain were very similar to what I experienced at puberty. So, I thought — incorrectly — maybe I was in early menopause. There was no other logical explanation.

On May 5, 2012, two days after my PA ran some tests, the results were back. My thyroid was non-existent, to the extent that I might as well not have had one at all. The range of a “normal” thyroid is debated by doctors to this day and unless, as in my case, it is so off the chart high or low, your doctor is liable to say it’s low or high, but in normal range. If you get that answer get more tests or find a doctor who will listen to you.

I have always had low, but normal thyroid readings, which means I should have been on thyroid medication years before I was. It wasn’t until my thyroid numbers were off the chart low —  that I was finally able to take steps in the right direction.

I love my PA, she was wonderful in treating the cause and not the individual symptoms. She listened to me and ran the correct tests (a complete metabolic panel) and put me on medication that acts like my thyroid in an attempt to get my body, mind, and emotions back to what they should be.

I saw results within 2 days of starting thyroid medication. I became less obsessive, I became calmer, I even think I laughed a couple times. It was not an immediate fix, but I was so extreme in my emotions, that I noticed a difference in my body.

It’s been 3 years since that diagnosis, and I don’t know if it is a disease or a condition or whatever label you want to give it, but I am better than I used to be. I recognize the symptoms when they occur and get into the doctors office as quickly as I can so we can adjust dosage. This is not uncommon and will be a life long thing, but when I become depressed and angry and obsessive, it’s time to look it again.

The problem is the last couple of times my levels were great, yet some of the more erratic symptoms are coming back and it frustrates me.

After reading Robyn Guidon’s post, I have more questions, and maybe more tests, for my new doctor to run, to see why I am not back to my complete self. I am moving in the right direction and while I feel better than before the medication, it is still a work in progress.

So for all my friends and family who cannot relate to me today, for my distance in the past, for my lack of trying to explain or keep carrying on about “my condition”, take a few moments (I know you won’t need as many breaks as I did), to read the post by Robyn Guidon. It is well written and explains, better than I ever have, the way I felt and still do and still struggle with.

              Hypothyroid Mom:

The Two Big Problems with “Typical” Thyroid Hormone Treatment – Part 1

                  Hypothyroid Mom:

    The Two Big Problems with “Typical” Thyroid Hormone Treatment – Part 2